Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Bye Bye to General Woodworks by Maureen D

 Last Stand of General Woodworks


The shop was set up by Harry Cohen and his wife Dora in 1947, when he came out of the Fire Service in WWII.  Prior to the war, he had run a general furniture business and so had a connection to the timber trade.  Timber was scarce at the time and a licence was needed to deal in or sell it.  Because of his previous business he was lucky enough to get a licence.

The business was always a family run affair, Harry ran the shop, Dora did the book-keeping. Later their daughter, Rita got involved in the books and sons, David and Michael Cohen, joined in due course on the shop floor. Later still, Rita's husband, Jeffrey Bentley, became a stallworth at the counter.  Dora celebrated her 99th birthday on August 2nd 2012 and was still keeping the books.
Rita, Dora and Jef
Early on, the business got involved in mail order timber, importing and exporting rare and exotic timbers all over the world.  In the 'Red Book' of the shop's history there were dockets, orders, invoices and thank you letters from every corner of the globe.  There was a long history of working with artists making sculptures and furniture.  In later years their timber and MDF cutting service was a highly skilled and valued resource for local crafts people and builders.  A visit to the shop on a Saturday afternoon was chance to see the full spectrum of Stoke Newington residents.  I always felt General Woodwork did its bit for feminism, as this was the shop to go to if you needed individual advice on how to go about a bit of house maintenance.  An abiding memory from the early eighties is the image of dungaree clad, black and decker wielding local women queueing up for advice. No matter how big or small the order was, the wry smile, the range of options, the advice were equally offered. In 1993 Channel 4 included a piece on the shop in a show made by Danny Baker, entitles One of Life's great Fallacies, the dimensions of a 4 x 2 timber. 
After 10 years of going in the shop we were on first name terms.  After 30 years, well, there was a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye as we said Goodbye and Thank you to a family who helped so much to enrich life on Stoke Newington High Street.

Thanks to local resident Maureen Diffley for putting this together.

Do you have any photos or anecdotes from your visits to General Woodwork Supplies over the years? If so please leave a comment and send images in to

'My last purchase from General Woodwork' Helen Rawlinson

Other News:

The Pub Quiz has moved...

The LARA Pub Quiz has now been postponed to the New Year, so please keep an eye out for the date as it was very popular last year! The White Hart kindly offered their upstairs room for the event - always one for supporting the locals - check out the gig this Saturday from the blackboard painting front man Martin....

 The Customtones, are playing at the White Hart on Saturday, 9pm to 11ish with an interval at 9.45ish, admission free. They play a style of blues, rock, western swing on an eclectic mix of hand made and vintage Fender guitars. Good for a dance if you feel like putting on your sequin pumps!

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