the borough

the borough

Yeovil's original market square


The traditional market place and heart of Yeovil simply known as ‘The Borough’ is little more than a widening of High Street and, indeed, officially the Borough doesn’t exist being technically High Street.

It was, from medieval times, the site of the weekly Friday market which dealt in locally-grown produce brought into the town from nearby villages and farms to sell. In early times this had included livestock as well as meat and meat produce, dairy produce, fruit and vegetables, corn and other grains and so forth but quite soon, as the town grew, the market began to expand into other nearby parts of the town – hence the earlier names of some of the nearby streets such as Cattle Market (Princes Street), Hog Market (Hendford), Corn Market (Silver Street) and Sheep Lane (North Lane).

In addition flax and hemp were bought and sold in the Borough market, being the raw materials for the substantial textile industry that was the mainstay of the town before gloving and leather production came to prominence.

In the centre of the Borough were two permanent market buildings; the Shambles (rebuilt 1803) used primarily by butchers and the Market House (built 1740) used by other stallholders. To the north of the Borough stood the Tolle Hall that contained the town's lock-up. The Market House also contained the town's stocks. On its southeast corner, at the junction with Wine Street, an old house called The Bow stood until the middle of the nineteenth century.

In 1856 Daniel Vickery recorded “Several old butchers' shops and shambles, which stood at the entrance of the old Market-house, were purchased and removed. Perhaps, however, no part of the borough has undergone more changes in appearance and reality, - dwellings and dwellers - than what is popularly called "The Borough." Not long since the site of Mr Dingley's shop was covered by one of the old wood and plaster buildings, and that of the Wilts and Dorset Bank by a block of low mean dwellings.”


Yeovilians remember...

Alfred J Milborne (b1888) recalled this event, probably during the 1890s -

".... a Mr Whittle who, on Saturday nights, used to dispense delightful and mouth-watering confections of his own manufacture in the market place under the glare of naphtha flares, and to whom I paid willing tribute from my penny or tuppence weekly pocket money."


And finally, the long debate that continues to this day on Facebook about demolishing the buildings in front of St John's church in order to open up the view is nothing new. It was frequently discussed during Victorian times and the following article is from the Western Gazette's edition of 26 May 1911.

Suggested Yeovil Town Improvement

One of the schemes brought forward in Yeovil to mark the celebration of the Coronation of King George V, and which is held in very popular favour, is the purchase and the demolition of the two business houses in the centre of the Borough, now occupied by Mr John Hayne and Mr Redwood. The illustration below is a photograph of a rough diagram drawing of the Church as it would be seen from the centre of the Borough after the removal of the houses. It was drawn by Mr J Nicholson Johnston, architect and surveyor of Yeovil, who suggests (as will be seen from the drawing) the erection of a market cross as a central figure. This, of course, should the scheme mature, would be open to further consideration. It should be added that several handsome contributions have been offered to carry out the scheme, one townsman expressing his willingness to give 150 guineas, another £200, and a third £100, with several £50 offers. The carrying out of the scheme, it is estimated, will cost from £3,000 to £4,000. (£2 million to £3 million at today's value).


.... and a similar proposal in 2005 - 94 years later. So, perhaps in the year 2116?




Day's map of 1831 showing the Borough, plus a few associated features;
A = The Chantry in original position,   B = Church Lane / Street, C = Tolle Hall, D = Bow,
E = London House, F = The Butchers' Shambles, G = Market House.

The 1901 Ordnance Survey showing High Street and the Borough, technically all High Street.



This painting features in my book 'Secret Yeovil'

A painting made in 1810 of the Borough looking towards High Street which runs to the distance at left. The building at centre was the Market House, built in 1740, and behind it to the right was the butcher's Shambles, built in 1803. The Tolle Hall is seen at right, surmounted by its clock or 'horolitch'. At left, the building with the arched ground floor is the only building surviving today in the Borough and originally the ironmongery shop of William Edwards, then Josiah Hannam followed by James Bazeley Petter and then Hill & Sawtell. Today it is 15 High Street, occupied by Superdrug and is seen in the final photograph of this page. At extreme left is the ancient building, called The Bow (see next image) on the corner of today's Wine Street.


A painting of The Bow, in the Borough on the corner of Grope Lane.


This sketch, made by GE Madeley to illustrate his map of 1831, shows the Borough seen from High Street - roughly the view seen today from the north end of King George Street. The Shambles is to the left and the Market House is to the right. The buildings at far left still stand today, that to the left is Clement White's shop, today's 8 High Street, at this time occupied by draper Benjamin Ryall whose name appears above the door. Behind the hanging sign at right is the Medical Hall which at this time was occupied by George Wellington, druggist and chemist.


A very early photograph by William Barrett (half of a stereoscopic pair), dating to about 1863, looking across the Borough to High Street.


The Borough seen from High Street in an early photograph dating to about 1865. Note the buildings either side of Middle Street - London House to the left and the Medical Hall to the right.


