Return To Index

From Hardware Shop To Garden Centre.

By Mrs F Hartley

(Edited By Alan J Hartley)

About The Author

Mrs Hartley is 84 and having retired some 11 or 12 years ago she spends a little while knitting in the afternoons and evenings. All this knitting is put to good use with a constant supply of sweaters for the family and cuddly toys for the youngsters. For the last few years she has also presented the local nursery/playgroup with a couple of boxes of cuddly toys every Christmas. She often makes up her own patterns or alters existing ones. It is from the creation of these patterns that her first book was put together entitled “Knitting Patterns For Beginners.”

Mrs Hartley also enjoys gardening although she does not cut the grass very often now! As you will see from this book she has always been a keen gardener and has written several articles for local news papers on gardening. She has just been asked to write some articles on gardening for the local blind newspaper as surprisingly she is registered partially sighted, which, makes this book and her hobbies, all the more remarkable. Her refusal to give up her hobbies as her sight has deteriorated is an inspiration to us all.

Unlike many people her age her hands are as slim and as agile as they were when she was 20 years old. Mrs Hartley’s doctor puts this manual dexterity down to her regular knitting and says that she is unlikely to ever suffer from Arthritis in her hands. Neither does she suffer from arthritis in her legs even though she had a hip replacement over ten years ago after a bad fall and she still enjoys going out for walks around the village where she now lives regardless of whether it is summer or mid-winter. It is to be hoped that she is just as able when she is in her 90’s and as her father still went out for brisk walks until he died at the age of 98 it is quite possible!



The book opens with a few words about Mrs Hartley’s family background and then picks up where her story was left off in the book entitled, “Two Tales Of War.” This was an earlier publication that she collaborated on with her son Alan. The story of that book is of her early life during the Second World War and how she met her husband. “From Hardware Shop To Garden Centre,” chronicles the years following up to her retirement about 12 years ago.

After the opening lines her story is taken up with the purchase of a run down hardware shop in Birmingham. Trade was built up by selling almost anything that they could buy and customers had requested, from unlikely things such as ladies nightdresses to shoes and watches. It was an old fashioned corner shop and house without even a bathroom. A couple of years later a second shop was opened selling curtain material and then a carpet shop. By this time Mrs Hartley was looking after a growing family and dealing with the mischief that young boys can get into. The family moved to a new estate and better housing while the business flourished. As Mrs Hartley was not working she took up a new hobby and did a correspondence course on gardening.

Several moves later and a change in the fortunes of the business led to the purchase of a large old house with an acre of derelict ground. A plant nursery was started and from very small beginnings it grew with many funny and unusual incidents occurring along the way. The business employed Mrs Hartley’s husband, her middle son and her youngest son as well as numerous YTS trainees, some of whom stayed after their training and others that did not.

Gradually the nursery changed into a garden centre selling a wide range of gardening products including fish ponds and all the accessories. Eventually the whole acre of land was utilised by the business in one way or another until Mrs Hartley and her husband reached their seventies, decided to sell up and retire. A buyer was found who later bulldozed the site and built bungalows on it. As Mrs Hartley herself says it was a sad ending for an enterprise that took decades to build but is the way many garden centres go when owners sell up.