Until the second half of the nineteenth century, people had grown their own food, woven and sewed their own clothes, carved their household utensils and furniture, and were largely self-sufficient; where they needed something they could not provide for themselves, they exchanged produce with neighbours, some of whom had specialist trades or crafts as well as farming. To visit the market in Petersfield and return took the best part of a day, fairs came to East Meon only once a year, while travelling pedlars visited the village from time to time. In the census of 1851 Edward Stiles describes his occupation as ‘butler (out of house)’; he secured provisions which could not be found locally on behalf of wealthy residents. When Petersfield railway station was built in 1859, goods were brought by train from London and Portsmouth, including food and drink imported in steam-powered ships. In the reign of Queen Victoria, houses in East Meon’s High Street were progressively converted into shops and workshops.
As we have seen, records trace the George Inn as far back as 1567; it was now a substantial establishment and William Simms was the publican in 1851. In Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year, 1887, the publican was William Budd who can be seen, top left, with his staff (in aprons) and what must have been most of the male population of East Meon. The publican also ran a horse-and-cart service to West Meon. The building opposite the George was Gale and Beagley, grocer and draper which was later also the Post Office top right. On the north side of the river, moving west to east, there are traces of a doorway which led to a booth where a fishmonger came once a week. Next is the yard of a dairy belonging to Glenthorne House; the cattle grazed on Glenthorne Meadow opposite middle left. The fine William and Mary building was the home of John Nathaniel Atkins, who added shop premises in the adjacent Gaite House; he was also a draper, grocer and sub-post-master, while his son Clement was the miller at South Mill. Brooklyn, next door, housed the doctor, then called a surgeon, George Pink.
What is today the Izaak Walton was previously the New Inn, middle right. In 1867 the publican was Elizabeth Dear, ‘maltster and brewer’, followed by her son Francis, who sold it as ‘East Meon Brewery’ in 1879 to Crowley & Co of Alton. Dotted around the patch of grass now known as ‘Washer’s Triangle’ were a trio of tradesmen, a harness maker, a carter and a boot and shoe maker, and there was a butcher in ‘Riverside’; butchers bought their animals alive and the outhouse was his abattoir.
Coming back down the south side of the High Street was the most substantial shop in the village, started by William Tilbury in the 1850s. In the days when grocers bought produce by the gross, hence the name, or the bushel, or the gallon, Tilbury took the opportunity to source his goods not only from local farmers but from nearby towns and even from abroad. His son-in-law Thomas Adam Adam [sic] took over the shop when Tilbury died in 1883 and the illustrated header on his stationery shows a gentrified exterior with horse-drawn carriage and is titled: ‘Grocer, Baker, Coal Merchant, Foreign & British wines, malt and hops’, bottom image. (The long single-storey building on Temple Lane, attached to the main shop, is today called the Malthouse, and Adam was licensed to provide Cider, Beer and Sweets; his storage barn behind the shop was converted in the 1950s into private accommodation and there was a bake-house on the opposite side of the street.) Adams had four servants living in, along with his wife and nine children. He died in 1895, and the license was passed to his widow Elizabeth.
It has been mentioned that David Noble returned from his period of migration, married William Tilbury’s sister Ann in 1877, and moved into White Cottage, next door to Tilbury’s shop . It has a carthouse and Noble operated a cart service to Portsmouth.
Continuing west and crossing Glenthorne Meadow, the U-shaped building belonged to the Banhams from West Meon who visited to mend harnesses and also repair leather boots, working out of the back of the building on the right. Most labourers had only one pair of boots and while they were waiting for them to be mended, they enjoyed a tankard of ale, though there is no record of the ‘Bell’ being licensed. Later, the Boyce family lived here; Emanuel Boyce started as a labourer, then became a thatcher; George Boyce in turn became a harness & saddle maker.
There were other shops and trades in the village, including two blacksmiths, another draper and haberdasher shop fashioned out of the front room of the Tudor House, and ‘Potter’s Warehouse’, on the corner of Church Street, next to the George. It was the scene of a dramatic fire in 1910, which destroyed all the houses to the west of it. In addition, there were herbalists, coffin makers and ‘layers-out’ of the dead. The village was self-sufficient.
There were also two blacksmiths; the parish registers show that a blacksmith named John Collins had been buried at All Saints in 1772, aged 85, and the wife of ‘Jno Lock, blacksmith’ Mary Lock was buried in 1790; she was only 32. The Lock(e)s continued in the trade for three generations: George Lock died in 1805, succeeded by two Jameses, who died respectively in 1819, 1879 and 1916.