Shopping in Letchworth exhibition is a real trip back in time

The Arcade in Letchworth, c. 1920s. Picture: Garden City Collection

The Arcade in Letchworth, c. 1920s. Picture: Garden City Collection - Credit: Archant

Community historians in Letchworth have put together a real trip back in time over the next month or so, with a free exhibition about shopping in the garden city.

Beddoe's shop in Station Road, c. 1910s. Picture: Garden City Collection

Beddoe's shop in Station Road, c. 1910s. Picture: Garden City Collection - Credit: Archant

The community museum in The Arcade is hosting the Shopping in Letchworth exhibition, showcasing photographs and artefacts from the Garden City Collection.

The exhibition is truly multi-sensory, with old photographs paired with objects like old televisions, radios and shop equipment – and drawers containing various shopping smells of days gone by, like bakery ovens and coal fires.

Josh told the Comet: “The exhibition is really unashamedly nostalgic, it’s a trip down memory lane.

Heritage Foundation historian Josh Tidy poses with a 19th-century shop till originally from Ohio. Th

Heritage Foundation historian Josh Tidy poses with a 19th-century shop till originally from Ohio. The story of how it ended up in Letchworth has been lost in the mists of time. Picture: JP Asher - Credit: Archant

“The displays are stirring vivid memories in visitors who fondly recall their former favourite shops.


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“It’s packed with treasures from the Garden City Collection, some really incredible survivals – we’ve got a carrier bag from Marshalls grocers from 1960, that looks like you could have picked it up today.

“There’s also an amazing 19th-century cash register from Dayton, Ohio, that was somehow used in the Mack Fisheries shop here in Letchworth.

The opening day at Sainsbury's in Letchworth's Garden Square Shopping Centre in May 1974. Picture: G

The opening day at Sainsbury's in Letchworth's Garden Square Shopping Centre in May 1974. Picture: Garden City Collection - Credit: Archant

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“And there’s all sorts of wonderfully evocative old photographs and memories here which recall the golden age of Letchworth’s shops – almost like a different town.”

He explained: “We really tried to make it a new and different type of exhibition.

“As well as all of the original old treasures, you can really use every sense to get a feel of what shopping was like – we have a whole bunch of historic smells to sniff, and things to touch and handle too.

“There’s also the chance to listen to people’s memories of shopping past, and add yours too, and a selfie corner with plenty of props – and lots for little tots too.”

The exhibition is taking second billing from July 31 to August 5 during Kids Activities Week, with different family fun each day – but takes centre stage again throughout August and September.

On Thursday and Friday, August 3 and 4, visitors are invited to have a go at building a virtual Letchworth using the computer game Minecraft, on workstations set up in the museum – with a special focus on the history of shopping in the town.

The museum is open from 11am to 4pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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