Turn Back Time – The High Street

The historic marketplace, with the Market Cross

Shepton Mallett, the setting for The High Street (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ve just watched this fascinating programme on BBC iplayer. Beginning with the 1870’s, each episode takes a look at the culture of the British High Street through the ages. Set in Shepton Mallet, four shops have been transformed into historic themed shops. I’m a big fan of hese ‘history brought to life’ programmes, even if some people sniff about them not being realistic or being cheap.

Of course we all know pretty well that the old British High Street has taken something of a hammering since the advent of the supermarket and out of town shopping. This isn’t necessarily all bad, but it is impossible not to think that shopping in an old school High Street might have been a lot more pleasant than battling your way through the endless supermarket aisles. And not only in terms of shopping, but in terms of community, the High Street was important to life. Its a fascinating glimpse into ways of life that have all but disappeared – how female members of the family would never work in the front of house, how most shopkeepers would routinely deliver items at no extra charge (beating online shopping by a clear century), and how Victorian Butchers would display their wares on the outside of their shops – something that Environmental Health curtails nowadays.  

It was interesting to see how the various traders fared. The Grocers learnt to be flexible, to adapt to what they did or did not have in stock, and to deliver. The Baker struggled to begin with, but fared better after compromising quality for economy – clearly the Victorian consumer was not bothered overly if their bread was fluffy or white enough, but just wanted something to eat at a decent price. The Butcher struggled with modern sensibilities about what exactly goes into sausages, and in trying to sell every part of a pig. Even though we still eat most of the body of an animal nowadays, we have a naive ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude – people were really not used to seeing a carcass being Butchered in front of them. And the Ironmonger struggled to sell to customers, but spent most of his time servicing the other shopkeepers.

Lets take a quick look at Portsmouth High Street. The main thoroughfare in the town, it was an extremely fashionable place, and was described by conteporaries during the nineteenth century as ‘ranking among the finest streets in London’. You could purchase telescopes, barometers, books, miniatures, clothes, and also the usual fare such as food and drink. Everyone would have known each other, and the shopkeepers all moved in the same circles, and lived above their shops. Charpentier’s 1840 guide to the High Street even included a full length panorama of the street, showing each shop and house. On market day in particular you could have walked the length of the street and picked up everything that you needed, and also nearby you had a host of pubs, inns, hotels, coffee shops, banks, the Parish Church and of course the Town Hall and Market House in the middle of the street. Its not difficult to see how communities are more disjointed without this kind of hub.

I’m not sure if it was really necessary to have the annoying bloke from masterchef as the presenter, but thankfully he doesn’t rear his shiny head or open his mouth too often.

Future episodes will focus on the Edwardian, Wartime Britain, the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s; and its that change through time that I’ll be interested to see. The BBC is also running a ‘Hands on History’ campaign tied in with the programme, encouraging viewers to find out more about their High Street. That’s the beauty of a programme like this – it could apply to any High Street in any town in the country.



Filed under On TV, social history, Uncategorized

15 responses to “Turn Back Time – The High Street

  1. I went to one of the Hands on History events today, and enjoyed it.

    Good Food Shops

  2. Pingback: Electric Towel Warmers

  3. Pingback: ormuz, ormus, orme, ormes, ormus minerals

  4. Pingback: international holidays, cheap flights in india, honeymoon packages in india, cruises, hotels

  5. czhrwgiqphy cmgrjvyxgxt ehzldgpop hmiopmojif cbwtty qrxdqpqndpe

  6. The first and most important part of everyday life for so
    many car electronics people are comfortable with getting used cars online.
    Showing the costs of the trade. Most dealerships have relationships with other dealerships and see what they are doing or by automobile experts for a fraction of the price.
    Bad car electronics credit people are approved the loan without much costs

  7. Watch for signals of potential bank account breaking repairs.
    You’ll want to make the right choice to buy. The bodywork of the used auto is not certified pre-owned, always have a
    car on car audio systems Ebay or any other model. At
    the same time rebuild his or her car. Ownership history This section car audio systems details how many times they don’t tell
    truth so it’s only you who have to find how many lenders are
    competing for?

  8. Useful information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site
    by accident, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate didn’t happened in
    advance! I bookmarked it.

  9. The final sales was that 12 people were killed and atleast 50
    others were actually damaged. Actually, tweaking laws of science has
    changed into a norm for sci fi movie-makers.

  10. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly.
    I’m quite sure I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

  11. Hi there, yes this paragraph is truly pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it regarding blogging.

  12. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups
    thanks once again.

  13. Now you should be considering that what is cydia?
    Features of jailbreak ing: The 1 of the most essential feature of jailbreak
    is multi-tasking. Better to trade thoughts and settle issues now.

  14. Un alt lucru de reținut este că studiul continuu este necesar de SEO .

  15. Nonetheless, taking every buddy demand you obtain is
    foolishness. One note this will only work if your wireless adapter support this function. Therefore, you feel you learn Windows 7 inside and out?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s