It was the end of an era for Littleport as we know it, when The Old Butcher’s Shop Café in Station Road, finally closed its doors on December 8th 2016. Before that, the actual butcher’s shop in Main Street had shut due to its proprietor’s retirement.
Those two establishments that served Littleport so well, had been owned and run by that popular and hard-working couple, Andrew and Jenny Binks
I caught up with them at the local Ex-Servicemen’s club in Ponts Hill one lunchtime recently, and we sifted through some photographs which they were happy to share with our readers.
“Now we have the photos in sequence,” instructed Andrew, explaining, that “most of the people in the pictures are all dead now, and that includes many of our customers” who we know regularly enjoyed buying his freshly cut joints of meat at Cox’s Butcher Shop.
“I closed the butcher shop in Station Road in 1991, and I moved up to the Main Street premises which I rented from Bill on a lifetime rent for as long as he was alive. And of course he lived for a very, very long time. During that spell, Jenny had been made redundant from her previous employment and she kept complaining about being bored. And so I decided to buy her a burger van. We pitched it up at Hilgay in a layby and business just took off.”
“We also used to park up at the Ely City football ground on Saturday match days serving cooked burgers and then returned on Sundays for the car boot sale fraternity,” said Andrew, who was pleased as punch to admit they were the first people to own a burger van that ran off solar panels instead of diesel, and that Jenny did all the electrics on it.
Five years on having sold the van, the Binks decided to move into the catering business with Jenny working from home after having had their whole kitchen modified.
And Andrew continued, ”Once again it was a booming business with Jenny making me pies for the Butcher’s shop, and churning out masses of catering orders from weddings to funerals and Christmas dinners.”
It wasn’t until Andrew was driving through the village one day that he turned to Jenny and said “There is a nice little shop there where you can do all your catering and cooking instead of from home, ”
Andrew commented, “And surprisingly enough the café started to do really well, attracting even outside trade including the Henry Crabb Industrial Estate workers, and the trikers and bikers who we opened up for at the weekends.”
But as Jenny said, “The café was getting too busy and too hard and we were getting too old and we only employed my daughter. One of the main reasons we packed up was I was getting concerned about Andrew’s health because anytime I was working there Andrew had to be there too and with opening hours from 6 am to 1 pm it was really taking its toll. However it was a fantastic business, and anyone taking it on can build it up and made a really good go of it.”
Jenny had been in catering all her life having originally owned and run a guest house on Ten Mile Bank for a while called Store Cottage.
They are now enjoying their retirement together.
This picture was just taken after the war. On the left is Don Harrington who had the Butcher’s Shop in Southery. The middle gentleman is William Henry Cox, and on the left is Ron Cleveland before he owned the shop and was in partnership with Andrew.