Saturday, July 12, 2014
The history of Sidmouth’s independent department store Fields has been immortalised in a book after a historian unravelled its past to as far back as 1809.
Maureen D’Albertanson, who lives in Axminster, enquired about the archives stored at Fields when she visited the store for a shopping session and coffee.
After sending a letter to managing director Trevor Roberts asking if she could look through the records, the former history teacher catalogued Fields’ colourful past – a project which she says has been a ‘labour of love’.
“The records were incredible,” said Maureen. “There were a lot [of documents] which were quite difficult to read at the beginning.”
Maureen had to get to grips with old leases and legal documents which were intricately scrawled in a near non-translatable script.
That failed to deter her though, and as she battled through the beginning difficulties, she realised the grand history of Fields was one of great interest.
“It is a fascinating building,” she said. “Two hundred years in the same building and offering the same service is an incredible achievement.”
The book, which is on sale at Fields, provides a detailed account of Fields’ heritage including the Victorian ‘shopping experience’ it offered and the changes it went through as it became a thriving presence on Sidmouth’s high street.
It also recounts the dramatic incident of a fire in 1937, which ‘enveloped’ the store’s first floor in smoke and was reported in the Sidmouth Observer.
Maureen added she was ‘enormously grateful’ to Fields for allowing her to start the project and to print it.
The front cover image of her book has been printed onto a tea towel which is also available to purchase in-store.