‘Chaplin’s Corner’ used to stand on the North side of Ventnor High Street at the junction with Spring Hill, where the Central Car park is now. At that time there were buildings all the way up both sides of Spring Hill as well as along the North side of the High Street.
The corner took its name from Chaplin & Co, railway carriers and ticket agents whose office stood on the corner, as shown in the first photo in the gallery below; there is no date on the photo in the gallery below, but judging by the suits worn by the two young men standing in the doorway, it was taken in the 1950s or early 1960s. Chaplin’s business dated back to the 1860s when goods were moved around the country by railways and horse drawn carts rather than the HGVs that now trundle around our High Street. They had agencies all over the south of England, with their headquarters at an old coaching inn, The Swan with Two Necks, in Gresham Street in London. Chaplin’s Corner was their Ventnor Ticket and Enquiry Office, and they had storage sheds at Ventnor Railway Station. As well as moving goods, Chaplin’s also offered other services – household removals and, as the advertisement from the early 1900s in the gallery shows, passengers’ luggage could also be collected and delivered which, Ventnor Station being situated where it was at the top of a steep hill, must have been very useful.
Fay Brown’s records include a letter from Percy Primmer, who used to work at Ventnor Station, and who recalled a story about Chaplin’s in the days when horses were still a familiar site on Ventnor’s roads:
Old Duke, the horse, was stabled in a building just opposite the goods shed and, needless to say, was a great favourite with us railwaymen. Not only was he a favourite with us at the station, but also with the staff at Chaplin’s Office. Duke, like most animals, was no fool and knew only too well that titbits were kept for him in that office. The result was that whenever his route took him past the office, by some means or another he would manage to push his head through the office door, clearly indicating that he was expecting his titbit. The mind boggles to think what would happen if Duke was around in these days of heavy traffic in Ventnor High Street – though even then, it would have been something to see the astonishment that must have registered on the faces of surprised customers seeing a large horse peering in at the doorway!
Ventnor Railway Station closed in 1966, and Chaplin’s Corner was demolished in 1970 along with the buildings on either side of it to make way for the Central Car Park. The final photograph below shows it in its final days in 1970, just before demolition.
Lesley Telford, Ventnor & District Local History Society. Sources: information and photographs from our Collection, including the files of the late Fay Brown. This article was first published in the South Wight Chronicle in 2016.