Not long ago I wrote about the closure of an iconic business in the town: Havens (see here). When I read about the closure of Ravens, another iconic business, in a report titled: “Southend’s oldest department store to shut after 120 years” I first thought my eyes were deceiving me, but soon realized they weren’t and the trend we have been seeing over many years, accelerated by today’s Internet age, continues to relentlessly march on, with more old-fashioned, well-established, local businesses shutting down to make way for more recently established, no-frills, a lot larger scale, significantly lower cost businesses taking their place.
In my book Coleman Streets Children, the Raven family were mentioned for an extraordinary act of kindness toward a rival business, which if nothing else illustrates that while we may well consign Ravens to the anals of history, soon to be forgotten, they had played an important in the life of my town, Southend: “Heddle’s High Street (opposite Cliff Town Road) Cash Clothing Stores received a direct hit on 13 October 1942; it had already been damaged as a result of a bomb falling on the London Hotel next door, in 1941. The manager, Mr Chandler, was killed; Malcolm Heddle (son of William) was seriously wounded and Norman Brunton was injured because of this later incident. It seemed at the time that the business was finished, but thanks to the kindness of others, notably the Raven family, who owned a rival business in the town, the business would later be rebuilt.”
Raven’s had for a long time been a significant business in the town, and for all intents and purposes served the people of the town well, and now it is about to go – for quite understandable reasons as set out in the report, and people like me have reason to lament. I confess that while I have been aware of Ravens since my boyhood, my visits over the years were few and far between. For me (and it is a pity somewhat) my attitude to men’s clothing tended to be more cheap and cheerful rather than expensive and elegant, which ruled Raven’s out. I do remember on at least two occasions though (one being my wedding) when I needed to dress posh, that Raven’s was the place to sort me out, and they did this well. It is quite clear that for many who commented on the report, this is for them a day of sadness and also rueful reflection that Southend town centre shopping has somehow lost its way and this ought to be reversed. I wish Neil Raven a happy retirement and his family and staff well.