Volunteer blog – ‘The Yard’

This week Joanna talks us through the changes in the footprint of the premises.

Volunteers and visitors who see the extent of the premises often say that understanding the layout of the Victorian building in relation to that they see today is bewildering. The fact is that a major part of Walter Winter’s photographic empire was demolished by the building of the 20th Century Post Office. The area known as the ‘Lost Rooms’ was on 3 sides of the yard which was accessed by a staircase at the end of the upstairs corridor, and through the vehicular entrance between the shops in the adjoining building, namely the Yard.

Businesses in the yard mentioned in early directories include a blacksmith, stone yard, an unnamed beer house and a folding chair manufacturer predate that building, which was described as newly built in a newspaper advertisement of 1862. Over the years Mr Winter expanded his business into the second and third storeys round three sides of the yard. The blacksmith and a water bottling plant were operating on the ground floor at least until 1883. The beer house remained such into the early years of the 20th Century when it became a restaurant, a café and eventually a hairdresser.  The building is now the shop known as ‘Mr Booze’. The present nail bar was part of the Winter’s business, being a separate department for American Gem Portraits in the 1880s. Gem Portraits were an inexpensive and popular process – an early almost instant photograph used for portraits. The new department didn’t remain long as an 1886 directories show that it was the premises of Abraham Calvert a fishmonger. There is a print in the Winter collection of the backyard which shows barrels labelled ‘A.C.’ presumably containing herrings. It must have been very smelly!  Further small shops followed up to the present day. The buildings round the yard were lost in the 1960s redevelopment, many of the contents being relocated to what you know as Winter’s today, or sadly destroyed.

The next blog will relate the story of the fire and the heyday of the studio.

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