westminster street

westminster street

A little alley known by many names in its history


Westminster Street was originally a very narrow lane, little more than an alleyway, leading to Huish.
In the early part of the 19th century it became known as Porter’s Lane after William Porter who ran a bookshop and printing business on the corner of the lane and Princes Street. It was also referred to as Porter's Place.

In 1827 William Porter, printer of Yeovil, was on the Jury List as a stationer in Hendford (as this part of Princes Street was then known) on the corner of what was known as Porter's Lane. He was also the second actuary of Yeovil's first savings bank. By 1829 Porter's sale of the premises was advertised nevertheless by 1839 Porter was in partnership with Henry Marsh Custard however the lane was still named Porter’s Lane in the 1841 census and just one family lived there.

At its junction with Hendford, Porter's Lane was only about twelve feet across as seen in this sketch of about 1910 looking out to the junction of Hendford and High Street.  The photograph the sketch is based on is shown below.

As Porter & Custard, printers, stationers and bookshop, they remained in the premises at least until 1853 although William Porter became less connected in the day-to-day running of the business. By the time of the 1851 census Porter’s Lane was called Custard’s Lane.

By 1866 Kelly's Directory was advertising the business as being run by William Henry Coates and in the 1861 census the lane was called Huish Lane because it connected Princes Street with Huish.

On the other corner with Hendford was originally the Angel Inn and a small shop next to it. By 1890 the draper Lindsay Denner, whose main business was at 25 High Street opposite the Mermaid Hotel, had opened a "gentleman's and juvenile ready-made and outfitting establishment" in the shop premises.

The Angel was demolished at the turn of the 19th century when Whitmarsh and White opened a bank on the site in 1808. This was succeeded by Stuckey's bank on the same site in 1835 and the present Westminster bank was opened in today's building in 1919. In 1924 the small Denner’s shop was demolished and the lane was finally widened to its present width and renamed Westminster Street after the bank.




Map based on the 1901 Ordnance Survey showing at centre the narrow lane that would, some twenty years later, be widened and become Westminster Street.




Courtesy of Olly Ewens

This image, scanned from a 1950s newspaper cutting, is the original photograph that the above sketch was based on. It is taken from Huish Lane, today's Westminster Street, and looks across Hendford to High Street. The building at extreme left, Nos 1 & 3 Princes Street, survives but the building to the right was demolished for the road widening of the 1920s.


From my collection. This colourised image features in my book 'Yeovil - The Postcard Collection'.

This postcard, postally unused, I'd guess dates to about 1895. At extreme left is just seen the edge of Lindsay Denner's shop and next to it are the remaining shops before he took them over. The two men at centre are standing outside Stuckey's Bank (demolished before 1918) and between the bank building and Genge's shop is the narrow entrance to Porter's Lane (later widened to become today's Westminster Street).


This image features in my book 'Yeovil - The Postcard Collection'.

This photograph of Princes Street was taken in 1904. At left is Lindsay Denner's "gentleman's and juvenile ready-made and outfitting establishment" immediately next to the narrow lane. On the opposite corner the building that had been Porter's printing works and bookshop is still there today and bears a blue plaque celebrating Porter's shop.


This photograph looks along High Street to Hendford - the triumphal arch was the highlight of the town's decorations of the 1902 coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. In the background at left is Stuckey's Bank and at centre is Denner's "gentleman's and juvenile ready-made and outfitting establishment". Note to its immediate right the very narrow entrance to Porter's Lane. Stuckey's bank was later demolished and the present Westminster bank was opened in today's building in 1919. Denner's building was also demolished and Porter's Lane was widened to become Westminster Street.


From my collection

This is an interesting photograph of the late 1920s taken from High Street and showing the newly-built bank building at left and the newly-widened Westminster Street ahead. Notice that very few buildings existed in Westminster Street at this time except the Heart of Oak (with its large sign on its flank wall) on the corner of Clarence Street. At right is the Mermaid Hotel without shops.


From my collection

A photograph of Westminster Street taken in 1932. By this time Westminster Street as we know it today was less than ten years old. Wilson, the tailor and outfitter, was Robert Rowland Wilson.


.... and seen in the mid-1960s - Porter's Lane has now been widened to form Westminster Street. Genge's shop is now Hening & Tudor ladies' clothing shop.


.... and seen from a little further back around the same time.


.... and a little further back still. Westminster Street seen from High Street in the mid-1960s.


.... and moving on to the 1930s - in this colourised postcard, apart from the shops in front of the Mermaid, the only real changes are in Westminster Street where Douglas Seaton's tower is seen on the corner with Clarence Street and a new building has sprung up by the side of the Heart of Oak.


This colourised postcard features in my book 'Yeovil - The Postcard Collection'.

A postcard of around 1955 looking east along Westminster Street to High Street.


From the Cave Collection (colourised), Courtesy of South Somerset Heritage Collection

This photograph was taken in the mid-1960's in Westminster Street. The bus is turning the corner into Clarence Street and the two-tone van to its left emerges from the end of Huish. At this time you could drive into Huish from Westminster Street as indicated by the road markings. Douglas Seaton's tower is fondly remembered as a landmark by older Yeovilians and right of centre is the Heart of Oak pub, most recently called the Westminster. Now no longer a pub.


... and looking east from Clarence Street in a colourised photograph of the 1960s.


The iconic Douglas Seaton's tower and the Yeovil Wine Bar, on the corner of Clarence Street in this colourised photograph of 1982.


Courtesy of Allan Harding

Seaton's building was taken over by Lloyds Bank, as seen in this photograph of the late 1980s, while major works were being undertaken at the bank's building in the Borough.


Courtesy of the Western Gazette

Seaton's building was taken over by Lloyds Bank, as seen in this photograph of the later 1980s, while major works were being undertaken at the bank's building in the Borough.


Courtesy of the Western Gazette

.... and a closer view of the Clarence Street elevation of the Seaton's building when in use as the Lloyds Bank during the late 1980s.


Courtesy of Colin Haine

Buildings on the north side of the western end of Westminster Street photographed in 1983. By this time the Heart of Oak had been renamed the Yeovil Wine Bar.


Almost the same view as the previous photograph, but this colourised photograph is taken from a little further east in the 1990s. Do you remember the hair stylist, Pennywise 'nearly new' clothes and Prudential Assurance being here?


Westminster Street, photographed in 1985. At this time the old Seaton's building, at centre, was occupied by Denner's Furniture Department.


... and in 1991 Seaton's tower was demolished - changing the face of the street until the 2023 one-inch high trip-hazard kerbs were installed.


The re-vamped Westminster Street - part of the "Yeovil Refresh" scheme.
Photographed 4 October 2023.


... and looking east in the wake of the "Yeovil Refresh" scheme from outside the old Westminster. Photographed on 5 November 2023.