This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'.

This photograph was taken by Yeovil Photographer Jarratt Beckett and published in his 1897 book  "Somerset viewed through a Camera".


Another photograph of the Borough by Jarratt Beckett and published in his 1897 book  "Somerset viewed through a Camera".


From my collection

Judging by the size of the tree in the front garden of the Bell, this postcard dates to about 1900.


From my collection

The same postcard as in the above, but this hand-coloured version was posted in 1907.


From my collection

The Borough from a postcard of around 1902. Check out the lady in her carriage with her uniformed driver outside the bank (enlarged below) - that's the way to make a cash withdrawal. 


From my collection

The enlargement of the lady in her carriage from the previous photograph. 


From my collection

The same view but taken around 1905, by which time Harry Hill and John Sawtell had taken over today's Superdrug building (at extreme left) that had previously been the premises of HB & H Petter (sons of James Bazeley Petter). 


From my collection

Again using the same photograph, this hand-coloured postcard with an integral frame was part of a series of Yeovil postcards produced around 1910. This example was posted in 1911.


This postcard is dated 1906 and shows the Wilts & Dorset Bank (now Lloyds TSB) at left, then grocer and tea dealer JH Dawe & Son who were in the Borough from the mid-1870s to 1907 (later Shirley & Somerville) and at right is the clothiers, hatters and outfitters the Redwood Brothers who were located in the Borough from around 1890 until the 1930s.


This photograph, taken around 1910, is of John Coombs Hayne's butcher's shop in the Borough (literally) -  the shop was in the white building seen behind the handcart in the previous photograph. Hayne's moved to their current premises at the very northern end of Princes Street in 1939.


This postcard, dated 1905, looks from the first floor of the Medical Hall along High Street to Stuckey's Bank in Hendford. At left is James Bazeley Petter's ironmongery store - he later opened another branch, just a few doors along in High Street, located between the tree and the Town Hall.


A heavily hand-tinted postcard of the Borough and High Street dating to about 1907.


From my collection

This postcard of the Borough was posted in 1907.


From my collection

This postcard of 1909 has been so heavily touched-up and hand-coloured in the studio that it now looks like a water colour painting.


From my collection

A postcard of the Borough, sent in 1918.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Crowds gather in the Borough to celebrate Empire Day, 1909.


The Borough as seen from the top of St John's tower and photographed in the mid-1960s. At bottom left is the top of Silver Street, along the bottom is the eastern end of Church Street.


Crowds in the Borough and High Street awaiting the declaration of the election from the Town Hall in 1910.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

High Street and the Borough, photographed in 1910.


From my collection.
This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'.

The Borough seen in a postcard dated 1906 by E Whitby & Son of Yeovil. At the centre is London House with Silver Street to its left and Middle Street to its right. At right is the Medical Hall with Wine Street off to is right.

William Redwood had the Silver Street building (retaining the name Singleton's Boot Stores) next to London House as his footwear department and the premises in the Borough with his name as his outfitters department. He would eventually acquire the adjoining building (at this time occupied by Hayne the butcher).


Troops parade in the Borough in 1914 (there's always one who has to turn around!). The Medical Hall at left and Maynard's Borough Restaurant at right flanking Wine Street.


From my collection

This postcard, with the new bank building heavily touched up in the studio, was sent in 1922 but the photograph was clearly taken before July 1921 as the War memorial is missing.


This postcard is dated 1925 and is almost the same view as two postcards above. The new War Memorial stands to the left and at this time you could drive your car either side of it. At centre the Midland Bank building has replaced London House but the Medical Hall, now Boots the Chemist, remains. 


From my collection  -  This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'

A postcard looking towards the Town Hall from the Borough. This card was posted in 1918. Note that the town hall now has its clock,


A hand-coloured postcard (usually seen in monochrome as the previous) showing the Town Hall seen from the Borough around 1918.


A postcard dated 1929 looking across the Borough towards King George Street. King George Street has opened and Frederick Taylor's store (seen behind the car) is only two storeys high.


From my collection

An almost identical view in a postcard of 1932.


From my collection

A hand-coloured postcard showing market stalls setting up in the Borough, circa 1930.


...and the flags were flying from the Town Hall in this photograph of 1933. Frederick Taylor's store is still only two storeys high.


From my collection

But in an almost identical postcard dating to after 1935, the town hall has disappeared, being destroyed by fire. Frederick Taylor's store is now three storeys high.


From my collection

A hand-coloured version of the previous postcard.


From my collection

Looking east across the Borough, circa 1940. Hayne the butcher left his Borough premises in 1939 to move to the northern end of Princes Street and was acquired by Redwood's. From this time Redwood's had three shops at this stage; two in the Borough (at left) and one in Silver Street next to the bank - which, at this time, still had a pitched roof (compare with later photos).


