High Street No. 160, Victoria Chambers, now Primark’s Annex – Heritage Building Profile

Victoria Chambers is a fine building from the 1890s in the Arts & Crafts style with its characteristic Dutch influence.

With the building of a new section of road called the ‘New Cut’ in 1832, a sharp bend in the High Street was removed. The buildings constructed following this work included No. 47 (old numbering!) which became the china, glass and pottery emporium of Joseph Wells.  There survives a photograph of one of these buildings before they were demolished, and it was built on a steep slope, which explains why HG Wells describes the kitchen, under the shop floor, as being lit by a light in the pavement whilst facing out onto the yard at the other side.

Here on 21 September 1866 Herbert George Wells was born. He spent much of his early childhood in the town until he was apprenticed to a draper and left the area.  Please see more about HG Wells on our page here.

Another note is that before the Wells bought the shop, it was a shoe / leather work shop belonging to Thomas Churcher.  Though a real-life man, he has been cast as a main character in Elizabeth Haynes’s book, set in Victorian Bromley, called The Murder of Harriet Monckton.

No. 47 became part of Medhursts in 1879 when Fred Medhurst bought several adjacent properties. The Primark store still has the name Medhurst on the building which stands today.  Unfortunately, the plaque to commemorate the birthplace of H G Wells that is displayed on the front of this shop, is in the wrong place; Primark moved it from next to the entrance.

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