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Garton and King’s High Street Emporium

Firstly, here are the earliest photographs found showing Garton & King's shop, which was situated on the north side of Exeter's High Street at number 190, part-way between the junction with North Street and Broadgate.

Below left: This very early photograph from around 1860-1870 shows the junction of North Street and High Street, looking east down High Street. Garton & King's shop at 190 High Street is just four doors down on the left, with the Royal Crest above the first floor windows. St Peter is in his alcove (he's now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum) on the corner above Holman & Co the Chemist who moved to this location about 1830.

1860/70 view of corner of High St and North St looking east     1880 view of corner of High St and North St looking east

Above right: This next image shows the junction of North Street and High Street in 1880, forty three years into Queen Victoria’s reign. The cameraman seems to be the object of much curiosity to all the people in the image!
Garton & King's shop, with the Royal Crest above, can be seen at the extreme right. Some idea of the shop's interior layout is given later on this page.

Below left: This image again shows quite clearly Garton & King’s premises with the Coat of Arms above. Slightly less interest in the photographer! The use of vertical poles to support the shop blinds was commonplace - the brass inserts that held the bottom end of the pole in place can still be seen in the granite kerbstones in High and Queen Streets.
This photograph was used on a postcard in The Wrench Series of Postcards, Number 737 entitled St Peter’s Corner. Mr Evelyn Wrench (1882 -1966) was the initiator of this Postcard Series. For a time in the early 1900s it was the largest Postcard Company in Britain. The actual postcard from which this image is taken is dated August 1913 – the view dates from before 1890.

Pre 1890 view of the shop at 190 High Street, looking east.     1891/2 view of the shop at 190 High Street, looking east.

Above right: This image is dated about 1891 or 1892. The chemists Holman & Co. have just moved across the road; The signwriter is completing the sign on their new premises to the right. Their former premises on the North Street corner (seen empty here by the lamp post) displays posters stating ‘Removed Opposite’. That building was later replaced by the current brick-fronted building - just visible in the next photo below. Notice the telegraph pole in these two images - Exeter had its first telephone exchange in 1883.

1905 View of the shop at 190 High Street, looking west. Right: Views of Garton & King’s shop at 190 High Street are scarce, this one, taken in 1905, particularly hard to find. The purpose of this image was to record the widening of High Street by the demolition of buildings adjacent to St Petrock’s Church. However it also offers a sharp image of the Shop Front opposite, still complete with the Coat of Arms.
Eventually, some six years after Queen Victoria’s death (22.1.1901) the newly formed Royal Warrant Holders Association (1907) ordered Garton & King (as well as many other holders of Queen’s Warrant throughout the land) to “Remove immediately the Arms that are erected on the outside of the front of your premises and kindly have this attended to at once.
(photo by kind permission of Devon Archives & Local Studies)

One event occurred on 9th February 1856 that could have had devastating effects not only on the High Street premises of Garton & Jarvis (as it was at the time) but also on the adjoining properties.
Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post recorded, on the 14th February 1856:-

TERRIFIC GAS EXPLOSION – On Saturday evening an explosion of gas occurred in the shop of Messrs. Garton & Jarvis, ironmongers etc. of this city. There is a large gas pipe under the floor in the shop and between the ceiling of the cellar, in which there was a leak. A man and a boy went down to examine it, and having found the leak they turned off the gas from the meter in the shop, and proceeded to the cellar with a lighted candle. A quantity of gas having in the meantime escaped, the candle coming in contact with it, a terrific explosion took place. The floor of the shop was violently lifted, stoves were displaced, and forty panes of glass in the inner window and three panes of plate glass in the shop window were smashed. A man, who was walking across the shop at the time of the explosion, was struck by a plank, which had been removed from the floor, and violently ejected into the street. The man in the cellar escaped uninjured, but the boy was slightly burnt in the face. The cause of this violent explosion is attributed to a concentration of gas between the ceiling of the cellar and the floor of the shop. If the leak had been neglected for a quarter of an hour longer the consequences would probably have been that much more serious.

Fortunately the premises survived until its ultimate closure in 1933, some 77 years later. The two photos below were taken in 1933, possibly on a Sunday.

1933 View of the shop at 190 High Street, looking east     1933 View of the shop at 190 High Street, looking west
The shop at 190 High Street in 1933 at the time of its closure.
(Photo courtesy of the Isca Collection)
Another view of the shop taken on the same day, looking west down High Street. (Photo courtesy of the Isca Collection)

Sale of Ironmongery at 190 High StreetSo, extinguish all cigarettes and pipes and let me set the scene for your exploration of Garton & King’s High Street Emporium!

