The town centre of Faringdon is divided into two separate areas as shown on the map – the Market Place (surrounding the Market Hall and extending up Church Street) and Cornmarket (a smaller area in front of the Corn Exchange).
In 1551 the centre of Faringdon was referred to as Highe Strete als [alias] Chepe Strete. Later it became Market Place presumably because the market, a Charter being granted by Henry III in 1218, was held there. Part of it on Church Street however was referred to as Port Well in deeds of the late 18th and early 19th C.
Faringdon Market Place surrounds the Market Hall and extends up Church Street as far as the corner at the church. Postal addresses usually follow this area rather than the actual road names found on standard maps.
The dotted line on the map shows the passage of a brook, which once divided Faringdon into the tithings of Port to the east, and Westbrook to the west. It used to be forded at this point but now passes under the road.
c.1890’s Market Place looking north towards the church. On the left is the Town Hall with a board bearing the arms of George III between the windows. The lower board below advertises Thorley’s animal feeds. Behind the large doors were kept all the equipment, hurdles, posts and rails, for the weekly and monthly markets. In front of the Crown Hotel there is a one horse coach complete with a coachman in a top hat. In the archway is the hotel’s own handcart loaded with bags and a portmanteau. Next to the Crown is the Post Office with its signal post holding three coloured semaphore arms which were controlled by wires running in a tube. The Angel Inn is further up the street. The building at the top right belongs to Mr Pethers, the builder. This building was later incorporated into the Salutation Hotel. The old houses next to it have been replaced by the newly erected office of Mr Crowdy, the solicitor. The first shop at the right foreground is Mr Liddiard’s grocery store. The girls and ladies are all wearing the usual white pinafores or aprons while the men are in dark clothes. In the centre of the picture is a group of children by a pram, one is a blur as he or she was unable to keep still for the long exposure needed for the glass plate negative in the camera.
1953 – More recent photos looking north from the Market Place towards the church.
On the right is #1 the Salutation Hotel with #2 Crowdy and Rose, solicitors, next door. Then comes #3 the butcher’s shop, owned at various times by Heavens, Boycott and Wright. Next is #4 the hardware and china shop owned by A. E. Lismore who also ran a converted bus to sell goods and paraffin to the outlying villages. The last building on the right is #5 the Old Pump House with the Portwell in the street out front. This had been the County of Gloucester Bank but was given to the town by Lord Faringdon for a peppercorn rent to be used as an ex-serviceman’s club and then became the Community Centre. Opposite, on the left is #26 the corner of Portwell House which was formerly the Angel Inn and Post Office. The second photo was taken over 50 years later and a bit closer to the Portwell, which is now nestling in the shade of a large tree.
1880s – Looking at the buildings at the top of the Market Place to the right (east), opposite the church.
From the left is Pettifer, the builder’s. Next comes a barber’s, shown by the barber’s pole outside the shop. Under the overhang was a sweet shop where the lady owner would serve customers through the window but wouldn’t allow them inside. These three buildings were demolished in 1890 and replaced with #1 the Salutation Hotel and #2 now occupied by Crowdy & Rose Solicitors. The second photo, looking from the church down the east side of the Market Place starts with the same three buildings. The four white squares above the ground floor windows of #5 the Pump House are where the letters ‘BANK’ were chiselled out when the County of Gloucester Bank moved there. The building was then used as offices by the Eagle Brewery followed by a club for ex-servicemen before becoming the Community Centre. The building where there is a protruding window was Liddiard’s grocery stores (???). The Portwell can be seen on the right-hand side.
c1903. The same view a little later. Mr Heavens, the butcher at #3 with his name just visible on the awning. Next door at #4 was once F. Barnard’s, a general furniture warehouse & manufactory, who advertised in 1891 as a cabinet maker & upholsterer, also selling pianos, glass, china, earthenware. At this time it had been taken over by F.W. Cadel. Next is the old Pump House at #5, with the name ‘BANK’ above the windows now removed. At couple with a sack barrow can be seen on the steps of #7 Liddiard & Sons, the grocers. Next is #8 Lloyds Bank followed by another shop with an awning at #9, which is E.Lay, the baker. On the corner at #10 was possibly still Cooper’s, a chymist, who were there in the 1880s. Across the road, the rather plain shop is #2 London Street, labelled ‘Hunting & Livery Boot Maker’. It was previously run by C.H. Bevan but had been taken over by T.A. Pocock’s by this time. Next door is back in the Market Place at #11-12 and looks like it could be Arthur W. Smith’s, a draper shop.
The Portwell, immediately outside the front of the Pump House appeared very central in the Market Place in around 1900. It was given to the town by Sir Henry Unton, Lord of the Manor in the 16th century. It was pumped from the spring which rises in the cellar of the Pump House. It was then the town’s only piped water supply. On one side there was a hand pump with a heavy lead drinking cup securely chained for people to use. There were also two troughs providing water for the horses and cattle that used the market. Two gas lamps were placed on top in the 19th century.
c.1880s – Back to an earlier view of the buildings lower down on the east side of the Market Place, with London Street just visible on the far right. The entrance to Haines’ premises, who was a solicitor and also ran a postal lending library, was the doorway that can be seen just in London Street. From the left is #7 George Ernest, grocer and bacon curer; #7a Liddiard, grocer; #8 the County of Gloucester Bank; #9 Lay, baker and confectioner; #10 Cooper, Chymist . Most of these buildings had a separate passageway, from the Market Place, to gain access to the living accommodation, plus one from Swan Lane to the buildings used for the storage of goods and the stabling of horses.
