A Nation of Shopkeepers?
In 1776, Adam Smith [1723-90] the Scottish economist and philosopher published his work, “The Wealth of Nations” which introduced the concept. Napoleon 1 [1769-1821] Emperor of France was familiar with Smith’s work and is reported as later using a French version to dismiss England’s preparedness for war against France:
“L’Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers.”
Translated as “England is a nation of shopkeepers.”
The southwest part of County Durham was a nation of coal miners, about 73% of those in work were employed in the coal industry. We did have shopkeepers and Fred Steel was one born into the trade and returned to the trade.
JOHN FREDERICK [FRED] STEEL 1898-1970
12 December 1898: John Frederick Steel was born at Stainmore, Westmorland the son of Watson and Margaret Steel who ran a grocer & draper’s shop at West View, Evenwood. His brother was Joseph William born c.1901.
Fred served in the RAF as an Air Mechanic, service no.59058. The Evenwood Parish Magazine reported that he was at home in February 1918 and on leave April 1919. One of the photographs below pictures a Royal Aircraft Factory R.E. 8, a reconnaissance aircraft believed to be stationed at an aerodrome in France.
Fred returned to run the family business and died in December 1970 aged 72 at Kirkby Stephen, Westmoreland. The shop remained family run until the 1980’s when it was sold to the Devgan family. It passed into the hands of another family concern before closing in 2016.