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Exclusive: The Old Bags Of Guildford Revealed!

Published on: 7 May, 2020
Updated on: 9 May, 2020

by David Rose

Let me take you on a virtual walk through Guildford town centre by focusing on its old bags!

These being the bags shoppers were given to take home their purchases in the town centre in years gone by.

Starting in the High Street, first up is a paper bag from the drapery store W. E. White and Son Ltd, that traded from 1799 until the site was bought by Mark & Spencer for its new store in the early 1960s.

It’s possibly the rarest bag here! It belonged to my aunt Doris Blanche (nee Rose). She kept it all those years at her home in Canterbury. I came across after she died in 2008. I guess it dates to the late 1950s.

Here is a selection of Mark & Spencer bags, from around the 1960s onwards, with its then St Michael brand prominently displayed.

For those interested in typography, the final one featured appears to have a different style to the Marks & Spencer logo / trademark.

William Harvey opened his “House of Harvey” ladies wear store in the Playhouse Arcade (now Tunsgate Quarter) after the First World War. In the late 1940s the store relocated to the High Street, currently the site of House of Fraser.

Renamed Harveys of Guildford, a department store, the business was bought by the House of Fraser group in the 1970s and for a decade or so traded under its Army & Navy Stores brand.

Above is a Harveys sheet of paper presumably to wrap flowers, followed by a much smaller bag, at a time when it still traded as Harveys of Guildford, but a member of the Army & Navy group of stores.

Lilley & Skinner was a mid-market shoe brand, manufacturer, retailer and wholesale distributor of its own and others’ boots and shoes. The 1969 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Guildford & Godalming lists it at 130 High Street, that being a few doors up from Tunsgate.

In Guildford, Boots the Chemists was originally on the south side of the High Street on the corner of Chapel Street, later moving to its current location on the north side.

As can be seen, not only selling “Drugs and Gifts”, but also “Fancy, Leather & Brass Goods, Stationers, Booksellers, Picture Frame Makers, Printing, Relief Stamping, Bookbinding”. I would estimate this paper bag has some age, at least 60 years old or even more!

Guildford also had a number of independent chemists, including Masseys, with a surviving paper bag giving details of its three outlets.

The High Street numbers on the bag are the previous ones, before the numbers changed for what today is the upper High Street by 1959, and the whole of the High Street by 1961, as seen in Kelly’s directories for those years.

Number 13 High Street was on the north side at the junction with North Street and Chertsey Street. Number 82½ was also on the north side near the Town Bridge, where the gyratory system cuts through now.

In the 1961 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Guildford & Godalming Massy’s was still trading, but gone by 1963.

Woolworth’s had a store in Guildford on the south side, a little way down from Chapel Street, by at least 1935. It moved to the north side into a new building on the opposite side of what had been the Lion Hotel (demolished in the mid-1950s).

Woolies disappeared from the town when the White Lion Walk shopping centre was created in the 1980s, only to return to Friary Street some years later, until the Woolworth’s chain ceased to trade at the end of 2008.

Nuthall’s was a restaurant in the fine building that is now Guildford House – the borough council’s art gallery and tourist information centre. Nuthall’s was still there according to the 1955 Kelly’s, while the 1959 edition lists it then as “Guildford Corporation Library, Museum & Arts Committee Exhibition Gallery.” This is a slip of paper, whether it was actually part of a paper bag I can’t say, but worthy of inclusion here.

Moving on to North Street and a paper bag from the department store Gammons, that was on the corner with Market Street.

The family business dated back to about 1879 and was still trading at the time of the 1967 edition of Kelly’s, but noted as “Gammons Ltd (a Debenhams store)”. By the time of the 1969 Kelly’s, it is not listed.

The Guildford & District Co-operative Society was established in 1891, opening its first shop at 2 Woodbridge Road, next door to the Wesleyan church (now the site of Barclays bank).

After a very short time these premises were found to be unsuitable and the business was transferred to a shop on the corner of Woodbridge Road and Leapale Road.

From 1895, it began to expand from a site in North Street and down along Haydon Place.

The Guildford & District Co-operative Society merged with the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society on January 25, 1971. Over the next 10 years or so its department store in the town centre and its services were discontinued. The food hall, facing on to North Street, was the last to go in about the early 1980s, from where I presume this bag dates to.

Now for a couple of small independents – pork butchers Taplin’s of 24 Chertsey Street.

And Trickett’s Stores of 14 Church Road.

In the days before garden centres and online shopping, seeds and other gardening and horticultural supplies came from Fogwills of Guildford.

Those with memories of the business will recall it was in Friary Street, nearer to the North Street end as these two seeds bags show.

However, the paper bag lists at address at 74 High Street. The latest year I have been able to trace Fogwills to that address is the Kelly’s for 1938. This possibly makes it the oldest old bag featured here!

Three record shops now, the first up being Wax Record Centre that was next to the Studio 1 and 2 cinema in Woodbridge Road.

I had plenty of these plastic bags back in the day. I used them to carry my exercise books to and from school. Always a bit anti-establishment and loath to conform to the rest of the herd, a briefcase was the last thing I ever wanted to lug around at school!

This bag was donated to me a few years ago by someone who once worked at the shop.

And here’s one from Subway Records, that was on the right-hand side of Tunsgate Square going up from the High Street.

While Derek’s Records was in the High Street, squeezed between the Bulls Head pub and the Guildhall, and also at 4 Woodbridge Road, the same premises that had been Wax Record Centre.

A Debenhams’s bag almost certainly from the Guildford store in Millbrook, that opened in 1968 as Plummer Roddis.

And finally, I’m not sure who issued this plastic bag commemorating the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, but I wonder how many have survived?

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Responses to Exclusive: The Old Bags Of Guildford Revealed!

  1. Mary Redgwell Reply

    May 9, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Thank you David Rose. I remember quite a few of the shops – bought my wedding outfit at Whites.

  2. Paul Robinson Reply

    May 11, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Yes, thank you. I was hoping to see Dolls Hospital bag, my shop of choice for Airfix and Tamiya plastic kits.

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