1986 – Looking at the corner of London Street, on the far left of the photo, is #10 Market Place, which was then occupied by Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society. Crossing over London Street is #11-12 Market Place, immediately to the left of the Bell Inn. This was Mortons in the year of its closure. It was a shop selling an assortment of goods bicycles, clothes, haberdashery and toys. It was well known that you could go into Swindon to buy something, fail to get it and come back to Mortons and find it. Previously this belonged to Wilkes (draper). The shop was then split into two, Faringdon Travel on the left and Blockbuster Video on the right. The shop to the left of Mortons is #2 London Street. It looks empty here and must be in the process of being converted from Baileys shoe shop to John Maxwell Hairdressers at this time.
1913 & 1962 – Turning right with your back to London Street. Note how the means of transport changed in those 50 years. In the first photo the bell of the Bell Hotel can be seen on the left.The Town Hall in the centre has had a chequered history and at one time was used as a lock-up for prisoners awaiting trial. The fire engine was kept underneath. Note the wooden framework on the side which was used for drying the hoses and the bell on the roof used for summoning the firemen. The Church bier was stored there and, during WWII, it was commandeered by the army for accommodating soldiers. In recent times it has variously been a meeting room, a library and finally a Red Cross Charity shop. The bell hanging outside the Bell Hotel can just be seen on the left of the picture. The gas lamps are hanging outside the draper’s shop. Further down on the left, at the junction with Southampton Street, is #14 Pocock, tailor, which later became part of Barclay’s Bank. Visible in both photos, across the junction with Marlborough Street to the left of the Town Hall is #22 Ann’s Garage. It used to be Joseph Newman (blacksmith) from 1877. The building was demolished and replaced in 1910 to build the garage. Later it was taken over by Busby, newsagents, and has changed ownership but not use four times since. Part of the Crown Hotel is to the right of the Town Hall.
1911. An early traffic jam in the Market Place. Lots of London taxis, those with a spare tyre on the roof, had brought many foreign military attaches to Faringdon to observe Army manoeuvres. The Prime Minister, Mr Asquith, accompanied by the Duke of Connaught (his car is the white one) and many others, watched the proceedings. This event must have been quite a shock for the population of Faringdon when you consider that motor vehicles were only just becoming widely available and then only for the more wealthy classes, so very few had ever been seen on our streets before.
1963. Bailey Bridge in The Narrows. Looking up ‘The Narrows’ towards Cornmarket. A firm had been laying a telephone cable or it may have been Swindon Gas Board laying gas pipes recently, and in so doing, had damaged the old brick culvert taking the stream under the A420 through Faringdon. Sewage drains also went under the road and there was seepage of water and sewage. To inspect these pipes, use was made of TV cameras (one of the first times this happened) to discover what the damage was. It was found that bricks had collapsed from the brick culvert and were blocking the drains.
At this time there was a lot of traffic passing through Faringdon; lorries from Pressed Steel were passing every two minutes, in addition to all the other traffic. This was the main trunk road between Oxford and Swindon and the traffic could not be easily diverted or the road closed so it was decided to ask the army for help.
Ghurkas from the 68th Independent Field Squadron from Tidworth, 65 of them, were given the job of erecting a Bailey Bridge over the road so that traffic could continue to use it while repair work carried on underneath. They arrived on Saturday 7th September and the area began to look like a battlefield with all the soldiers, lorries, cranes, heavy steel girders and other equipment scattered around the Market Place. The road was closed from midnight and re-opened at noon on the Sunday. The bridge was 150ft long and 20ft wide. The first vehicle to use it was the 2 pm bus from Oxford driven by Norman Skinner. The bus became stuck on the crown of the bridge as the incline was too steep, and had to be towed off. The incline was reduced and the traffic began to flow. However, the bridge was wide enough for two cars but not for two lorries, so traffic lights had to be put there because of the chaos caused. Lorries were constantly being stuck on the bridge and sightseers came from afar just to drive their cars over it. The repair work was completed in a week and then the bridge was removed.
1993. Flash floods & Folly sand. Looking up ‘The Narrows’ (another problem!) towards Cornmarket and turning around to look back into the Market Place.
The low lying centre of Faringdon, where a brook was once forded here, was left smothered in tons of sand swept down from the recently cleared and ploughed fields on Folly Hill. On the morning of 26 May 1993 a thunderstorm of exceptional severity struck this area. During hours of torrential rain all the roads into Faringdon became rivers heading down towards this point in the centre of town. Five inches of rain fell in twenty four hours. Shops and houses were flooded as well as their cellars and caused a considerable amount of damage. The costs of damage caused by the floods were over £100,000. The town is nestled in a dip amongst hills on the greenstone ridge overlooking the Thames Valley – Folly Hill rises 167 feet (51m) above this point and Marlborough Street/Coxwell Road rises by 89 feet (27m) in the opposite direction, Church Street and Southampton Street going cross-ways both rise by around 30 feet (9m) so the only natural exit is via the brook that is now hidden under the road and shops either side.
1. The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Bk1-3 . By Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications.
2. Faringdon Advertiser, 13th September 1963.
3. Faringdon and The Vale Venture, 29th May 1993.