The corner of Eastgate Street and Bridge Street c. 1860. This view of the Cross
from St. Peter's Church remains very much the same as it was when Batenham did his drawing 50 years before . One
of the interesting features of this photograph is the number of butchers' shops still trading at this end of the
street. There are at least four here. The meat must have got incredibly dusty and fly-blown, hanging out as it
did, vulnerable to the innumerable blue bottles attracted by the horse droppings and the dust in the street. The
air of Bndge Street in this view is tatty and down at heel - this was not the prosperous street it was to become.
The women gossiping outside the butchers did not come from the grand houses of the prosperous citizens living in
Queen's Park and Curzon Park, who had their orders solicited by e tradesmen coming to the house. The more genteelly
dressed woman coming out of the shop next to the butcher - probably a haberdasher - was possibly an upper servant
on her day out. Notice Mr. Brewer's shop on the corner. He was a brazier and tin-plate worker, who sold watering
cans and buckets and probably repaired them too, on the premises. The bollards on the corner were essential to
avoid the iron rimmed wheels of passing vehicles from mounting the pavement, which was just as narrow then as now.
In the Rows and by the lamp post are the usual idlers, watching the antics of the photographer with great interest.
The Rows at that time were partly commercial (Mr. Brewer had a bric.a-brac shop above his) and partly domestic
with the front door to living quarters of the shop owners opening at Row level. (This may explain the curtaining
(?sun blinds) over the basket maker's shop further down).
The same view from St. Peter's about 45 years later c. 1905. Compare the distinct change in character between this scene and the previous one. In 1888, the first Duke of Westminster rebuilt this corner to produce probably the best known view of Chester - especially as it has now appeared on a postage stamp.
The transport is changing slowly. The trains were electrified in 1903 when the Corporation took over the Chester Tramways Company. The weather must have been warmer at this time or our grandparents were more spartan, for all the public transport was open at the top and the driver had no cab. The two horse carriage outside the hair. cutting rooms had not yet been replaced by the motor car, although no doubt one or two had been seen in the streets by then. The shops themselves changed little over the next 60 years. Collinson & Co., Bootmakers, are still there, Mr. Nicholls, the tobacco manufacturer who had the snuff mills by the old Dee bridge (recently replaced by a block of flats) was there until the 1950s and the clock maker, Mr. Catley, is now represented by Mr. Walton. Hugo Lang was a prolific publisher of picture postcards and guide books of Chester from the early 1900s until just before the war. There is still a hatter and gentlemen's outfitter in the shop behind the two Edwardian young women standing at the top of the steps. Some of those schoolboys are probably still around and may well recognise themselves.
Victorian & Edwardian Chester By John Tomlinson A Deesider publication