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The High Street 60 years ago

Eric King

Part 1 of 4. This article appeared in Newsletter 95 (2000 April–May). [Next part]

Eric King’s is one of the voices on Tracing the Map, the programme by Glastonbury Net Radio about the High Street through the past century. You can hear it at the library or through the internet.


I was born in Glastonbury, 67 Manor House Road, in 1927 and apart from my army service between 1945 and 1949 I lived in Glastonbury until 1960, when we left to reside in Bournemouth and then Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. We returned to Street in 1997.

   The following are some of my memories of the High Street, the shops and in some cases the people. I am casting my mind back to the old days before, during and after the war. [The editor has inserted names of present-day shops to help readers identify the premises. But so many shops fail to display their street number on the outside!]

   Facing down the High Street one must remember La-La Comfort. He was always known as La-La because of his initials, L.A. He ran a small garage a short distance from the High Street along the Wells road [new health centre] and also a cycle shop at the top of the High Street on the right-hand side. For many years he was the chief of the Glastonbury fire brigade.

   I will start at the top of the town and walk down the left-hand side of the High Street, and then return from the bottom up the other side.

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   Butcher Edwards ran the first shop on the left at the top of the High Street. He was never without a cigarette in his mouth with a long ash on the end, most of which ended up in the purchaser’s meat. His charge was based on the amount he felt one could afford, and this sometimes depended on the clothes one wore when purchasing his meat. The cattle were slaughtered at the rear of the shop. [This is 90 High St, today a charity shop.]

Photo: Butcher Edwards was still at Nº 90 when these photos were taken in 1949.

   Passing down on the left, after a private house, we come to Jim Westkin. He ran the fruit, veg and seed shop. The seeds were weighed on purchase. He was one of the top players in the town band. [86, Colin Foster insurance]

   Bill Fear was the landlord of the Queen’s Head. All the pubs were so-called locals — the same regulars usually made a nightly visit. Bill was the warrant officer in the local Air Training Squadron; he was the drill instructor and many of his local cadets then eventually passed into the forces.

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   A narrow passage led to a row of small cottages towards Silver Street, and next we come to Miss E. Taylor’s sweet shop. She would often be seen standing in the door of her shop dressed in her apron. [82, now Factory Shop]

Photo: Miss Taylor was still selling sweets at Nº 82; this building and cottages behind it were demolished in the 1960s and replaced by a car showroom that became the Co-op supermarket. A current planning application [2000] would make it an Arthurian interpretation centre.

   Next we come to the first of the two large Georgian houses. The first was run by Mrs Appleby, who ran a guest house. It also contained the Avalon museum. [80, W.J. Ayles furniture]. Adjoining was Dr Willcox, who lived in the house with his sister and ran the doctor’s practice from here. [78, Alma (Parsons) Flats]. Later the small cottage next door was converted to a waiting room. [76, Tom’s Take-away]

   In the Congregational chapel next door, many old residents will remember the Boys Brigade run by Mr Bawdon.

   Then was Gillards boot shop. [74, Robert Frith optometrist]

   Next came Flemington’s cake shop. The bread and cakes were baked at Street [Video Nites]. A dress shop was next door [70, Solo II hair design]. I think Leslie Dowdney lived in the peaked house below [Eyetech optician; Tor Pet Supplies].

   Offices were located in the house on the corner of Victoria Buildings: the Upper Brue Drainage Board and Harold Alves, architect. [66, Douglas Smith, surveyor]

     The house on the opposite corner of Victoria Buildings was used as a showroom for Chamberlain’s furniture shop. [The Curtain Pole]

     Miss Corps’ sweet shop came next. [62, Elaichi Tandoori]

     Cecil Dowdney, a very fine organist and also one of the sons of Butcher Dowdney lived in the next house down the street. His son, Jack, still lives in the house.

     We next come to Wright’s. The cottages were used as stores mainly for Aga cookers [60, 58, Abbey Mews]. The double-fronted shop was next. They were very good ironmongers and builders merchants, and one could obtain almost all one required in that line. They were the agents for Aga cookers. One of the sons, Ted, ran the shop with Stan Blacker as his assistant. It was rather like Fawlty Towers: utter confusion everywhere. Ernie Wright, the father, and his son Wilf ran the building side of the business; the yard was situated behind the shop into Silver Street. The goods were delivered by horse and cart by a one-armed person called Twister Chivers. [54, Top of the Crops; 52, Excalibur café]

     For many years the steward of the Con Club was Jim Maidment, who could often be seen walking many miles with his dog.

     We now come to Harry Appleby, the butcher. I remember his huge side-whiskers. His wife worked in the office and took the money as specified on the ticket supplied with the meat. The cattle were slaughtered at the rear of the premises. [48, Cheltenham & Gloucester building society, closed this March]

     Next door we come to Brains. Firstly was the gents’ outfitters run by Mr Bawdon and next down the ladies’, where dresses and materials were sold. The shop was run by mother, father and son. [46, launderette; 44, Glastonbury Gifts and Crafts]

   Next we come to Stacey’s garage, serving petrol over the pavement. The garage was later owned by one of the employees, Ernie Hodges. [Batmink sound & light]

   Next we come to Chamberlain’s, a furniture shop run by father, mother and daughter. [42, Thomas Cook travel agency]

   Cullen’s, a dairy next door, was well known for delicious ice cream. [Penny Juniors]

   We again come to Stacey’s, this time a cycle shop. It was owned by the garage proprietor, who resided over the shop. [Victoria Wine until recently, now Psychic Piglet]

[Next part]


Put online by Jim Nagel on 19 August 2008   tor.gif - 3554 bytes