Look Back with Little: An eclectic blend of Victorian enterprise

St Mary's bells outside Anthony Beale's shop at 5 South Bar in 1897 on their way to be retuned NNL-180420-151040001
St Mary's bells outside Anthony Beale's shop at 5 South Bar in 1897 on their way to be retuned NNL-180420-151040001

In 1897 Banbury was the subject of a booklet entitled Views and Reviews. It was published at Brighton and identified the town in terms of ‘zeal, cakes and ale’.

Each was meaningful: zeal referred to Puritanism and its adverse effects; cakes implied the renowned pastries; whilst ale stood for the remarkable number of licensed premises.

However the main purpose of the publication appears to have been descriptions of people with businesses in the town. Today’s article features some of these.

T and S Orchard were builders, bricklayers, carpenters and joiners at the Bridge Bank Steam Joinery in Grimsbury.

They and other members of the family were active from 1857 to 1906. Their premises were close to the two Banbury stations. Within this site the steam joinery works were housed in a substantial brick building. The Orchards also had a share in the Duke Street brick works.

Evidence that the firm was highly regarded is provided by the appearance of 8 Horse Fair, which in 1900 became the home of the Poor Law Guardians, who had rejected the Town Hall because it was dark and noisy. It is believed that the company carried the most comprehensive stock of building materials in Banbury.

Views and Reviews record another important business to appear at 2 High Street. This was Edgar Chapman’s furnishing shop. It was his second venture and followed an earlier launch at Taunton in Somerset.

It is reported that the Banbury store had ‘a large range of beds and bedding, as well as the more exotic Japanese and Oriental vases’. China ware afforded Edgar the opportunity to reveal his skills in allowing plates to run down a banister rail and then caught before damage could occur.

Elsewhere in the High Street were retail premises which have no present day equivalent. Typical was the shop of J H Ludwig at No. 84. His stock can only be described as the last word in comprehensiveness: bags of all sorts, toys, embroidered goods and haberdashery. A likely bonus was Ludwig’s location opposite the well-known Red Lion Hotel.

In late Victorian and Edwardian times bakers abounded. Views and Reviews identifies J H L Shepherd at 54 High Street. Originally his father had set up the business, which led to him becoming a well-respected public figure.

Ironically he died during a dinner at the White Horse and the news cast a gloom over the whole town. Both he and his son were noted for a range of baked products including especially a version of the Banbury Cake. Their oven was reckoned one of the best of the time; it was called Jennison’s Patent Smokeless Decker Oven.

During the 19th century Banbury became associated with the seed and horticultural trades.

Especially noted was the establishment of H Deverill who was held in high regard for his exhibition onions. His entries appeared at an International Show and it was here that he got a gold medal as well as first, second and third prizes.

His tally of medals was six gold, fifteen silver and five silver gilt.

The diversity of the High Street was well illustrated by the presence of Miller and Abbotts. They were land and general valuers. The business had started in 1790 and was a partnership involving Henry William Abbotts, a prominent Banbury townsman, and after his death his son forged a link with Miller and they exploited a link with Byfield property, which benefitted from one of the best sale yards in the country.

It was here that every September there was a nationally important sale of shire foals.

No account of Banbury at the time Views and Reviews was published would be complete without mention of the photographer Anthony Beale who came to Banbury in 1887 and established his business at 5 South Bar.

Like Blinkhorns who succeeded him, Anthony Beale built up a superb collection of pictures of people, places and events. Today’s illustration recalls his determination not to miss photographic opportunities either at his Parade Studio or when out and about in the Banbury area.