Shopping in St Mary Street at the turn of the century:Part 1.

Over the next few posts on here I’m going to take you  for a stroll down through old Weymouth town, starting off in St Mary Street.

Our visit will take place at the turn of the century; Queen Victoria’s long reign is about to come to an end with her sad demise and her son Edward takes over the reins, heralding the start of the Edwardian era.

These shops and businesses are the ones that my grandparents would have known well, Grandma Darch would have shopped for her clothes, hats and knee length frilly bloomers in the grand department stores of the day.

The places that Granddad Darch  visited would have been far more of a male domain; the tobacconists where he brought his cigars from, (there was certainly no lack of choice in the Victorian street,) or the pubs that he would have frequented, having a good old chinwag with his fellow businessmen, a flirt with the pretty buxom serving wench.

Some of the names of the longer-standing businesses are even ones that I grew up with as a child in the town.

Fascinated as I am with family history I would so love a time machine. Oh to be able to travel back and see what they saw, smelt what they did as they entered these stores, no sterile layers of packing in those days!

Aromatic teas and coffees, their delicious aromas percolating out in the street, hinting of what great delights lie inside the doorway (something that supermarkets do artificially these days…,) goods sold loose, no matter how large or small an amount, all catered for and carefully wrapped for their customers in newspaper or brown paper bags.

Ripening meat and fowl  inside butchers shops, thick sawdust strewn across the floor,  more well-hung carcasses draped outside covered in fur or feather, flies feasting greedily on their blank, staring eyes.

A shop bell hung above the door, tinkling its greeting as the customer enters, summonsing eager staff from the room behind, quick to pamper to your every wish.

But unfortunately, a Tardis not being readily available to me…I have to go for the next best thing.

A visual reconstruction of those intriguing department stores and quaint small shops that lined the busy streets of Weymouth town. These were the days when individual shop owners ruled the business world, no out of town super stores to entice customers away from the thriving town centre.

By using illustrations from my own collection and some kindly lent to me by fellow Weymouth history buffs I hope to give you a small glimpse of what living in Weymouth would have been like at the turn of the century, who was about, who your grandparents or great grandparents might have shopped with or businesses they might have worked in.

Weymouth library also holds so many fascinating pictures of the town from this era in their Local Studies Centre, some of which I shall be using in future blogs about the streets of Weymouth town.

I  start by standing near the Kings Statue and looking towards the two ends of the main shopping streets, St Mary’s and St Thomas.

According to the on-line document ‘Weymouth Town Centre Conservation Area Character Appraisal’ Weymouth town has a long and extensive history, albeit on a smaller scale  than now,  ‘It is fairly certain that the grid-pattern layout of Melcombe originates from the early-to-mid medieval period, possibly related to the Edwardian charter.’

We’ll walk down St Mary’s first, the house numbers (should ) run consecutively down one side and up the other, but as time passed, some buildings were demolished, a few numbers changed here and there, but where I can I will try to align them with todays premises.

So…make sure your fashionable hat is pinned on tight, your pretty white lace collar sits neatly above your fitted jacket…but please do mind your skirt hems in the dust…they don’t water down these roads as frequently as they should, sand and grit just ruins the hemlines of your garments if you aren’t careful.


Many of these buildings you see before are two or three stories high,  some of these rooms above the businesses are occupied by lodgers or staff from the shops below., but sometimes  the shop owners themselves live on the premises, the working days are often long and husband and wives, even the children help out when they can.

Scan06The rounded building on the end of St Mary Street to the left of the Kings Statue is known as Statue house.

In the 1901 census 59-year-old Elizabeth Young is in residence here, poor lady, she’s a widow and to keep a roof over her head her occupation is now that of a lodging house keeper. Considering the size of the property she doesn’t have too many lodgers.

A solitary soldier  in residence…34-year-old Fred Cox.

