Changes along the High Street

High Street, Watton early 1900's, before it was asphalted.

Standing in front of Julnes's China Shop on the South side of High Street offers a clear view of the properly on the opposite side from the West End Stores to the Dereham Road corner. To one who has known this view for well over sixty years, two contrasting things immediately come to mind. First, if we look towards the skyline we still see much the same miscellaneous assortment of roof tops of a century ago, with their various shapes and sizes giving them a charming, even if somewhat, higgledy-piggledy appearance. The few high level changes along this stretch during my lifetime can almost be counted on one hand. George Elsegood's house replaced two old thatched cottages in 1953 and two years ago Ling's extensive motor cycle shop replaced the area where Bob Kittle's cycle shop, and adjoining house and the long demolished Chequer's Inn once stood.

Next to the Brewery two shops with flats above were erected about thirty years ago and a little fur­ ther along Barclay's modern bank now stands on the site of the once popular "Green Man" Inn. Next door, Jack Cross built a new cycle shop in 1937, but the tiles weathered so well that within a few years the casual observer would not have noticed any difference. A re-tiling job was carried out on Edward's a few years ago and here again the weathering effect was so good that it hasn't affected the character of the roofs on this side of the street. Lastly, we come to the corner of the Market Place where George Butcher's ironmonger's shop had deteriorated over many years, especially when it stood empty for so long following Hubert Amy's time, that there was only one thing for it. It was demolished in 1978 and Roy Rudling's imposing D.I.Y. store erected to give this area a state of respectability once again. Now let's take a look along the same stretch at ground floor level when we will immediately notice a vast contrast during the last sixty years, or even the last ten. Apart from the long established family business of Sharman's and four private houses west of Ling's, I don't think there is another property that has not changed and many of them quite extensively.

A. T. Edward's Shop 1925. Left to right: E. Dalton, E. Edwards and Q. Fincham.

Watton Post Office Staff and Postmen circa 1912. Third from left is W. Lyles, 4th A. Bailey, 6th J. Whalebelly. Mrs Stibbon,
the Postmistress is in the doorway with her husband on her right. Next but one is postman Brown and next to the elderly man is Tom Drew.

What has happened to the majority is that originally they had a shop at the front with a larger area of living quarters behind. Many of them have had the interior walls of the living accommodation removed and the ceilings reinforced to create an extensive shopping area, which in some cases now runs almost through to Harvey Street. The private houses that intersected the shops in my youth have now been converted into shops offering a wide variety of goods. Recently Adcock's have not only extended their own TV and watchmaker’s shop, but have also acquired what was once Vincent's Chemist Shop, These two shops, with the living accommodation and storage areas behind them, have now been converted into one large shopping area by joining up behind the old Clock Tower and incorporating the "Pop Inn" record specialists under the same roof. From here to the pathway through to Harvey Street, Sharman's is the only business still selling the same commodity as they did in my school days, long may they continue. Curtis's sports shop was then Hilton's boot and shoe shop and three sisters, Helen, Maud and Emma Pearson had their wood and fancy draper's shop where the Peterborough Building Society now operate. McEwen and Green's — later MacLaren's — ladies and gents outfitters, is now the Spar Grocery Shop. Carter's large furniture store occupies the premises where Chaston's harness maker's and Smith's barber's shop were. The Post Office has been on the same site for nearly a century. In my young days it was a small sub post office only, but now it is also a stationery and book shop as it was in William Stace's time, over eighty years ago. One of the oldest properties in High Street was Edmund Adcock's watchmakers, now a goldsmiths and jewellers and it dates back to at least 1710 and is probably much older. Next door,

Ernest Adcock outside his shop in the late 1920's.

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