Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Castle Cary, Somerset
Mr White’s shop
Taking a step back to photograph the lovely Market House in Castle Cary, I bumped up against this delightful shopfront, which looks as if it dates from around 1900. The building itself has a date stone that suggests it was built in 1804, but the ironmonger Thomas White was not in business here until the late-19th or early-20th century (he appears on a list of local businesses in 1906). The tiling on the lower part of the shopfront (the stall riser is the term for this bit), especially the decorations on each end, is very much in the Art Nouveau style of c. 1890–1910. The lettering, though, isn’t in the highly curvaceous manner of some Art Nouveau scripts – it’s a bit more sober than that, appropriate perhaps for a business selling buckets and spades, pots and kettles.
I couldn’t help wondering, though, whether this elegant tiling would have been invisible when the shop was open. Ironmongers have a traditional preference for reclaiming the pavement as an extra display area, populating the space in front of the frontage with large items such as dustbins and mop buckets. There was no mistaking what was on sale – you could see the stuff before you got anywhere near the shop. At the end of the day, though, when Thomas White brought in his stock and locked up for the night, his name was displayed, bright and clear, to remind everyone that tomorrow they’d be able to buy beeswax, wire wool, bells, and whistles – you should have known you needed them – right here.