Merstham music shop which sold guitars to Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck to close after 59 years

January 12, 2018

A music shop which sold guitars to Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and became a Merstham institution will close its doors for the final time on Saturday.

Newtons Music started life as Potters Music Shop when Keith Richards was still in short trousers.

It took off with the music revolution of the 1960s.

But now competition from the internet has forced owner Emma Newton to make the heart-wrenching decision to close the shop in Merstham High Street on Saturday (January 13), although she will carry on part of the business from home.

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Potters Music Shop opened in South End, Croydon, in 1959. David Newton became manager there, before eventually buying the business.

“When I was little we sold everything including records, woodwind and brass, drums, it was just an emporium for everything,” said Emma. “It was this massive shop over three floors.”

Newtons Music is closing in Merstham
(Image: Grant Melton)

A second branch of the business, a workshop, opened in High Street, Merstham, in the mid 1970s.

“We started off with just one small shop [unit], then we got bigger and bigger until we took over half of High Street,” said Emma.

In the mid 1980s, David closed the Croydon branch to focus the business on Merstham. His daughter joined full time in her early 20s. Emma continued the business after David retired eight years ago. He sadly died last June, aged 75.

“He took a chance on just being here, but it was fine, it took off,” said Emma, who has a five-year-old son. “We sold sheet music, pianos, violins, cellos, woodwind and brass.”

People still call the shop Potters, although the name was changed when Emma joined the business.

“Back in the 60s, 70s and into the early 80s, there were a lot more people playing instruments,” she said. “There was a huge change in music with what was happening in England with bands.

Newtons, when it was still Potters, in the 1980s

“I can remember Dad telling me they would open on a Saturday morning and there was a queue of people outside wanting to buy a guitar. It was that revolution through the 60s and 70s.

“He remembered Eric Clapton when he was 13 coming in picking up guitars and playing.

“I suppose now you might say, bloody kids coming in, but he realised as time passed who it was.”

That was in a very different world, and the sales side of the business has slowed dramatically in recent years, thanks mainly to competition from the internet.

“The industry just changed,” said Emma.

“Prices were slashed. We all use the internet all the time, but it has killed a lot of this industry and a lot of others. There are a lot of poor quality things you can buy that are cheap, and just don’t work.

“Business has been really, really hard, it’s been really difficult for quite a few years.”

There are still some fascinating finds. Emma has recently sold a collection of 200 guitars, which belonged to a Reigate man, ranging in price from £50 to £15,000.

And some fascinating artifacts have also come through the doors.

One item that will be moving with Emma is a violin that comes with a note describing how it was taken as booty from a French frigate by an English naval officer at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It’s value is unknown.

“I have got so many memories here,” said Emma.

“This building has been in my life for most of my life. All my Dad’s tools are still here, his workbench is here.

Emma Newton will continue instrument repairs and restorations from her home
(Image: Grant Melton)

“We have got to sell most of it or put it in a skip. I still use a lot of my Dad’s tools and I will when I open my workshop.

“It has been hard to let go. I wanted to stay, even though it was difficult but I know logically the building is too big, it needs work.

“Everybody is sad that it’s closing and I have had lots of cards and emails and people remembering the shop from when they were younger. I have seen so many customers grow up. I worked here on Saturdays from when I was 14 or 15. There are a lot of customers I saw as children who are now buying things for their children.”

“I would like to say a massive thank you to everybody who has always supported us. We have had such lovely customers that have come to us for years and years; people I have known all my life and I hope to still see them and still be able to help them.”

Emma will continue to sell violins and do instrument repairs and restorations from her home in Earlswood. She is expecting to open her workshop there on February 1.

To contact her, go to

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