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Wimborne… not so Ancient and Modern

Joël Lacey looks at how much and how little the town has changed over the last century using archive images and modern photographs

It is clearer in the Edwardian image of Avenue Road (above) than in the modern-day equivalent shot (below) why it was given this name. Granted the foliage being on the trees helps with the apparent dominance of the trees over the road in the 1910 shot, but the number of trees on the road has also fallen over the years. Sometimes this was for safety reasons – to allow the insertion of much taller streetlights whose effects to illuminate the road would not be rendered impotent by the tree canopies' shadows, but it is interesting to note how the modern streetlights abut garden walls to throw as much light as possible for pedestrians, while the original lamps hid between the trees right at the kerb. The widespread adoption of the home telephone also caused some trees to find themselves in inconvenient positions. The almost manicured shape of the 20th-century trees which, even then, were not saplings, also contrasts with the significantly more freestyle canopies of today. (Image:

Wimborne has a long and rich history, but it is sometimes easy to confuse antiquity with importance. In terms of how we live, the changes that have occurred within the last century often have a much greater impact than those seemingly crucial items of history from seven centuries ago; this is never more true than in terms of the social evolution of a town like Wimborne Minster.

Once again there is not a hatless head to be seen in the older shot. Despite being blocked by a sea of humanity, East Street looks strangely wider in Edwardian times than now, but it is telling that people felt safe enough walking down the road – even with a pram – and what road traffic there is seems to be aiming for the gap in the pedestrians, rather than the more current modern situation of pedestrians aiming for a gap in the traffic. With the exception of the modern brick building on the left hand side of the newer picture, and the changing names and designs on the shop fronts, the two scenes are remarkably similar, despite the passage of a hundred years, the reduced usage of awnings over shops is, street furniture aside, the other greatest change between the two shots. (Image:

So just how much has the town changed from the early years of the 20th century to the early years of the 21st century? The nature of road traffic, the kind of shops and businesses which were in Wimborne, the number of trees in the town and the disposable income of the residents of and visitors to Wimborne have all undergone massive change.

It was for logistical reasons, not stylistic ones, that these two shots of the former Grammar School were taken from different places. In the modern shot of what is now apartments, it was impossible to stand where the original picture was taken (on the school's lawn) owing to it having been built upon.

Wimborne Grammar School (Image:

From horse-drawn transport being the predominant mode of haulage to the fact that one would simply not venture out of doors without a hat, the societal changes are clear to see yet, by and large, they appear against a canvas of Wimborne infrastructure which, other than being in black and white, does not seemed to have changed anywhere near as much. So allow us to present a flavour of post-Victorian Dorset with companion images from 2014.

Only a decade or so after the older picture was taken, the building was dramatically altered to a form not too far from today's building. The Edwardian era was near the end of the age of the combination business. What is now offices, just beyond the bridge over the River Allen was, in the 1890s-1920s at what was then known as Walsford, a combination of a coal merchant's and public house premises. FG Frampton was the coal merchant and the Crown and Anchor the public house. Seventy years before this picture was taken, the pub's name was "The Case is Altered". Ben Johnson published a play called The Case is Altered in 1609, but this seems an unlikely origin. Other pubs of this name have had local explanations – like the pub whose landlady was wont to give away free drinks, but who became markedly less generous after marriage, or the former Weavers Arms, which changed its name when weavers won a big legal battle for rights – but the phrase itself was first coined logically enough by a lawyer, Edmund Plowden, who used it in a case when a crucial new piece of evidence was introduced. Why a pub became so named in Wimborne, however, is lost in the mists of time.

The flagpole and the rooflights from the Kings Head may have disappeared along with a couple of chimney stacks on the right, and a phone box may have appeared, but The Square seems otherwise remarkably little altered by the passage of time (Image:

❱ Our thanks go to Brian Holloway and Emma Aylott of the Priest’s House Museum for their help with this piece.

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