Victorian workers go shopping...

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Back to the Past, with historian Ed Grimsdale.

How the world of shopping has changed.

Poster for Crofts in Church Street, Buckingham

Poster for Crofts in Church Street, Buckingham

A time there was when shops were for the exclusive use of the upper and middle classes.

They went there for specialist and luxury items – millinery, shoes, books, and made-to-measure riding boots, for instance.

To gain the necessities of life, those bare essentials and ‘everyday’ goods, the poor popped to the market.

Not until Victorian times were Buckingham and Winslow’s streets transformed through the conversion of ‘front rooms’ into small shop units, and those spread like tentacles from the market place.

Today’s picture is an early photograph of Church Street in Buckingham, probably from the 1880s.

To its left, the picture is dominated by the old almshouses in the foreground.

Behind is the Congregational Church, before St Rumbold’s Lane, with its shoe shops and modest artisan units, slips secretly down the hill to Nelson St.

On the right, we can see the creep of shops across Buckingham.

The main one with a sign above and new furniture on the pavement outside is William Crofts, cabinetmaker and upholsterer.

He’s seen in his entrance, alongside his front showroom.

Living quarters were to its rear and on the first floor, and behind, stretching down towards the River Great Ouse, were his detached workshops.

Luckily, I’ve been able to find an 1888 advertisement detailing the range of services that Crofts provided.

Two doors away, one can glimpse one of Buckingham’s first ‘corner-shops’.

I suspect it sold cakes and confectionery.

Its bay-window, extending over the pavement, provides a shop window for goods and indicates that a home has been converted into a retail unit.

The final feature of the fascinating image is the ‘carrier’ – the horse and covered cart that would transport your new, superior ‘French Polished’ furniture to your distant home.

The carrier. in bowler hat and three-piece suit, leans nonchalantly against his wagon whilst his ostler’s empty sack of oats has become translucent through being blown around by the warm wind of late afternoon.