Harry Green’s Modesty Preserved by Michelle ‘Fashions’

Fading painted shop front from Harry Green, Tobaccos & Cigarettes
Epping New Road, Essex. Photo: Jan O’Leary

After the article in the Guardian in February, Jan O’Leary got in touch with this wonderful reveal of a fading fascia on Epping New Road in Essex. The photos clearly show the frame used to mount the covering sign which for a long time advertised Michelle Fashions. Jan included the following note regarding this business.

“It was most decidedly not a clothes store, although it used to have mannequins in the window dressed in saucy costumes, seasonally themed for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. Most of its business was done ‘under the counter’ in the form of VHS tapes of a certain kind. In all the years it was there, I never once saw anyone go in our out of the shop, so I imagine most of its custom came from mail order.”

Jan O’Leary
Shopfront and window display.
Michelle ‘Fashions’

In 2012 the business had appllied to change its name from Michelle Fashions to Fifty Ways, which met with a number of local objections. The application was ultimately approved, but the company closed down not long after the rebrand. This was followed in 2014 by the reveal of the old painted sign.

Building site with old Harry Green painted shop front showing.
The reveal. Photo: Jan O’Leary.

I decided to have a go at dating this and found Harry Green listed at the address as a confectioner in 1925 and 1929. Prior to that, in 1914, he was a billposter, and then his occupation in the 1901 and 1911 censuses is Handyman. He looks to have been born c1868 to his father John, a carpenter.

It was a lovely reveal, dating from the 1920s, but as Jan notes, “I quickly snapped a picture, and I am so very glad I did, because when I walked home that evening, the sign was smashed up and in the skip.” Clearly the workers on that day didn’t know the potential value of what they’d uncovered.