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Fore Street & New Bridge Street - then and now

Page added 26 July 2009

Fore Street is arguably the most interesting, eccentric and sleazy street in Exeter. From the top, on a sunny day, there is a tremendous view down the street and across the Exe valley towards the Haldon Hills. Once it was full of grocery stores, butchers and bakeries, along with hat and clothes shops, two cinemas and two churches and a mission hall. Now there is a plethora of fast food outlets, boutiques, a small department store, a fancy dress shop, a tattooist, a used book shop, another selling used CDs and DVDs, two printers and three or four outdoor pursuit shops, and you can also probably buy a cuddly toy! Here, is a selection of photographs, old and new, of the many shops and other buildings that have inhabited the hill of Fore Street and New Bridge Street, through the past hundred years.

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Also A history of Fore Street

Chevalier HouseThe new Chevalier Inn78 Fore Street
Chevalier House
, left, had a ceramic horseman on the roof, supposedly because it was a centre of support for Charles II. The Chevalier Inn, right, is roughly on the site of the old Chevalier House. The present building was named the Chevalier when it was built in the 1950s and has since been Winstons, Churchills and the Hogs Head before Wetherspoons purchased the premises in 2009 and reverted to the old name.

International StoresJessops84 Fore Street
International Stores moved to Fore Street sometime in the 1920s. Started as the International Tea Co., it has, through the years evolved into Somerfield. Jessop's store now occupies, roughly, the position of the grocery.

Milk StreetThe Famous84 Fore Street
Milk Street which leads to the side of the Cornmarket is now just a place to park. Once, the street led to the rear of the Lower Market where a public water fountain was placed for the locals to fill their buckets and jugs. The photo on the left shows the corner of Milk and Fore Street in the 1920s, when John Helson, ironmonger ran his business from the corner shop. The Famous, the successor to Pinder and Tuckwell, are in the same, approximate position.

The shops from Market StreetThe shops from Market Street in the dark93-104 Fore Street
A night photograph from the 1960s of the shops running down Fore Street from the corner of Market Street clearly shows a selection of traders that no longer exist. The tailors, John Collier occupy the Harbour Sports premises with the ladies costumers of Westons in the Service Point shop. Bata, the shoe shop is the third premises along followed by the Silver Grill, a popular café run by the Bernie brothers who started Bernie Inns. Fildews, electrical engineers, Thomas Moore and Jays Furnishing Stores complete the shops that can be discerned. Photo left Lydia Barnard.

The Walkabout BarThe Franklin Hotel101 Fore Street
The Devon and Exeter Temperance Hotel occupied the Walkabout bar in 1897. It became the Franklin Temperance Hotel, and, in 1911, the attached assembly room opened as the Franklin Picture Palace. One wonders what the owners of the Temperance Hotel would make of the use of the premises now, and as for the live nude dancing at EX4 opposite!

Lara Croft is looking for youWindow display at Kitsch-u-like123 and 145 Fore Street
If one looks carefully, there can be some odd goods displayed in the windows of shops in Fore Street. The Stardust Amusement Arcade, at 145 Fore Street, had the kitsch ceramic clowns in the window. Lucia Software, at no 123, an electronic games shop had the pneumatic, in more ways than one, inflatable Lara Croft figure clutching her torch, on her archaeological quest for truth, freedom and fit men. If she had visited the shop in 1897, she would have found Frederick Howe, watchmaker in residence.

Thomas MooreThomas Moore102 Fore Street
The oldest still surviving business in Fore Street is Thomas Moore which opened on 21st March 1907.  Thomas Moore was killed in the First World War at the age of 37, and the business was sold by his mother. The new owners retained the name, which remains until today. Moore's name can also be found on the roll of honour, which is on a plaque outside St Olave's Church.

Z CarsGentry the Hairdresser107-108 Fore Street
The post office at 107 Fore Street remained a popular facility until the government insisted on paying pensions and benefits straight into a bank account – it closed in the early 2000s and is now a branch of the fast food SubWay chain. Named after the famous show, Z-Cars ran their taxi service from the premises now occupied by Gentry, the men's' hairdressers. Photo right Aubone Braddon.

VivoCrazy Horse122A  Fore Street
Originally the Devonport Inn, a favourite of local squaddies, this bar has, since the 1990s been the Crazy Horse, Moloko, Splash Bar, Velvet Lounge and now Vivo. One dictionary defines a squaddie as "A member of the armed forces who thinks he's 'Gods gift to women.'" Which precludes squaddies from Vivo as it is one of Exeter's gay and lesbian hotspots – and don't ask the neighbours about the late night noise. The original Devonport sign, I believe, is still hidden beneath the slick name board.

St John's ChurchTaunton Leisure110 Fore Street
Once, Fore Street had three churches immediately on the street. All Hallows on the Wall was built across the street, before New Bridge Street was cut. St John's Church, left was demolished in 1937, although the tower remained until after the war. The church never had a street number and was next to 110. Now Taunton Leisure occupy the far from inspiring building now on the site, with the number 110.

Fore Street HillFore Street Hill 1923Fore Street Hill
To the left is a photo of Fore Street Hill taken in the late 1960s by Alan H Mazonowicz – the Devonport Inn is the central, red painted, building. Right is a similar view from slightly further down the street from 1923.

Some colourful signsSigns by St OlavesSigns in Fore Street
During the 19th Century, shops would erect small statues, carved decorations and coats of arms over their shop fronts. Garton and King had a Golden Hammer, and Stones a phoenix bird. There are still painted signs and occasional, often illuminated 'objects'. Left a plethora of signs to entice customers into the Pickwick Arcade, and a zebra over MakeArt at 126 Fore Street, which in 1917 was 'The Stores' of Oswald Smith, house furnisher.

