Station Road: Yate's former high street

July 09 2022
Station Road: Yate's former high street

David Hardill of Yate Heritage Centre looks at how the fortunes of Station Road have turned on the coming of the railway, factories and the town's shopping centre

IF you have been in Station Road recently, you may have seen a history trail produced by Yate Town Council entitled 'Old Yate'.

Celebrating the heritage of the road, the project was designed to tie in with the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Display boards and panels adorned certain shops and businesses during June, telling the story of the buildings where they were displayed.

Station Road, which I have often termed 'Yate’s former high street', was a main route out of the town towards Bristol for many centuries.

However, it was the coming of the railway, in 1844, which prompted the road to become a significant arterial route. It gradually developed up to 1914, with businesses such as the Railway pub and Yate Market becoming established, while new residential villas came to litter the south side of the road by 1910. 

The emergence of modern industry in the Great War provided the final thrust to Station Road’s transformation into a shopping street. From then until the 1960s, the two major factories on Station Road brought hundreds of workers to the parish from Bristol and beyond.

On the back of local industry, new developments, such as the Heathfield and Aerodrome estates, provided a market for Station Road businesses. By the 1920s and 1930s, there were three butchers, as well as bakers, general stores and of course, the Co-op.

The emergence of Yate Shopping Centre effectively sounded the death knell for Station Road as a “high street”. Gradually, butchers and grocers were supplanted by estate agents and shops providing services.

The Old Yate project has enabled us to look again at some of the old buildings, using earlier images.

Initially, many buildings were private residences. Gradually, as the parish grew, businesses such as Boulton Brothers butchers occupied the original properties.

The pre-war shops tended to resemble private residences, with smaller shop frontages than today, such as the Yate post office, with more discreet advertising.  

Many of the participating shops of today were transformed during the latter decades of the 20th century, and continue to be transformed to this day.

Estate agent and service businesses constructed large new frontages on the ground floor of the shop, while keeping the architecture of the upper storey and roofing.

By contrast, the building now occupied by Terry’s Cycle Shop had its frontage utterly changed. This proved the most difficult shop to identify. The original red brick property was converted to a shop which was, for many years, known as Miss Redman’s drapery store, until the 1960s. Subsequent refurbishments saw the frontage enlarged and the brickwork receive cladding, obscuring any idea of its original appearance.   

Above: Tily general store in 1938 - now Woodruff Funeral Directors.

Top: The Post Office and Boulton's Butcher's c1914. Now the Gatehouse Church frontage and Motor Aids.

Diary dates

July 9-August 30: This is your Heritage – Indian Voices, oral histories of migrants from India to South Gloucestershire in the post-war period.

July 19, 7.30pm: Yate Lecture Series, Margaret Tothill, Bristol suffragette and politician, with June Hannam. £2 admission, free for Friends of YHC. Booking essential. 

July 20, 7.30pm: Yate Archaeology Group lecture, subject to be confirmed.