History Heroes – Part 4

History Heroes – Part 4

We’ve all been thinking of heroes recently – the NHS, carers and the wonderful Captain Tom Moore who will go down in history surely. We’re all grateful today for the shop workers and suppliers who are ensuring that we are well fed. They are people that we have taken for granted in the past – the supermarkets open early and late to accommodate our needs. This made me think about shopping in times past, was it as easy, could you buy everything you needed in Crewkerne?

Some of you may remember a couple of years ago the local shops worked with us to exhibit photographs in their windows of what their shop was like 100+ years ago. We recently showed you some photos of the town in the 1960s and many remembered the co-op, several butchers and bakers, fruit and veg shops and wool shops. Over recent years we have been reduced to 2 bakeries, 1 butcher and several cafes. In the 1960s stopping for a coffee or snack whilst doing the grocery shopping would have been unusual.


As you can see from the news cutting shops advertised in a different way in the past. Imagine the supermarkets placing an advert in the local papers, or online, about a packet of tea!



For this week we are showing you some photos of shops in Crewkerne in the early part of the 1900s. See if you can work out where they are, what do they sell now if it is still a shop premises?

If you needed a new tin bath ( in the days long before everyone had bathrooms) you could go to this shop.


This building in the late 1800s contained several businesses. It was replaced, can you work out from looking at the buildings next to it what is there now?

Travel was not as easy as today. Only the wealthy had a car, the train arrived in 1860 but, no good if you wanted to go anywhere not on the line. For centuries Crewkerne was a stopping point for carriages from the bigger cities, London, Exeter, Bath etc. The horses would be changed, passengers could rest and The George or the Red Lion could provide a meal or bed for the night. Families that could afford it may have their own small carriage and you wouldn’t need to visit a bigger town to find what suited you. Can anyone guess where Tom Denman’s business was? Just off the centre of town, now a residential area and, in living memory a garage and an antiques business. Here is a picture of a smart carriage – perhaps the local doctor or vet may have owned one.

Tom Denman’s brother Herbert also ran a successful business in town for many years. He was a tailor and you can see him standing outside his shop in the photo below. Do you know where it is? Herbert had competition from other tailors in the town. He made gentlemen’s suits and this would not be something that would sell every day. The working man would not be able to afford more that one suit which would be used for special occasions – weddings, funerals, going to church on Sunday. The customer would be able to choose the fabric to be used from a range on display in the shop front. Measurements would be taken and the suit made to fit by tailors working in the building. We know that Herbert stayed open until very – 10pm at night, when competition was fierce. The family, wife and 5 children, lived on the premises.

Herbert Denman tailor

In 1881 the census return gives us a varied picture of jobs in Crewkerne. It is an indicator of the lack of travel, the way of life that meant you could buy almost everything you needed in Crewkerne. Perhaps it how we feel today with the quieter roads! The census also shows how people lived and what they used in everyday life. If you were going shopping, what would you take to put the goods in? No car, trolley, plastic bags or handy fold-up bags. Most families would have baskets, probably made by the family who lived in East Street and whose sons continued the business in a small shop in South Street.


There was no need to hunt for flour and yeast, as many of us are today, a visit to one of the many bakers solved the problem of the daily loaf to fill up the family. And if you needed meat for your dinner you could visit one of the butchers in town. Our photo shows Denings in the early 1900s. Other butchers were carrying on businesses – no “Health and Safety” regulations then, just hang the meat outside to show people what you have!   Can you work out where this shop is?

Next week we’ll take a look at other jobs in Crewkerne in Victorian times.

Don’t forget to let us know what you think of life in the past!

Please email crewkernemuseum@hotmail.co.uk.