Garton and King

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a history

Garton and King's High Street Emporium

It's late on a winter's day and it's getting dark. You're back in the reign of Queen Victoria; you're peering through the Shop Front of Garton & King the Ironmongers at 190 High Street in the city of Exeter.

All manner of goods are on display in the Shop windows, kitchen utensils, plated wares, wrought iron goods, paints, lacquers, cutlery & pans and trivetts - the list goes on. Its cold and wet outside and the shop looks bright, warm and inviting. You push against the polished brass door handle and immediately hear the jingle of the bell. The floor is wooden and and worn; there is a heady mix of smells, the smell of seeds, of turpentine, hessian and leather. The gas lights hiss and flicker and as you become accustomed to the light you notice that a variety of items are hung from the ceiling and goods are stacked at the end of the heavy wooden counters.

Take a step or two into the front shop and you'll notice a central set of stairs to the upper Showroom Area and to the right a door leading to the Counting House. This is where the takings are counted; the accounts are raised and the books kept and made up. Moving further into the shop and you notice the back wall, to the left is a door signed 'Machine Room' - to the right of this is a door leading to an outside central passageway which takes you back into the bowels of the premises.

Pass through the door and down the alleyway.To the left a small toilet marked 'Customers Only' and a door to the right leads into an extensive and packed room displaying all the different models of stoves and ranges - from the massive Exonian Range to the small and compact Cottage Stove.

A pace or two more down the corridor and on the left is the doorway to 'The Spade Room' here are all manner of forks, spades, rakes shovels and hoes, some with and some without their wooden handles which appear to come in an assortment of lengths styles and shapes.

Beyond this door are two more doors.The one to the right leads to an area full of a large variety of goods, some wrapped and labelled, others neatly packaged or in sacks. Looking in to the room on the left of the passage are benches with large reels of brown wrapping paper and sharp blades against which you tear off the required length for wrapping the multitude of small goods. There are coils of string, lengths of sacking and there is a a distinctive sort of sisally smell as well as the odour of sealing wax.

Beyond this on the left is the Paint Store - oil paints, tar paints, enamels, bottles of methylated spitits, casks of linseed oil and a whole host of tins, drums, barrels and kegs.

The last door on the right before the substantial door that leads to Waterbeer Street is the Nail Store - not just nails - screws, brads, carriage bolts, square bolts, round bolts, nuts, rivets, chains, machine screws - the list is endless - and this is just at ground level!

So take a trip back in time and scan through just a fraction of the sort of goods you could see and buy back during the 1860s, 70s and 80s - enter the premises of Garton & King ...

at the Sign of the Golden Hammer
The High Street Emporium and Foundry

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