Phil Jones, long-serving barber to two generations of Wellington men, is winding down his business after over 40 years in the town. Since setting up his current shop in Mantle Street – a couple of doors down from the Wellesley Cinema – in 1969 – he’s seen young lads grow up and have families of their own. He no longer cuts children’s hair though – ‘They move around too much,’ he said – but his regulars are still loyal.
It was his mother who persuaded him that his future was in hairdressing since, in his words, ‘I spent so much time in front of the mirror as a young man.’ Phil served his apprenticeship with Crane and Reed in Taunton, the top hairdresser at the time, and then moved to Wellington as a tenant of a shop in Mantle Street that had been a hairdresser’s for over 100 years.
At that time there were no fewer than six barbers in the town serving working men from Fox Brothers, Relyon, Swallowfield and the old Dairy Crest factory in Swains Lane. In years gone by these companies had thousands rather than hundreds of employees and trade was brisk. He used to stay open late on Friday nights to cater for men wanting to smarten up before the weekend but now he only opens his shop on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and, once he finally closes its door, it will revert to residential use once more.
Over the years he’s seen styles come and go – Teddy Boy and Boston cuts, the notorious DA and even ‘singeing’ – but now ‘short back and sides’ is back in fashion. Instead of arranging elaborate comb-overs he’s asked to take the clippers with a Grade One or Two to the lot. Once, customers might have asked for a shave or a shampoo as well as a haircut but now requests are much simpler and the cut-throat razor – contemporary version – is only used for ‘tidying up round the back’. He laughs when asked if he has ever been tempted to become a unisex salon.
Inside the shop you’ll find items from his long history as a Wellington barber: his fine red vintage hairdressers’ chairs bought from Wellington Sales Room, a collection of old cut-throat and safety razors and strops still in use not too long ago. And in the window there’s his traditional barber’s pole once belonging to another local barber, Ken Sedgebeare.
Of all the shops he recalls from his early years in the town, particularly in his part of Mantle Street, only two remain today – Perry’s and Car-stock. Others such as Mantle Street Stores are now homes but he can still point out in old photos of the street where Goodman’s Timber and Mike Lovett’s florists used to be. His regulars remember them too.