Heritage Heroes

Discover your local heritage and become a Heritage Hero!

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Heritage Heroes: On The High Street

Find out how you can become a heritage hero...

Wherever you live, there’s treasure to be discovered! 

Not just gold and gems, but stories of buildings, locations and people. 

Our heritage is a great wealth… and it’s all around us. Sometimes standing proud in the open air – sometimes hidden behind some bushes. 

And to help find it, we’re looking for Heritage Heroes – could you be one?

You can find clues in all sorts of places to find out what happened in your street, neighbourhood and further afield, from famous visitors to historic events.

Here are three tips to help you become a Heritage Hero…

Let us know about your local heritage here…

Trade used to be done in Market Squares

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Before the Victorian era, many people grew a lot of their own food and would have made a few pennies by selling what they didn’t need at a local market.

Since the Middle Ages, market squares would have been places where people came together to buy and sell produce and livestock. Not many town markets sell cows and pigs today!   They’re more likely to be selling fruit and vegetables, jeans, tee shirts and things like plastic buckets!

Place Names can give us clues

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Have a look at some of the place names!

Shepherd’s Bush in West London is a green where shepherds used to rest their flocks on their way to market – and where they ate some prominent shrubs, whilst Birmingham’s Bull Ring got its name from bull baiting in the 16th Century. 

And don’t forget street names – what do you think they sold in London’s Bread Street, Milk Street and Pudding Lane?   

How can you learn something new about your local area?

You could speak to somebody who has lived in the area for a long time, visit a local library or use the internet to find about some interesting facts about your area!

When you’ve found out something new, why don’t you send us a voice message or comment below and let us know!

High Streets

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It was in the Victorian era that the high street as we know it came into its own. As more people moved into towns and cities, fewer people grew their own produce and relied on shops for food and other goods. Meat and vegetables were displayed for all to see outside the shops, so in a way the early high street looked a lot like a market. As well as groceries and general stores, specialist shops included chemists, outfitters, pawnbrokers and newsagents. And then there were shops for eating on the go… fish and chips and confectionary. 

It was in the Edwardian era that shopping became a bit of a pastime. Cheaper goods, especially with imports, meant even the poorest were able to afford meat from time to time and canned goods started to be popular. It was also the era of the department store – Selfridges opened in 1909.

During the 1930s, shops began to use advertising and window displays to draw in customers. Goods were displayed in glass cabinets and brands started to appear – not just goods but high street names like Boots.

In the 1960s, self service started to be the norm in large shops that were bright and colourful.

Why not try our Family Walks series to explore more!

Street Signs

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In many old streets, you might spot old signs or names painted on the brickwork from other uses.

There might also be old doors with brass or painted signs from the past or maybe a large cellar which may indicate that a building used to be a tavern.  

Businesses often use the historic use of a building in its name – for example, a restaurant might be called ‘The Bank’ or the ‘Olde Mill’ – any guesses why?   

High Streets have always been popular, so there’ll be photographic records of many streets. 

Your local library is a good place to start to take a peek at the past. 

Now it’s over to you!  Here’s a reminder of things to look for to help you find out about the place where you live. 

1 – As you walk up and down, make a note of what you see and have a think about who might have been there before. Local libraries often have pictures of high streets past and present to help.

2 – If you look carefully, you can sometimes see old adverts painted on the side of buildings. You can explore some of these signs online at GHOSTSIGNS.CO.UK.

3 – And have a think about the names of streets – they can often tell you who or what lived and worked around there. 

Here are some helpful links that will help you become a Heritage Hero!

Check out some old Town Maps: www.townmaps.history.ac.uk/

Learn about Life in Britain: www.massobs.org.uk 

Film Archives are a useful research tool: www.bfi.org.uk/archive-collections 

As well as old Newspapers: www.britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk 

History of markets and fairs: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/markets-fairs 

History of the High Street: www.historyextra.com/period/modern/a-history-of-the-high-street/ 

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Discover your local heritage and become a Heritage Hero!


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Heritage Heroes

Discover your local heritage and become a Heritage Hero!

More From Heritage Heroes