Beneath the somewhat empty rooms of Elizabeths’ is the business of Clarke & Partner, see how their name is emblazoned around the end of the building for all to see, this is the billboard of the Victorian era.

P1030866The business is a partnership between two rather well heeled gentlemen, John George Parker and Albert Augustus Clarke.

John George Parker, who is  53, was from Manchester it is said, and he is an insurance agent amongst many other things.

He lives in a rather nice house called Shamrocks which is out at Upway, along  with his wife, 29-year-old Annie, (we won’t dwell upon  the age gap ladies…suffice to say they seem happy enough.)  They have a young family, Dorothy, Annie and William, all of whom  were born in Weymouth.

Albert Augustus is an auctioneer, his house is that rather nice place,  Lynwood, on Westerhall Road, you must know where I mean ladies. Florence is his wife, she’s also a fair deal younger than him, and they have three lovely children, Mary, Dorothy and Helen.

Albert wasn’t born in Weymouth but Somerset, that’s like so many people in Weymouth now…we are becoming really quite cosmopolitan!

I blame it on the railways myself.

Apparently, so the gossip goes, Albert  had moved to this area as a single man in the 1880’s. Even by then he was already a successful business man, a master builder with a sizeable workforce, he had been a good catch for any female even if I do say so myself.

In 1889 Albert was working  as an auctioneer, but he had the reputation of many finger in many proverbial pies.

It must have been fairly soon after that that the two men amalgamated their businesses and set up shop at Statue House that you see today.

By the way ladies…did you see whose house is up for sale….I had heard some frightful rumours…such a shame


Here we come across our first conundrum!

The census enumerator lists the residents in order that he follows down the street going from door to door.

1901 starts with Statue house, followed by no’s 1, 2 and then the black Dog at no 3. nowadays these buildings that sit between the Statue House and the small building numbered 1a are rather strangely numbered in the hundreds?

Were buildings demolished here at some stage?

I shall stick to the enumerators route as he was proverbially ‘on the ground’ at the time and entered what was there at on the day.


Here we are, this is No 1 St Mary Street,  the business premises of Robert Bullen Brown.

In Kelly’s Directory he’s listed as the seller of waterproof goods…but don’t be deceived, he’s so much more than that!

I’ve looked him up on The Jury Lists and it states that he’s a tent and tarpauline manufacturer, and as you can see from the advert below he runs a pretty large company, he owns shops in Dorchester as well as Weymouth.

Snip20140926_3Mr Brown doesn’t live above his premises…not surprising really,  I don’t personally know the gentleman myself, but I have heard through the grapevine that well-off Robert and his wife Mary Ann  live at Glebe House in Dorchester.

I’m not sure if he  travels back and forth to work over the Ridgeway every day, but then again he in all probability doesn’t need to.

I think he may have have an assistant who lives locally and opens up shop for him.

Never having the need for tents or tarpaulins myself I’ve not entered his premises yet…but perhaps I could find use for a short piece of rope…


Ah, now here’s a family I know well, they’re locals don’t you know…you must have at least heard of the Guppy’s surely?

This is No 2a, if you look at the sign in their window it says Messrs J Guppy & co.

This is  where  Thomas John and his wife, Sarah Ann, (they are both in their forties by now,) work, and they live in the rooms above.  They have two adorable children , Thomas William who is 13 and Hilda Marion, she’s only seven, such a sweetie pie.

They are one of my favourite  jewellery shops, I do so love to browse their little trinkets and knick-knacks, Thomas is very  helpful, he always manages to find something special for me to spend my allowance on…

woman girl clock q 1892Alice Maud Roper lives in with the family too, a very hard worker so Sarah Ann tells me, she likes to help out in the shop sometimes. I’m sure she’ll be with them for a long time to come..not that you can ever tell really! Servants can sometimes be so flighty. (Alice was still living at and working in the shop premises in 1911.)

Thomas used to have a shop in Bond Street but decided it might be busier here in St Mary St, so in 1892 the family moved.

