Old photos reveal the changing face of Swanage’s high street

Posters have been springing up around the town centre as businesses celebrate shopping in bygone times thanks to Swanage Museum.

The large A3 signs in windows of shops around Station Road, Institute Road and the High Street show how they used to look. It’s part of a project following on from a major exhibition at Swanage Museum.

Bob Field outside the Swanage Museum
Swanage Museum

Bob Field with his posters outside the Swanage Museum

Poster at 4Matt framers
Swanage Museum

Look out for the posters in the shop windows. This is in the window of 4Matt Framers in the High Street

“What they looked like in the past”

Co-ordinator Bob Field, who is an art researcher with the museum, said:

“We thought it would be a good idea to get all the shops to have a poster with what they looked like in the past.

“We are hoping that people will come up with other old photos and come along to see the summer exhibition at the museum too.”

Many of the photos on the posters were taken by Basil Buckland back in the 1980s. Others have come from individual shop owners, local families and the museum’s own extensive photo library.

There are even photographs from the famous floods of the 1930s which show shop premises as they were then.

Millward department store
Swanage Museum
Something Different
Ideal Tool Hire

4Matt Framers in some of its many guises over the years

Matt4Frames shop in High Street

4Matt Framers in 2022

“You do tend to forget”

Bob said:

“It’s taken quite a while to get round all the shops because people have been so delighted they all wanted to chat about it!”

Lisa Leahy, of Purbeck Valet, said:

“I think it’s lovely. It’s a really good idea especially if you’re a local. You do tend to forget what was here, but I think overall the town hasn’t really changed a lot.”

Her own premises were at one time a bakery.

Purbeck Valet old photo

Basil Buckland went round photographing the town in the 1980s including Purbeck Valet

Purbeck Valet shop in the High Street

Purbeck Valet in the High Street in 2022

“Nice to discover”

Lisa said:

“I knew at one point it had been a Co-op but I didn’t know it had been a bakery so that was nice to discover.”

Opposite, Matt Davis of 4Matt Framers, said:

“This place was all sorts of things that I didn’t know about. It started out as Millward, a department store, then it was Almost Antique and Caroline’s shoes. And then it was Ideal Tool Hire. I remember them being here and I remember it being a bike shop before that.

“It’s fascinating to be able to see how things used to look. I recognise some of the names from when I was a kid.”

Swanage and Coombe Farm Dairies
Swanage Museum

A dairy and then a children’s clothes shop

Quarr Gallery in the High Street

Now it’s the Quarr Gallery in lower High Street

“Polite architecture”

Keith Roker of Quarr Gallery, said:

“I have seen pictures of the building in the 1890s. It was a dairy and restaurant, selling hot Bovril, tea and coffee. Later on, it was a ladies clothes shop and for a while it was Swanage Motors. Then it was a children’s clothing store Bobbies, and another called Stitches.”

He added:

“This particular little terrace was built in the 1830s and was called Victoria Terrace at a time when Queen Victoria came to the throne. It’s one of the first examples of ‘polite architecture’ in Swanage – before that the town would have looked like Langton Maravers. After the railways came there was a big building boom.”

The posters are distributed by Swanage Museum which has a special exhibition of old photos right through the summer.

Old shops posters
Swanage Museum

Spot the posters in shops around Swanage and catch the exhibition at the museum

Share this story

Contact us

Do you have anything to add to this story?

We like to keep everything up-to-date, so if you know more, please help us by getting in touch.


Top stories

Swanage Railway scraps plans for regular rail service to Wareham Despite years of battling to reinstate a branch line service between Swanage and Wareham in Dorset, Swanage Railway has dashed any hope of running trains up to the mainline for ... 1 month ago More Purbeck visitors urged to take trip to Brownsea 2 weeks ago Swanage to get seafront sauna and new beach cafe 1 month ago New chapter in store for Corfe Castle village shop 1 month ago D-Day 80th anniversary to be marked by tank patrol at Studland 2 weeks ago

Most recent

Swanage RNLI joins night time rescue mission as yacht catches fire Swanage lifeboat volunteers answered a late night call for help on Saturday 13th April 2024 after a yacht caught fire in Poole Harbour. 4 hours ago Three weeks of roadworks to begin in Corfe Castle 1 day ago Scare for Skippy inspired Swanage’s new animal ambulance 2 days ago Swanage shop scoops top UK retailer award 3 days ago Swanage fire crews to make a splash with charity car wash 4 days ago