Sharing memories and observations of Torbay’s retail history

Union Street in the 1960s

Union Street in the 1960s - Credit: Torquay Museum

To share even more images from Torquay Museum’s vast archive, the collections staff have decided to theme each month around a different topic and post weekly related images onto social media - and the response from the local community has been overwhelming.

Since nobody could venture to non-essential shops during lockdown, November was dedicated to retail and the main shopping streets in Torquay.

Most of the photographs posted on social media were taken in the 1960s and showed many shops still in the living memory.

Last month’s images have been seen by tens of thousands of people with many of them sharing their memories and observations.

Chris, a museum follower, even recognised his mum in a picture of Fleet Street! He said: “Unbelievable... I’m sure it’s my mum crossing the road in the first pic. She worked in Sales at Rockheys. Wow!”

The second week was focused on Union Street which was until 1826 just a narrow lane, then the Turnpike Trust carried out construction as part of the toll road from Newton Abbot.

The street saw rapid expansion through the 19th century, in the number of retail and distribution outlets opened for business.

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The last 60 years have seen further changes in the pattern of trading. National chains, franchises, charity shops, building societies/banks, estate agents, cafes and coffee shops now predominate in our main shopping areas. Although now all this is threatened by online retail and services.

The posted photographs showed the premises of Dewhurst butchers, Wills jewellers, the Fifty Shilling Tailors, G.W. Bradshaw Stores Ltd and Costers outfitters, of which Yvonne remarked: “My mum worked at Costers for years. In the offices and on the shop floor. I remember the canisters that transported the money for purchases on wires to the offices and it would come back with the change and a receipt for the customer. Fond memories!”

In the next couple of posts the museum’s followers were able to see photographs of Abbey Place, Cary Parade and Chelston, a popular residential area of Torquay, from the first half of the 20th century.

As this new feature has proved to be popular, the collections staff will continue to search the museum’s archive for images that might have not been seen before by the public and post them on social media.

Needless to say December will be dedicated to winter, snow and Christmas!

Torquay Museum reopens today, Thursday December 3. Tickets can be booked online through our website