History and Character of the High Street

Wisbech High Street, undated
from Wisbech and Fenland Museum (ref.MIS 1001)
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Wisbech High Street Project Area

History of the High Street

Wisbech High Street is an important part of the town centre, located between Bridge Street and the busy and popular Market Place.

Once the heart of commercial and retail activity in the town centre, characterised by narrow 18th and 19th century terraced buildings organised within the historic confines of burgage plots.

Clues remain to its former prosperity, with Evisons’s clothiers at No. 19 (Grade II) and its traditional glazed shopfront and tiled entrance ways being a rare survivor which is evident in early twentieth century photographs, whilst the upper storeys of other buildings also exhibit vestiges of formerly high quality frontages

By the mid-1950s the street was characterised by a bustling and thriving mixture of Georgian, Victorian and early twentieth century traditional timber panelled shopfronts with wide glazed windows and bell-shaped entrances. The shops, lots of which would have been family owned at that time, often displayed produce on the street under awnings, or in busy displays within the windows and historic photographs provide a glimpse of the former hustle and bustle that would have characterised the street.

A search of the planning applications for the High Street held by Fenland District Council has revealed a significant number of applications for new shop fronts were submitted during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is not yet clear whether this was simply a period of modernisation or perhaps owners and shopkeepers taking advantage of a funding scheme which may have been available at that time to improve the High Street just as the HLF scheme is today.

 

For more information see the Wisbech Conservation Area Appraisal

 

 

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