81-83 High Street Research Moves on…again

Further to our newsletter report of May 2014 regarding our new image of the High Street (donated by member Kath Crewe). We now find more evidence from the Picken Papers which Linda Fletcher & Heather Cooke are working on.

Just to remind ourselves – the original image showed 81-83 High Street as a jetted building with a plain, rendered finish.

The new building has a new turret, the first floor jetty is at a different height and the window sizes have changed.

For new members, the Picken Papers are boxes of manuscript research, journals and news articles dating from 1880’s and compiled by a local chemist and antiquarian, T. W. Picken. We have recently found a document amongst those papers which sheds light on the restoration of 1902.

Picken relates:
…removing the plaster over the shop windows a beautiful pattern in black oak was found arranged in diamond and oval. The wood was in good preservation and has been carefully restored to its original position the spaces between being filled with cement covered with white plaster … the original carving(s) of date and initials were found on the old timber and are now in a conspicuous place on the front of the house.

A recent image of the date plaque.

It looks as though the initials and date plaques have been cut out and added onto the timbers. (Just to the top of the lozenge the pegs can be seen clearly at the left and right. A.B.L)

The initials are interesting. Sometimes these triangular initials commemorate a marriage. So for example: a plaque which reads


would represent a marriage between, say, Abraham and Catherine Barber. However, married women did not have any property in those days, so it is likely to be just one person’s name.

Here, for example, is a token issued by Edward E Middleton.

The surname initial is always on top.
Significant Newport names in the middle of the 17th century are John Harvie (church warden), Jonas Hollonsworth (yeoman) or John Harrie (furrier).

Our booklet, The Great Fire of Newport (2005), shows that the fire raged mostly on the West side of the High Street and further south than 81-83. So this building is still something of a mystery – did it burn down (perhaps on the edge of the blaze)? Or was it a new frontage simply added to a partly burnt house, or did J.M.H build a new house in 1667 and it was purely coincidental that it was just after the Great Fire? Perhaps, if we gain entrance to the inside, it may become clearer.

Linda Fletcher.

Further comments by Bryan Lloyd:
Prior to the publication of the Great Fire booklet, surveys were made of a large number of buildings in the town by the Vernacular Architecture Group (VAG). These reports contain measurements and drawings together with many relevant observations as well as to some research as to what had been found. Many photographs were also taken at the time of those surveys. It was noted, with some surprise, that the reports in the History of Newport by Edward Jones in the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society (TSAS) did not tally with what we saw in those town properties. Neither did they match with the description of where the fire actually took place.
The assumptions in the TSAS seem to place the fire in the area of our modern town centre – around the church . It was obvious, however, that so many buildings in the area of St Nicholas Church still contain pre-1665 elements, the fire cannot have taken place there.
Copies of the VAG report were sent to Shropshire Archives and some were also kept here in town. Some interior photographs can be seen on the SNAP archive but not all, because there are still some slides and negatives of my own that really need working on and adding to the SNAP archive.
The Great Fire booklet may not be a work of perfection but it does point to the need for a really deep research into where it actually took place. The booklet was meant to be a trigger for deeper analysis. Please note that Zach’s Plaice (see separate article here) is in an area not affected by the Fire as is Addison’s shop (near the traffic lights). Check the Burgage plots on the 1881 OS map to start looking for the area burnt out by the Fire.

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