An extension to Grope Lane
Until the 1830’s Grope Lane, now Wine Street, was the only direct access for a cart from High Street, the Borough and Middle Street to South Street - George Court and Tabernacle Lane being too narrow for a cart.
The draper and mercer Peter Daniell of Penn Hill owned a mansion in Middle Street that had been built by his father. This mansion stood where the rear of the WH Smith building bordering Wine Street stands today. He also owned much land between Middle Street and South Street and much of the land on the north side of Grope Lane as seen on the first map below. In the late 1820's or early 1830's he planned and built an extension to Grope Lane which became Union Street. He also build Bond Street to connect Middle Street with South Street and then Peter Street, named after himself, to join Bond Street with Grope Lane / Union Street.
As seen in the photograph below, the entrance to Union Street from Middle Street was originally much narrower than today's road width. The lower part of Grope Lane, called Wine Street from the 1840's, remained named as such until at least the late 1870’s before becoming known as the southern half of Union Street as seen in the second map.
Today the northern section of Union Street has nothing of architectural merit save for the flank of the first house in Peter Street, once the home of Henry Stiby. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries there was a Union Hall on the east side of Union Street, seen on the second map below as sited above the 'EE' of street. Just south of this was a Meeting House and on the corner with Wine Street was a fire engine house.
The southern section of Union Street - Wine Street had the small Yeovil Mineral and Aerated Water works on the western side (from 1875 until 1900), and from 1888 the Victoria Temperance Hall on the corner with South Street. The eastern side began to get built up from the middle of the nineteenth century with Albany Court and Albany Buildings. In 1849 the Town House was built by the Improvement Commissioners to provide a police station and residence for the superintendent. On the very corner with South Street was the Portreeve's Almshouse, the site of which is now taken by the Town House car park.
Map of 1813 drawn to show the properties owned by the Corporation (shaded black on the map) but clearly shows Grope Lane connecting the Borough with South Street and also shows the extensive lands owned by Peter Daniell.
Map based on the 1901 Ordnance Survey. Originally Wine Street ran all the way to South Street as Union Street only came into existence in the 1830's and it wasn't until the 1870's that the southern half of Wine Street was renamed Union Street.
This sepia-toned photograph looking east along Middle Street dates to about 1875 and is the only photograph I know of that shows the original narrow entrance to Union Street at right, opposite the Castle Inn at left. Note also the stovepipe hat of the man pausing with his barrow in the centre of Middle Street.
Courtesy of Yeovil - A Trip Back to the Past
Taken from Middle Street, this photograph dates to January 1985 and looks south along Union Street.
Courtesy of Chris Rendell
Also taken in 1985, Union Street from Middle Street. At left the jeweller's shop was Ratner's. This branch of Ratner's closed in 1991 after Gerald Ratner made his famous gaffe by saying "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, "How can you sell this for such a low price?", I say, "because it's total crap." End of Ratner's.