IN 1895, Anthony Barrell went into business with a partner Walter Valentine in Witney.

They opened a general store, Valentine and Barrell: the kind to be found in any busy market town at the time, selling all manner of goods from furniture and beds made in the workshop to fashion and homewares.

They went on to open branches in Bedford and in Wantage.

The new Wantage shop in Market Place – as shown in these photos – stretched from what is now Boots to the entrance of Waitrose in Wallingford Street.

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All manner of goods were displayed outside as one can see in the photos, all had to be taken in at night, but I have come across several cases reported in the local newspaper of people having stolen items eg a pair of boots.

Mr T R Badger was apprenticed to the firm in Witney and by 1902 he had become manager of the Wantage branch.

In 1908, the firm applied to Wantage Urban District Council to make building alterations to adapt the premises to changing demands.

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Meanwhile the contractor employed by the company was allowed to work on at his own risk.

At about 4pm on May 18, 1908, a large sound as if an explosion was heard, and it was soon found that the portion of the shop (with drapery and furniture) in Wallingford Street had collapsed.

Sounds of cracking had previously been heard so all the shop assistants managed to get out and no-one was injured.

Beams , girders bricks and debris covered all the interior: Mr Stroud (who was painting the shop front), along with Mr John Gregory, organised men to climb ladders to remove a chimney which was leaning dangerously and after a few vigorous blows the chimney collapsed with a loud crash.

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The part of the shop in the Market Place was only slightly affected and business was resumed two days later.

The shop was soon rebuilt and the manager Mr T R Badger bought the business in 1915.

Local people will be aware that his grandson continued the family tradition in Wantage until recently with a men’s outfitters at 21, Market Place, which later became Dapper Street.

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