Not that it has been all good here in their new shop.

In the April of 1897 their shop made the headlines of the local papers…it was scandalous really…it was the scene of a rather daring burglary and was the cause of much gossip around town as you can only imagine.

One Friday night, as midnight approached, two men had been lurking suspiciously in the street…up to no good of course!

So the story goes, one of the men smashed a large hole in the window with a rock, or some say his boot, and they both began grabbing handfuls of jewellery and silver goods. The night of the robbery was an extremely windy one, the noise of the breaking glass deadened somewhat.

Unluckily for the thieves there just happened to be two men who were near the Statue, and  did hear something. Though why anyone should be out and about at that time of the night goodness only knows! Anyhow, I digress somewhat, the two men walked towards St Mary Street to investigate where they thought the noise had come from.

The thieves spotted  the approaching men, they were still trying to stuff their ill gotten gains into their pockets, then they turned and fled down the street away from the men.

Luckily someone else  had also heard the noise, two of the patrolling policemen, PC Sweet and PC Burt, both good men, regular church goers, they were walking the beat from St Edmund Street end.

Trapped between the police and the approaching men the wily thieves turned up Bond Street, making haste towards the seafront, but thankfully they were not quick enough, the long arm of the law soon had them collared.

Once the policemen had them under arrest they followed a trail of rings, ink wells and knick knacks  back to Guppys shop front where they found the smashed window.

It turns out that the two men were soldiers of the resident Northumberland Fusiliers, John Sweet and  Michael Tonar. Those soldiers from the Red Barracks always seem to be getting into trouble with the law. The army really should do something about their excessive drinking!

Well, it transpired that both men had planned the burglary not bothering if they got caught, it had been a desperate ruse to get thrown out of the army. I’m sure the army was quick enough to oblige!

(By 1913 Thomas Guppy is  calling himself a dealer in fancy goods.

1915 sees his son Thomas William take over the shop in St Mary Street, Thomas senior by then has new premises in St Edmund Street and is back to dealing in watch repairs and jewellery.

In a 1927 Kelly’s Directory, Thomas junior is listed as a fancy goods dealer, owning both shops still, St Mary Street and St Edmund Street, but the family (as Junior still lived at home with Mum and Dad!) were living in Abbotsbury Road by then.

Thomas John Guppy died on the 3rd May 1936, a fairly wealthy man,  leaving his businesses to his son Thomas and daughter Hilda Marion Lack.)


Hurry along ladies…it looks like it’s going to rain soon… and I don’t have my umbrella with me

This building is 2b St Mary St and as you can quite clearly see from the shop windows  it is a photography business, a very successful one too,  and has been for some years.

It’s now run by local gentleman Walter Galpin  Cox,  Emily, his wife helps out in the shop. They have a rather large family, but at the moment only Bernice, Emily, Edgar and Daisy are at home with them,  the family of course live above these premises.

Walter was born in Weymouth, but you know children, they like to strike off on their own sometimes, as of course they should. Well,  Walter had moved out of the family home to Bristol of all places!… but there he managed to earn a successful living, thats where he met his wife Emily, and their  children were born.

Around the 1890’s Walter returned home again, his father was ailing by that time, so he took over the running of the family business.

Walters father, Edgar,  had  been one who had invested in the new art of  photography, (many people told him it wouldn’t catch on…but he knew better,) he called his business in St Mary Street  Rembrandt Studio. A man of many talents, Edgar also ran the Weymouth School of Art and Photography.

We have had our portrait taken here a few times now…they take such care over their work, and I have a soft spot for Walter, he’s a  kind fellow…lovely manners.

Trelawney hotel. 1I have recently seen some  prints of Edgar’s that he took  back to 1860’s. He was very partial to photographing the ships out in the bay.

This is the one he took of me in my mourning weeds, I wanted something to remember the loss of my dear husband by…

Snip20140926_7I can remember Edgar as a young man, before photography had become his main business he had worked as  a carver and gilder.

