“In the market square, many changes have taken place since the 1890s. Where Lloyd’s Bank now stands was once Messrs Bowen’s mineral water factory and shop, while next door, heading up the hill, was Miss Kimpton’s fancy goods shop. Messrs Pain and Rapley are now running the ironmongery and harness businesses which their respective fathers managed when I was a boy.
“I well remember the market in the town square which was paved with cobble stones surrounding the town pump. Towards the end of the 1800s when I was still a small child, I remember seeing the cattle and horse Christmas market in the streets of the town. There were pens of sheep, calves and pigs all along Maltravers Street, and horses along London Road in front of the old college buildings. The judging ring was in front of the castle gates, dairy produce was laid out in the Town Hall and all the animals were bedded down with masses of dried bracken.
“The last market held in the town square took place c1906 but it was a mere shadow of its former self when cattle, sheep, pigs etc would be brought in from surrounding farms with the drovers often leaving in the early hours to arrive in plenty of time. The opening of the cattle market in Barnham station signalled the final days of the Arundel market as it was situated conveniently next door to the station.
“In January, 1901, I recall feeling deep sorrow when I read a telegram outside the West Sussex Gazette offices in the High Street announcing the passing of Queen Victoria. The respected Queen died at her residence on the Isle of Wight and I stood with many Arundel folk in the pouring rain in a meadow by Arundel station when her funeral train passed slowly along. Her coffin was covered in a white velvet pall and was placed in the centre of a glass coach so it could easily be seen on its route to Victoria station.”
Only four years earlier, in 1897, the country celebrated Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. William remembers: “The Duke of Norfolk gave a big tea party for all the children of Arundel and the surrounding villages. It was held in Arundel Park inside some huge marquees linked together end on end. Each child had a paper plate loaded with lovely things.
“We were all given a Jubilee mug and I still have mine all these years later. Before tea there were games and races organised by the Town Council and various entertainers. When the Duke walked into the tent, we all gave out a hearty cheer, and what a cheer it was!”
William notes that in his day, 61 High Street, where Arundel Museum was located until a few years ago, was the home of well-known local man Charles ‘Dodger’ Bartlett.
At that time, the house was called ‘Tulchan’, which originally referred to a calfskin stuffed with straw, and presented to a cow, as if living, to induce her to give milk. The reason for this somewhat unusual name has been lost to history.
Attending church ‘back in the old days’ brought back some vivid memories for William. He recalls: “Arundel businessmen all wore top hats and frock coats at church on Sundays and their ladies wore beautiful black silk dresses that made a ‘frou frou’ noise as they swept majestically up the aisle into their pews.
“While walking in the streets, they had to hold up their long skirts as gracefully as they were able, often holding a beautifully decorated parasol in their other hand. In those dignified days you never saw girls wearing those dreadful jeans, while women in slacks were quite unknown.”
Those interested in the history of the town would no doubt have heard of the drapers and outfitters knows as Watts & Nephew that was located on the corner of Tarrant and High Street where the Tudor Rose Restaurant and the estate agent are now located.
Watts & Nephew had the reputation for only employing the prettiest girls and many of the town councillors met their future wives here.
“Watts & Nephew had customers from all over the district, including most of the country folk living in the big houses who came to have their clothes tailormade and their dresses made by Mr Howell and the girls who worked on the top floor of the building. After Tommy Watts retired, the business was carried on by his nephew, Alfred Watts, until his death, at which point the business ceased trading.
“Many people will be unaware that along with the other businesses I have mentioned, there was a soap factory on the south bank of the river owned and run by a Mr Evershed and his son, Tavy.”
Because of the appalling smell usually accompanying the production process, it was not unusual for soap manufacturers and other trades such as leather-makers, to be located on the outskirts of a town.
On the subject of social dances, William says: “My parents and I were known to the occupants of the larger townhouses and were often invited to their musical evenings. Unless you dressed and danced properly, you were not allowed on the dance floor.
“Yes, dancing was dancing in those days. There was no ungainly shuffling about the floor in outrageous clothes or monstrous noise on juke boxes or saxophones. There would have been no room in those days for such vulgarities in the polite Arundel society. I prefer the jolly days in the Arundel of my bygone years.
“I remember the year that Bernard Duke of Norfolk was appointed mayor of Arundel (1935). That year Swanbourne Lake was illuminated by thousands of coloured electric lights and St Philip’s choir sang from a decorated stand on one of the islands. Decorated gondolas glided across the lake, elaborate fireworks of all kinds turned the night into day and there was the largest crowd of people I have ever seen.”
If readers are enjoying these memories of William Bartlett, I may continue with the final parts three and four in a few months’ time, as he still has a few interesting observations and surprises left for you all.
Meanwhile, to close part two, I will let William have the last word: “Life in Arundel today has lost much of its dignity, manners, its gaiety and its great people. Yes, truly great people of Arundel past, sadly now all dead and gone.”
Forthcoming events at Arundel Museum
• Saturday, December 6, Arundel by Candlelight, Christmas Event Day at the Museum.
• Thursday, December 18, The History of Mummers, a talk by Glynn Jones, 7pm for 7.30pm. Tickets £5.
For more details or to book tickets, visit www.arundelmuseum.org.uk or call 01903 885866.