On 10 December, Richard Holladay shared with us a selection of photographs - some fifty in all - from his vast collection of advertisements for Exeter businesses. His collection dates from Victorian times right up to the Second World War.
Richard’s photographs showed that window displays were an essential part of attracting passing trade. But how crowded they were, compared to today’s displays (see left). Every bit of space was used, including sign writing all over the upper floors of the building (executed by a craftsman on a ladder – a far cry from today’s safety rules).
These advertisements provide us with an excellent picture of life in those times, what people bought and why. Those who created the ads were certainly imaginative and resourceful, even if they did bend the truth a bit!
Ironmongery customers were tempted by Mr John Damerell with his tantalising offer that they invest their hard earned cash in Stocks and Shares whereas Stone & Son (of furniture cream fame) promised that their Essence of Rennett will “survive for years, even in the hottest climate” – so comforting to know that even in the Sahara one can always make junket!
Of all the adverts shown, only three businesses continue to trade under their original names, one of these being the national chain, Boots. Small businesses such as tailors, dentists, laundries and dairies which had prospered in late Victorian times and survived the First World War did not survive the Second.
The bombing obliterated so many of them. Those businesses that did survive the blitz often changed hands and names and by the millennium most still in private ownership had disappeared from the High Street - even well remembered names such as Brocks, Ottons, Mark Rowe and Hill Palmer & Edwards.
The talk was much enlivened by interesting and knowledgeable input from those present, often being answers to queries posed by members in the audience, Richard not always being able to provide answers to some of the searching questions raised!