City’s latest blue plaque to honour businesswoman Frances Hale

Salisbury’s latest blue plaque was unveiled in New Street on Thursday, 13th April by mayor Tom Corbin and Jane Howells on behalf of joint organisers Salisbury Civic Society and Salisbury Soroptimists, whose project, ‘Her Salisbury Story’ inspired the plaque.

Her Salisbury Story is a website collecting the stories of more than 60 women, past and present, who have contributed or are contributing to life in Salisbury.

The research was conducted by many Soroptimists and other members of the community. Some of these women are currently featured in an exhibition at Salisbury Museum.

Jenny Hair, president of Salisbury Soroptimists said that the idea of the project was to write women into history, as their contributions are often overlooked.

Frances Hale inherited a building business from her husband, who had previously taken it over following the death of her father. Although she later took her sons into partnership, it was clear that she ran the show.

Her astute management increased the workforce from a couple of dozen to over 400.

The business was celebrated at a civic dinner, for which she paid, but to which she was not invited as it was men only.

As an aid to recruitment, Mrs Hale used to make sure that newspapers reported the summer outings she organised for her workforce. The firm also had a cricket team, Mrs Hale’s Carpenters XI.

The firm built the Literary and Scientific Institution, now the Cosy Club, on the walls of which the plaque is installed. Salisbury residents can see other notable examples of the firm’s work still extant in the city, such Richardson’s wine store, now Barclays, on the corner of High Street and Fisherton Street, the Congregational Church and the renovation of Britford Church.

The family lived at 36 Castle Street. Unfortunately, the business suffered severe cash flow problems after undertaking a project in Alderbury and was declared bankrupt.

Frances died the following year. Her son later re-established the business and was able to buy back the Castle Street house and yard.

The ceremony in New Street was followed by a visit to the exhibition in Salisbury Museum and tea at Arundell’s.

The chair of the Civic Society, Stephanie Siddons Deighton, introduced a talk by Jane Howells about women in the history of Salisbury, followed by Brian Evans talking about his research into the life of Frances Hale.

Both talks were informative and enjoyed by the invited audience.

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