I fear, however, I am getting rather rhapsodical on this question of tea. There are other—what I will call specialist old-style—traders besides those in the teetotal and unteetotal line to which I wish to refer. But these must be reserved for another chapter.
Considering the pace at which Birmingham moved forward during the latter half of the nineteenth century, it is not, perhaps, surprising that few shops and houses of old date are now to be seen in the chief centre streets of the city. A few, however, remain to remind us that Birmingham was not built yesterday, and that it has a respectable past, and is not a place of that mushroom growth which comes into existence in a night.
Chief among the old order of retail trading establishments still flourishing in our midst I may particularly mention the shop of Mr. William Pearsall, silversmith, &c. As many of my readers are aware, it is situated in High Street, opposite the end of New Street, and is conspicuous for its pretty—I had almost said petite—quaintness and its genuine old-time appearance and origin. There are the small bow windows, the little panes of glass, that are so suggestive of the architecture of a century ago, and outside the shop everything bespeaks a past which was not exactly of yesterday.
This great-grandfather shop, so to speak, has, indeed, been established for more than a century, and when the present proprietor first went to the business the trade done was chiefly in silver and silver made goods, whereas now it is largely in electro plate, in jewellery, cutlery, &c. The proprietor, indeed, like others in his position, has found himself obliged to keep in step with the times or go under. He has preferred the former course, but without abandoning what I may call the antique department of his business.
It is, indeed, a most attractive kind of shop, especially for ladies of a matured taste and mind who like to see pretty things, some of which have a quaint charm which is often especially dear to the feminine soul. I can fancy ladies going there and spending a right down happy time in looking at the dainty specimens of antique silver, and also the modern reproductions of old patterns in electro plate. I can, indeed, by a stretch of the imagination picture in my mind ladies who will go and look at many things at such a shop, admire all, and buy none.
Indeed, I do not know that I should mind indulging in this little luxury myself, but, being of the masculine order of creation, I, perhaps, hardly like to spend hours in a shop and leave the shopkeeper with the cold comfort of a promise that I will “think about it.” Quaint and inviting shops, however, stocked with articles that form a little exhibition in themselves must pay the penalty of their attractiveness, and possibly the proprietors have no objection.