THIS interesting photograph was taken by Charles Wardell in the autumn of 1968. It is looking from West Street towards the High Street and partly shows the rear of the line of shops that stood behind the Guildhall. Already demolished to provide wider access for construction traffic, was Tommy Wickenden’s 17th century premises, latterly used as a Save the Children charity shop.  

The first building in the photograph was Lowman’s the baker and Domestic Electric Rentals (DER), which was mainly televisions. Then there was Leighton’s the optician, Lovell’s the dairy, Elwick the greengrocer and Scott’s the shoe shop, though some of these had already moved out.

For the moment, all of the remaining High Street shops that formed the perimeter edge of the proposed new shopping centre were left standing, apart from Willis’s the grocer near the top of the upper High Street, where the entrance to the new precinct was to be sited. This was also bulldozed in 1968. Leslie Major, the proprietor, observed bitterly that this was the newest building in the High Street, then barely 15-years-old.

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Andover Advertiser: View from West Street before it all came down, 1968.In fact, many of the shops in the upper High Street remained as they were, even after the new centre was finished. Although the council had compulsorily purchased everything in 1963, including the Angel Inn and the whole of the south side of Chantry Street, a less ambitious version of the original plan meant that some of the sites were no longer required for development. Sadly, in 1974, a whole row of historic shops from 61 to 71 High Street could have been saved, given the political will. What replaced them was a sturdy-looking modern block, devoid of any character. The old properties had of course already lost their rear gardens to a communal service yard which provided back entrances to the units of the new development, as well as the remaining High Street shops.

The sole pedestrian in the photograph is casting a glance sideways. If the camera had been turned around 90 degrees, we would see what he saw. Everything on that side of West Street had vanished. It was an expanse of eerie nothingness, a desert not of sand but of chalk soil.

Gone was Toni’s café on the corner of White Bear Yard. Gone were the garages behind the cafe where Toni made his ice cream; gone were the other buildings in the yard where Mrs Holloway had her second-hand shop, and where Shaw’s garage with its corrugated iron walls and roof whistled in the wind; gone were all the corners and passageways, the back gardens, the washing lines, the tired greenhouses of cracked glass panes covered in algae and all the other flotsam and jetsam of semi-neglected gardens. All the familiar nooks, the crannies and just simply the patchwork of places, that had evolved over 300 years or more - spirited away, almost overnight; Andover’s version of a Brave New World.

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The work of re-construction began in November 1968. The estimate of just over £1m had been accepted from contractors, F Rendell and Sons Ltd of Devizes, the lowest of 10 received. The net cost of the entire town centre scheme was expected to be about double that amount once all other expenses had been taken into account. This included professional fees and the cost of equipping the new library.

It was to comprise four large units and 49 standard-size units, above which would be offices. Shopkeepers who had been displaced as a result of the development were to be given first refusal, although many had already decided to call it a day. A large office block to be called Chantry House would include a county court, while a ground level car park to the west of the new centre would have spaces for 417 cars, envisaged from the start to be replaced eventually by a multi-storey version.

Almost exactly two years of building work followed until the official opening of the new precinct on 30 October 1970. It took another 18 months before the library was finished – phase two as it was called – during which time the shops behind the Guildhall met their long-awaited fate. When the hoardings were at last removed, an uncompromising Brutalist block had replaced the assorted but attractive row of buildings that had stood there so long.

If you are interested in local history, why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at