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The Changing Face of the High Street

The Pigott's Lane Area

Bottom end of Pigott's Lane, 1969
1960's view of Charlie Ward's garage on Burton Latimer High Street
Left - the bottom end of Pigott's Lane in 1969
Right - a 1960s view of the garage near the corner of Duke Street

The area on the western side of the High Street between Duke Street and Pigott's Lane has completely changed over the last fifty years, to the extent that no part of the original frontage now remains.
1886 Ordnance Survey map of Piggot's Lane and Duke Street

The 1886 Ordnance Survey map (right) shows a High Street frontage of three properties: one each on the corner of an undeveloped Duke Street and the end of Pigott's Lane, with another property facing the entrance to the School Lane/Croxens Yard area. Unlike Duke Street, Pigott's Lane is developed on both sides, with a couple of cottages on the northern side and a row of properties on the south. The lane leads west before turning south to a park area. At that corner stands Brown's Row - a terrace of thirteen brick houses with long rear gardens to the south side.

As indicated on the page detailing Burton Latimer Street Names, Pigott's Lane may have got its name from the families which lived there in the seventeenth century. It has also been spelt Piggott's Lane and Pickett's Lane at various times. At any rate, it is an early part of the town, and predates the coming of the shoe industry.

1928 Ordnance Survey map of Piggot's Lane and Duke Street
By 1928, the town had seen a lot of development. Whole streets had been built to accommodate the workforce serving the shoe and clothing factories which were now the mainstay of the town's economy.

Duke Street had been built up, and included a new Methodist Chapel and a Fire Station at the High Street end. A large shoe factory - The Coles' Boot & Shoe Company - now stood in place of the park area at the end of Pigott's Lane, and at morning, noon and early evening the lane was thronged with workers making their way between home and workplace.

As can be seen on the map, there was a small alleyway on the north side of the factory. This led from Pigott's Lane into Spencer Street, and if school finished slightly early at mid-day, children would sometimes go along this alleyway to meet their fathers coming out of the Spencer Street entrance and then walk home with them for dinner.

The lane was also the main vehicle access for delivery lorries, but strangely, it remained an unmade road until the latter part of the last century, when the building of the new fire station meant that the lane was finally surfaced with smooth tarmac to allow easy passage for vehicles.

There were two other traditional business located at the High Street end of Pigott's Lane in the 1920s. On the southern corner of the lane and the High Street stood a shop which for most of its life was a barber's shop. In the early part of the last century it was kept by Mr Skevington, who provided another valuable service alongside the hairdressing, as Sydney Giles recalls:

 "................  it was advisable not to attend for a hair cut at noon time during the working week because of the constant interruptions of Shoe Factory Workers calling for a ¼ oz. of snuff - usually served from a 7lb. tin from a Sheffield firm. Snuff was taken as a substitute for smoking, as the latter was not allowed in factories."

Later the Benfords owned it, and for a while the family had two barbers' shops - this one which was manned by son Douglas, and another one in Duke Street run by father Jack. Many an older Burton man will recall going to Douggie Benford's for a haircut. In the attached property just up Pigott's Lane was Frank Smith's bakehouse. His daughter Jenny, now living in Dallas, Texas, recalls:

"When I read the info on the B.L. website I often think of dad's bakehouse which was next door to Benford's shop and the old cottages opposite.  That bakehouse was a buzz of life, with people bringing their Sunday dinners for dad to bake in the oven.  I know it would be hard for the young people to imagine seeing their mothers walking up the street with their Sunday Dinner in hand!   I remember dad making hot cross buns the night before Good Friday; I would put the crosses on them when I got up in the morning."

Of the three properties fronting the High Street between Pigott's Lane and Duke Street, the centre and southern ones were cottages, as can be seen from the aerial photos below.

The High Street end of Pigott's Lane in 1923
An aerial view of the area from the southwest in 1923.

Two stone cottages - the larger with a thatched roof - stand on the north side of Pigott's Lane. The single-storey garage complex stands on the corner of Duke Street and between this and the cottages is a small white-walled cottage.

The large white-walled building at the top of the photo is The Duke's arms in its original three-storied form. A disastrous fire later in the 1920s destroyed the roof, and the pub was rebuilt in its present form as a two-storey building with gables.

1950s aerial view of Pigott's Lane and the High Street end of Duke Street
The same general view in 1950, also showing Brown's Row and part of Coles' shoe factory.

The main change to the High Street frontage is the demolition of the middle cottage. The new building which replaced it, but set back from the road, is the new Burton Latimer Telephone Exchange. The older exchange had been located in the row of cottages on the other side of the High Street, below the Duke's Arms.

