name is Roy McCadden, as a young boy in the 1950's, I can remember
helping my mother to carry our blankets to the Pawnbrokers on Breck
Summer was on the way and Mum knew the blankets would not be needed
for some time. So she would Pawn them for what ever she could get.
recall the smell as we walked through the door of the Pawn shop,
there was always the smell of leather. It was so strong, you could
be forgiven if you thought you were in a shoe shop.
counter in the Pawnshop was too high for me to see over. It seemed
so natural to Pawn things then, but there was always a stigma attached
to the people who pawned their shoes or items of clothing. And yet,
almost everyone we knew pawned something at sometime or other.
Gault shares his memories of pawnbrokers:
distinctive pawnbroker’s sign, three brass circular globes suspended
overhead, was as well known as any local pub.
Every day, anxious customers could be observed making their trek
to pledge or redeem something from the pawn shop.
anything was pawned; rings, watches, guitars, trumpets, banjos,
men’s suits, women’s brooches, whatever, pledged for a month, a
year or more.
biggest business days and nights were Fridays and Mondays. Friday
was the day most people were seeking extra money to purchase the
necessities of life; Monday night was when many pledges were redeemed.
It was a revolving door -- bringing regular cash profits to the
I was nine years old, at Old Barn Road, local kids made fun of a
middle-aged woman who took her husband’s only suit for pawning,
Saturdays (for beer money, the kids claimed), redeeming same the
following Tuesday. Whenever the kids saw the husband wearing the
suit at funerals, the occasional wedding, or at church, they would
"She got it out again, eh! Ha, ha!"
was forced two or three times to pawn her gold wedding band to buy
us some food; her last few shillings had gone on rent. I believe
she got three or four shillings for it.
About three months later, she redeemed the ring by paying back what
she received, plus interest of three pence per week; pretty nice
profit for the pawnbroker of three shillings or 36 p.
Gault aged 35.
the other hand, if a pawn was not redeemed, and no interest paid,
the shop put it on sale -- at a 15 - 25-per-cent profit. After all,
he had to cover the cost of holding the merchandise, plus his profit
I was about 11, I began to be fascinated by the pawnbrokers’ window
displays, mainly jewellery. It did not occur that a great deal of
the estate jewellery, as it was known, was, in fact, unredeemed
merchandise from customers, mostly locals, unable or unwilling to
pay their pledge and/or redemption fee.
had never seen so many watches, rings and brooches, some solid gold
adorned with diamonds and at what seemed to my young mind, unreachable
later I still retain the same fascination and on a trip to England
a few years ago, I took delight in watching one of the now-few pawnbrokers
emptying their windows at night as a security precaution and re-stocking
the following morning.
particular shop claimed to have more than 1 million pounds of gold
displayed in its windows!
how much of it was unredeemed merchandise of cash-poor people, unable
or unwilling to pay up. Such was life then -- and, to some degree,
is still today.