One of the landmarks of the High Street used to be the thatched cottage on the corner of Carter’s Lane, the subject of many photographs and sketches. Believed to date from the 16th century, the cottage was built of stone and appears from photographs to be cruck-framed. It was one of a row of old houses surviving along Carter’s Lane in the late 19th century. The door and ceilings were very low as shown by comparison with the Thomas Atkins’ chemist shop premises next door and the windows were small, no doubt making it very dark inside. Two dormer windows in the roof were possibly a later adaptation to the original structure.
In the 1840’s this was probably the home of Elisabeth Waterman, a woman of ‘independent means’ according to the census record, who lived there with her servant into the 1860s. She was also described as a ‘proprietor of houses’. By 1881, John Henstridge, a general labourer, lived there with his wife Ellen who worked as a laundress, and their three children Charles, Walter and Lily. Ten years later, the 1891 census record shows Arthur James living there with his wife Elisabeth. At 65, Arthur James was the town crier and bill poster. The couple had their grand-daughter, Annie, living with them and in later census returns, other family members also lived there. Arthur James apparently died in 1903 and Elisabeth in 1916. Shortly afterwards, in 1919 according to the Album of Old Poole, the thatched cottage was demolished, ending its 300 to 400 years’ story.
A substantial Edwardian shop was built on the site and became Poole’s first Woolworth’s store. F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd. described themselves as a ‘fancy repository’ and later a ‘bazaar’ (a description also used by the early Marks and Spencers). They also advertised themselves as a 3d and 6d stores as this picture shows. Many local people have fond memories of shopping at Woolworth’s:
‘My Dad bought my mother’s engagement ring from Woolworth’s in 1962. We enjoyed shopping for toys there’.
‘Big day out! Came to Poole Woolworth’s to buy my first camera which cost 5s as a birthday present.’
In memories posted on this blog, Aubrey Jenkins remembers how Woolworths ‘really did set the High Street alight with everything priced at 3d or 6d, old pence of course, and was an immediate success’ The store also ‘used all sorts of inducements to attract customers. One of them was sales in which buckets could be bought for sixpence, much to the dismay of ironmongers. Of course only a few were on sale, but it got customers into the store and that of course was the idea, and once in customers were almost certain to buy something if they couldn’t get a bucket. Something else was the sale of sheet music for the piano of all the popular songs of the day. As many households of the day had a piano they sold well. As an added inducement a lady pianist was employed to play the popular tunes and very efficient she was too, occasionally departing from the music and into her own rendition of the piece with red hot syncopated jazz rhythms which had our feet tapping. To actually see and hear her with her fingers flying over the keys, body swaying with the rhythm, was quite wonderful, and it was real music played by a real person not something that happens at the touch of a button as it is today. I remember her quite well with her bobbed hair swinging.’
Woolworth’s were on the site right through to 1959 when they moved to their new premises at 123/5 High Street. Their old shop became Pearks, grocers and then the Golden Pool Chinese restaurant, where many residents remember eating, or even dancing. In 1986, it was taken over as the Mr Pizza restaurant and in 1996 became Pam Purred Pets, the pets, pet food and accessories shop.
In 2010, the shop was once again empty when the BBC were looking for a suitable property to open as their ‘pop-up shop’ for a week-end. This was to be a reconstructed 1930s grocer’s shop designed to inspire people’s memories of shops and shopping as they used to be. It was also intended to advertise a series of programmes that the BBC were planning on the history of the High Street. Dorchester had been the intended location in the area but when they failed to find a suitable shop there, Poole was chosen instead.
The shop proved to be a great success. Equipped with an old fashioned counter, scales, mock groceries, an acting ‘grocer’ and a display area at the back, it attracted 6072 people in three days. Children dressed up in 1930s costume, adults left handwritten memories of the High Street and a radio show was broadcast live from the premises.
The popularity of the shop showed that there was a great local interest in the past. Some of the memories recorded by people visiting the shop have illustrated the postings on this blog. Most important for us was that the BBC promotion inspired our own local High Street project which is now over a year old and still going strong.