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The High Street 60 years ago

Eric King

Second instalment of Eric King’s walk down the south side of Glastonbury High Street, recalling each shop as it was around 1940, and the people who ran it. [Previous part] [Next part]

This article appeared in Newsletter 96 (2000 July–August).

The writer, Eric King, was born in Manor House Road in 1927 and lived in Glastonbury until 1960. He left for work in Bournemouth and Essex, and returned to Street in 1997. [The editor has inserted names of present-day shops to help readers identify the premises. Unfortunately for postmen and anyone else trying to locate them, many shops fail to display their street number on the outside!]
   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.

W.J. Ayles, who was my uncle, traded in the shop that is still called Ayles. They sold furniture, pictures and the like, as today. Upholstery was carried out in the workshop by Mr Dibble. Coffins were made in the workshop at the rear of the shop. My uncle started the business by displaying a bedroom suite that he made for himself.

   Next door was Goodsons, a family business. I first remember it run by father, mother and son Lea and then later by another son Arthur, who came out of London and became a mayor of Glastonbury. Again, on one side was the men’s outfitters and on the other side ladies’ dresses and materials. [34­32, demolished in 1960s, now Heritage (Nisa) Fine Foods]

   Next we come to the Miss Alves’ sweet shop, run by two sisters. It was our school sweet shop where we were pleased to have a halfpenny to spend — but a penny in old money sent us over the moon. [30, Ian Jeanes estate agent]

   [28, the Glastonbury Project office — in photo, the shop’s sign says Summers]

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   Miss Tomlinson’s hat shop was next down. Just before the war it became St John’s Dairy, run by Bernard Slocombe and his wife. [26, Cancer Research charity shop]

Photo: Directly opposite St John’s Church was the dairy run by Bernard Slocombe and family. In the 1930s it was a hat shop. This photo was taken in 1949.

   Next to the lane is Vestry Hall. Once the church vestry, it was used as the town council offices. It was occupied by the town surveyor, firstly Mr Wingfield and then Stan King, and also by the sanitary and meat inspector as he was then called, Hugh Hembury. How well our streets and pavements were kept in those days! They all knew every inch of the town. [Ralph Bending estate agent]

   Next we had the Deacon’s Kitchen, a very popular cafe with wonderful homemade cakes. It was reputed to be the place where all the local gossip took place. [Spiral Gate café]

   Next we come to the Rose and Crown pub, run by the Vowles family and son-in-law, again very much a local, famed for its darts team. [Four Seasons]

   Next the Old Shopee, a fruit shop. It was known as Thankyouta’s as the owner always said “Thank you, ta” when the transaction was completed. [20, Palmer Snell estate agent]

   Next Theo Ginn, a tailor who made good-quality men’s suits. The shop has retained his name. [18]

   Next door we had another gent’s outfitters, Dennis, who again made good-quality suits. [Four Seasons]

   Next came Miss Taylor’s bakery, where the name Taylor is still spelled out in mosaic tiles at the door. It was later owned by Harry Janes, who worked for Miss Taylor for many years. [Burns the Bread]

   Jack Voake, the butcher, was the next shop down. The animals went through the shop to be slaughtered at the rear of the shop. [Rag Tag and Bob’s Tale gift shop]

   Next we come to Harry Comer and his sister, a bakery and cake shop. The baking was carried out in Silver Street. Boots the Chemist took over the shop when Comers moved into a new shop in the Market Place where a millinery shop, Stokes, had previously existed. [10, Feng Shui Crystals; was Glastonbury Galleries till recently]

   We next have the Assembly Rooms. At that time it was owned by Morlands, and was a popular venue for shows, concerts and the weekly hops, usually costing about one shilling and sixpence in old money. The girls sat one side of the hall and the boys on the opposite side. It was a long walk across the room to ask a girl if she would dance with you — and an even longer one back if she refused!

     I just remember the next building being converted for use as the gas showrooms and town library. Above the showrooms the borough treasurer, Ebb Smeath, and the town rent collector, Mrs Ham, worked. It was also the housing office. I understand that the building was previously used by a family called Bloom. [8A, Bishopston Trading; 8, Little Gem]

     Next we have Gillmore’s, a high-class jewellery shop run by Norman and his father Joseph, a dapper man with a goatee beard. (Jewellers used to do spectacles too. Norman’s son Keith qualified as an optometrist and practised at 74 High Street till he retired.) [6, Dicketts bookseller and stationer]

     Checkley’s came next, run by father and two brothers, Jack and Rob. It was the only radio shop in the High Street. Rob took care of the radio side and also provided and maintained the town firemen’s callout bells. It was a very well stocked ironmongery shop with boxes behind the counter displaying their contents on the fronts. [Blue Note café; Wicked Wax; entrance to Glastonbury Experience courtyard]

     At the bottom of the High Street we had Cooper and Tanner, the auctioneers who conducted the weekly market. Mr Tanner was a white-haired man and always wore a bright-coloured bow tie. He lived in the large house in Bovetown, Mount Avalon. [2, Big Bargain Shop]

   Around the corner was another sweet shop, Wilkins. It had a brass windowsill which was always kept highly polished. [6 Market Place, Jon the jeweller]

   Next again was Leslie Hillard, a saddler much used by the local farmers. The shop was later taken over by his son, Bert Hillard. [7, Avalon Sheepskin]

   Around the comer was Miss Stokes, a fairly large millinery shop. [8, National Federation of Spiritual Healers]. Comers moved to part of the premises from the High Street with their bread shop and cafe. [9, Crystal Star]

   Norman Squires the tailor was next. He made good-quality suits. His son Richard still lives in Glastonbury. [also 9?, Bristol and West building society]

   I have now come to the bottom of the left-hand side, as far as the Abbey gate. In the next issue I shall start from the top of Benedict Street and walk up the other side of the High Street.

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