Hilary's Diaries - Hilary Townsend President of Stalbridge History Society
Titles by Hilary Townsend
I am so old I can remember when our High Street contained two butchers’ shops, two grocers, an on-the-premises bakery, a very high- class gentlemen’s outfitters, a shop selling rolls of linoleum, a shoe shop also selling men’s vests, shirts and longjohns, a ladies hairdresser and a little shop selling baby linens and pretty drapery. The post office and the chemist functioned in the same places that they do today.
Henry VIII sent John Leyland out in about 1548 to work out what booty he might get from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The High Street, Leyland reported, was `metely well builded`. Before Leyland’s time the street also contained a remarkable Market Cross which somehow escaped Cromwell and is the finest in Dorset.
In the early 15th century a substantial merchant’s house was built. It extended from the back of what is now Silk Hay to Fernwood, to the house next to it and to the back of the now antique shop. One gable end of this structure can still be clearly seen. In 1550 Silk Hay was extended into the street and its antiquity was discovered in the 1980s. In 1699 the old Rectory was built and in about 1750 the former newsagent, now antique shop, was extended. The Crown Inn was extended and significantly rebuilt at the time and in the style of King Edward VII. Sadly, that has now been smothered with baby blue paint and the signature red tiles have been lost, though they could be recovered.
Now it says in the Bible that old men can dream dreams. Can an eccentric female President of Stalbridge History Society also dream dreams? Might there also be a time when our Stalbridge High Street, (declared a conservation area in 1977) its traffic rerouted or subdued and specialist shops restored, will attract visitors coming to see our remarkable, well informed High Street and its architectural gems?
After all, no one goes to Chatsworth simply to buy the Duchess of Devonshire’s excellent furniture cream and I know from experience that it is very good. No, they go to see the beautiful buildings and gardens first, then they buy furniture cream.
© Hilary Townsend