Now, like me, he is becoming frail and his health is declining…the woes of growing older…

(Edgar died not long after, in 1904.)

Walter  like most young men of today has come up with all manner of new fangled ideas for the business.

He’s even changed the shops name to The Studio Royal! A bit pretentious I think…but then what do I know of such matters as a mere female.

He’s even started to introduce a series of Weymouth postcards known as the ‘Celebrated Series.’

They seem to be very popualr with those dreadful tourists!

Oh how I hark back to the good old days when the visitors here were respectable gentle folk…nowadays it seems to be all noisy children running in and out of the water with their buckets and spades…even the parents have taken to rolling up their trouser legs or skirts and paddling…no decorum whatsoever!…


Now I know ladies that this isn’t the place that you will know much about…apart from a couple of you whose husbands like to take the occasional tipple…

This is No 3 St Mary, as disreputable as the place is, it  is still a building and business of long standing, and one  with a fascinating history that includes many foul deeds,  murders and tales of smuggling.

This Saxon framed building and its trade dates right back to the 1500’’s a public house known as  The Black Dog.

P1490483At one time in its long, long history it was known as The Dove, allegedly getting its latter name from the fact that when Weymouth started trading with Newfoundland the then landlord gained  posession of the first ever ‘Newfoundland Labrador, ‘ which became a talking point and attracted hundreds of visitors to admire this massive hound.

So I believe, 44- year-old London born Henry William Townsend is mine host at the moment, along with his wife Julia. They have living on the premises with them  3 barmaids, serving wenches…a draw for the customers, or so I’m told.

I, of course, can’t tell you much more about the dreadful place or its inhabitants, so we’ll move swiftly along the street.

(I Wonder if my Grandad ever drank in there and leant on the bar to give the buxom barmaid a sneaky smile?

Check out their website for a potted history.


Keep up ladies…keep up…Millicent! what on earth are you tittering at?

Here we are, outside the shop of  John Jeanes, a  very striking gentleman indeed, he has just the most wonderful eyes, though one suspects that maybe he is putting on some weight by the way his jacket seems to be gaping open over his middle region!

Snip20140926_8Now John is a local man, born in 1841, but he’s not always been a fishmonger, though he is very popular with his female customers.

John was previously a boarding house keeper, he owned one of the rather nice  properties  along Brunswick Terrace, but around 1885 he moved to these premises at no 4 St Mary Street.

Sadly he lost his first wife, but is now married to  Sarah Ann, they have a rather large brood of 9 children;

Their Son Sidney James, who’s aged about 18  I do believe is a budding a photographer, I think that perhaps he works with the Cox family in their studios just a couple of doors down the road, perhaps he even took this stunning portrait of his father.

Leonard Lovell,a bit younger, possible 16, works further up the street, he’s a drapers assistant and then there’s 14-year-old Alfred Baker, he’s a good boy, the apple of his Daddy’s eye,  he works alongside his father in the fish shop.

There are three more grown up children, goodness knows what they do with themselves all day long…Edward Strong, Margaret Ann and Percival Charles, presumably they are still being educated?

(John had retired by the time of the 1911 census, by then he was 70, he and his wife had moved to 17, Trinity Road, along with three of their children who were still living at home with them, the very same Edward, Margaret and Percival who in the 1901 census did not seem to have any occupation!)


(By 1905 the business at no 4. had changed hands.)

P1030695(It was now the home and workplace of London born Edward Hitch, his wife Mary Ann and their family, Edward’s seen here posing in the doorway of his shop around 1905, he seems to be looking down the street, maybe he’s keeping an eye open for who’s going into his competitors shop.

Edward had set up in direct competition with long-established tobacconist, Walter Travers 3 doors down the road.)


This is a shop that I believe most of you ladies will have frequented in the past…the Greengrocery business of James Curtis, this shop is  occupying the building of no 5 St Mary Street.

