Times Past: From chemist shop to Bideford Town Hall
- Credit: Archant
Bideford Town Hall may look as if it was built in one go, but look carefully at the colour of the bricks and you will see that the two bays nearest the Long Bridge are of a different shade to the rest of the structure.
These two bays date from 1906 whilst the rest was constructed in 1851 (ignore the ‘1905’ date on the drainpipes – the builder was over-optimistic!)
Go back to the early 1800s and there were two buildings on the site – a chemist’s shop run by John Hogg from around 1808 and a house between his shop and the end of the bridge.
This latter was removed in 1827 when the new Torrington to Bideford road was constructed.
Mr Hogg was enterprising as in September 1827 a newspaper report notes ‘...among the recent improvements in Bideford, Mr Hogg, chemist, has fitted up Hot and Cold Sea-Water Baths, and also a Shower Bath, which will doubtless be a great accommodation, especially to invalids’.
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I assume the sea water came from the tidal River Torridge.
John passed the business on to his relative Thomas in 1849 – when the stock-in-trade was valued at around £300.
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Thomas expanded the trade taking on an apprentice in 1852 and becoming an agent for two Insurance companies.
Long coveted by the council to extend the town hall, the old chemist’s shop was purchased and demolished in July 1904 – when a group of at least 14 human skeletons was discovered on the site buried in a layer of black culm.
Their presence was never explained although it was suggested they might have been French prisoners of war who were known to have been imprisoned in Bideford during the wars of the 18th century and also during the Napoleonic conflicts – an odd story on which to end.