My book review of 'Rivets, Trivets and Galvanised Buckets' by Tom Fort
For more than 80 years there's been a hardware shop in Sonning Common, near Reading. When the owner wanted to close the shop, retired BBC journalist and author Tom Fort stepped in. This is his account of how his family rose to the task, and why hardware shops remain such a cherished part of British life and continue despite the threat of competition from the internet and superstores.
Tom Fort and his daughter-in-law Sharona took over Heath & Watkins in 2018. It had a loyal customer base but some work was needed to make the shop the centre of village life once more. They were just making headway when lockdown hit.
Thinking that was it, they were going to close their doors and take up a hobby, they were stunned when the government declared hardware shops essential businesses.
Tom describes the challenges of this very particular time while also introducing the previous owners, the idiosyncrasies of the customers and the extraordinary range of products on offer for sale.
The book describes the stock, the people and village life, as well as providing a social history of DIY and home improvement. Tom outlines the development of hammers and screwdrivers, rawlplugs and power tools, three-in-one oil, and much more.
Just like the stores he’s celebrating, his book is a fascinating eclectic mix of information you didn’t realise you wanted to know. I loved it and interviewed Tom, and the owners of other hardware stores, for an article for 'Country Life' magazine which is due to be published next month.