After the necessary business of the AGM, we heard from Barbara Piller about the book she ‘accidentally’ wrote after volunteering to research the history of Poyners, the well-known time-warp drapers in Broad Street, Ludlow. Although some were initially doubtful, even scathing, about the merits of such a book, it has been the Civic Society’s best seller and is on its 4th reprint.
There were five areas of research and Barbara gave an overview of each. Firstly the location, in what has been described as England’s loveliest street, but was not always so. Once it consisted of little booths until the Palmer’s Guild appointed Richard Sherman to build shops with living premises above, in the late medieval period. Poyners, No 7, was at that time a brewer’s selling ‘hott water’ i.e. beer. In later times it was owned by a Mr Jolly whose wife was Sarah Birdseye, of the American food company, and numerous others until it passed to the Poyners in 1917.
Secondly, Barbara researched the background of the drapery business, a widespread and wealthy one. Its importance and respectability shown by over a hundred members of the Drapery Association becoming Lord Mayors of London.
Researching the architecture of this unique setting, she enlisted some expert help and learned quite recently that all the buildings have cellars and that a tunnel has been discovered under the former rectory probably linking up with these buildings, with an as yet unknown exit.
Bodenhams was also included in her research, as Ernest Poyner was apprenticed there. His father Richard, son of an agricultural labourer, had a coffin making business in Raven Lane and married Elizabeth, a milliner. Ernest served his apprenticeship at Bodenhams and the two shops still have a good working relationship. Ernest’s wife Jane, a skilled milliner, was bequeathed money in 1917, which she immediately invested in the shop where she worked, precisely No 7, Broad St. When she and Ernest married in 1918 they moved into the rooms over the shop. Jane was very involved in civic affairs and was Lady Mayoress when her father-in-law was mayor. The Poyners bought £1325 worth of stock at the beginning of WW2, a very large order at the time, in anticipation of lack of supplies, not knowing it would have to last them for six years.
Their son Ernest bought No8 after WW2, which became the shop for babywear. Both shops are still owned by the Poyner family, but are now run by two sisters who are delighted that the babywear they stock includes the make worn by the two Royal babies, George and Charlotte. The shop is still internally as it was in 1917, but the wide stock is still very much kept up to date, witness the royal connection. But some very much more traditional items are to be found. The audience was intrigued to learn that liberty bodices can still be purchased, an item which aroused many reminiscences.
Altogether a very enjoyable trip down memory lane for many members.