Memories : Dunster, 1982

1982 Dunster

We’re back in the West Country for more memories – although, following our recent trip to Winkleigh in Devon, we’re further north, and have travelled back in time a further 15 years. The picture we have here is the main street looking towards the famous Yarn Market, built in 1609. Behind us is Dunster Castle, but as Dave Robertshaw said, when he handed us this image taken in August 1982, ‘the cars in the foreground are far more interesting.’

I’m not entirely sure I’d admit that in public, but Dave very much has a point that’s hard to disagree with as, once again, we’re presented with an image that shows just how distant a time the early-1980s are to where we are now. A simpler time, too. As it’s the summer holiday, the soundtrack to it will undoubtedly be Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Come On, Eileen, which has been number one for what feels like forever, while the number two Eye of The Tiger by Survivor will be ringing in the ears of anyone who wants to see a rock song, not not a pop song, take the prized number one spot in the Top 40.

To be fair, pop is the name of the game during the Radio 1 Roadshow season. So, the Top 10 looks like a school disco playlist – all that’s missing is styrofoam cups of warm cherryade and shop-bought Victoria sponge on paper plates. See for yourself, from this list of great compilation album fillers such as, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by the Boystown Gang, Fame by Irene Cara, Hi Fidelity by the Kids from Fame and I Eat Cannibal by Toto Coelo. It wasn’t all bad – Duran Duran and Yazoo had songs in the Top 10, which have stood the test of time much, much better.

So, tell us about the cars

As it’s holiday season, the main parking area is rammed. It’s a mix of locals doing their shopping and tourists on their way to the castle, browsing the market, or heading off for a day in neighbouring Exmoor. As such, there’s a lovely mix of cars. From left to right, we have a Morris Ital, Vauxhall Chevette (with front bumper overriders!), Austin Metro, Volvo 245 estate, Renault 12, Ford Escort Mk2 Ghia (the vinyl roof and metallic paint are the giveaway), Escort Mk2 estate, then a Rover SD1 in Pandelican White, with an SD1 behind that in Midas Gold. The Renault 18 alongside is probably the least memorable, but underrated car of the bunch – having once owned one, I should know.

On the right-hand side of the road (as we’re looking at it), there’s a Snapdragon Yellow Austin Metro leading an early-1980s Mini, Volvo 164, Vauxhall Astra Mk1 estate and a Ford Cortina 80. This is Britain in the 1980s at its very best. Below, we’ve found an image of the same place (taken from the other end of the street) recorded in 2004. It’s amazing how it books so very different to 1982, and how far away from today it feels – when did you last see a Rover 45 out in the wild?

If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line by any of the links below.

Dunster 2004 (Wikipedia)

Main image (top): Chris Robertshaw

Keith Adams


  1. I went on a French Exchange in 1983 to Bourges, twinned with Peterborough, where I grew up. Fabrice’s dad had a Renault 18 turbo in gold and he used to blat it down those wide grey smooth B roads the French seem so good at keeping in good order. Id sit in the back staring at the turbo gauge jumping up and down as his dad leant on the open window and one handed drove the car as if he was parking. Great days

  2. Volvo 245s seemed to be everywhere in predominantly middle class villages and towns in the eighties. I wonder if the brown one in Dunster belongs to an antique dealer, as they were the antique dealer’s car of choice for many years, being able to swallow up a grandfather clock with ease. Also an extremely durable and reliable car that was capable of 200,000 miles with routine maintenance.

  3. I was in Dunster 3 years ago and other than bollards it does look similar other than the motors, bar loads of hanging baskets. Is that a Lada roofline I spot outside the big white building.

  4. I don’t think that’s a Cortina ’80 in the far right distance, the upper section angles in too much. More likely it’s an Opel Rekord (or Commodore) Coupe D.
    I’ve got a much older photo taken in the same direction as the lower one, circa 1930; the market building wasn’t in such good shape then.

  5. Watching an old episode of Poirot yesterday(The Sittaford Mystery), and it looked very much as though it was filmed here.Dressed up(down?) to look the 1940s of course. Almost no cars at all.

  6. This was my childhood!

    Went to the Dunster primary school until 1979 until we moved to Taunton and then would only visit Dunster when taking visitors who came to stay with us. My parents were good friends with a couple who ran a tea shoppe on the right hand side past the yarn market. It was an absoulte gold mine in the summer. They sold it for the what sounded like a King’s ransom around this time for £90,000 and then decamped to the Cotswolds to repeat the trick (and having two price boards, one for when the American tour parties came round at 50% mark up).

    My Dad changed his car in the autumn of 1978 and down the road from here towards the main road to Minehead was the local Austin Morris dealership. I remember we went to look at a Princess which had the 2000 engine model introduced (I remember aged 8 being able to suss out such info in a split second looking at the rear of it. I don’t remember us getting a test drive. I wonder if my Dad was at best lukewarm worrying about the potential for it being assembled by Red Robbo’s mates.

    Other cars we viewed at the time were :

    Ford Granada at the Ford garage in Alcombe. Think my Dad thought it would be heavy on petrol but I remember it being spacous.
    Saab 99 Combi Coupe – My Dad got very interested in this – I think because even then was seen as a bit of a thinking person’s choice. Remember the back seats felt claustrophobic because of the tall backed front seats with built in head restraints. Remember the seats were brown as were some of the paint colours.
    Lancia Beta – My Dad went to see this and the garage couldn’t get it started. Not a great advertisement.
    Mitsubishi Colt Sigma 2000. My dad was quite smitten with this as it had more equipment than the rest eg tachometer, five speed gearbox etc. And was about 10% cheaper than many. But he worried if it was big enough to tow our caravan.
    Volvo 244 – This appealed in some ways but Dad thought again it was going to be heavy on petrol. We weren’t quite well enough off as a family to really afford this sort of car. Many of my friends at school were ferried about in these. It really was the establishment car for those whose parents were doctors, solicitors, managers etc at the time.
    Vauxhall Carlton – this was newly launched and Dad was quite interested. But he was told by a neighbour that Vauxhalls rust so that one got discounted.
    Peugeot 504 – again a bit of a sensible choice – There was a very well known agricultural merchants known as Gliddons in Williton. They appeared to sell an almost infinite number of 504s especially estates to local middle class families – clearly there was no real local competition for a practical well engineered estate car with a good ride quality. They really cleaned up. My dad got interested in the diesel model and after much family discussion that was what we bought. A red 504 GLD which you heard before you saw it. But it did 45mpg, was comfortable and pulled a caravan like a train…

    So that was my bit of history that connects with the picture.

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