When shopfronts had in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA - » * Ex­cept in Bath, where the city coun­cil told the beef­burger seller its cor­po­rate style wasn’t wanted.

» EV­ERY Mcdon­ald’s looks the same wher­ever you are in the world*.

But be­fore the ar­rival of the cor­po­rate re­tail fas­cia, shops were dif­fer­ent.

They had in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter and gave vis­ual va­ri­ety to our streets.

Some fine ex­am­ples have been lost in Chel­tenham, but for­tu­nately oth­ers have es­caped the ar­chi­tects, plan­ners, graphic de­sign­ers, shop fit­ters and such van­dals.

To prove the point, take a look at F G Fildes, which to­day is the Mont­pel­lier Wine Bar. In the early years of last cen­tury this was The Spa Phar­macy, one of two branches in town owned by Thomas Brothers.

The other stood on the cor­ner of Bath Road and St Luke’s Road.

By 1923, when the pic­ture you see here was taken, the busi­ness had be­come Fildes Stores, a green­gro­cery and hard­ware em­po­rium.

A new shopfront was in­stalled to re­flect the pro­duce on sale with a stained glass frieze at the top fea­tur­ing fruit and vine mo­tifs. It pleases the eye to this day.

On the cor­ner of Mont­pel­lier Walk and Mont­pel­lier Spa Road stands what was once T Woodard’s – fish­mon­ger, poul­terer and dealer in game, seen in the ad­vert here from 1908.

Flat-capped and aproned shop staff stand proudly be­fore a dis­play of hares and wares that then made cus­tomers sali­vate with an­tic­i­pa­tion – and to­day would have pub­lic health in­spec­tors shut the shop in the blink of an eye.

Many will re­call that this premises was the choc-a-bloc Aladdin’s cave owned by ec­cen­tric an­tiques col­lec­tor and bene­fac­tor to Chel­tenham Ron Sum­mer­field.

Over the years he filled the shop and rooms above, plus a large house in Bayshill Road and a barn in Der­byshire, with pic­tures, porce­lain, fur­ni­ture, knick-knack­ery – in fact, what­ever caught his eye.

But rarely would he agree to sell any­thing to any­one.

Surely one of the pret­ti­est shopfronts in the town cen­tre is the Prom premises that used to be Scott Cooper, the sil­ver­smith and jew­eller that closed in 2004.

The Art Nou­veau gem is now home to Ac­ces­sorize. Just round the cor­ner in the Lit­tle Prom­e­nade is the splen­did Art Deco store that some will re­mem­ber as Madam Wright’s, once the posh­est frock shop in town.

More mod­est, but not with­out charm, is St Anne’s Prom­e­nade, pic­tured left in 1926.

Still to be seen in Al­bion Street, the ter­race was built by Al­fred Miles.

This gent be­gan in busi­ness mak­ing bi­cy­cles and plainly had an eye for pub­lic­ity, be­cause in 1868 he chal­lenged a ri­val lo­cal bi­cy­cle builder named Davies to race from Chel­tenham to Glouces­ter, each on a machine of his own mak­ing.

The start­ing flag fell and the two men scooted off astride their bone­shak­ers.

It took the con­tes­tants two but­tock­numb­ing hours to com­plete the sev­en­mile course from town to city, when they agreed to call the match a draw and caught the train home.

From cycle man­u­fac­ture, Al­fred Miles pro­gressed to coach build­ing and the man­u­fac­ture of fire en­gines.

W Dean and Sons was an open­fronted fish­mon­ger at the Strand end of the High Street that pre­sented its fine fishy fare in style. Per­haps you bought a pint of prawns there.

Not far away was Ge­orge Ma­son’s gro­cery store where counter staff in ironed white aprons mea­sured out loose tea, cut wedges of cheese with a wire and sliced cooked ham to the thick­ness of your choice from the machine with the whirring wheel.

Then they par­celled up your pur­chases in brown pa­per pack­ages tied up with string for Julie An­drews to sing about at a later date.

Ge­orge Ma­son, High Street

Madame Wright, Chel­tenham

Mont­pel­lier Wine Bar

Scott Cooper closed in 2004

Dean & Sons

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