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The High Street 60 years ago

Eric King

This article appeared in Newsletter 97 (2000 October).

The third instalment of Eric King’s recollection of Glastonbury shops as they were around 1940. We start now at the top of Benedict Street and walk up the north side of the High Street.   [Previous part] [Next part]

   [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, almost none of the shops in this section display their street number on the outside!]

On the corner we have Heaphy’s, a large millinery shop on two floors. The owner was C.V. Heaphy, a mayor of Glastonbury and also the superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school. [Graftons wine bar; previously Heaphy’s wine bar]

   Collihole’s, next door, was a very high-class grocery shop with a restaurant on the first floor, approached by a very impressive stair in the centre of the floor. Many local people purchased their beef dripping which in old money cost sixpence a pound. [Demolished in 1960s. Zapps newsagent]

   Next we come to William Graves’ fruit shop. This was later owned by Roy Cox. [Used-book shop, on three floors]

   Next is the King William. For many years this was run by the Rice family. Their daughter Edith became a mayor and alderman of Glastonbury — also a freeman.

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   Across Northload Street was an old building whose curtains were always drawn; a few pots were displayed in the window. I was never sure of the use of the building. [In Harmony With Nature—hemp shop]

   Next came Butcher Halls. The shop was later taken over by the Co-op. When Mr Halls left the business he moved into Restholme in the Wells Road (now called Chindit House) and ran it as a guest house. [Stephens the butcher]

   Next was Christophers’ sweet shop, run by two brothers. They also had a warehouse in Butts Close and supplied sweets to the wholesale trade. [3, Heartfelt Trading]

   Then came the Crown Hotel. It was run by the Dibble family, father, mother and son Alec. In later years it was run by George and Madge Griffin. The front bar was always used by the regular customers. One such regular was Waiter Higgins. You could set your watch to nine when he arrived every night. He had a regular seat and no other customer ever sat in his seat; he sat in his corner smoking his pipe and very rarely entered into the conversation. [Glastonbury Backpackers hostel]

   The Westminster Bank was next; the manager was Mr Treleor. [National Westminster Bank]

   The George and Pilgrims next was owned by Mrs Richards, and later on by Garth Holbrook. It was an expensive hotel and was very smart in those days. The back bar of the hotel attracted some of the local characters, and it was most entertaining just to sit in the bar and listen to the conversations of Dr Morse, Edmund Carter, Keg Mapstone, Jack Chislett, Jones, and Bert Hillard, to mention just a few of the entertainers. Market day was most entertaining when all the local farmers gathered to have a drink and relate their experiences. I only wish I had a tape-recording of the conversations that took place in those times.

         We now come to Lloyds bank. The manager was Mr Jefford, a very quiet person. Their daughter Barbara Jefford became rather famous as an actress.

   A narrow passage next to the bank led to the health centre. TB was quite common in the days following the war and a number of people attended for treatment. It also served as a clinic. [Unique Publications, Shades & Characters, Richard Pelham stained glass, ... —numbered from St John’s Square]    Wright’s dress shop came next. It was run by Norman Wright, his wife and sister Joan. They were members of the same family who ran the ironmonger’s shop further up the High Street. [5 High Street, Speaking Tree bookshop]

   Frisby’s shoe shop was next; Bill Maddiford was its manager. [Galatea restaurant]

   The International Stores was next, quite a large shop. Provisions lined one side and groceries the other. You paid for your purchase by presenting a ticket at the cash desk on your exit. [7, Gothic Image]

   The Tribunal was next, not as well used in those days. As far as I remember it was never opened to the public but was used as a store for items found in the Abbey.

   A very good toy shop came next, called Goodall’s. It was run by a husband and wife but was taken over by Curry’s just before the war. [Orthodox Way]

   The Midland Bank manager was Lewis Green. {HSBC Bank]

   A very popular pub called the Monarch was next, run by Austin Lukins and his son Harold, who now lives in Bere Lane. The bar was used by a number of locals who paid nightly visits. A stranger coming into the bar caused the conversation to stop. The locals were Harry Janes, Bill and Bete Foster, Arthur King, Cyril Sparks, Den Lukins, Les Jones — they all sat in their usual seats each night. [Passageway to small shops; Art of Africa]

   Next was the dentist, Mr Bevis, quite a short person, very quiet and always appeared to be more frightened than his patient, especially when he extracted your teeth. [17, Passageway to Rainbow’s End restaurant; Dragons]

   Next came Tulley’s, the photo shop, later owned by Higden. It was left empty during the war and used by the army, in particular by the Americans as a medical centre. [empty]

   We now come to the old Post Office; it moved from here about 1937. During the war it was used as the local ARP report centre, staffed 24 hours every day by wardens, messengers and telephonists. It was also used as the Food Office, where one obtained ration books. Behind it was the Glastonbury telephone exchange — it was of course manual and consisted of three operating positions. It remained here until after the war, when the new automatic exchange was opened behind the new Post Office. [Barclays Bank]

   Next came Deacon’s, the chemist. [Crystals]

   I must include Church Lane. The town chimneysweep lived at the end house; his name was Mr Sweet. Next was a glove factory owned by Brookes, and next again a small school run by Mrs Morris. [St John’s Centre; demolished]

   We now arrive at St John’s Church. Vicar Lionel Smithett Lewis will always stand out in my memory. He was often seen riding around the town on his bike and usually providing some poor person with goods.

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