A "le­gendary" town with plenty of charm

All aboard for Swaffham. Derek James con­tin­ues his jour­ney around Nor­folk of 1890 and has ar­rived in the charm­ing old mar­ket town where ped­lar John Chap­man once had a dream...

Let's Talk - - HERITAGE -

H ave you heard the story about a chap by the name of John Chap­man who found a large sum of hid­den money thanks to a dream and de­voted his mys­te­ri­ously ac­quired wealth to­wards build­ing a por­tion or in­deed the whole of the parish church in Swaffham?

The fine build­ing dates from 1474 and the le­gend has been passed down from one gen­er­a­tion to the next.

It’s tales like this which make the book Nor­folk 1890, pro­duced by the Nor­folk In­dus­trial Ar­chae­ol­ogy So­ci­ety, so in­ter­est­ing. This tells the story of some 365 busi­nesses as they saw them­selves all those years ago. This is no his­tory book cob­bled to­gether by 21st cen­tury his­to­ri­ans. The busi­ness peo­ple them­selves write about them­selves and the fact they all think they are won­der­ful adds to the en­joy­ment of this unique of­fer­ing.

At the end of the 19th cen­tury al­most any­thing you could need was avail­able in Nor­folk and much of it was made here as well. And they all had sto­ries to tell as they reached out to the cus­tomers.

Swaffham is de­scribed as a charm­ing old mar­ket town which in re­cent years had made con­sid­er­able progress as a busi­ness cen­tre. The shops and in­dus­trial en­ter­prises of the town com­pared most favourable with those of any place in the East­ern Coun­ties.

John Ald­iss, draper, hosier, hab­er­dasher etc Nor­folk House, Mar­ket Place.

“Nor­folk House is in the com­pe­tent hands of Mr John Ald­iss. It has been in ex­is­tence of up­wards of 35 years. The de­part­ments are nu­mer­ous and var­ied. Mr Ald­iss pos­sesses busi­ness abil­ity and long ex­pe­ri­ence, and through close and hon­ourable at­ten­tion to all af­fairs has gained the es­teem and con­fi­dence of all who known him.”

Let’s take a look at what Swaffham had to of­fer more than a cen­tury ago:

W Gould, printer, sta­tioner, book­binder and dealer in fancy goods Cax­ton Print­ing Works.

“Mr Gould is very well known in Swaffham, the premises fronting the Mar­ket Place are sub­stan­tially erected and are of hand­some ap­pear­ance. Large work­rooms are pro­vided at the rear of the shop, these be­ing re­plete with all the nec­es­sary plant and ap­pli­ances of trade. The stock is of a re­ally su­pe­rior char­ac­ter and ar­ti­cles bought at this es­tab­lish­ment are bound to give sat­is­fac­tion. Mr Gould of­fers em­ploy­ment to an ef­fi­cient staff and is in re­ceipt of a de­servedly large share of pub­lic sup­port.”

Wil­liam Barnes, miller, baker and corn dealer Man­gate Street.

“This old-es­tab­lished busi­ness is of con­sid­er­able im­por­tance to the wel­fare of the com­mu­nity, as through the agency of this con­cern a con­stant sup­ply of good pure bread is en­sured. He is also a dealer in hay, of­fal, malt and hops, Scotch oat­meal, dog bis­cuits, lin­seed, farm and bird seed. Mr Barnes is an agent for the cel­e­brated Hun­gar­ian flour; while in all the branches of trade men­tioned he has a most in­flu­en­tial and widespread connection, which he has built up dur­ing the 25 years this busi­ness has been in ex­is­tence.”

Han­nant & Sons, gro­cers, pro­vi­sion and gen­eral mer­chants Mar­ket Place.

“Es­tab­lished about a cen­tury ago this is con­sid­ered one of the old­est houses in the district. The premises in the Mar­ket Place oc­cu­pied by this firm are of a com­modi­ous na­ture, and have a cap­i­tal frontage. From ‘for­eign’ fruit to Whit­bread bot­tled ales, the chances are that Han­nant sells what his cus­tomers want in his store where: ‘the ef­forts of the prin­ci­pals are well sec­onded by an am­ple staff of as­sis­tants’.”

H Plowright & Sons, agri­cul­tural im­ple­ment mak­ers, horticultural and hot-wa­ter en­gi­neers, bell­hang­ers, gas fit­ters etc.

“The East­ern Coun­ties have al­most the ex­clu­sive monopoly of the man­u­fac­ture of agri­cul­tural im­ple­ments and ma­chin­ery, and among the chief cen­tres of this im­por­tant in­dus­try is the an­cient town of Swaffham. Fore­most here in the trade is the well-known firm of Plowright – one of the best firms en­gaged in this man­u­fac­ture.

The busi­ness over which these gen­tle­men pre­side has been in ex­is­tence many years and has at all times en­joyed a large share of pa­tron­age, both at home and abroad – the Prince of Wales be­ing among the pa­trons of the house. The prin­ci­pal spe­cial­i­ties man­u­fac­tured are chain har­rows, carts, spe­cially adapted for agri­cul­tural pur­poses, rollers and clod break­ers, horse hoes, horse rakes and corn el­e­va­tors etc. A large num­ber of skilled me­chan­ics and other work­men are em­ployed in dif­fer­ent de­part­ments of the works.”

Next month we shall be trav­el­ling over to Fak­en­ham where Mr Pratt said he of­fered the cheap­est and best tea - ever.

Swaffham Mar­ket Place.

The home of Plowright and Sons.

Han­nant and Sons was a gen­eral gro­cers, pro­vi­sion and gen­eral mer­chants in Swaffham.

W Gould’s premises in Swaffham.

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