End of an era for Britain's rudest shop

A slice of Britain: The notoriously sharp-speaking owners of Fords of Lymington are closing their doors for the last time to make way for a pub

Lymington

'What are you doing in the shop?" the owner barks at an innocuous-looking grey-haired woman. "You know you're banned from here."

In most stores, customers would object to such an abrasive "welcome". But then Palfrey & Kemp (Fords of Lymington) in Lymington, Hampshire, is not most stores: it is "Britains [sic] rudest shop". So says the poster in the window, which alerts passers-by on St Thomas Street that there are "only a few weeks left to be insulted, don't miss the experience!!"

By the time you read this, however, the homeware store's rude reign will be over. Yesterday, the owners Terry Palfrey and Geoff Kemp hung the "**** off! We're closed" sign on the door for the final time after I mingled with customers hunting out bargains during the last day of trading.

On this occasion, Terry is just joking with a regular customer. But there are many times when the partners mean it and are directing honest barbs at unpleasant shoppers. Take a few weeks ago, for example, when 61-year-old Geoff told one rather rude and demanding woman, who said she could not wait to be served because she had a doctor's appointment: "While you are there, will you ask him if he's got anything for your bad temper?"

When I visit, the spacious store – its leaky yellow ceiling badly marked by damp – resembles a charity shop thanks to the mishmash of goods on display. While the business used to specialise in linen, towels and fine china, shoppers yesterday were also stocking up on books, CDs, cassettes, paintings, cookware, furniture, cutlery, bric-a-brac...

There is a steady stream of customers – mostly pensioners as the grey pound is strong in Lymington. Some people are just popping in to say goodbye: despite their rudeness, Geoff and Terry are popular traders. Jacqui Head, 61, and her 17-year-old granddaughter Jayne had presented the shopkeepers with a special award, engraved "Britain's Rudest Shop", earlier in the week.

"They have deserved it because they are always very helpful and they will be very sadly missed in this town," says Jacqui. "The rudeness is just absolute fun."

The men are pulling down the shutters for the last time because they are fed up with the hassle of running the business and want more time for other projects. Fifteen years ago they bought the shop from the Fords family who first opened it in 1840.

Helping out on its final day is Brian Paxton, 70, who joined the company in 1962 as a house-fitter, laying carpets and hanging curtains. His wife, Diana, 68, who started making curtains and loose covers for Fords at the age of 15, is at his side. Both are understandably sad to see the business go.

But down must come the delightful handwritten signs peppering the shop, such as "If you can't leave these books tidy then leave them alone". The notice "Please do not go upstairs if you will have difficulty coming back down!" results from the fact that Geoff and Terry recently had to carry down one elderly woman.

The jovial characters are renting their premises to JD Wetherspoon, which is opening a pub restaurant in the upmarket coastal resort. "We think it will be good for the town," says Terry, 63. "They are going to provide 40 jobs – badly needed jobs."

However, the arrival of the budget boozer has not been without controversy: some residents, including one of the shop's customers, Valerie Kidd, voiced their objections with New Forest District Council. "It's almost 'not in my backyard', but I really don't think right next to the church is the right place to put something like that," says the retired primary schoolteacher, 68, of Milford on Sea. "And you've got the home opposite for elderly people." Others support the plans.

The shop was originally due to close in 2010 – which is when its linen supplier Belledorm made the posters advertising its rudeness – but the council refused planning permission to change the use.

Now it has been granted, Terry and Geoff are planning a special trip: visiting the United States for the "Route 66 Mother Road Radio Tour". Terry is a former pirate radio DJ who goes by the name of Paul Peters on the airwaves. The duo hosts The Fabulous Fifties Show on the community radio station Forest FM in Verwood, Dorset, which also goes out on 23 stations in America, four in New Zealand and one in the Falkland Islands. Setting out from Chicago on 6 June 2013, the pair will join the city's WRLR station on a 30-day trip to find people who worked in radio in the 1950s and 1960s.

But they will not abandon their rude roles completely. "We have a gift shop [Burley Coach House] in Burley village in the New Forest, which we are going to try to see if we can make as rude as this one," says Terry. Burley: you have been warned.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable