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Old Shops, Bridge Street c 1890

Old Shops Bridge Street c 1890 Taunton Somerset

The image is pre postcard and illustrates the end of an era. The time is coming when small shops like these are giving way to larger shops and ultimately the department store. Maybe history has gone full circle as now the department stores are closing. Too big and too diverse.

The future seems to lie with smaller specialist shops. They carry less overheads and incur less running costs. More importantly they are much more adaptable to change and circumstances. Gone too are what once were a common site in towns. Buildings with thatched roofs. The windows are typical of the Victorian era. Small panes of glass as machine drawn cylinder sheet glass did not appear in the UK until 1910.

In the doorway of 15A Bridge St. stands Ruth Trump (I would love to see what the bottles were). She ran her little shop in 1890 and she was a dealer in tea and tobacco. Ruth was born in Exeter and in 1901 is listed as a widow aged 67 living at 11 St. Andrews Terrace (of which I yet have no location) supported by her stepson and a lodger.

Next door is the premises of Henry Kelland a chimney sweep. His shop sign has been hastily pasted over with a notice stating that he is intending to move to 40 Wood St. Here we find him in 1894 but the directory lists him as a shopkeeper. The 1901 census at 40 Wood St. lists Henry Kelland aged 74 a blacksmith retired. Henry certainly seemed to shuffle his jobs. Henry’s wife Ann is ten years younger and like Ruth Trump they are supported by a lodger. Perhaps to maintain your home it was necessary to have a lodger after you retired in old age back then. Kelland’s premises look to be more than a chimney sweeps in Bridge St.The hastily erected awning has a suggestion of something else so its fair to assume that this was a shop as well. Henry’s notice of removal might well be the prelude to the shops being demolished as they were gone soon after 1890. The 1902 directory places the position of the shops as between the old Telegraph Inn and The Black Horse Inn.

Henry Kelland seems to have prospered as next door to him at 41A is Kelland’s Buildings which was occupied by eight people in 1901. Note the boy with the little hand cart. Sadly we know nothing of his life. Nor do we know who the person peering out of the window is. Old photos can tell a few stories but mainly they like to keep the little secrets to themselves.

By Nick Chipchase

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