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Shopfronts

- contribute enormously to the fabric of urban areas. They frequently provide welcome colour and texture, and while they can be of considerable interest in their own right, they should also form part of a harmonious frontage. Frequent changes in retailing and turnover in ownerships means that they are often subjected to change, not always in a sympathetic manner, and most authorities now offer advice on appropriate shopfront design, making such advice collectively, one of the most comprehensive and meaningful collections of conservation guidelines.

The first permanent shops were the workplaces, of traders or craftsmen who sold directly to the customer. Bigger openings to display goods and contain a counter became a requirement and in medieval times these were secured behind hinged boarding. The larger panel opened upwards to provide protection from the weather and the lower panel - the stall board - flattened on the ground to provide a place to stand. Shopfronts which would be familiar to us today, using bulls eyes, began to feature at the end of the 1600s. They remained individual until the early 1800s when uniform façades began to appear. Hanging signs were always popular and dangerous, there are accounts of facades collapsing under their weight, but the main form of advertising was in the form of lettering applied to the façade. Plate glass wasn’t used much before the 1840s possibly because of costs, but also from fear of breakage.

Shopfronts have tended to reflect architectural styles, and materials used have varied widely. The typical shopfront consists of a framework of vertical elements either in the form of columns or pilasters, surmounted by an entablature which frequently consisits soley of a fascia board, The enclosed areas are occupied by windows and doors and the areas below the cills are filled by the stall riser (from stall board) or undercill. Decorative features, original lettering, original interiors in premises such as chemists, and even shop types such as the simple village store, are all vulnerable and are frequently worth conserving.