Window gazing in 1954

Last week’s blog article described new developments in High Street in the 1960s. This week we go back another 10 years to 1954 when an article in the Herald featured the ‘glittering new premises of an old established firm’. The shop was Central Tailor (Poole) Ltd., men’s and boy’s outfitters at No. 124 High Street which had been enlarged and transformed by a major refurbishment. In the days when there were few department stores and most High Street shops looked much as they had done in the previous century, the new look of the shop was obviously something which created a stir.

The façade of the shop had been brought up to date using the latest technology and was claimed to be the only one of its kind in the country. According to the newspaper, it possessed ‘the almost magical quality that arrests the attention of even the most hard-pressed passer-by, drawing him not only to its plate glass windows but into the shop itself’. The ‘entirely new and intricate method of glazing allows two pieces of glass to be joined together without any apparent support and is a firm as concrete, a German process only recently introduced to this country’.

The proprietor of the shop was Henry John Travers, who had started in the outfitting business in Weymouth at the end of the previous century. Moving to Poole he set up his own business at 52, High Street as the census of 1911 shows. Unusually, H. J. Travers was listed as the head of the household although both his parents were living with him, along with his sister, Rachel and aunt, Elizabeth Dobell. Both Rachel and his father, William Travers assisted in the business.

The area c. 1905. No 124 on the extreme left

No 124 on the extreme left c 1905

In the 1920s, the business was relocated to No. 124 where it was still going strong, more than 30 years later, having been made a private company in 1952. At that time, three of the longest serving assistants William S. Elsden, F. D. Pounds and F.E.J. Sculley,  were made directors of the newly formed Central Tailor (Poole) Ltd. By 1954 H. J. Travers was 80, a remarkable age to be embarking on such a major project. The enlarged shop was reported to carry the biggest stock of any outfitters in Dorset and the Herald reporter found ‘more pairs of trousers than he thought could ever be found in one shop – 1,500 of them’. Besides everyday and work ware, the shop also stocked outfits for yachtsmen, H. J. Travers having been a keen sailor for over 60 years. One of his shop assistants had the summer job of acting as skipper for his yacht, Nephaic II.

The area in the 1760s. No 124
The area in the 1760s. No 124 probably still to be built.

Going back 200 years to the mid 18th century, maps show the location of No. 124 as right on the edge of the built up part of the High Street. North of here there were only fields, intersected by lanes and a few dotted buildings. This was probably the area where troops drilled during the Napoleonic wars. Gradually the area became more built up, with the construction of Beech Hurst in the 1790s, followed by more shops and the Methodist chapel in the 19th century. The earliest trader I can find who (probably) occupied No. 124 was Clement Green who was a cooper or barrel maker. From the middle of the 1800s it seems to have been the home of James R. Justican, a solicitor’s clerk and insurance agent. Frank Spencer who was a local government clerk and clerk to the Poole Poor Law Union lived there in the 1890s. By 1901, Frank’s wife, Agnes was 32, already widowed and living there with her parents and three children, Montague, Sylvia and Lionel. Later, she set up a millinery business in the premises.

The windows of Robert Dyas today

The windows of Robert Dyas today

From the 1920s the shop became Henry John Travers’ outfitters as mentioned above and continued for over 40 years. Henry John died in 1964 at the age of around 90, leaving £16, 747. In the mid ’60s, the shop became Peter’s Army and Navy Stores Ltd. Today it houses Robert Dyas, ironmongers. The windows which were so revolutionary in the 1950s have almost certainly changed in the last 60 years and no longer stand out from the other shops around them.

Do you remember the Central Tailor and its new look shop?



About Poole High Street Project

Contact: Jenny Oliver -
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