James lives here with his wife Eleanor.

Sad to say the couple don’t have any children of their own…such a shame. But they have kindly taken in their nephew and niece to their home, such a Christian to do.

(James didn’t go on to have  a family of his own until his second marriage in 1908 to Meloina, who was a fair bit younger than him, by the 1911 census the family had grown with the birth of 2 children.

1911 shows James was still living and working as a greengrocer at his shop in St. Mary Street. his nephew, 18-year-old Ernest still by his side.)


Oh dear…was that a few drop of rain I felt then…I hope it doesn’t start to rain hard, my maid took ages to clean my skirts last time they got muddy from the streets.

This is the shop of a gentleman with a rather magnificent name… Freeman Horniblow. He runs his business under the grand title of The Colonial Meat Company, it occupies no 6 St Mary Street.

two women shop q 1892Freeman is away from home at the moment, his wife Eliza is all very hush hush about why, she surely knows that I wouldn’t gossip about her if she told me.

I fear all is not well maybe in the  marital home.

Her  daughter Ethel is there to keep her company though,  she’s now aged 28 and no sign of a beau..maybe that’s for the best. Ethel is well-educated, she  now works from home as a school mistress. She used to  work as a photographers assistant, not really the sort of profession for a young female…I don’t know, women these days, seem to want it all, careers, money, husbands…(maybe Ethel had been another one that was employed by the Cox photographic studio?)

Her younger sister Eva Ella also lives at home, she’s 24 and  another who works as a school mistress.

Their 19-year-old son Leonard has chose to go down the engineering route, he’s employed as as a fitter at the engineers. Obviously working in a butchers shop is not the life for him, but at least he’s working, which is more than be said for some of these youngsters nowadays!


We’re nearly there ladies…just a couple more premises and then we can pop into the tea shop and partake in  some light refreshments…I hear they do a lovely range of fancies these days…I do so love my cup of tea served in a proper bone china cup and saucer.

Now, the rich aromas alone would give away what these premises are at no 7…

Here lives Walter William Travers, he’s not local but Kent born, not that we should hold that against the poor fellow.

Walter is a single gentlemen and is a long-established tobacconist by trade.

P1030698I don’t know this family at all, and I’m not a one for gossip, but his household does contain a bit of  a mystery.

Living with him is local lady Susannah Samways, she’s a widow aged 72,  and is calling herself a cousin. Also living there is another ‘cousin’ 35-year-old Louisa Samways, she is in fact Susannahs daughter.

Here comes the mystery, the last member of the household is little Eric Cecil Samways, a babe of 3 months, who is also mysteriously listed as a ‘cousin’.

(The Mystery was ultimately solved…It looks as if   Eric was the child of Louisas brother, Charles John Samways.)

and there was me thinking poor Louisa had a love child!

(His wife, Amy Olivant, had  died on the 22nd January 1901, one can only assume that she had been a sad statistic, one of the poor women who didn’t survive giving birth.

By the time of the 1911 census the family are just that, ‘cousin’ Louisa  had married shop owner Walter in about 1908, according to the records they had no children.

Where was little Eric by now? Happily he was living back with Dad and his new wife.

Mum Susannah was still living and working with the married couple in the tobacconists.

Walter William died on the 13th november 1929 in Weymouth & District hospital, leaving all his worldly goods to his wife Louisa.)


This, ladies, is the house of good friends of mine…unfortunately they said they were indisposed today or they would have invited us in for afternoon tea…such a shame.

As you’ll notice no 8 doesn’t appear to have a shop attached to it.

This is the home of the  Arden Misses that being  Georgina and her sister Caroline Rose.

They are both spinsters of a certain age, and are both  living off their own means, not being too indiscreet about it,  they had enough to survive on without having to work for their living.

There used to be a third sister, Mary W,  she was also single, and also wealthy enough to be able to survive on her money alone.

