'Pop goes the Weasel'

A brief history of Renalls Pawnbrokers

Clifftown Road

Renalls began business as a pawnbroker H W Renall in 1890, making it today the oldest still trading Pawnbroker in Essex. The Victorian era saw a prolific use of Pawnbroking services throughout the UK with the well-known rhyme of the period (below), being testimony to this:

‘Half a pound of tuppenny rice, 
Half a pound of treacle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel’

(where ‘pop’ meant to pawn, and weasel (weasel and stoat) was East End rhyming slang for coat.

We have old ledgers that record hundreds of customers a week pawning everyday items, especially Sunday best clothes, that were popped during the week and redeemed again for weekend use. A pulley system was used to move pledges between floors, with staff fulltime employed just for this purpose.

Pawnbroking Over Time

Pawnbroking has changed over the years, seeing a general decline during the 1960s and 70s, with Renalls trading on regardless, providing a valuable service for local clientele.

Pawnbroking generally saw a major resurgence in the early 1980s, being a quick and easy way for people,( now more affluent with access to high value collateral such as jewellery and watches), to raise extra funds for unexpected expenses.

Geoff is back!

The past 130 years have seen changes in ownership of the business, from the original Mr Harold Renall, through to David English and then partners Jack Ellis and Dennis Enstone (1950s through to 1980). 

Revamps & Improvements

East-End jeweller Geoff and partner Del purchased the business in 1981 when Jack and Dennis retired. This partnership was split in 1998, with Del continuing to run the Clifftown Road shop until his retirement in 2018, when Geoff repurchased the business. 

A series of revamps and improvements to the premises were undertaken, which are now finally nearing completion. The retail area, while embracing modern technology, has been enhanced to give shoppers the flavour of vintage ambiance, with William Morris Arts and Crafts styling (vogue in 1890 and still appreciated today) and mahogany counters and fittings.

The workshop bench has been moved from the basement and is now on view to customers as they enter and is visible from the secure and private pawnbroking office.

Geoff has been pleased to reacquaint himself with his old customers and their families, and if you are passing would be pleased if you would drop in to say hello and reminisce.