Friday, 17 July 2015

Sepia Saturday 288: The Changing Face of a Market Town

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Marilyn Brindley

This week's Sepia Saturday theme image of a buther's shopfront is a reminder, if we ever needed one, of now much our townscapes have changed in the last century, and by that I'm referring not just to the buildings themselves but also the nature of the window displays and manner of presenting wares to the public. Attractive as they are to the modern tourist, most of the quaint old historic villages that one sees regularly in guide books and on the television bear little resemblance to how they looked in Victorian times. There are some exceptions, however, and some time fellow Sepian Nigel Aspdin has kindly dropped whatever he was doing, hopped on the bus at a moments notice, and spent a rainy morning in Ashbourne (Derbyshire) taking some "now" photos for me.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Green Man Hotel. Ashbourne. W.4286
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by Louis B. Twells, Ashbourne, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Consider this image of the Green Man and Black's Head Royal Hotel in the medieval market town of Ashbourne in the Derbyshire Dales, which was published by photographer Louis B. Twells, probably in the mid-1880s to early 1890s. A crowd of onlookers has assembled in the archway of the inn's carriage entrance, either to provide a send off for the distinguished looking family departing in the horse-drawn carriage, or at the photographer's bidding to provide some life in his scene. Plenty of human interest there certainly is in this well constructed and executed view, with a gaggle of children lurking on the street corner, a couple of erstwhile shoppers walking down the pavment at far left, perhaps having just visited Henry Hood & Son's tailors and gentleman's outfitters shop next door to the Green Man.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Green Man Hotel, St John Street, Ashbourne, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Mrs. Fanny Wallis was proprietress of the Green Man and Black's Head Commercial and Family Hotel, Posting House & Inland Revenue Office (to quote its full title as given in trade directories of the time) in St John Street, Ashbourne from the death of her husband Robert Wallis in 1871 until her own death in 1898. Little appears to have been done to the exterior since then, and the outfitter's next door is somewhat surprisingly still selling clothing. They have, however, cleaned up the horse droppings on the road.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Market Square. Ashbourne. W.4285
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by Louis B. Twells, Ashbourne, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Nigel's great-grandfather William Barnes had an ironmonger's shop fronting onto Market Place, and used the full extent of the open area to display his wares, presumably by arrangement with the authorities to avoid a fine for obstructing the pavement. His sign in the middle of the square is just visible near the right hand edge of this scene, partly obscuring the shop front of George Hill & Company, boot and shoe manufacturers. The building to the left of this was occupied by the Conservative Club (John Rowland, secretary). The only other sign clearly legible, and reading only "Bradley," is affixed to a building at middle left, actually situated on St John Street. This was, according to the 1891 edition of Kelly's Trade Directory, Edwin Sylvester Bradley, chemist and druggist. The directory also provides the following:
A handsome monument and fountain was erected in the market place in 1873, by public subscription, in memory of the late Francis Wright esq. of Osmaston Manor, for his valuable services to the town and neighbourhood.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Market Square, Ashbourne, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The monument is still there, although by now somewhat darker than the surroundings, and William Barnes' agricultural implements have been replaced, inveitably, by motor vehicles. Otherwise, the general outline of buildings and skyline remain almost completely unchanged, although I did notice that the top spike is missing from a finial on a building facade at the far left, perhaps knocked off by an over-exuberant spectator or player during one of Ashbourne's annual Royal Shrovetide Tuesday Football games. The then Prince of Wales (future Kind Edward VIII) received a bloody nose during the 1928 match.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Market Square, Ashbourne, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

William Barnes' shop front is not visible in the lithographic view, but can be seen in Nigel's recent photo, now occupied by the Lighthouse charity shop and Spar and looking rather sad, in my view.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Church Street. Ashbourne. W.2669
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by Louis B. Twells, Ashbourne, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

In this view of Church Street, which becomes St John Street further down in the vicinity of The Green Man, the streetscape is full of people standing chatting outside shops and, in the case of several blurred figures, walking along the pavement. I've been unable to decipher the name of the shop outside which the three young men are loitering at left, but the shop window looks to be full of bottles. On the right hand side of the street, the wrought iron sign for the White Hart Hotel (Mrs Elizabeth Burton, proprietor) is just visible, although the writing not legible.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Church Street, Ashbourne, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The modern day bunting-bedecked view shows the bottle shop at left to be occupied by Fidler Taylor, estate agents, valuers, surveyors and auctioneers; the bottles have gone. There is no longer and parking for vehicles at the kerb, whether horse-drawn or motorised, but there are roughly the same number of pedestrians and the White Hart Hotel now offers Sky Sports Live - I shan't be going in there any time soon.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Grammar School. Ashbourne. W.4284
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by Louis B. Twells, Ashbourne, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Ashbourne's Queen Elizabeth Grammar School looked somewhat dilapidated, perhaps even slightly ghostly, in the late nineteenth century. It was already three hundred years old, and within a couple of decades the teaching programme had moved to a new location on Green Road.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Old Grammar School, Church Street, Ashbourne, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The Old Grammar School building has been patched up a little in the ensuing 125 years or so, currently being used as private dwellings, and I notice that it has a "For Sale" sign hanging outside.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Ashbourne Church & Grammar School. 9892. G.W.W.
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by George Washington Wilson, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Diagonally opposite the Old Grammar School on Church Street is the gateway to the Parish Church of St Oswald:
The church of St. Oswald, King and Martyr ... dedicated in 1241 ... is a cruciform building, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave, south aisle, transept, north and south porches and a central tower, with lofty octagonal spire, 212 feet in height, ribbed with ball flower ornaments and pierced with twenty dormer lights in five tiers of four each; this spire, a work of great beauty and remarkable lightness, is called the "Pride of the Peak," and was restored in 1873.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Ashbourne Church. 3918. G.W.W.
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by George Washington Wilson, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

