Heritage100

Foster's tobacconist shop

Inside Foster's tobacconist shop

...able to provide everything for the discerning smoker.

In 1871 Thomas Foster opened his tobacconist shop at 34 High Street, Winchester in the Piazza, or Pentice as it is now known. The business quickly gained itself a reputation for quality merchandise and was able to provide everything for the discerning smoker. As a result it established a regular clientele which included many distinguished names who appreciated the personal service offered.

After the First World War Stanley Cobb started working at the shop as an assistant after leaving school and in 1935 he inherited the business from Foster’s estate. Stanley Cobb changed little in the shop and apart from the installation of electricity in 1938 the shop retained its Victorian appearance and Edwardian service traditions.

When Stanley Cobb died in 1978 the decision was taken to rebuild the shop within the City Museum, Winchester and since 1980 the shop has continued to be visited by a host of visitors, both local and international.

The shop is an interesting reminder of the independently owned shops of the past when large chains did not dominate the high streets of Britain. The shop is also a reminder of how smoking was an accepted and celebrated activity before the knowledge of the health dangers.

Quick Facts

  • Made of wood, glass and metal
  • Date opened 1871
  • Accession number WINCM:LH 3146
  • First owner Thomas Foster
  • Second owner Stanley Cobb
  • Date closed 1978

Facts

  • Thomas Foster did have a surviving son at the time of his death in 1933 but he decided not to continue the business as he was a bank manager.
  • Foster was born in 1845 in Ireland where his English father was an excise officer.
  • Foster started work as an apprentice draper in Winchester.

Did you know?

The mahogany counter in the shop is over 20 feet (6.1 metres) long and is constructed from tobacco shipping crates.

Gallery

Foster's tobacconist shop - Photo John Crook
Black and white photo of Foster's shop in the High Street, Winchester, 1978
Tobacco jar in Foster's shop
Tobacco tin in Foster's shop
Another old shop interior Askews' of Bishops Waltham1976
Foster's tobacconist shop interior
The box till in Foster's Tobacconist shop
Mr Cobb behind the counter in Foster’s shop

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