It’s late on a winter’s day and it’s getting dark. You’re back in the reign of Queen Victoria; you’re peering through the Shop Front of Garton & King the Ironmongers at 190 High Street in the city of Exeter.

All manner of goods are on display in the Shop windows, kitchen utensils, plated wares, wrought iron goods, paints, lacquers, cutlery & pans and trivetts - the list goes on. Its cold and wet outside and the shop looks bright, warm and inviting. You push against the polished brass door handle and immediately hear the jingle of the bell. The floor is wooden and and worn; there is a heady mix of smells, the smell of seeds, of turpentine, hessian and leather. The gas lights hiss and flicker and as you become accustomed to the light you notice that a variety of items are hung from the ceiling and goods are stacked at the end of the heavy wooden counters.

Take a step or two into the front shop and you’ll notice a central set of stairs to the upper Showroom Area and to the right a door leading to the Counting House. This is where the takings are counted; the accounts are raised and the books kept and made up. Moving further into the shop and you notice the back wall, to the left is a door signed ‘Machine Room’ - to the right of this is a door leading to an outside central passageway which takes you back into the bowels of the premises.

Plan of 190 High Street

Pass through the door and down the alleyway.To the left a small toilet marked ‘Customers Only’ and a door to the right leads into an extensive and packed room displaying all the different models of stoves and ranges - from the massive Exonian Range to the small and compact Cottage Stove.

A pace or two more down the corridor and on the left is the doorway to ‘The Spade Room’ here are all manner of forks, spades, rakes shovels and hoes, some with and some without their wooden handles which appear to come in an assortment of lengths styles and shapes.

Beyond this door are two more doors.The one to the right leads to an area full of a large variety of goods, some wrapped and labelled, others neatly packaged or in sacks. Looking in to the room on the left of the passage are benches with large reels of brown wrapping paper and sharp blades against which you tear off the required length for wrapping the multitude of small goods. There are coils of string, lengths of sacking and there is a a distinctive sort of sisally smell as well as the odour of sealing wax.

Beyond this on the left is the Paint Store - oil paints, tar paints, enamels, bottles of methylated spitits, casks of linseed oil and a whole host of tins, drums, barrels and kegs.

The last door on the right before the substantial door that leads to Waterbeer Street is the Nail Store - not just nails - screws, brads, carriage bolts, square bolts, round bolts, nuts, rivets, chains, machine screws - the list is endless - and this is just at ground level!

So take a trip back in time and scan through just a fraction of the sort of goods you could see and buy back during the 1860s, 70s and 80s - enter the premises of Garton & King ...

at the Sign of the Golden Hammer
The High Street Emporium and Foundry

The Chevalier House, Woolworths and Garton & King Ltd.
This next image may be familiar to those of you that enjoy the historical photographs in Peter Thomas’s books on Exeter and its history and the many photographs from the Isca Collection. This one relates to the Old Chevalier Inn, one of two gabled 17th Century houses (78 & 79 Fore Street, llustrated below right) that stood approximately on the site of the Wetherspoons Pub today (2023). Around 1930 these two properties were threatened with demolition by Woolworths, who, at that time were located next door at numbers 76 & 77 Fore Street, and had been there for about 5 years, who wished to expand and build an extension in the modern style of the day. The full story is in the ‘Aspects of Exeter’ by Peter Thomas, page 92.

View of High Street from The Chevalier
Image courtesy Nick Hake / Isca Collection
  Illustration of The Chevalier

Fortunately the public and other institutions raised funds to purchase the property, and that you might think was the end of the story - but no, in 1942 the properties were destroyed by bombing. The rider on horseback relates to the Royalists and was placed as shown in the image on the roof to commemorate the visit of Prince Charles (later King Charles II) in 1644. The Parliamentary forces regained Exeter in 1646. However, forget for a moment the Horseman – and look beyond up High Street; the third building from the Junction with North St. is Garton & King’s Ironmongers shop (the plainer frontage shop with a row of four first-floor windows), and if you look carefully there is the large bracket from which the Golden Hammer hangs. The photograph was taken before the premises closed and I’d guess about 1930.

WoolworthsAnd Woolworths? Well, as it happens, they purchased Garton & Kings Ironmongers shop and Pinder & Tuckwells shop next door at 189 High Street (see images on this page) and moved in in 1934 as shown in this last image. (Image courtesy Nick Hake / Isca Collection)

Updated May 2023
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See also:
Workplace144 Years of Newspaper Adverts
King & MunkWaterbeer Street Foundry
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