A slightly less obstructed and more rural view of the same church but from over the fields to the south was published by the Scottish publisher G.W. Wilson.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Ashbourne Church from the South, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Ashbourne Hall. 20,907. G.W.W.
Lithographic print of photograph by unknown photographer
Published by George Washington Wilson, probably c.1885-1895
Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Ashbourne Hall was originally built "somewhat in the style of a French chateau and has still some traces of antiquity."

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Ashbourne Hall, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

The outlying buildings of Ashbourne have not fared so well, this one appearing to have suffered from partial decapitation.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
A.R. Bentley, Groceries & Provisions, Ashbourne shop front, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Unfortunately I don't have any old photographs of Ashbourne's shopfronts to share with you, but I will include a couple that Nigel took the other day to give you an idea of how it feels to shop in Ashbourne today. Bentley's corner shop probably retains much of the flavour, and perhaps little of the charm, that it had when it first opened in 1973.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Vacant premises, Ashbourne shop front, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

We have few clues as to what this tenant offered for sale. All I can say now is that they've moved on, hopefully to greener pastures.

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Ashbourne shop front, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

This purveyor of "Home Cooked Meats" and "English & Continental Cheeses" advertising in the windows of perhaps mostly an authentic shop front caters to a boutique market which doesn't appear to be in abundance on this overcast, showery day,

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Nigel's, Top Quality Butcher, Ashbourne shop front, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

Nigel (not my friend Nigel, but another one) may have top quality meat for sale, but I think he needs to brush up on his window dressing skills. A couple of plastic models of a beef and a dairy cow aren't enough to replace the lavish display that his predecessors might have had a century earlier.

Image courtesy of National Library of Ireland
J. Morgan's butcher's shop, Broad St, Waterford, Ireland, 25 Feb 1916
Image courtesy of National Library of Ireland's Flickr Commons Collection

Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin
Road distance marker, Ashbourne, 13 July 2015
Image © and courtesy of Nigel Aspdin

And if you're interested in where Ashbourne is, I can tell you exactly: 139 miles from London, 45 miles from Manchester, and 13 miles from Derby. Whether you're headed to London, Manchester or Timbuktu, please take a moment to stop off and visit the other Saturday Sepians on the way.

17 comments:

  1. Somehow the old images always seem more interesting than the new, probably helped by the fact that old horse-drawn vehicles have a lot more character than modern cars. Dilapidated old buildings and empty shop windows are a sorry sight. I do like Nigel's second last photograph of what in Australia might be called a delicatessen, and hope it gets enough customers to continue!.

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    Replies
    1. Jo - Perhaps the new images would appear more interesting if I had sepiarised them? They're called delicatessens here too - I supposed I should have used that word.

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  2. Most of the redos seem to have been done in ways which kept the original 'flavor' of the town in mind - the one exception seeming to be Ashbourne Hall. I don't think they did such a good job there & I'm not referring to the removal of the third floor of the one section, but to the modernized plainness of the whole thing. What a shame. It had so much charm in its younger life.

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    Replies
    1. Gail - I agree, it looks exceedingly plain, but I think the loss of the third floor and the roof has done irreparable damage to the balance and appearance of the structure. What a shame, my sentiments exactly.

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  3. The Ashbourne Hall "remodel" is more like what I'm used to seeing where I live. More often than not, a complete demolition is the chosen option when modernization is called for.

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    Replies
    1. Wendy - Perhaps a demolition would be preferable.

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  4. A fascinating and an entertaining post - fabulous research and explanation, as always. And the highest of praise for Nigel and his "now" photos, I know from personal experience how difficult it can be getting exactly the right comparative shot with a modern camera.

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    1. It would have helped a lot if they had not overdone the bunting !!

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    2. Alan - It is very difficult.

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    3. Nigel - I agree, but then any bunting is too much in my book.

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    4. Is the bunting up for any special event?

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  5. That was a terrific time travel tour. Mr. Barnes market square display baffled me until I figured out the extended wheels belong to agricultural equipment, not unlike American rural farm equipment stores. One of the qualities of Britain's smaller towns that I like is the preservation of common land like the pasture field by Ashbourne Church. We've lost that pastoral connection in America cities. No one knows where our dairy products come from anymore.

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    Replies
    1. Mike - Many of those dairy products in England come from New Zealand these days. Perhaps not so many of those in America. Sorry, I should have explained they were cultivators, harrows, etc.

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  6. How fun to see the "then and now" shots. And the very last, to put Ashebourne into a map perspective is helpful from over here near Asheville, NC.

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    Replies
    1. Barbara - I have a thing for those old milestones.

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  7. Fascinating posts and I really like all the photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

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