100 Years of Shopping

Historic England

A decade-by-decade glimpse of shops and shopping from the 1880s to the 1980s

This selection of images from the Historic England Archive shows shops, shopkeepers and shoppers recorded by photographers in England in each decade from the 1880s to 1980s, illustrating a century of changing shopping habits and shop architecture. 

Apron-clad staff pose outside their shop in Soho, London for photographer Henry Dixon in 1883. In a few years' time the premises would be demolished to make way for a new street layout.

Recorded on a sunny day in 1896, the Oxford photographer Henry Taunt has recorded the front of a sweet shop in the Cotswold town of Chipping Campden.

Its bow window with narrow glazing bars enticingly reveals a row of sweet jars and boxes confections.

This 1902 photograph of Miss Emma Clark's shop in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, includes its proprietress, her elderly mother and three young window-shoppers.

It illustrates the domestic nature of such a shop on the high street of a small, market town at the beginning of the 20th century.

This photograph of 1910 is of York's famous medieval street, Shambles. Its name is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon 'shammel', describing the shelves that displayed the goods on the shop fronts.

The tradition of the street being full of butchers' shops is clear to see in this image.

Liberty's extraordinary shop on Great Marlborough Street in London's Westminster was constructed in 1922-24. It was a remarkable reaction to the early 20th century vogue for steel-framed buildings dressed in stone. The Tudor Arts and Crafts-style department store incorporates a timber frame, reusing timber from two warships, HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable.

Photographed on 3 May 1924, this image was taken for the builders Higgs and Hill by the renowned architectural photography firm Bedford Lemere & Co.

Photographed in circa 1938 by Stewart Bale Ltd of Liverpool, Woolworth's new store at the popular seaside resort of Blackpool was one the successful chain's most impressive buildings.

It had three sales floors, and two cafés capable of accommodating over 1,600 diners.

Outdoor markets continue to play a role in England's shopping habits. Here, local photographer Hallam Ashley has recorded a busy Norwich Market in the summer of 1948. A market has been held on this site since the 11th century.

The striped roofs of the stalls have remained a motif of the market to the present day.

The German-born photographer John Gay was skilled at recording ordinary people at work and at leisure.

In this image from 1956 he has taken up a position within a cake shop at Padstow in Cornwall, and has captured how a tempting display of cakes has delighted a girl and lady peering through the shop window.

In typical John Gay style, shoppers have been photographed informally as they look into cages at a pet shop somewhere in the London Borough of Camden.

Exotic birds occupy perches in the centre of the not-so-exotic surroundings that includes a warning sign with multiple exclamation marks.

This bold and playful shop entrance decorates the Tyger boutique in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The inclusion of an elderly lady walking past the shop and the antiques shop in the background suggest that London's youthful 'Swinging Sixties' label had lost its relevance by the mid-1970s.
Basildon's Eastgate Centre was built in two phases during the 1980s. Like many town centre, and later off-centre malls, it was designed to protect shoppers from the elements and to separate pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

This view of the central, top-lit atrium was taken in 1986 for its builders, John Laing PLC.

Credits: Story

All of the images can be viewed at the Historic England Archive.
Historic England Archive

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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