Behind closed doors.

Behind closed doors.

There are many Bathonians who will remember buying provisions from Cater, Stoffell and Fortt – a famous company name in Bath’s retail history and a firm regarded by many as the Fortnum and Masons of the provinces.

The company went out of business in the 1980’s but one of its city shops was in Margaret’s Buildings and – miraculously – much of its original fittings survive.

Local historian Andrew Hill – who covered the history of the company in his book ‘Biscuits, Banquets and Bollinger’ – has been lucky enough to look behind the shutters.

Here’s his report and some of the photographs he took.

Caters, Stoffel & Fort, Margaret Buildings

The shop in St Margaret’s Buildings – as it was back in the 1980’s.

“Behind the shutters of 8 Margaret’s Buildings can be found a fascinating relic of Bath’s retail history. From 1890 to the early 1980s, the firm of Cater, Stoffell and Fortt was a byword for quality, variety and service in Bath, Bristol and the West Country.

It was claimed that it could provide anything from fish fingers to foie gras and custard powder to caviar, and it was regarded as the Fortnum and Mason’s of the provinces.

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The shop fittings are still in place.

As well as Margaret’s Buildings, the firm had branches in the High Street, Milsom Street, Southgate Street and Green Street as well as two stores in Bristol and the Bath Oliver Biscuit factory in Manvers Street.

The premises in Margaret’s Buildings offered a high class service to the “carriage trade”, especially  the wealthy residents of the Circus and the various nearby crescents. When the shop finally closed in 1981 it became an antiques emporium and the new owner retained the original shop fittings and signage.

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Now the shop has been sold again, but the new owner and Savill’s estate agents permitted Andrew Hill (author of “Biscuits, Banquets & Bollinger, the History of Cater, Stoffell & Fortt Ltd”) to have a look around and take some photos, as seen here.

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They are a souvenir of a bygone era when the well-heeled customers sat on chairs at the counter and dictated their orders to the staff who arranged for deliveries to the door in a matter of hours.

20170725_130518 In its heyday, customers came from as far away as Shepton Mallet to take their pick of the huge variety of goods available, including up to 40 different types of cheese and such exotic delicacies as shark’s fin soup, mussel soup and kangaroo tail.

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Few traces of Cater, Stoffell & Fortt now remain but it is encouraging to hear that the new owner of these premises intends to preserve the ground floor shop interior unchanged.

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Your place on the Bath map!

Your place on the Bath map!

Got a wonderful black and white photograph of your great grandmother standing in a car-free street in downtown Twerton or a shot – you found in a car boot sale – of people boarding a steam train at Bath Spa Station?

While you may treasure such images in an album you keep at home, now comes the chance to share it with the world in a wonderful new facility that gives you the opportunity of stamping your own community identity onto an on-line facility that records the changing face of places like Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

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The Know Your Place website.

Go on line via http://www.kypwest.org.uk/   and you will pick up the following information about an Heritage Lottery Funded project you can really get involved in.

‘Know Your Place is a digital heritage mapping project to help you to explore your neighbourhood online through historic maps, collections and linked information.

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The website allows you to access maps of Bath and district spanning several centuries.

Know Your Place – West of England covers Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and the former Avon area. It will provide unprecedented online access to historical maps, onto which users can add information about their local area, building a rich and diverse community map of local heritage for everyone.

The project runs until June 2017 and will provide comprehensive cover of the modern counties of South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, North Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and Somerset.

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A screen grab from Know Your Place showing an old map of Bath and each green spot opens to reveal pictures of that particular place at a particular time in history.

The project has been awarded £379,800 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with generous match-funding and in-kind support from local authorities and heritage groups in the region, including £5,000 match-funding from the lead partner, South Gloucestershire Council.’

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Local historian Andrew Hill who has been setting up the B&NES part of the on-line website ‘Know Your Place.’

Here in Bath, local writer and historian Andrew Hill has been busy uploading images on to the site from the vast archives of the Museum of Bath at Work.

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Stuart Burroughs – Director of The Museum of Bath at Work.

It’s where l met him to find out more about his efforts – and how the people of Bath and North East Somerset can get involved.

A chance also to chat to Stuart Burroughs who is the Director of the Museum of Bath at Work.

Forgive the shaky camerawork but – with space at a premium in the museum archive – the camera is being hand-held!

The website address that will bring you straight to the B&NES section is http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/kyp/?edition=banes

Andrew Hill is also the author of a book that takes an in-depth look at Bath’s retail history by exploring  the rise and fall of one of its most famous commercial enterprises Cater, Stoffell and Fortt.

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‘Biscuits, Banquets and Bollinger’ – by Andrew Hill.

The Museum of Bath at Work’s website is www.bath-at-work.org.uk/