This week Chiara has met The Dewgard Window Co.Ltd, a historical windows and doors company in Egham High Street that has been here for 30 years.
I was very interested from the beginning in meeting this shop’s owner and employees, not only because of the central position of the site in the High Street, but mainly because I’ve been told that this is an historic shop in Egham that has been here for three decades. I was sure to find someone with memories of the High Street and Egham in general, someone who could show interest in the area’s history and be attentive to its changes. But, I couldn’t imagine I would have found someone so attached to the area that they have their own collection of old photos of Egham, Staines, wider Runnymede and all the surrounding area.
Before my “official” chat with the shop assistant, I visited the shop a couple of times, pursuing one of them to share with me some of their memories. I finally managed to convince a nice lady who has been working there for a few years but who has lived in Egham and surrounding area for almost all her life, to have a more-in-deep chat with me. It was at that point that she mentioned about her photo collection and, looking at my enthusiasm, she offered to show them to me. She told me that she got all of her photos from the antiques fairs and charity shops. She used to collect them with a friend. Our chat, on the agreed date and time, was actually entirely based on the photos and most of our conversation has been related to what we were looking at in that moment. All her memories seemed to emerge while looking at those photos and she looked nostalgic. When I made her notice this, she replied “yeah, because I remember how it was before. I moved to Chertsey 3 years ago, and I regret to have left Egham”. The following extract is a recap of my time with her:
“Before this shop, here there was a pet shop. We have been here for about 30 years, before moving to this venue, in 1985, we were just next to the White House, where now there is a charity shop, next to Boots. We stayed there for 2 years. Our shop was first opened there.
Egham High Street has changed a lot. Before it was not a walking area, it was a proper street, the pavements were more narrow than now, and the bus and cars used to pass in it. The road looked wider. Also the delivery lorries used to pass by. As you go further down, from the Catherine Wheel pub, there were lots of shops down there, a few of them are still there, changing companies, but they are still businesses.
(Showing me some photos of Clarks the butcher, The Old Bank and a pub)… I moved to Egham in ‘63 and it wasn’t like that then. It started to change, Clarks the butchers was still there, the pub was there, and that’s all gone. Only the Old Bank looks still the same. Costa was not allowed to take down the façade of the original shop, the bull’s heads and original sign are still there. And in front of it there was a pub, I think it was called the Nag’s Head. The Church was already there and the shortcut next it to too. Next to the Church, where there is Le Brunch bar now, there was a ladies clothing shop, a very exclusive and expensive one.
The government made lots of changes; they merged Egham with Runnymede and Chertsey. So that now we are all one piece. (More photos)… Lots of other things changed too, the schooling and transports changed a lot for example. I think that Egham was lovely, it was a proper village. It’s not a village anymore with all these students at the University Students brought a big difference. I know for example that lots of buildings they are doing now are flats to rent to students, because they can make a big amount of money out of it. It is getting worse. Egham has changed so much.
(Showing me a photo)… This was the corner between Egham High Street and North Station Road, there was a high gas street lamp there, this photo has been taken in 1900. In front of it there was the “Budgen Ltd” shop, that used to sell basically everything. It was quite a big shop.
Life has definitely changed. We still have our Magna Carta Day, in June, and it is lovely because it brings everybody together. Then the college took over the Literary Institute, where before we used to have dances and all sorts in it. We don’t have it anymore. We’ve got left just the Egham Museum. There is not the same feeling of community as it used to be before, because lots of people come and go. Obviously we are very friendly with each other; particularly with those at the next door because we are so close and we share the back-way with them. But…not really, there is not a feeling of community anymore. It’s all changed, people change. There are lots of foreigners and lots of students and everyone stay inside their own groups. (Photo of Catherine Wheel pub).
Before us and the pet shop, in this same place, there was another shop, an iron monger, who used to sell everything, paraffin, nails, ladders… People could come here for everything they needed, he had everything. Then he retired… We have a preservation order and that is why we couldn’t change the shop’s front, which caused our fire actually. Last year we had the painters and decorators in. They had to take off the paint. It was a really hot day in August, and of course, this is an old property with an old roof. Their blow torch must just have caught a bit. They came down to go for lunch, and all of a sudden came back running over from the pub saying “do you know that our roof is on fire?”.
Follow us next week for the next story from Egham High Street….
(Header photograph: aerial view of the High Street, with thanks to the late local photographer, Fred Parkin)