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High Street History: Just the facts

Updated Thursday, 3rd July 2008

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.

This page was published over 14 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see how we deal with older content.

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

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

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

Restaurants may occupy buildings that once had very different uses.

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

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

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.

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

Shops could provide evidence of former patterns of local trade.

Townscape - Panel 3

Panel 3

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 might give us clues about goods produced in the past.

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

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

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

Townscape - Panel 4

Panel 4

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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