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Evans George

Hasn’t the High Street changed!

On Midsummer Day, 1923, there was an addition to the Evans family who lived over their

furniture shop at 49

High Street, Wellington, Sa- lop. They had, according to reports by neighbours, a fat baby. A while later they took him over to the Methodist Church down the road and had him christened George Thomas. They used to leave him in his pram, outside the shop, with their dog, Rex, guarding him. When asked if he had only one child, his father replied, “One’s quite enough”. Since then High Street has changed a lot and I’ve been watching the changes happen. Today I took my camera for a walk up and down the street and was absolutely amazed by the differences, not only from the 1920s but also from the time we lived there in 1952, in a flat above two shops.

Almost everything seems altered now. In the 1920s High Street was more or less respectable on the front, mainly small houses, pubs and shops, with some pretty dreadful slums and grinding

poverty behind.

Places like Chapel Lane, Parton Square and New Square (Little Ireland) were notorious for squalor, drunk- en fights and police only going in fours.

10 …says George Evans

In the 1950s things were changing. The worst slums had been demolished and the people were housed in the hundreds of new coun- cil houses that were built in Regent Street, Ercall Gardens, Urban Gardens, Hollies Road etc. This was making a great improve- ment in the lives of many people, who often had their first bathroom and lavatory. Loss of customers, how-

ever, made life more difficult for the pubs and shopkeep- ers and this was followed by some changes that were a bit over-zealous. The Urban Council were conscious that they had been doing a good job rehousing slum dwellers, and that there was

a long queue for the new council houses. As a newly married couple we were in the queue but managed to buy a house in Roseway in 1953 before being of- fered a council one. At the time Compulsory Purchase Orders were easy to obtain and some well built houses and viable businesses were demolished unnecessarily. A recent look showed that most buildings were sheltered housing and looked well taken care of. Only three pubs remained, one of which was closed. The busiest business seemed to be James Rolla- sons. Jim was in my class at Princes Street School and I’m pleased his business

prospers. Likewise the Sign Shop, Farr and Harris (re- cently expanded) and sev- eral other shops including a pet grooming business that has been a brush maker and a Chinese laundry, ap- pear quite prosperous. Aus- tins, where I was born, no longer sells newspapers. Just a few of the best of the old houses near the New Church Road junction have survived and look well cared for. The old Wesleyan Chapel became its Sunday School, the Chad Valley toy factory, then an antiques shop and is now well con- verted to flats. The most attractive new building is undoubtedly Harry Edwards and Sons, Funeral Directors on the corner with Victoria Road.

My little wander along the street on a cold, windy day, showed that almost, but not quite everything had changed, not only from the 1920s but also from the 1950s. Well, that’s the na- ture of things; change is normal, staying the same would be boring. The street

is full of surprises with build- ings bustling with trade; businesses expanding and some packing up. One group of buildings is gen- tly rotting and waiting for the bulldozers while others show signs of prosperity. My 1934 Wellington Di- rectory lists each building and names its occupant and his business if any. There was a mixture of houses and shops as there is now, numbering from New Street to the junction with Mill Bank and King Street, with 147 addresses, odd numbers on the left, even on the right. Our old shop was 49 (I remember because I was taught it in case I was lost) and it’s now 45.

The commercial firms on the left included Avery, scale manufacturers, Hesketh, boot maker, Dukes Head, Percy Price, Hairdresser, Mrs.

P Price, Lodging

house, Elizabeth Clayton, Hairdresser, Thomas Smith, Brush Maker, Tom Austin, Newsagent (that’s the birth- place), Miss Smith, Draper, Harry Edwards, Joiner and Undertaker, Frank Tinsley, Grocer, John H Briscoe, Hardware Dealer, Berry & Warmington, Scale Mak- ers, Oddfellows Arms, Mrs. Bytheway, B Robertson, Hairdresser, James Beard, Tripe Dresser, Arthur Grif- fiths, Window Cleaner, W Johnson & Sons,


ware Dealer, Miss L Phil- lips, Confectioner, John Twinney, Boot Maker, WH Duce, Fried Fish Saloon, W Davies, Hairdresser, Mrs A Waltho, confectioner, Kings Head Inn, George Jones, Walter Magness, Plumber

and Charles Magness, Con- fectioner (the Boys High School tuck shop.).

On the right were: Agnes

Harvey, Grocer, Frederick Rushton, Chimney Sweep, Richard Weston, Boot mak- er, John H Jones, Boot mak- er, Mrs M Downes, Nelson Inn, Charles Hitchen, Boot maker, Mrs Betsy Clarke, Lodging House, Thomas Palin, Fishmonger, Herbert Owen, Draper, F Leake & Co, Furniture Manufactur- ers, JTH Purcell, Grocer, W Williams, Hand and Hart Inn, JC Holding, General Dealer, Tom Roberts, Land- scape Gardener and Mrs. Barker, Tobacconist. All the rest of the build- ings were private houses, most of them rented from a great variety of owners. There will be a few older readers who may remember some of the names quoted, possibly even some who are related to them. I must ask my friend Allan Frost when his grandfather, Noah, came and set up his bakers’ business in High Street; in the 1950s we thought it had been there forever, selling their delicious crusty bread. This was so good he’s even had a new row of houses named after him. Naturally High Street has changed and for most of the inhabitants it has been for the better.

Those who live in the

(relatively) new flats and maisonettes are in far bet- ter conditions than people were in the tatty cramped slums and should be glad, though a few perfectly good buildings were demolished too. Hurrah for High Street.

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