ERNIE BIDDLE (1919-1996)

I was born in 1919 in back to back house in Winson Green half way between the prison and Dudley Rd Hospital.

One of my earliest memories is the euphoria of the community when water was piped into the house having previously used communal stand pipe in the yard.  There was a wonderful community spirit amongst neighbours in the yard, but sadness too. Two women were raising children having lost their husbands in the war and two families had lost sons.

My father was an upholsterer and in order to earn an extra few shillings renovated furniture for a local second-hand dealer. This was done in the small back room that had no gas light. As a young child I used to hold a candle so that my father could see where to drive in the tacks. He used to get very cross, when my mind and hand wandered. This was the early introduction to my interest in furniture

Mother regularly took me and my two sisters to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and she was responsible for getting me interested in art and the best of the world’s creations. During the depression of the 30’s my mother worked at both the old Empire Theatre and The Hippodrome. As we had so many complimentary tickets I became obsessed with the music hall and became fascinated with the theatre a passion which I have retained.  I occasionally made professional TV appearances and was the bailiff in ‘Cathy Come Home’ it is an interest which has been passed on to my children. I always maintain that my claim to fame is that four of my five children appeared in the soap crossroads.

I started work at 14 years of age and began work at Kodak ltd who had a photographic warehouse and processing plant in Gt Charles St. The world of photography greatly increased my knowledge of the art world. I was called into the forces in 1939 and spent the majority of my service in Northern Ireland.  After the war I tried a variety of jobs and began my own career in furniture in 1950 and soon commenced an auction sale in the Church House at Sutton Coldfield which became a successful and popular weekly sale.

In 1958 a Mr. Webb invited me to join him by taking over a sale room at Enfield Hall Edgbaston previously operated by a Robin Edmonds who had died. Mr Webb was devasted with the winter of 1962 / 1963 and decided to emigrate to Australia. Mrs. Biddle became my only partner. We didn’t change the name because we had far too much stationery already printed.

The business expanded at a phenomenal rate during the late sixties and early seventies and we opened at Ladywood in 1972 recognizing that car parking, loading and unloading facilities were of paramount importance.

With my interest in art and antiques and a feeling for theatre, plus the late Betty Biddle’s dedication for the organisation and personal attention to customer’s interests were the main factors in establishing a reputation which we are determined to preserve. Betty hated the hat but what can you do when you’re getting thin on top.

Yours Sincerely,

Ernie Biddle

Leave a Reply