Historic High Streets: Elmbridge Museum Needs You!

Do you want to support your local high street? Then read on...

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Crowd looking at televisions in Rogers & Sons shop window, Walton High Street, c.1950s.
Crowd looking at televisions in Rogers & Sons shop window, Walton High Street, c.1950s.

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In this 1950s snapshot of Walton-on-Thames High Street, a throng of women and men is gathered, frozen in fascination, around a shop window. The scene is intriguing – and not just because the concept of people grouped closely together has become so foreign in recent months.

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The Walton branch of Rogers & Sons store - including the shop window display of televisions that the crowd of people are looking at in the photo above.
The Walton branch of Rogers & Sons store - including the shop window display of televisions that the crowd of people are looking at in the photo above.

The photograph effortlessly depicts the excitement of the onlookers. All had eagerly gathered, long after sunset (something not so easily visible from the photo!), to peer in at the new, cutting-edge technology which featured in the Rogers & Sons shop window. The modern devices on display, which transmitted moving images and sounds onto small screens, were otherwise known as televisions. They would soon be making their way into homes across Britain in their thousands.

As is signalled on their store front, Rogers & Sons originated as a successful family business in Weybridge. The store began at number 56 Weybridge High Street, as a garage, motor and cycle shop. After a boom in business and the acquisition of R. Seaman & Sons butchers shop next door in the 1930s, they expanded their offer to include the sale of radios, gramophones and other technology across multiple outlets. Sadly, the shops never made it into the new century, with both branches closing in the late 1900s. The Walton shop building is now occupied by Rentstart, a charity helping local Elmbridge people who are homeless. The Weybridge store was knocked down, and later redeveloped into the current Waitrose site. 

The scene in the photo captures a unique glimpse into one fleeting and never-to-be-recreated moment in history. This one image alone has heaps to tell us about the former appearance, usage and character of our local Elmbridge high streets, from the many things that have changed – the fashions, companies, and social distancing practices, to name but a few – to the things that have remained the same.

Since being taken, the photo has been stored away safely in Elmbridge Museum’s huge collection of 43,000 images, objects and memories. But the story it tells is just one among a colourful mosaic of experiences and personalities which, put together, make up the vibrant history our borough’s local high streets.

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Left: A view of Weybridge High Street looking south-west from near Monument Green, c.1960s. Tyler & Co. Wine Shop can be seen  right foreground, and next to that the Rogers & Sons shop. The words 'Real Radio' can be seen painted onto the front wall. Right: The interior of the Weybridge branch of Rogers & Sons, selling a variety of TVs and radios, c.1950s.
Left: A view of Weybridge High Street looking south-west from near Monument Green, c.1960s. Tyler & Co. Wine Shop can be seen right foreground, and next to that the Rogers & Sons shop. The words 'Real Radio' can be seen painted onto the front wall. Right: The interior of the Weybridge branch of Rogers & Sons, selling a variety of TVs and radios, c.1950s.

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Now, we need your help to reveal the full story!

Our latest exhibition, opening in March 2021 at Esher High Street’s Civic Centre, will look at the changing identities of high streets across Elmbridge, as well as the people who have influenced them. By gathering a variety of contributions from our local community, we’ll look at both ‘then’ and ‘now’, tracking the evolution of the high street from the 50s, 60s and 70s right up to the present day.

If you have

  1. Memories
  2. Personal photographs
  3. Videos
  4. Objects

which relate to the distant or recent history of any Elmbridge High Street, then we'd love to hear from you! Your contribution will help to curate the online exhibition, and could even end up going on display! If you're stuck for ideas, try filling out our My Memories form, which includes some useful prompts and questions. Simply send it to us via the contact details below!

For more information on how to take part:

Closing date for submissions: 21st January 2021

By sending us your contributions you agree to them being reproduced anonymously as part of Elmbridge Museum’s Historic High Streets exhibition at the Civic Centre, and in the accompanying online exhibition and media.

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Rogers & Sons van parked with Address System for a local event, c.1930s.
Rogers & Sons van parked with Address System for a local event, c.1930s.