Shops and trade in Wymondham

Market Place and Market Street in the 19th to Early Twentieth Century

 An old photograph of the Market Cross in Wymondham. Probably taken in the 1970s.

An old photograph of the Market Cross in Wymondham. Probably taken in the 1970s. (© NCC)

Market Place and Market Street have always been at the heart of Wymondham’s community and trading life. In the 19th century Market Place was surrounded by shops, a process which had begun in the early 17th century. Residents signed a petition in about 1619 to stop the encroachment of houses on the market place, complaining that there would soon be no room for cattle.

Market Place leads directly into Market Street, becoming Middleton Street at the turning to the library and further along becoming Town Green. At various times in its history Market Street has incorporated Middleton Street and even Town Green, making identification of specific buildings problematic. Market Place was sometimes referred to as Market Street and occasionally Market Hill. Houses were not numbered until 1939.

In the 19th century the Inns were much more important than they are today. Apart from providing accommodation, food and drink, they served a variety of other functions; as post offices, picking up points for coaches and carriages and provided rooms for meetings, events and auctions. The Dog and Duck (NHER 30646) in Market Street doubled as a butchers. The Kings Head in Market Place (on the site now occupied by The Co-operative Food) was used among other things as a court. In 1864 Petty sessions were heard there every third Thursday and the County Court every two months. It also housed a savings bank and post office.

There were six inns in the nineteenth century: The King’s Head (now The Co-operative Food) and opposite, The Cross Keys (still open) (NHER 12035), both in Market Place. In Market Street there was The White Hart (now The White Heart) (NHER 14488), The Queen’s Arms on the corner of Queen Street, which no longer exists, The Dog and Duck (now the Wymondham Health Foods shop at number 17), and The Griffin, almost directly opposite, which closed in 1962 and is now the Dragonfly clothes shop (number 6) (NHER 15777). The back yard is called Griffin Court, a reminder of where the stables would have been when the Griffin was a calling point for coaches.

The types of shops, trades and services on offer were different in many respects from those of today. Clothes were made to order at a Tailors, Drapers or Dressmakers, or made at home. Ready made clothes were advertised as ‘shop bought’ (i.e. they were not considered the norm) and tended to be cheaply made and marketed for the lower classes. In 1910 A. W. Mills, ‘Tailor and Clothier’, advertised, ‘Every Description of Ready-Made Clothing’, ‘Boots and Shoes for all Classes’, illustrating how entrenched the class system was during this period. Boots and shoes were also made on site and most shops offered repair and altering services as well. Tailor bills for a Mr Edmund Leeder still survive in Wymondham Archives, listing annual repairs, fittings and alteration of clothes in minute detail between 1834 and 1841. In 1836 among a long list of items he paid 2 shillings and 3 pence to have a waistcoat mended and made larger with ‘flannell and calico’ and had numerous alterations and repairs to trousers and coats. To have the seat of a pair of trousers mended with calico and cloth cost three shillings.

Parker & Son, Linen and Woollen Drapers in Market Place, advertised in 1857 ‘Family Mourning and Funerals Furnished, Superior Linens and real Welsh Flannels’. As well as being Drapers they also advertised as ‘Hosiers, Hatters, Haberdashers, Lace men and Glovers, Wholesale and Retail Grocers’, supplying ‘Fine Flavoured Teas, Foreign Fruits & c, Sugars, Scotch and Fancy Snuff’. This variety in stock was fairly typical. Drapers in particular seemed to double as Grocers. John A. Nash, Draper in 1841 also sold ‘Teas direct from East India House, Coffee Chocolate, Cocoa, Fruits and Spices’. Furnishing for funerals was offered at most stores at competitive prices. These probably refer to the elaborate Victorian dress and funeral accessories rather than coffins. Mourning clothes could be worn for as long eighteenth months. 

In The Universal British Directory of 1793-8 Market Street had two Drapers, one Tailor, a Hosier and a Pattern Maker, three Surgeons (doctors); James Cubitt, John Skoulding and Thomas Talbot, three Lawyers, two Tanners, a Brewer (J. S. Cann), three Carpenters, two Glaziers, a Hairdresser (James Foulsham), one Baker, a Farrier, a Blacksmith, a Sadler, a Broker and a Schoolmaster and a Liquor Dealer.

By 1841 the population of Wymondham had risen by nearly two thousand; from 3,567 in 1801 to 5,179 in 1841. The number and variety of shops and services expanded.

In the 1845 Wymondham Directory, Market Place and Market Street was listed as having five Drapers, two Tailors, three Boot and Shoe Makers and one Glover. It had a Tea-Dealer, three Butchers, four Milliners, two Hairdressers, two Bakers, four Ironmongers, two Saddlers, two Watchmakers, one Bookseller, two Chemists, and three Surgeons and two Policemen. About a third of businesses were headed by women in 1845 (none were in 1793-8).

The 1841 census shows that the majority of people who lived in Market Street had businesses there. In many cases apprentices and servants lived with the family. James Parker (Of Parker & Son 1857 above) employed and housed two shop men, one shop assistant and two servants; Maria Childerhouse (20yrs) and Sarah Howes (15yrs). Most of the apprentices listed are 15 years old and the average age of servants was between 15 and 25 years. Servants are an indicator of wealth, so most residents of Market Street were moderately well off with one or two servants. Miss Mary Traxton ran a registry office for servants in Elm Terrace, Bridewell Street from at least 1908.