These ladies are certainly wealthy enough to appear on the Electoral Registers, though they are only entitled to vote locally, (no woman was allowed to vote for parliamentary elections until 1918.)

In fact these three dear, well-off acquaintances of mine were the off-spring of wealthy, but sadly now deceased parents, George and Marianne.

Daddy had been a successful attorney, and no 8 St Mary Street had been their family home,  George Arden used to run his solicitors office from here

letter Civic Society. 1_2(When 81-year-old Georgina died on the 28th October 1928, she left £8,968 15s 7d to her only surviving sister, Caroline Rose who was still resident at no 8.)


Last one my dearest friends…I can hear those delicious cakes calling for us…

The Arden sisters certainly wouldn’t have needed to services of this shop next door to them.

The sign that hangs outside of here, no 9,  is such that virtually announces to one and all ‘ ye who enter here are in dire need.’

It is of course the dreaded pawnbrokers!

Snip20140926_12This is the business of a London chappie, 57-year-old Alfred Sergeant.

He no longer lives above this shop , having done very nicely for himself and his family, they have moved into  a nice home, Ingleside, over in  Rodwell.

His wife  is what one could only politely refer to as a true Liverpudlian, her name is Emma. along with their three rather boisterous children Kate, Herbert and Ethel.

I do believe they have a couple of live-in servants,  someone told me their cook was called  Emma Aston  and their young housemaid Ellen Bumstead. I have no social contact with the family..I’m sure they really wouldn’t be my sort.

There are people living in these premises above the business at no 9, but these rooms are now the abode of  his shop staff.

Head of the busy household is Annie Rose, she is a 47-year-old widow, her thankless task as housekeeper is to keep the single lads watered, fed and under control.

The eldest ‘lad’ is in fact 43, Samuel Burridge who is a  pawnbrokers assistant, as indeed are  the other household residents, Kent born Edgar Weller and Cornish lad   Frederick Philpot.

(Sergeants shop was still on these same premisses in the early 1960’s, Woolworth’s which used to stand the other side of the passageway had purchased the building, hoping to be able to expand their store  losing the lane altogether, but they were denied planning permission.

This building is still a place where money exchanges hands, it is now  the Nationwide Building Society.)


At last ladies, we have reached the end of this first block of houses and shop premises…time for tea me thinks.

If you look up this  narrow passageway that leads from St Mary Street it will take you to  New Street.

It goes by the name of Blockhouse Lane dating back to the 16th century when it led to the blockhouse fort that originally sat on the sea shore.

At one time during the early 18th c the name had been  changed to Pope’s Passage but reverted to its original name in the 1880’s.

Millicent…Millicent…where are you going?…Wait for me…


Hope you’ve enjoyed our little stroll.

Part two will continue our amble down the Victorian St Mary Street.


These photos below show what remains in this small section of the  town of some of the older buildings.

You might not notice anything special walking past the modern day shop fronts, but if you stop and look up, you will see a variety of building styles that bear remnants of grander times.

In this first section it is not always easy to connect the new with the old. Numbers have changed somewhat.

Gladstones the jewellers is now listed as 1a St Mary St.

P1490476Next door, Antonios Cafe is 2a…seems fairly logical, at first!

P1490477One then would assume that Mejusa the next one in line down the street would be …well, it’s not…it’s no.1 of course!

P1490479and Barclays Bank is no.2…

The Black Dog thankfully was no.3…and still is no.3.

The next block of Victorian shop premises were demolished and replaced with the modern, rather soulless looking building of M&S.These are no’s 4-8.

Sports Direct is listed as 8a and 8b. I rather think this was the grand town house of the wealthy Arden family, can’t you just picture the aged spinsters sat at one of the decorative bay windows  literally watching life passing by.


Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. cannasue says:

    Thanks, I love rooting through the old newspapers and images of Weymouth at the time of my grandparents and relatives.


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