The High Street
Stonehouse has a thriving High Street with a wide range of independent shops and services. The High Street itself has changed a lot over the centuries from a handful of houses to over 50 shops and services with flats above, the addition of car parking, bus stops and has retained some of the green space inbetween.
The history of the High Street
Stonehouse possibly has pre-Roman origins on and around the site of Stonehouse Court and St Cyr’s Church. The manor of Stanhus is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The High Street was part of an ancient route from the Thames valley to the River Severn. The medieval village developed along this road to create today’s High Street, running up the east side of the main manor farm and park.
In 1558 there were about a dozen houses along the road from Regent Street to the railway bridge, all with some land, and enjoying a broad roadside manorial green. Remains of these old buildings can be seen in the Old Thatched Cottage (No 1 High Street), the Old Dairy (Apsley House), the High Street Medical Centre (the old Crown and Anchor Hotel), the Tudor Tandoori, sites at 40 and 42-48 High Street, the Fishing Shop, and the predecessor of the Old Vicarage in Quietways. Some more cottages were added before 1600, forerunners of the Woolpack Inn and of houses near the War Memorial Green.
The earliest photograph of Stonehouse that we have shows the Tudor House in 1864
A similar view of the Tudor House (now Tudor Tandoori) in 2015
In the seventeenth century Orchard House was built, and new houses appeared by the Green nearby, and next to both the Crown and Anchor and Apsley House.
In 1683 a right to hold a fair was granted, perhaps centred on a ‘fairs barn’ on the site of the later Globe Inn, built in 1806. By 1765, the fairs were being held on 1 May and 10 October and cattle and cheese were the main items sold.
The War Memorial Green c1925 showing the Globe Inn behind
During the eighteenth century the manor allowed some building on the Green at the side of the street, such as the sites of Barnard Parade and the Post Office, and the row from the bottom of Queen’s Road to Lloyds Bank. Some gaps between older buildings were filled, and the future Woolpack Inn grew from a barn into a waggoning base and butchers’ premises. A school opened at Orchard House in 1775, relocated in Elm Road in1832 (now Stonehouse Park Infant School). The High Street had been turnpiked in 1726, and in about 1780 the Bath Coach began to run through Stonehouse, leading to a coaching inn developing at the Crown and Anchor, complete with assembly rooms.
Upper High Street c1900 showing Orchard House to the centre right and 19th century buildings beyond
In 1809 the manor began to sell pieces of the green outright, including the sites of Park House and its neighbours as far as the railway bridge. Barclays Bank, and all the buildings between Tudor Tandoori and the Woolpack, first appeared in about 1820 to 1830. In 1845 the GWR railway line was opened and houses between the Globe and the Square, and on the site of Bridge Garage, were removed to make space for the railway bridge which carries the line over the road.
The Congregational Chapel was built in 1827 on the west side of the Street. It was destroyed by fire in 1967 and replaced by three shops which have been occupied by a range of services from banks to hairdressers. Some of the old grave stones remain in the Rest Garden behind the shops. In 1866 a Church of England institute with a reading-room, lecture hall, library, and meeting-room was opened in the High Street near the Tudor House.
Two impressive public buildings stand out. The old Police Station and Petty Sessional Court, built in 1890 in the centre of town, now houses a guitar shop and communications company. The Post Office, built from Stonehouse bricks in 1933, was bought by the Town Council in 2003. Postal services remain in one half of the building, with the sorting office converted into a Town Hall.
The cloth industry was the main employer from the 15th to the 19th centuries, but Stonehouse has always been home to butchers, bakers, and a variety of other trades and crafts. Records show that in 1299 a smith, carpenter, cooper, and shoemaker were working in Stonehouse. In 1840 there were two blacksmith’s shops near the Woolpack Inn. By 1856 there were four shoemakers. In the 20th century there was still a blacksmith, carpenter and shoemaker in the village.
In Victorian times there were wheelwrights, and a cabinet-maker. There were candle-makers, tailors, cloth merchants and drapers, watchmakers and clockmakers and a tinplate worker. There were thatchers and masons: a local mason worked on the rebuilding of St Cyr’s Church in 1854. Withies for basket-making were grown in several places in the parish in 1840, and there were basketmakers until c.1906. Brewing beer was a popular trade and there were two malt-houses in the main street in 1840. From the 14 pubs in Stonehouse in1901, the only two remaining, The Woolpack and The Globe, are at either end of High Street.
In 1906 a former malt-house at Apsley House was bought by a dairy company which designed new types of cheeses and hoped to promote the eating of cheese as a substitute for meat. This became the Severn Valley Dairy, which served the town until 1975. In about 1920 C.L. Smith set up the Severn Valley Fruit Company making bottled fruits and jams which stayed in business until the middle of the 20th century. Hillier’s Bacon Curing Co was in a shop in the centre of town. The first Co-op opened in 1886 and remained an important part of the town until this day, taking over an old garage in the centre of town in 1971.
A busy High Street c1900. The Co-op on the left, Gardiner’s Cycle Works (later to become Gardiner’s garage) and the Tudor House in the centre
By the turn of the 20th century the Parish Council had taken over the care of the greens. Old shops were demolished between the Globe and the Crown and Anchor and the willow tree planted in 1921. The War Memorial was dedicated in 1919. In later years the wall around the Green was built and the memorial stone commemorating 50 years of peace 1945 -1995 was put in place. Trees were planted along the edges of the roads and kerbs put in. A town clock was donated by Fred Rowbotham and placed by the Police Station (later moved in front of the Post Office). In 2000 the Millennium Stone was erected in the centre of High Street to represent both the history of the town and a doorway to the new Millennium.
Central High Street 1950s. The garage was demolished in 1971 for a new co-op building
The High Street we see today
The latter half of the 20th century saw the rise of the takeaway food outlet with three fish and chip shops and later Indian, Chinese, pizzas, kebabs and many more different foods available. Different cafes and restaurants have come and gone, some with juke boxes and slot machines, the latest with awnings and tables on the street. Charity shops are also a relatively new innovation with at least four along the street.
The High Street still retains a wide range of businesses even though the traditional craftsmen are harder to find. We still have the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer. You can still find all types of homewares and electrical goods including computers. There are doctors, dentists, opticians, hairdressers and beauticians. We have a specialist fishing shop and a bike shop.
The 21st century has seen developments in the road system with traffic calming measures put in place to try to cope with the growing number of cars and lorries travelling through the town. Extra parking spaces on the street have been created in addition to the main car park. New trees and flower beds have been planted. Great efforts have been made to make High Street an attractive place to visit, with the town being awarded a silver medal in Britain in Bloom 2015.
Special thanks goes to Vicki Walker and the Stonehouse History Group for providing the content for this section of our website. You can find out more about the history of Stonehouse by going to the Stonehouse History Group's website
View the Stonehouse Neighbourhood Plan Submission draft