The ellenor charity shop in Dartford High Street has recently undergone a full refurbishment and opened its doors again to shoppers on Monday 1 February. The stunning shop has been an ellenor outlet for 25 years now and is significant in Dartford, as it is housed in one of the town’s oldest buildings – a factor the team had to take into account when embarking on the refurbishment.
This historic store is part of a chain of 16 shops run by ellenor, a charity which supports families facing terminal illness. ellenor is the only charity in the county that provides hospice care for people of all ages – babies, children and adults - and their families. This includes pain and symptom relief, end of life care, respite, bereavement support and emotional and spiritual care.
ellenor needs to raise £6.7 million each year to continue providing this support – 90% of which takes place in the patient’s own home. The retail arm of ellenor raised £1.5 million last year – which was only made possible by the huge number of volunteers which support this operation. Of the nearly 300 people in the retail team – more than 260 are volunteers.
82 The High Street is Grade II listed and is Dartford’s only surviving example of a 16th Century timber framed town house. The front portion of the building – where ellenor is based - contains the remnants of the building dating back to the 15th Century and subsequently remodelled in the 16th Century.
The earliest 15th Century building was the home of John Groveherst who, in 1465, obtained a licence, confirmed by the Bishop of Rochester, to use part of the adjacent churchyard for building purposes. Mr Groveherst erected a chimney there, the position of which is marked by a chimney stack of later date. He also straightened his house wall which was ‘standing croked and not lyne right’.
In return for this piece of churchyard, Mr Groveherst had to provide a lamp to ‘burn perpetually during the celebration of divine service at the Holy Trinity Church’. According to local historian John Dunkin, one of the rooms on the first floor of this building was hung with a tapestry said to have been woven by the nuns of Dartford Priory. Unfortunately the tapestry became decayed and was taken down in around 1817.
In 1968 Peter Tester FSA, undertook a survey of the building and suggested a number of features of interest which should be left exposed and highlighted. Visitors to the shop can now see a three light window of the 16th Century above a section of flint rubble walling which supports the timber framework. This flint rubble wall by the cash desk in the shop has been made a feature during this recent refurbishment – protected by perspex and lit for shoppers to enjoy, along with the stunning original beams.
Outside can be seen the jettied or overhanging upper floor, which increased the floor area of the upper storeys as well as being a status symbol. A blocked 16th Century doorway can also be seen in Bullace Lane on the side of this building.
From 1823, 82 High Street was occupied by the Stidolph family who were upholsterers. They also acted as auctioneers and furnishers. In the late 19th and early 20th century they were also undertakers. Stidolph’s closed down in 1930 and the building was then occupied by A.C. Fish & Co, furniture dealers. They were still there until at least 1962 but at some point after this the Woolwich Equitable Building Society took over the premises.
ellenor has been the proud occupant for the last quarter of a century and, with the recent refurbishment completed, hopes to be there for at least another 25 years.
“We are thrilled with the new look of the shop and have worked hard to ensure that the historically significant features have been retained and highlighted in the refurbishment,” says Tim Stewart, Head of Retail at ellenor. “It was very important to us to maintain these key features in one of the oldest buildings in Dartford. We have been able to modernise the shop and, at the same time, retain the ‘olde worlde’ look and charm of the building.”
On the morning of reopening day, shoppers enjoying finding some stylish bargains, while admiring some of the shop's more quirky features - such as the shoe ladder and the cash desk created from old books.
In addition to the shop in the High Street, ellenor also has an outlet in the Priory Centre in Dartford, plus 14 others across North and South Kent. To find your nearest ellenor shop, visit www.ellenor.org/our-shops