Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Commercial Road

What a difference a few months make.  For too long the dark empty windows of number 66-68 have stared out forlornly at the busy traffic along Commercial Road, but not any more.  

Today the windows shine brightly with the arrival of the Prospect Charity Shop selling a wide range of good quality items from books to comfy sofas to curl up on and lamps to read them by.

For more than thirty years the Prospect Hospice in Wroughton has provided specialist end of life care.  Today this service is also available at the Great Western Hospital and to people in their own homes. The Prospect Hospice is close to the hearts of the people of Swindon, particularly Swindon Society member Martin Vandervelde who has cycled many thousands of miles, raising more than £90,000 for the charity.

Construction along Commercial Road dates from around 1890 with local builders Joseph Ponting, James Hinton, Charles Williams and Joseph Williams quickly getting in on the act.

Today Commercial Road is home to recruitment agencies, estate and letting agents but in Victorian times and even into the 1960s it was a busy shopping street to rival Regent Street.  In 1949 George Eburne had a Gent's Hairdressers at number 65.  C.H. Baxter was a greengrocer at number 66 while Herbert Bristow ran the newsagents at number 67 where his mother Sophia set up business in the 1890s following the death of her husband Edwin.

These are difficult times for town centre shops.  It seems that almost every day there is news of another firm going into liquidation while smaller independent traders struggle to make a living. Some say charity shops are the death of our High Streets but I for one was happy to see the lights on at 66-68 Commercial Road when I walked by the other day.

Unrecognisable today - a 1910 William Hooper view of Commercial Road courtesy of Paul Williams and Swindon Local Studies visit the website on www.flickr.com/photos/swindonlocal

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