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Then and Now

Axbridge Square in the 1970s

This article was written in 2013 by Harry Mottram

It’s the minutia of photographs that attract. The little details that reveal so much about the scene – whether it’s what people are wearing or what’s in the background – or even what’s half out of a photo as it was thought not interesting enough to picture at the time.

Axbridge Square in 2013 – it has changed again since then


The photos of Axbridge Square are delicious for their detail. The first one was probably taken in the 1970s. Taken from the window of the Oakhouse Hotel it shows the scene as it was not long after through traffic ceased to pass along the narrow High Street – partially blocked by work progressing over at King John’s Hunting Lodge. Also the new cobbled surface so hotly discussed at the town council is is yet to be laid. The shop on the corner is still there – now the Cooperative – while the Lamb has no seats and tables outside the front. The layout for parking has changed considerably from what was then something of a free for all.

Hannah More Cottage in 2013

There was a heated debate in the town council about the laying of the new surface – now all but forgotten.

Hannah More Cottage at the end of the 19th century. Pic from the Terry King collection

Moving on to the Hannah More cottage in Cheddar (picture) there is at first little discernable difference – except of course for the two females in period costume at the front. However take a closer look and there are several changes. The cottage was much more distinctly a house and ajoining barn in the first image – and was in transition as far as roofing is concerned.

On the left the thatch is still in place but the barn has a tiled roof. Now the property is all tiled and comes complete with guttering. The extended doorstep is no longer necessary due to the tarmac surface of the road – no longer a gravel and sand track – and of course yellow lines to stop parking weren’t needed a century ago. The windows may have been replaced but in general they are all still in the same place with some reinstated – while the cottage now has a telephone and a TV ariel – neither of which would have been needed in the age of the horse and cart. The cottage is now owned by the parish council who allow various groups to meet there.

Cheddar Market Cross in the 19th century

The More sisters started Sunday schools across the region around 1800. In an age when there was no universal education they quickly gathered women and children as willing students as apart from bible studies the schools offered a chance to learn to read and write, as well as instructions on housekeeping.

Cheddar Market Cross in 2013 after a car had damaged it

Pictured there are two contrasting views of the market cross in Cheddar – hit by a taxi leading to a lengthy repair job in 2013. It’s remarkably unchanged but the properties around have been updated and the traffic of horse and carts has been replace by motorists. The central section dates from the 15th century, with the shelter having been rebuilt in 1834. It has a central octagonal pier, a socket raised on four steps, hexagonal shelter with six arched four-centred openings, shallow two-stage buttresses at each angle, and an embattled parapet. In January 2000, the cross was seriously damaged in another traffic accident.

Sandford Station in 2013

The Grade II listed building of Sandford Station on the Strawberry Line is still largely in tact. It houses a heritage centre and with the addition of rolling stock actually looks much like it did in the 1950s – although the track only runs to a few yards. Note the double track and the posters advertising excursions to London or to the theatre in Weston-super-Mare – all by train of course.

Sandford Station in the 1950s

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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