A postcard of 1936 showing that there was still no definite edge to the road in the Borough and you could still drive behind the War Memorial. Nice bus.


From my collection

A late 1930s postcard albeit posted in 1943 (the Medical Hall is still there although it was destroyed by bombing in 1941) looking across the Borough with the shop of Clement White at left. Photographed from King George Street.


From my collection

The Borough photographed from King George Street and featured in the 1950 Yeovil Guide. Note that  Frederick Taylor's store (at right) is now Plummer's. Note that the building to the immediate left of the War Memorial has a pitched roof in this photo but not in the next.


The Borough decorated in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.


Courtesy of the Western Gazette

Looking east across the Borough, circa 1960. The building to the immediate left of the War Memorial now has a flat roof.


From my collection

The Borough - as seen in the 1962 Yeovil Guide.


From my collection

This postcard of the Borough (I'm guessing) dates to the late 1970s.


Courtesy of Chris Rendell

Almost the same scene from King George Street, photographed in 1985. The cranes in the background were employed during the construction of the Quedam.


A photograph of the mid-1930's looking across the Borough to Middle Street at left, Boots the Chemist in the old Medical Hall, Wine Street and the Borough Restaurant at right, formerly the shop of William Maynard who created the "Prize Medal Royal Yeovil Sausages" enjoyed so much by Queen Victoria. The Medical Hall was destroyed during an air raid in the Second World War.


A postcard of the late 1930s looking down Middle Street from the Borough. Note the policeman on traffic duty outside the Medical Hall, standing in a specially-painted circle.


From my collection
This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'.

This postcard dates to 1947 (albeit posted in 1953) and shows an unusual view of the Borough. Wine Street runs off to the left, High Street is at top left and Middle Street runs to the bottom right corner. The gardens at bottom left mark the site of the bombed Medical Hall.


A 1953 aerial photograph of the Borough featuring the garden on the site of the bombed Medical Hall.


An enlargement of the previous aerial photograph showing the garden in more detail.


View of the Borough - and a double-decker bus - as seen from the gardens. Photographed in the early 1950s.


In this aerial photograph of about 1955 the garden has been removed and the site is being prepared for the construction of the new Boots building.


From my collection

A postcard from the early-1950's (this one was posted in 1955) sowing Redwood's "Borough Clothing Hall" in front of St John's church. It was built on the site of the old Tolle Hall.


From my collection

A postcard from the late-1950's (this one was posted in 1962) looking across the Borough towards St John's church. The white building at centre was at this time occupied by Finlay's the tobacconists and you could still drive either side of the War Memorial.


From my collection

A postcard of the Borough dated 1953 and clearly taken on a Sunday morning, with Clement White's shop at 8 High Street at left.


From my collection

A hand-tinted postcard of the Borough postmarked 1961. Note Frederick Taylor's store at right, on the corner of King George Street.


The Borough photographed in the mid-1960's. It has changed very little since then. Note that Frederick Taylor's store is now three storeys high, with a fourth floor added in the new Mansard roof. At left, in the building next to Taylor's, is the Yeovil branch of Martins Bank Ltd.


From my collection

A postcard of the Borough dating to the 1970s.


From my collection

Another postcard, dated 1967, looking to the junction with Silver Street and Middle Street.


From my collection

Another postcard from the late 1970s, although this one was posted in 1983.


Courtesy of Colin Haine

In the mid-1980s the Lloyds Bank building was completely demolished (apart from the front wall facing the Borough) and rebuilt to modern bank security standards. During the works the bank temporarily relocated to the old Douglas Seaton showrooms on the corner of Huish and Clarence Street.

Many thanks to Roger McElliott for the following " I worked on this site for over a year 1987/88/89. This is an early photo of the rebuilding of Lloyds Bank from late 1987 early '88. The demolition has taken place behind the facade of the front, the augered piling has taken place around the perimeter of the site behind, and the excavation is under way. All the excavated soil was dug by hand and thrown onto conveyor belts that went up and out of the first floor window and down a chute (into a lorry) that can be seen in the photo. All the materials went in or out of the door or windows except for the steel work that was craned in on Sundays."


A postcard of the Borough dated 1985.


Courtesy of Chris Rendell

Middle Street joins the Borough, photographed in 1985. Wimpy has taken over the old Boots building but I can't remember what type of shop Collingwood's (at right) was.


Photograph by Trevor Hussey, courtesy of Mrs Anne Hussey

.... and seen in the early 1990s.


Looking across the Borough to the War Memorial. Photographed 2013.


The oldest surviving building in the Borough, appearing in the first image above. It was built originally as the ironmongery shop of William Edwards (in 1790), replacing the premises of ironmonger and cutler Benjamin Dymond who sold up in 1758

then Josiah Hannam, followed by James Bazeley Petter and then Hill & Sawtell - in fact it was in continuous use as an ironmongery from 1790 until the 1970s, which must be some kind of record. Today it is Superdrug. Photographed in 2013.