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By March 30, 2020 Read More →

STRAWBERRY LINE TIMES Looking Back – Megan’s old Axbridge: feedback about the article with stories of priest holes, secret passages and the vital importance of the butcher’s shop

This I think is a rehearsal for the pageant in either 1990 or 2000 with Cavaliers and families and friends in the High Street

There’s been considerable feedback from my article about Megan Baker’s memories of old Axbridge and the High Street (Part 1) with more anecdotes posted on the Facebook site Old Axbridge photos (and new). I simply had to share them here as they are so vivid.

First up is Martin Barnes whose very existence is due to the butcher’s shop at the bottom of the street. He writes: “My dad (Ron Barnes) worked in the butcher’s shop in the early 1950s. He was deputy manager and I believe his boss was a chap called John Wheeler (?). That’s where dad met my mum (Mary Sampson). So, if it wasn’t for that shop, I wouldn’t be here!”

Clearly the shop was popular as Jean Sweeting recalls: “Mrs Woods used to give the dogs a chocolate button or a treat of some sort. The dogs wouldn’t go past the door without it. I used to work there and used to put linseed oil on the famous door nearly every Monday to preserve it.”  

Ron Greenwood’s photo from 1924

Moving up to the drapers store Ron Greenman provided a photograph taken in 1924 in front of Bill and Sarah Todd’s Drapers Shop – W.H. Todd and Sons. He said they owned another one in Wellington. The picture depicts Sarah Todd (Jack Todd’s mother and Ron’s great aunt, together with his mother as a tiny child. Ron had some interesting notes on the property. He wrote: “To the right of the shop entrance was a large door concealing a vaulted passage large enough to accommodate a man riding on horseback and leading to the stable yard behind.

“Upstairs, the floors were of very wide oak beams warped with age. A small turret at the rear corner of the house, reached by a narrow circular staircase, contained a tiny ladies sewing room. There was also a concealed priest hole containing an escape passage leading to the hill. Donkey’s years previously, in the days of Elizabeth I, the building had been a private girls’ school.”

Shireen Upton posted this photo of the fabled chippy in the High Street. Pre-war – if only it was still there.

The thought of the secret passage under the High Street leading to the hill is enough to fuel a new Enid Bylton novel – and as for those school girls in Tudor England – there’s a novel in there Ron.

He also recalled how people would look through the windows of the home as the property was one of the first to have a television back in the early 1950s with the Coronation a particular viewing opportunity on ‘the box.’

Possibly the site of the bakery – now earmarked for redevelopment into homes on Cheddar Road. Unsure of the date (and apologies for taking this from the Axbridge old photos Facebook site) but using my detective like powers I can say it is definitely winter. I’m guessing the early 1980s

Several people recalled the Gregory’s who had  the bakers’ shop in the High Street – mainly because they could conjure up delicious memories of freshly baked bread from the bake house on Cheddar Road. Sadly that stretch of the road is to be redeveloped – although as new homes go in it will bring new people to the town with new memories for generations to hear about in the future.

Old butchers shop – now homes – but the fabulous door is still there

The next article is on the other side of the street and West Street – all from notes Megan Baker gave me back in around 2000. We’ll travel up West Street on the left hand side before returning to the Square passing believe it or not a slaughterhouse – and an undertakers.

If any of these notes are incorrect or you have added information then do email me at harryfmottram@gmail.com so I can update the article.

For more features, reviews, news and views on a variety of subjects visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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