William Sheriff shrugs off suggestions that his actions represent the perfect example of good citizenship. He doesn’t expect public praise for the hours he has spent voluntarily cleaning the exterior of the former Budgens superstore on Shaftesbury’s Bell Street.
“You just do it,” William said. But plenty of locals have noticed how the 70-year-old resident’s work has made a real difference. Town councillor Jeanne Loader has been impressed by Mr Sherriff’s dedication.
“I just think that people should be more aware of everything he’s been doing. He’s gone about his tasks in such a quiet and unassuming way. He’s never expects any thanks. But I do think it’s important that everyone recognises his community spirit. I understand the Council has written to thank him, but I wanted to re-emphasise what a wonderful job he does do,” said Jeanne.
Each day, Mr Sherriff spends time trying to keep the building’s exterior tidy. “I’ve been doing it for the past two years. My principal aim was to keep the windowsills dust-free because they look a bit unsightly after a while. Surprisingly, it’s the summer months when the dust gets evident. I’ve been litter picking and sweeping around, picking up fag ends and abandoned drink,” said William.
As we chatted, William mused over how attitudes have changed during his lifetime. He helps his neighbours, taking their wheelie bins in for them. But he’s aware that some people won’t do that and may even expect payment for such a service.
He explained how the rubbish he collects highlights the differences between the generations. “We’d never abandon our booze when we were young but youngsters do today. I often find half empty bottles or occasionally a full bottle of beer, unopened,” he said.
Although he quietly gets on with it, Mr Sherriff is aware that his work is important. “If I wasn’t doing this there would be more destruction and it would be more vandalised than it has been so far. I’ve got it down to a knack. I spend 15 to 20 minutes dusting around with an old Kleenex duster-mop thing,” said William.
He has a soft spot for the building. He used to shop at the former Budgens and previous Co-op supermarkets. And William has joined his Royal British Legion colleagues in calling for some form of convenience store on the site, to serve residents in the immediate vicinity. “It’s important that we have something in the west of the town for shopping, when it comes back to life.”
William, who worked as an architect’s assistant, is also passionate about the architectural style of the former supermarket. He says that he is a post-war ‘baby boomer’ and he’s sad that the architecture of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s is often overlooked, disregarded or demolished. “Our architecture was a means to an end and, in some cases, buildings are being pulled down. I’d like to see a future for that building,” said William.
Whatever happens to the structure depends on which of the six bids made for the site is successful. Shaftesbury Town Council submitted its offer on 7th December. It’s a waiting game. In the meantime, the entire town can be thankful that one unpaid hero is doing his bit to prevent an empty building becoming an eyesore. “It’s the first building that people see when they park there and it’s so important that it creates a good impression,” said Jeanne.