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Bridge Street Taunton c 1904

Bridge Street Taunton c 1904 Taunton Somerset

This is a postcard by the Stengel Company of London but printed and artificially coloured in Saxony. Like so many good images this one originates in the “ Golden Age “ of postcard production dating 1902 to around 1914.

Many are quite formulaic, though, and not so well animated as this one. The social historian will see a lot of interest here. We can date the image by the fact that the tram system opened in Taunton in August 1901. Initially six double decker trams were in use but these were replaced by single deckers in 1904 and the line relaid on granite setts which are not seen in the image. The covered cart belonged to Mr George Paul the well known Taunton pawnbroker.” Georgie Paul’s three brass balls “ the children cried. Paul’s shop was at the top of East Reach. There were three pawnbrokers in the town at this time.    Above the cart is a sign for “ Pratt’s Motor Spirit “. The term “petrol “ was then covered by copyright by Carless, Capel and Leonard now part of Petrochem UK an oil refining business.

Fashion seen here is of great interest. At this time lots of young children were employed and can be seen working on the streets. One here can be seen pushing a little handcart possibly for a bakery shop. Ladies are all dressed up in their finery and best bonnets for it was a special event to come into town. With no public transport to and from the villages people had to pay a shilling ( 5p ) a time to come in on the carrier’s cart. Usually fine weather was selected for this. Ankle length skirts were the usual regime and one fine lady can be seen hitching up her skirt to walk along the pavement.

To the left is the Telegraph Inn, now closed, one of three public houses in Bridge Street. The others being The Myrtle Tree and The Black Horse. Taunton had around 90 public houses in 1904 serving a population of only 21,000. The public house served as a cheap refuge from a dingy home for many in the old courts of Taunton. In any case you did not have to pay for the heating and lighting, just the beer. Close to the Telegraph Inn was Gregory and Wrenn’s chemist shop now Taunton Stamp Shop. If you look inside you will see a lovely reminder of that old business in the forms of the old wooden fittings. Many have been removed from old chemist’s premises as they fetch a lot of money at antique auction. Don’t tell the stamp shop owner that.

Bridge Street was home to many of the small trades seen in provincial towns in the early Twentieth Century. We had the chemist, three public houses, a post office, ironmongers, a baker (perhaps employing the boy with the handcart.), confectioners, tobacconists, dressmakers, china dealers, stocking makers and, of course, Spiller and Webbers who many older Tauntonian’s will affectionately remember.

By Nick Chipchase

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