Day trips to Street may be spotted advertised as far away as Penzance and many Dorset and Devon resorts. Many more families drive here throughout the year, not just in the holiday season.
Their destination, of course, is Clarks Village; a shopaholic’s dream amid brilliant floral displays. A holiday resort in itself.
But Street’s reputation, especially for shoe and leather ware shopping, actually goes much farther back to nearly two hundred years ago when the original Clarks factory began to attract skilled shoemakers as word spread about the good working conditions fair pay, new housing and amenities like public halls.
Craftsmen from towns such as Northampton then the capital of English shoemaking, migrated with whole families, those menfolk brought their skills here, while wives and sisters started a widespread cottage industry at home, working on finer details
Including finishing and decorating ladies’ slippers.
Street was poised to develop eventually into the thriving shopping and touring centre it is today.
Some of the best Arts & Crafts terraces built for the workers, such as Wilfrid Road, themselves now attract visitors, featuring in many a study of British architecture.
Once arrived in that area of Street other points of interest are within only a few more minutes’ stroll, including the fascinating Shoe Museum (housed the clock tower based on one in Switzerland). Right opposite across the tree shaded lawns is the Greenb Bank Pool. Street actually has two public Pools the other being indoor and used throughout the year. Entertainment? Strode Theatre has recently added a second smaller Studio Theatre between them they show everything from live transmissions from Covent Garden to both current and specialist films, live stage shows and concerts.
From this point begins the High Street proper; a long straight succession of what locals call ‘proper shops’. Not huge complexes, but old—fashioned individual traders – butchers, baker, occultist, florist, banks, cafes and (yes!) shoes. In effect, we have not one but two high streets; this older traditional one plus The Village, one leading of the other. In effect, we have not one but two High Streets; this older traditional one plus the Village, one leading off the other.
Nor is shopping the only reason to come here. Some of Britain’s top tourist destinations within easy reach, such as Cheddar and Wookey Hole, Glastonbury Abbey and Wells Cathedral, Bath, the Bristol Channel coast at Burnham—on—Sea with the holiday and amusement parks at Brean, plus facilities like Bristol Airport and the M5 Motorway. Dating right back to the Quaker influence of the Clarks, Street has had a lengthy educational tradition, as it still does today, ranging all the way from infants to the top level of Millfield, famed for the sports teaching brought home Olympic gold.
Not bad for a place that is still technically a village, probably the largest in England, governed by a Parish Council rather than a Town Council with a mayor.
Does such a difference really matter? Of course not. Whatever your reason for coming, this village/town will surprise, relax and entertain you, after enjoying your “fix” in the show shops
Muriel V. Mudie, a member of the former Street Society which alas has folded