Custom House hardware store stalwart bows out after 45 years

One of Custom House’s most recognisable shop stalwarts is to bow out after almost five decades.

John Burton, 62, has worked his way up from casual weekend shifts to leaseholder at hardware store A Lingwood and Sons in Freemasons Road.

His dedication to the job has seen him labelled an icon by some regulars.

But he shut up shop on Tuesday after choosing not to extend his lease on the terms offered by Newham Council.

He said: “I started working here on Saturday when I was at school.

“It’s been good - it’s provided me with a good life. It’s been enjoyable because you just can’t beat that East End character.”

Also known as Custom Stores, the shop sold everyday household goods like paintstrippers, lightbulbs and toiletries.

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Two of his assistants also worked with him for three decades.

John said there had been “very little change” in Custom House since he started at the store in the late 1960s.

He cited the arrival of the ExCeL centre and the regeneration programme as the most noticeable changes, and said he will look back on his time at the store with fondness.

John added: “I look at it as a football match when you get to your 60s.

“You’ve got the 90 minutes, then you’ve got the extra time, and then you’ve got the penalties and you’re in the lap of the Gods.

“I’m going to sit back and take stock - but I think the days of the independent store owner are numbered.”