Two days ago, Wendy Martin wrote beautifully about her father Peter Green with fascinating details. Peter Green’s furniture business of 58 years’ history has been transformed over the years and the store in Chandler’s Ford is contemporary and the decor modern.
Wendy’s family story inspired me to introduce Jacksons department store in Reading to you.
Jacksons was Reading’s oldest family owned department store trading since 1875, but the family business of 138 years ended last Christmas. I travelled to Reading at weekends regularly with my teaching job. I always visited Jacksons as its traditional approach to business appealed to me. The shop assistants were polite and gentle. They knew the details of their products well. This place felt like home. Architecturally, Jacksons’ interior design remained in a time warp.
One unique feature of Jacksons was the use of cash system (or cash railway). The system is known as Lamson pneumatic tube system. The Lamson cash machine at Jacksons was the last commercially operating Lamson cash system in the UK. The pneumatic pipes transported cash around the building.
Have you seen the pneumatic pipes before?
When I visited Jacksons last winter, I decided to find out more about Lamson pneumatic tube system. After you have paid for your goods, the sales assistant would place the money in a cylindrical metal carrier, which could be closed by twisting the ends. Later the carrier is inserted into a metal box known as a cash station.
One sales lady Margaret let me ‘have a go’. I put my typically non-manicured hand into the metal box and suddenly I felt strong suction. Margaret told me that they also nicknamed the metal box ‘a vacuum’.
I spoke to Jacksons’ archivist Thomas Macey – a young man who started working at Jacksons when he was only 16 years old. Thomas loves Victorian life, steam trains and invention, so working for Jacksons was the perfect job for him. Thomas has a passion for Jacksons’ history and he spent years collecting and reproduced the company archives. He published a book about Jacksons (and I bought a signed copy). He also gives talks about Jacksons.
I’m going to show you a few more images of Jacksons, one of my favourite stores in my life in England that I’ll fondly remember. I remember its smell, its calm space, its personal service, and the rattling of the tubes as the cash carriers were moving through them. However, most of all, I remember the gentleness and courtesy of the family of Jacksons to their customers.