Tuesday 21 June 2022

More Than a Shop - a Talking Tour of Chester

More Than a Shop: A Talking Tour of Chester is a historic walking tour by Cheshire Archives and Local Studies. 

In the early 1980s the Chester Archaeological Society recorded older residents’ recollections of life in the city throughout the twentieth century. These oral history recordings were recently digitised thanks to the British Library’s National Lottery Heritage Project Unlocking Our Sound Heritage and the expertise at the north west hub at Archives+ in Manchester.

The tour is self-guided, so you can choose which sites you want to visit and in which order (our suggested route is mapped out below, or you can pick up a printed version from our Record Office). 

There is also the option of listening to the recordings on our brand new listening kiosk, just drop in to our searchroom between Tuesday 21 June and Thursday 23 June during our normal opening hours (9am-4pm). We are based at Cheshire Record Office, Duke Street, Chester. 

We hope you enjoy a bit of retail therapy on a talking tour full of memories of shops past - lets get started! 

1:    Welcome to Cheshire Archives & Local Studies where this converted warehouse holds miles of shelving full of records that document almost 1000 years of Cheshire life. Some of these records are oral histories recorded on cassettes, and tape cannot be trusted to survive for decades. Without the National Lottery Heritage Fund project run by British Library and the expertise at the north west hub at Archives+ in Manchester the voices on our talking tour would have been lost. 

2:    Setting the scene – Brook Street: A schoolgirl in the 1920s, whose route to school took her along Brook Street and Frodsham Street, with vivid memories of the sights and smells of shops at Christmas – but look out for the cows! She also remembers cows being driven from the cattle market where the bus station is now along Brook Street and Hoole Bridge to the railway sidings on Lightfoot Street. 

3:    Frodsham Street: ‘Two things couldn’t pass at the same time’ – much like today – chemists, shoe shops and bookshops – how much is that doggy in the window? 

4:    Foregate Street: Hear all about ‘Porky Pie Duttons’ where Marks and Spencers is now – with a sweet factory in the back!

5:    Eastgate Street and Eastgate Row: We now find ourselves in the heart of Chester’s shopping experience for over 200 years. Hear first how Browns, Bollands and Phillipson and Golder jostle for position – and then more details about what would have greeted you at each shop.

6:     Browns first...

7:    …and then Bollands...

8:    …and the curious figures from Venice that promoted the stationer and bookseller Phillipson and Golder. 

9.     Can you imagine taking a seat when you enter a shop and items being brought to you – or even brought to you sitting in your car outside. Welcome to the world of Minshull and Meeson.

10:    What would Browns customers or Mr Minshull and Mr Meeson have thought when F W Woolworth moved in across the street where Next is now? There is no ‘shopwalker’ and browsing is encouraged – and plastic goods arrive. And Woolworths expanded throughout the twentieth century filling the space between Eastgate Street and St Werbergh’s Street which leads us to the Old Market.

11:    Chester is about to open a new market replacing the new market mentioned here. But it is the old market that is brought to life – the china seller who smashes the items he doesn’t sell to the crowd entertain this young lad!

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