THE OLD CLINIC
The building immediately behind 5 and 5a High Street in Glastonbury is known as The Old Clinic, since it was the town’s clinic during and since the second world war.
These properties have a long history. The basic ground plan is medieval, from a time when (like the Glastonbury Tribunal and other nearby buildings) it would have been a family home, with a shop on the ground floor and craft workshops behind. The building now known as The Old Clinic dates from the early 19th century, when according to the Victoria County History there was significant rebuilding of properties on the High Street:
“Individual houses and other buildings were refronted in plain classical style using stucco or ashlar, and after c. 1840 there was considerable rebuilding in red brick to three storeys, the top floor being concealed by raised parapets and locally popular rusticated lintels applied as the only ornament. The new work was designed to increase living accommodation above shops, some of which were created within formerly residential buildings.
This describes the development of 5a High Street though not No 5, suggesting that at this stage the two properties were separate. The rebuilding of 5a, however, was integral with the construction of the large two-storey building to the rear, which may have been built as a hotel. It is now ‘The Old Clinic’. It became the town’s clinic at some point before or during the second world war, and remained so until the early 1970s when a new purpose-built clinic – recently rebuilt again – was constructed on the corner of the High Street and Wells Road. At this point 5 and 5a High Street became Frisby’s shoe shop, and the former clinic to the rear once again became part of the same property and was used as their offices and store rooms. In the mid-1980s Frisby’s closed down and the High Street properties became Unique Publications and Isis (now The Speaking Tree bookshop and Fragrant Earth), with flats above. The building behind was no longer part of 5 High Street, and was used for a while as a store room by Morlands’ Sheepskins. When that business too closed down it was for some time empty and latterly squatted.
It was rescued and bought by Children’s World, the charity founded and run by Arabella Churchill (Sir Winston’s grand-daughter). It was she who insisted that the car park, recently constructed behind the High Street properties and from which Children’s World had its access, should be known as ‘St John’s Square’ rather than its former designation as ‘Northload Street Car Park East’. We have Arabella to thank for the official address now being 10 St John’s Square rather than something virtually unpronounceable in bureaucrat-speak.
In 1997, after Children’s World had down-sized and moved its office to Arabella’s home, the building was bought jointly by the proprietors of three local businesses – Shades & Characters who do typesetting and design work, principally for Glastonbury Festival; GAS (the Gong Appreciation Society) who maintain a website and a mail order business for the band Gong, then led by the late musician and poet Daevid Allen; and Unique Publications, which moved out of the High Street shop at No 5.
Financed with the help of Triodos Bank (an ethical bank based in Bristol), The Old Clinic Ltd was established and the building now provides workshops, office space and treatment rooms for small local businesses and practitioners. [It is neither an Estate Agent nor a Residential Care Home, both of which it has somehow been listed as on the internet.]
The building was nearly 200 years old and needed a fair amount of maintenance and renovation work. The exterior was repointed using traditional lime mortar, and in 2011 there were further substantial renovations carried out, including structural work, roof repairs, and installation of mains gas together with a new heating system. In addition there were solar pv cells installed on the roof – it is now successfully generating a significant proportion of its electricity, and getting paid for it.
Substantial damp-proofing work still had to be done, as well as re-decoration of the public areas of the building – all of which was completed over the next couple of years. The Old Clinic Ltd is now a well established business, and the building continues to quietly contribute to the overall life of the community.
If you have any information that could be added to this short account, particularly concerning the building’s use during and before the second world war, please email us.
The Old Clinic yard before and after renovations in 2011