Kevin EndicottEndicott's the surplus store2 West Street
Kevin Endicott runs Endicott's the army surplus store. They have been trading from West Street since the late 1940s and have established a high reputation for the range of surplus gear, and keen prices. Although they are just off New Bridge Street, the shop is still an integral part of business in the area.

Tattoo SalonTattoo SalonTattooing Studio – 2 New Bridge Street
Just around the corner from Endicott's is the Tattooing Studio run by Paul and Lyn. To my memory, it has been established at least ten years. In 1897 it was Mrs Cavill's news agent. At 136 Fore Street is the Hidden Jewel Tattoo Studio, so those into body art have a choice of venue. In 1917 136 was E C Chalice, tobacconnist and newsagent.

Otto Retro - New Bridge StreetOtto Retro - Fore StreetOtto Retro – 6 New Bridge Street
Businesses open and close in the two streets almost on a daily basis. Otto Retro was, in May 2008, situated at 127 Fore Street – in 1897 the shop contained Mrs Sarah Stocker, provision dealer. They have since moved down the hill to 6 New Bridge Street, and when I passed, had an interesting assortment of old furniture and other bits. No 6 New Bridge Street was Harry Weston, butcher in 1897.

The muralJoan the HairdressersMural – New Bridge Street
The first building as you drive up New Bridge Street houses Joan's the ladies hairdressers. On the end gable is this fine Westgate Festival mural by Andrew Stacey painted in 1979. Apart from Joan's, the rest of the shop fronts are now integrated into living accommodation – in 1959 the shops contained a branch of Hill, Palmer and Edwards, a fruiterer, an outfitter and a butcher, as well as in Joan's, Mrs Northam, the ladies hairdresser.

The entrance to the Exe Island Mission HallThe Old Curiosity Shop34 and 35  New Bridge Street
The street has several dilapidated and crumbling empty shops that in former times served a populous local community with all their needs. The Old Curiosity Shop, right, was an interesting junk shop where you could find the most surprising things. In the same photograph can be seen the entrance to the old Exe Island Mission Hall – the photo left from the 1950s shows Charles Osborne, tobacconnist, left, and Bennet Brothers boot retailers, right. The door led down a long, sloping passage that is a bridge from the rear of the premises to the Assemblies of God church in Exe Island. Some have called it 'coffin way' as it was a route for a coffin for a funeral. Photo left Express and Echo.

Ottons ironmongersOtton's buildings now135-139 Fore Street
Otton's Ironmongers supplied the building trade with a wide range of items. They occupied a large site in Fore Street and their shop frontage spread down the hill towards Bartholomew Street. Walter Otton occupied 135 Fore Street from before 1889, the year when they also moved into 110 Fore Street, when they advertised their "large selection of coffin funiture in brass, nickel plated and black trimmings." Photo right Nigel Bush.

McCoys ArcadeOttons impressive facade139 Fore Street
McCoys Arcade occupy the main entrance to the old Otton's empire. In 1897 William Veale and Co., grocers, occupied the premises, although, to be sure, without the façade. Peter Hinchliffe remembers "It was the most fantastic store, (known as the City's biggest "help yourself to it" store. They sold everything in hardware from half a dozen screws to Aga cookers, paint, plumbing, drainage etc. The premises were a labyrinth of small rooms. It was well known that their shoplifting losses were stupendous." Photo right, Nigel Bush. 

Wheatons the printers144 Fore Street143 Fore Street
This town house, dating from 1717, was built by Sir John Duntz, a cloth merchant who founded the Exeter Bank. It became an office for the Baring's and in the 1820s, Mr Blackmore an Exeter merchant lived there. Later, the premises were where Thomas Latimer ran his campaigning newspaper, the Western Times – Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to the premises. In the early 20th Century, 143 Fore Street became a book shop with a printing works at the rear for Wheatons. The photo left by Alan H Mazonowicz, shows the building before Wheatons relocated to Marsh Barton and became Polestar. 

The MintThe Mint153-154 Fore Street
The Mint was "The Medicine and Chemical Hall" apothecary in 1838. It became the Star Stores public house around about 1870, which it remained until it was renamed the Mint by 1967. It was far smaller then, with the premises sharing a post office for many years. No 153 Fore Street to the west (both photos) was incorporated into the Mint after it was refurbished in 1972. From at least 1897, the building was Knapman and Co., builders, decorators and wallpaper merchants.

The fire in 1934The Moorland Rambler148-149 Fore Street
On 17 May 1934, the Exeter City Fire Brigade were called to a major fire in Fore Street. They used ladders to fight the flames which blazed in four premises. If you look carefully, you can see that one of the shops is now the rebuilt premises of the Moorland Rambler, left, which in 1897 was Pyne & Sons, brush manufacturers. The large clock on the left of the 1934 photo is the 'Moon of Fore Street' that was on St John's Church.

Stones the ChemistYorkshire Building Society166 Fore Street
Stones the Chemist were most famous for manufacturing rennet and furniture polish, which is still made in Devon to a recipe devised in the 18th Century. The shop was destroyed in the blitz. The Yorkshire Building Society's Exeter branch occupies the site of the old Stones shop.

World StoresThe Golden Horn167-168 Fore Street
The Golden Horn Fish and Chip Shop on the corner of Fore and Mary Arches Street occupies one of the many ubiquitous buildings from the 1950s rebuilding of Exeter after the war. On the same corner, when Mary Arches Street was much narrower, there was in 1897, Mrs Loram's grocery store, but in 1917, the World's Stores opened in the premises, where they remained until the blitz. 

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