High Street History: Just the facts

Learn the secrets of the past, revealed by clues on the high streets of today. For a richer version, explore our High Street History interactive.

By: The High Street History team (Programme and web teams)

  • Duration 5 mins
  • Updated Thursday 3rd July 2008
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Heritage
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Are you curious about how your town has changed over time? Puzzled why certain buildings look the way they do? Wonder what used to happen in your locality? Our online tour will guide you through some common features in towns and cities, showing how the past leaves its traces around us and still has an impact on our everyday lives.

For each illustrated panel of the townscape below, there is a list of features that can give a hint about the local history. Click on a feature from the list for more details.

Townscape - Panel 1

Panel 1 Copyrighted image Copyright: The Open University

Houses
You may be able to tell when a house was built from its architectural features.

Cinemas
Cinemas were a major part of a growing leisure industry in the first part of the twentieth century.

Restaurants
Restaurants may occupy buildings that once had very different uses.

Plaques
Plaques may remind us of our national heritage but do they celebrate the right things?

Religious Heritage
Is Britain’s religious heritage under threat?

Townscape - Panel 2

Panel 2 Copyrighted image Copyright: The Open University

Churches
Churches offer glimpses of periods in which Britain was a much more religious country.

Brickwork
Styles of brickwork might give us an idea of a building's date.

Street Signs
Signs can provide hints about urban development and historical transport links.

Advertisements
Old painted or metal plate advertisements can hint at what people bought in former times.

Shops
Shops could provide evidence of former patterns of local trade.

Townscape - Panel 3

Panel 3 Copyrighted image Copyright: The Open University

Post-war Buildings
Should we be saving ugly buildings or demolishing them?

Railway Stations
Stations can help us to understand how patterns of transport developed.

Factories
Factories might give us clues about goods produced in the past.

Street Furniture
Street furniture may be suggestive of technological development or traffic management.

Statues
Statues might commemorate famous local people from the past or war heroes.

Pubs
The past of many pubs may be closely intertwined with local social history.

Townscape - Panel 4

Panel 4 Copyrighted image Copyright: The Open University

Libraries
Libraries often provide examples of the historical development of education.

Clock Towers
Clock towers are good examples of historical civic architecture.

Municipal Buildings
Old municipal buildings may say something about the growth of local government functions.

War Memorials
How should war be commemorated?

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