Love Your High Street: The history of Harrogate's charming Commercial Street

As the Harrogate Advertiser launches it's Love Your High Street campaign by looking at the small and independent businesses on Commercial Street, Harrogate historian Malcolm Neesam tells us more about the origins of this charming shopping quarter.

Friday, 12th October 2018, 4:35 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th October 2018, 7:34 am
Love Your High Street: The history of Harrogate's charming Commercial Street

Until 1902, Commercial Street was named Strawberry Dale Road, but its increasing commercial character led to it being renamed Commercial Street in that year.

Its transition from residential to retail use was greatly stimulated in 1906 when a terrace of shops was constructed on the street’s eastern side, together with a deep glazed canopy to protect shoppers - this last thanks to a determined lady called Mrs Bateson who had been disgusted by the mean refusal of just one trader to cooperate with all the other traders on Royal Parade to build a magnificent iron and glass canopy right round the entire frontage of Royal Parade.

She lectured the Commercial Street traders to fit such a canopy along Commercial Street, which was a great success.

In the 1970s much of the canopy was lost, but now, several sections have been put back, and in my opinion, the rest should be restored via a scheme such as the new Business Improvement District (BID).

What I like most about Commercial Street is its wide range of small, specialist shops.

This was often how today’s most famous Harrogate businesses began – Bettys, Fattorini, Jespers, Ogdens, Woods of Harrogate – they all started with modest premises of the kind we now have in Commercial Street.

Maybe in the future some of today’s businesses will become correspondingly celebrated.

But today we can enjoy the diverse range of goods and services available in Commercial Street, and if all the pavement canopies are restored, shoppers will have shelter in bad weather.