The Surgeons (doctors) were among the wealthiest of Market Street inhabitants. James Robert Tunaley, (age 40) Surgeon and Registrar for Wymondham, lived in a large house in Market Place. He employed four servants and a Governess, Anne Brook (age 35) for his three children. He also acted as Surgeon for the Bridewell prison (NHER 13361)and in 1860 was Surgeon and Honorary Secretary to the Wymondham Rifle Engineers.

There were two other Surgeons at this time, John Skoulding, who was 65 and had a young son Charles, who was also a Surgeon, and Lewis Lewis.

A probable relation of John, William Skoulding ran one of two Chemist and Druggists in Market Place from at least 1837 until about 1883. He lived in a large house with his wife Mary, four young children and four servants. In August 1858 a house was auctioned at the King’s Head, ‘in the occupation of William Skoulding’, described as, ‘a capital brick and tiled house with a frontage of 35ft in the centre of the Market Place & containing a large shop, breakfast, dining and withdrawing rooms, two kitchens, stove-room, cellar, five sleeping rooms, and two attics together with yard, garden and stable and other convenient out-buildings. A Bill Head from Williams shop dated 1842 advertises, ‘paints, oils, colours, varnishes, soda and seid litz powders’, ‘Medicinal preparations, Physicians prescriptions and family recipes accurately prepared’, ‘Horse and cattle medicines, spices, fish sauces, vinegars, purest lamp oil, Floating lights, Lucifer matches’. A receipt dated 1837 shows a Mr John Mitchell buying 1 & a half ounces of tobacco for 3 sh.8d, Harvey’s Blacking 1sh.1d, Indian ink 1sh, two pints sweet oil 2sh, red paint and brush 1sh1d and red lead 1sh.

In Kelly’s Directory of Wymondham 1875, Market Place/Street had nine Insurance Agents, a Solicitor, two Dressmakers; Charlotte Bale and Mary Chambers, two Boot and Shoe Makers, John Barnard and John Bunn (Barnard was also Drill sergeant for the Rifle Engineers), two Doctors, the Cann brewers (now Cann, William & Co), two Butchers, two Chemists two Saddlers an Ironmonger a Town Missionary, three Bakers and Confectioners, four Grocer & Linen Drapers, one Greengrocer, one Milliner, one Glass and China Dealer, one Tailor, one Stationer & Printer, two Watch & Clock Makers, a Coach Builder, a Builder, a Glover, and a Gardener. There was a bank, Gurney and Co which later amalgamated to form Gurney’s, Birkbeck’s, Barclay & Buxton (1890 Whites directory). 

The Wymondham Parish Church Magazine of July 1899 included advertisements for many of the businesses in Market Street. Joseph Ephraim Perfitt had a very large ad with a selection of goods and prices. As well as watches, clocks and jewellery, the shop also sold musical instruments, toys and china. There was another branch in New Buckenham. Joseph had a shop in Market Street from at least 1845-1912. By 1896 he was also practising as an Ophthalmic Optician and supplying spectacles. He is not mentioned in the directory for Market Street after 1912, but a Mrs E. J. Perfitt was living at Turret House (now Middleton Street) in 1922.

Clements & Son the Ironmongers had a shop in Market Street at this time as well as the one in Fairland Street which still survives. In 1899 they were advertising  a special deal on ‘Butter churns, separators and all dairy utensils’ as well as ‘sporting ammunition, gunpowder, stoves, ranges, fenders, fire irons, baths, travelling trunks, toilet sets, ready mixed paints, oils and colours’.

E. Betts, ‘Post Master and Job Master’ was advertising ‘Cabs, Waggonettes and Dog-Carts at the White Hart Stables. H.Cushing, General Newsagent also bought and sold beds and furniture. R. H. Smith, Wet and dry Fish merchant could have ‘fish sent to any part of the district’, and B. Plunkett offered ‘hand sewn boots’ and ‘all repairs neatly executed at lowest possible prices for cash’.

The Market Cross (NHER 9466) was used as a reading room or library from about 1864. Miss Eve Kett was listed in the directory as Librarian in 1896. In 1899 it was closed due to debt and need for repairs. A bazaar and fete was held in the grounds of Abbotsford on 21st June to raise money to reopen it, complete repairs, and purchase new books. There was also a ‘Costumed Cycle Parade’, a ‘farcical comedy’ called Sugar and Spice and a ‘Ballad Concert in Costume’. Other attractions included shooting galleries, ‘cokernut’ shies, an Aunt Sally, a Gypsy fortune teller and music and dancing. £155 was raised. Eve Kett was still listed as librarian in 1912.

Leona Lynch 3 August 2007.



Census 1946

The Universal British Directory 1793-8

White’s Directory 1845

Whites Directory 1864

Kelly’s Directory 1875

White’s Directory 1890

Wymondham Parish Church Magazine, No12, July1899, Vol 1

Bill Heads for shops in Wymondham, at Wymondham Town Archive.

P.G Yaxley, Wymondham’s Old Inns (Wymondham Society Pamphlet No 2,1991, Ed 3)


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