Some readers may already have observed that the Heritage Museum has a new window display this season. It has as its central feature a clerk’s desk that came from London House on Ventnor High Street, once the premises of Henry George Field and, later, Stiby & Elderfield. This ‘High-Class Gents’ Outfitters’ was founded in 1843. It subsequently evolved to offer High-Class Ladies Wear, as the photograph here and the advert (both from the early 1900s) indicate. The building remains today and is listed. Many will now recognise it as a tea and coffee house where you can buy mouth-watering cakes that are tantalisingly displayed in the window.
The clerk’s desk is intriguing because it is so high. You either worked at it standing, or else sat perched on a high stool or high chair. It gave a commanding view inside a shop like Field’s and the disposition has resonance today where long hours spent sitting at desks are thought to enhance the propensity for back problems. A manikin, attired in the manner of a late Victorian clerk, stands behind the desk in the museum window, while a tailor’s dummy with jacket in the making is in front, together with a glass display case that houses items of the tailor’s craft.
[The first Field shop in Ventnor was Field’s Drapery Shop at 1 Spring Hill, founded by Henry George Field’s father in the 1840s, see The Field Family – Waving a last goodbye.]
Michael Freeman, Ventnor & District Local History Society, with much help from Linda Chester and Linda Goodwin. Sources: information and records from the Society Collection. This article was first published in the South Wight Chronicle in May 2018