Taking an online stroll through street's history
A WEBSITE has been launched charting the history of shops in Gloucester Road from the late 19th century to the present day.
Retired IT lecturer Chris Wallace has set up The Gloucester Road Story to highlight the changing face of one of the country's longest independent shopping streets.
The 65-year-old former University of the West of England lecturer has recruited a team of local volunteers to help him find out the names of the occupiers of the hundreds of shop units along the road down the years.
They have used Kelly's Street Directories, which listed the proprietors of each business in the road from the 1800s to the 1970s, to find historical data for the website.
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Mr Wallace, who lives in Bishopston, said his research showed the street was predominantly occupied by grocers and butchers when shops first started trading at the end of the 19th century. The shopping street has evolved over the decades and is now better known for cafes, restaurants and charity shops.
Mr Wallace, who now works as a computer consultant, said research revealed that just one shop had kept its original name – Crawford's newsagents at number 200.
He said: "I was party inspired to start the website by Kelly's Street Directories, which go back year by year with every street number listed. It tells you the business name, the type of business and the name of the proprietor. We've captured this and it gives us a framework, and local history events can then be plugged into that framework.
"There are several websites for Gloucester Road which provide some sort of index for businesses but none are ones where you can look down the street and browse by walking down it – going back in time was the key idea."
He said one of the most interesting traders was Joseph Stone Hodges, a cabinet maker and upholstery business which started at number 221 in about 1903 and later moved across the road to a shop in Pigsty Hill.
Mr Wallace said his website has helped paint a picture of the types of shops which set up in Gloucester Road – from the junction of Cheltenham to the junction of Rudthorpe Road – in the early days and how they have changed. He said: "There was a high density of butchers and grocers to begin with but the number of grocers has diminished – every block seemed to have had one back in the 1900s. I'm hoping the website can help us understand how this iconic street works."
Although the website is aimed at giving users the chance to travel back in time, Mr Wallace said he was keen to make sure future changes to shops in the street were also documented.
Mr Wallace said: "Unless you keep on top of things, they get out of date. We've got a team of eight curators helping, each keeping tabs on developments."
The website can be viewed at http://thegloucesterroadstory.org.