The privately-owned Holton Mill, near Halesworth, stands within leafy trees as the longer days make Summer feel well under way.

Blythburgh Shops in the Twenties

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Blythburgh Shops in the Twenties

Blythburgh Shops in the Twenties by Nora Brown

Blythburgh in the nineteen twenties was not isolated. The Southwold Railway operated until 1929, and the Eastern Counties Bus Company ran a regular service between Southwold and Laxfield via Blythburgh. The United Bus Company provided a Yarmouth–London service. Yet shops in a central triangle in the village could meet most of the needs of its inhabitants.

On the corner of the London and Chapel Roads was the Post Office, a small stone building converted from a house. Mrs Chipperfield offered a few commodities at the counter and Mr Chipperfield delivered telegrams etc. Mr William Chipperfield ran a shoe repair service from a small cobbler's shop at the back. On the left-hand side of the London Road towards the White Hart was another shoe-maker’s shop run by the Crawfords – father and son George. Further along, the off-licence managed by Jane Bailey, assisted by son Morton and daughter–in–law Minnie, sold basic foods and sweets. This was a long narrow single-storey building, with two windows and central door. Inside was one counter and at the far end a platform, on which rested the beer barrels. Jane – very much a Victorian in her black dress and bibbed white apron – was very proud of a yucca plant in her front garden, which she looked forward to seeing in bloom, which did not happen however until after she had died.

Turning right into The Street, by the Men’s Reading Room, Heath’s Dairy offered milk and a selection of sweets to entice the children – halfpenny chocolate bars, penny sherbet dabs, liquorice pipes, bootlaces and cigarettes, peardrops, various rock and boiled sweets. This shop had only one window and was entered by a door at the side and stepping down onto a brick floor. From the beamed ceiling hung a number of willow baskets and milk cans. Behind the single counter fixtures of shelves held the jars of sweets. On the opposite side of the road William Burton had, after the 1914 war, established a business as a wheelwright and also offered general carpentry, house decoration and funeral services.

Next was Burton’s General Store, the only purpose-built shop in the village, established in 1870 by James Burton and his wife Lucy, a Norwich woman. After his death it was run by Lucy who was succeeded by son James. The shop was double–fronted with a central door. Inside were three counters and a staircase leading to an upper store-room. A large cellar entered either from the shop or from the rear by stone steps provided storage for perishable foods. This business thrived, employing assistants until the 1914 war, after which the staff was reduced and the sale of home-made sausages, pork cheeses and pork ceased.

The family continued the grocery, drapery and hardware sales. The shop was lit by hanging oil lamps and, at closing time, wooden shutters were placed across the windows and doors, remaining in place from Saturday night until Monday morning. There was a small fire-place but this was only used in the coldest weather. In front of the drapery counter three chairs offered customers a chance to rest if they had walked a distance. As well as groceries, a wide range of goods on offer included household linen, men and women's clothing, wallpaper, kitchen utensils, china and, most important, lamp glasses, mantles and paraffin oil. Cough mixtures, ointments, oils and powders were also stocked. A delivery service by horse and cart covered outlying areas such as Bulcamp, Henham, Hinton, Walberswick and the Fens.

Nora Brown, Bungay, April 1995
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