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‘Melksham Remembers’ unlocks WW1 history of the High Street

WHEN next taking a stroll through Melksham’s town centre, take a closer look inside some of the shop windows for a glimpse back in time, revealing the history of the town during World War One.

The poster trail is part of the Melksham Remembers exhibition – a project led by volunteers to discover what life in the Melksham community area was like during World War One. 

Posters reveal what the modern-day High Street looked like 100 years ago, and the businesses that occupied the buildings. Stories are also shared about the people who worked in the town and the efforts they made during the Great War to help the community.

Did you know that the Melksham Independent News office was once home to the local police station? Or that a drapery business once sat where people now get their hair cut at Tops Hair Salon? These stories and more are waiting to be discovered on the High Street.

‘Melksham Remembers volunteer, Lisa Ellis, says, “Melksham Remembers the people and small businesses that made so many sacrifices during World War I. Everywhere there were stories of sadness and grief, but there were lighter moments too, and life carried on; ‘business as usual’ as was commonly said.”

Other information and stories from the period will also be shared at the project’s main exhibition taking place at Melksham Town Hall on 10th and 11th November. 

Top: Melksham Police Station, now home to Melksham Independent News. “John Eeles, inspector of police, solved a paternity mystery by ascertaining the exact date the Wiltshire Yeomanry passed through Melksham: the troops arrived March 25, 1915 and left the next day. A daughter was born to the woman on 27 December.”

right: Chas. H. Woodward Books, now home to Kingstons Estate Agents.

“Charles Woodward took over Alfred Jolliffe’s bookbinding and printing business. In 1905, W. H. Smith & Son had a dispute with the railways over bookstall rents so they opened 150 shops. In 1915, both W H Smith and Woodward are in this building.”

Below: Gowen, now home to Tops Hair Salon.

“From the moment they married, Ariadne assisted Frank Gowen in their drapery business, and so it’s no doubt she ably carried on growing the business after his death in 1905. During the war, she advised patrons to shop during daylight.”

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