EAST Street has long been a busy part of Southampton, but it’s seen plenty of changes by the years.
These pictures from the 1960s show the street how few of us will remember – although most of us will be familiar with some of the shops.
East Street is thought to be one of the country’s oldest byways. It can trace its roots to Saxon times and at one time the part that curved down towards St Mary’s Church was known as Bagge Row.
In the early part of the last century up to the late 1930s, the East Street crowds were so big it was said you could walk all the way “from All Saints church to St Mary’s on the tops of people’s heads.”
There were boot repairers, ice cream parlours, grocers, rope manufacturers, the colourful Horse and Groom pub, a horse meat butchers, Mrs Harman’s stewed eel and pie shop and the discreet business of Stanley and Co described as “purveyors of surgical appliances, gentlemen’s requisites and rubber goods”.
Crowds milled under the glare of the naphtha lamps over the butcher’s shop where the Sunday joint could be bought for just a few pence.
There were hawkers’ barrows strung out along almost the whole length of the street with spoken out dealers all vying with each other for customers.
At one time there were seven pubs, two cinemas, an early Woolworths and already a Marks and Spencer bazaar with nothing over a penny.
Without doubt the greatest store was Edwin Jones, established in the late 1850s and which went on to become a local institution.
A collection of smaller streets, including Canal Walk with its own collection of tiny businesses, running off East Street all additional to the character of the place.
At the height of its popularity Canal Walk was a foreign corner of a very English port. It would have been rather dingy but the place was said to have had a wonderful air.
Canal Walk was known as The Ditches by locals because it was built over medieval moats.
But much of the area was lost as a consequence of enemy bombing during the Second World War and for years after grass, wildflowers and already small trees could be found growing amid the rubble.
However, bit by bit East Street fought back and was rebuilt to play its part in the growth of post-war Southampton – as these pictures clearly show.
Check out more pictures of East Street in the gallery above.
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