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My family owned Abel and Sons up until 1970ish when my father negotiated with the Northampton Development Corporation, (I think,)for the purchase of the property which,if memory serves, was demolished to provide access to the bus station.The business was established in 1794 and prior to that was an hotel.

It was said that Abel's boasted the largest stock of record titles in the East Midlands - 20,000 or so I seem to recall. My father, John Parkinson was responsible for the radio, television and audio side of the business while the record department was run by Bill Harrison, a relation by marriage, who inherited the 'serious' section of the record inventory when the business was sold and who opened Harrison's Records near St Edmund's Hospital in the town.

There's also a shot of Abels record store, on the right-hand side of the Arcade. This used to have listening booths - you could often listen to a whole side of an LP, and get away with smoking a joint. Comment: Norman Druker

(Apr 13, 2014) S.Slinn said:During my lifetime Abel’s was run by Bertie Parkinson and his brother, Aubrey. I am not sure if they purchased the business from Mr Abel themselves or if this was done by their parents. Certainly Bertie was actually born on the premises in a house at the back of the building.

After the war, William Harrison joined the business and ran the records department.

When Aubrey died, his place was taken by his son, John Parkinson.

To the best of my recollection, the shop was the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order issued by the Council and the business had no choice but to relocate or close down completely. Bertie and John decided to close it down. Abel’s finally closed its doors in - I think - 1971.

As a result of this, William Harrison and his wife Cynthia (the daughter of Bertie) started up Harrison Records and rented premises in the wonderful Emporium Arcade. When the Arcade was demolished, they moved to a shop on the Wellingborough Road opposite St Edmund’s Hospital.

Abel’s was well known as a shop which sold many things connected with music - from harmonicas to grand pianos and from recorders to sheet music. Radio and television sets were sold there and they held a huge stock of both serious and pop music and everything in between.

A few interesting notes about the building itself. At one time it must have been some sort of hostelry because there were the clear marks where barrels had been rolled down a ramp into the cellar from pavement level. The building also had, for many years, the biggest single sheet of window glass in the town. When there was an event on the Market Square which involved crowds, a policeman used to be sent up to stand guard in front of it.

In the shop was a ‘cold room’ where, among other things, the batteries were stored. To reach this room one had to go through a door at the back of the main office and all the staff would have done it hundreds of times as the years went by. When the shop was demolished, they discovered a well situated on the threshold of the cold room. A very deep well. With only one sturdy floorboard separating any of the staff from a long and probably fatal drop into oblivion!

On a lighter note, famous people used to visit Abel’s to sign autographs and do a little P.R.work. The Beverley Sisters came and sat in the window of the shop signing autographs and waving to the crowds. Many old vaudeville stars also came to the shop if they were appearing at the New Theatre (Abel’s sold tickets).

Bertie Parkinson kept the books for the shop. He wrote in beautiful copperplate handwriting and seldom made mistakes. He also kept a grenade on his desk (deactivated!).

(Sept 17, 2012) Mike Davis said:I have just purchased an HMV 101 Portable Gramophone which bears the name of your business, it also had a collection of needles these also had the name of your families business. It has been great to track you down so as to put a bit of history to my player.

(Dec 12, 2014) Used to by records and sheet music there back in the mid 60s. Comment: DAVE BUTLIN


Comments

Dave Harwood
30 Dec 2023 at 03:18
I found this advert in the 'Northampton Chronicle & Echo' dated 12th September 1950: “ABEL & SONS LTD. 9, PARADE, MARKET SQUARE, NORTHAMPTON. TELEPHONE 277. ESTABLISHED 1794. Also Agents for G.E.C., ENGLISH ELECTRIC, HIS MASTER'S VOICE, MARCONIPHONE, VIDOR - NOW BEING DEMONSTRATED.”

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