The new roofline of the pub is clearly visible in this shot.

Sadly, the pair of stone cottages at the bottom of Pigott's Lane did not long survive the 1950 aerial view. A couple of years later, the Co-op acquired the site and demolished the cottages to make way for a new self-service foodstore with a butcher's shop attached - in essence this was Burton's first supermarket.

Brown's Row remained in place a little longer. For the Queen's Coronation in 1953, a large crown motif - together with the inscription E II R 1953 - was painted on the bare red brick end facing Pigott's Lane. It survived in a faded state into the mid-1960s. Brown's Row was eventually pulled down to make way for the new fire station which opened in 1973. At least Pigott's Lane was finally then given a proper tarmac surface!

Another casualty of the late 1960s was Benford's barber's shop. The buildings on the south side of the lane, together with about sixty yards of High Street frontage known as "The High Causeway" were demolished to make way for the new Library and the new Health Centre.

November 1969

The demolition of Benford's barber's shop on the corner of High Street and Pigott's Lane. The property adjoining it is the former Smith's bakehouse. The large doorway on the first floor would originally have had a hoist apparatus to lift the sacks of floor off lorries and up to the first floor.

The photo also shows about half of the Co-op store built on the site of the old cottages.

The demolition of the top end of the High Causeway in 1969.  Benford's barber's shop stood opposite the Co-op store

After the closure of all Co-op operations in the town in the 1990s, the former store at the bottom of Pigott's Lane continued to operate under a series of new owners, including a glazing firm and a monument stone masons. For a while, the right-hand end of the building - the former butcher's serction - served as a cafe. In 2005 the site was acquired for redevelopment, and one of the last traces of the Co-op was no more. The site is once more residential, and new houses and apartments now occupy the land where the old stone cottages once stood (see images and film clip at the foot of this page).

Duke Street corner

On the corner of Duke Street and the High Street stood a small shop which would have been described by many Burtonians in the last century as part of "Charlie's Garage", but it was not always thus. The original build date has not yet been fixed, but certainly in 1902 it was nothing like a garage, as seen in the photo below.

Celebrations for Edward VII's coronation in 1902. The current shops between Duke Street and what
is now Barclay's Bank have not yet been built, allowing an unrestricted view of the southern face
of the Coffee House. An enlargement of the sign on the building on the left clearly shows its usage
at that period: The River Plate Meat Company sold meat direct to the public, rather like all the
branches of The London Meat Company throughout the country.

By the 1920s, the Ward family had started up their cycle repair business on the site, and in the public mind this would largely determine the role of the property for the rest of its life. A wooden garage was erected along with two petrol pumps which remained a fixture long after their working life was over. The cycle business remained at the core of the firm, even if some work on cars was occasionally carried out.

For some obcsure reason, although the family name of the owners was Ward, heir to the business - Charles - who ran the operation in the middle of the last century, was always known to everyone in Burton as "Charlie Charles"

A Remembrance Day parade in the 1930s passes between the Duke's Arms and Ward's garage. The enamel sign for Mobil oil is indicative of the building's role.

The huge sign above the petrol pumps bears the name Pratts. Recent research has confirmed that the Anglo-American Oil Company did indeed have a brand called Pratt's Perfection Motor Spirit!

The large roof on the right hand side of the picture is the thatched roof of the large stone cottage at the bottom of Pigott's Lane.

Above - a familiar scene for much of the last century: the wooden garage section of "Charlie's Garage". The two old petrol pumps weren't used for over fifty years but had become something of a landmark. The building on the left is the new telephone exchange. Note the stone walling - the last remnant of the old cottages which once stood nearby.

Below - "Charlie Charles" with his garage in the background, along with a close-up of the venerable pumps! No matter how cluttered the inside of his shop was, he always knew exactly where to find things. Also, this rather unprepossessing chap would take cruises on the Queen Mary, at a time when such a holiday was beyond the dreams of most of the factory workers in town.

After Charlie's death, The site continued to have some connection with transport. First the garage and later the shop were levelled to become a car lot. Finally, the site was acquired for residential redevelopment and new three-storey buildings changed the appearance of this part of town for the present as well as the foreseeable future.

Above left: The entrance to Pigott's Lane and the modern frontage to the High Street - June 2006
Above right: Duke Street corner seen from the entrance to Latimer Close. This was the first
phase of the redevelopment of this section of the High Street.

Click here to view a movie clip of the demolition of the former Co-op building prior to the second phase of development

To view it correctly, you may need to download the Quicktime Player if you don't have it installed. Users with a dial-up connection are asked to be patient during the loading time.

Movie clip filmed by Chris Page

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