Midhurst greengrocers shuts up shop after six decades

Margaret Thorpe in the doorway of her Top Crop shop in the 1950s
Margaret Thorpe in the doorway of her Top Crop shop in the 1950s

A greengrocer’s shop in West Street, Midhurst, has closed after more than 60 years in business.

The shutters have come down at Top Crop for the last time after what the Observer understands is a decision by the outgoing owner not to renew the lease on the property.

For many long-established Midhurst families, the shutdown signals another chapter has closed in Midhurst’s trading history.

Top Crop greengrocery opened in former hairdressers’ premises sometime in the 1940s. In 1949 it was bought by Margaret Thorpe and traded under her name until 1979, when she sold the business.

Among owners who came along after that was Graham Angell, until 1993 when it was bought by Janet Moreton and her partners Gordon and Sylvia Bicker.

Mrs Moreton ran the greengrocery and the partnership continued until 2007, when she retired and the business was again sold.

The longest period of ownership was, however, that of Mrs Thorpe.

Her daughter, Molly Etherington, still has the bill of sale recording how she paid Alf Mordle the handsome sum of £325 for the business nearly 63 years ago, with all its stock, fixtures and fittings, and goodwill.

Mrs Etherington herself worked there for many years, during her mother’s time and beyond, until 1982.

She recalled: “It used to be a much smaller shop when my mum had it.

“There was a garage next door where we used to keep our stock and then the people who bought it from mum knocked it through to make a bigger shop. It used to be really tiny.

“My dad Arthur had part of Taylor’s Field as a market garden, before it became houses.

“He grew vegetables, fruit and flowers to sell in the shop, and had chickens to produce eggs which were also sold.

“When the council bought Taylor’s Field for building, he had another piece of ground at Bepton Road where Pretoria Avenue now is.”

The name Top Crop has been above the shop since 1979, when the business was sold to Barbara Sprackling.

The future use of the premises is as yet unknown.