The Front around 1900

The Front at the beginning of the 20th Century

Here’s an interesting photograph from Julia Bennett’s family album, taken, I would estimate, in the first decade of the 20th century. The view shows the corner of Radcliffe Street and the Stratford Road, later known as Foster’s Corner after the Foster Brothers Clothing store that occupied the site.

In this picture the corner shop is the premises of William Hutchinson, a hairdresser and tobacconist. Next to him was a cycle shop, the sign above indicating the Hobart Cycle Company. By 1911 this was the Grafton Cycle Company, who later moved to the premises which still bears the name further down the street.

The shop next door, which is now two shops (as it has been for a long time) numbered 18 and 19 was mainly occupied by John Verney who was originally a shoemaker but was also the Postmaster. So from the 1880s onwards this was Wolverton’s Post Office, although it may also have accommodated some other businesses. The Post Office appears to have remained here until the new GPO was built on Church Street in the 1930s.

Next to the east at Number 17 was a Chemist, and had been thus from almost it’s first build in the 1860s.
The censuses and Trade Directories show:

  • George Atkinson
  • William Barton (from 1891)
  • Alfred Leeming (from 1911)
  • Walter Mackerness (from 1939)
In the 1950s the business was taken over by Escott, who then ran it until his retirement. The building showed remarkable continuity for its first century.
Number 16 showed a similar continuity, starting as a butcher with frederick Oxley, continuing through Harry Norman at the time this photo was taken and through to Canvins from about 1924 onwards.
Number 15 was originally a grocery, but from 1911 onwards was a shoe shop – Freeman, Hardy and Willis.
The three storey building next door, now numbered 13 and 14, was mainly a drapery, although the proprietor at this time was also described as a house furnisher. It’s not clear whether that meant soft furnishings or furniture, or both. Quite why the awning was thought necessary for this north facing shop front is not clear.
Sigwart’s, the watchmaker and jeweller, cannot be seen, but it was there, sandwiched between the two large buildings, one of which was, and still is, the North Western. After the closure of the Royal Engineer, which can be seen at the end of the block, the North western remains Wolverton’s oldest public house still practising its original trade.
There are a lot of people standing about in this picture. Most likely they are waiting for the tram which can be seen in the distance. There is a horse and cart but motor cars are completely missing.

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