102, 102a & 102b, High Street
The numbers between 101 and the corner of High Street and Baker Lane are particularly difficult to identify. There were four separate frontage shops here at various dates. But the number on the other corner of Baker Lane was always 104. To accommodate these four shops, the numbers were recorded as either 102, 102 a, 102b and 103; or 102, 103, 103a, and 103b. The two central shops had wide frontages but none of them had much depth, there being an access lane behind.
Many of the advertisements and trade directory entries simply put the address as No. 102 and since this makes it difficult to identify exactly which shop unit is the right one, no attempt has been made to differentiate.
The confusion over the numbering is particularly apparent in the entries for Miss Ellen Clarke in both White’s and Kelly’s directories for 1883. In the former she is listed at No. 102, while in the latter she is placed at No. 103.
In 1881, the Post Office is recorded at No. 102. The postmaster in 1879 (Kelly) was Robert Teare.
In addition to the shops, there was living accommodation on the premises here, together with rooms for storage and ancillary use. Other rooms were let out for other purposes, and the Conservative Club was somewhere here at one time. Some of the directory entries, newspaper notices and advertisements will have been for users of the upper floors above the shops.
1836 (Thomas Linay) (No. 102)
White’s Directory for 1836 lists Thomas Linay, a linen and woollen draper, at this address. Thomas was born on 19th June, 1805. His parents were Lynn sail maker Thomas Linay and his wife Mary. More details of Thomas and Mary Linay may be found at No. 120, High Street.
Thomas jnr. married Sophia Love on 10th October 1831 at Harpley in Norfolk, and they were living here with five of their children in 1841.
Thomas and Sophia had about eleven children, so far as can be ascertained:-
1) Thomas (b. 1832). 2) Sarah (b. c1833). 3) Thomas George Love, a photographer’s assistant in 1871 (b. 1834). 4) Edward Thomas, a draper in Birmingham in 1881 (b. 1836). 5) Frederick Love (b. 1838 – m. Isabella Jenkins). 6) Sophia Love (b. 1939). 7) Georgiana Inna Love (b. c1841). 8) Charlotte (b. c1842). 9) Mary (b. 1843). 10) Lucy (b. c1844). 11) William Thomas, a chemist and dentist in Paddington in 1881 (b. 1844).
It is likely that Linay’s drapery business would have occupied the frontage shop next door to No. 101 but this is by no means certain. In later years, the two shops closest to Baker Lane were occupied by drapers.
Sophia Linay died in 1846 and Thomas later moved to London, marrying Letitia Stanley in Shoreditch in 1849. They settled in Islington, where he was recorded as a retired family draper, aged 45, in 1851.
1836 (William Massingham) (No. 102)
Also listed here in the 1836 directory was William Massingham, a watch and clock maker, silversmith and jeweller, but he may not have lived here. He was listed at No. 22 in 1845 (White) and 1846 (Kelly), and he was living at or near No. 80 in 1841.
Born in Holt in about 1812, William Massingham moved to Lynn where he married Martha Ann Plowright at St. Nicholas Chapel on 4th May, 1836. Martha, born in 1824 in Lynn, was the daughter of George Batch Plowright (1777-1862) and Elizabeth Bradfield (1779-1915). One of her brothers was Henry Bradfield Plowright (1802-1883) (see No. 66, High Street).
William and Martha had three children:-
1) Susannah Elizabeth (b. c1837 – m. John Cox). 2) George Plowright, a watch maker (b. 1838 – m. Rachel Neal in 1860/1 – d. 1915, aged 76). 3) Martha Ann (b. 1840 – d. 1842).
William and Martha were living in High Street in 1841, with their children George Plowright and Martha. However, because of the absence of house numbers in the census it is not clear exactly where they were, but it was around No. 80.
William Massingham had a varied career. He faced proceedings at the Bankruptcy Court in Basinghall Street, London, in July 1842, but continued working as a watch maker, and was living at Heacham, Norfolk in 1851. By 1861 he had moved to Boston, Lincolnshire, where he was specialising as a silversmith. He gave up that profession to become manager of a chemical works, and was living at East Stockwith, Lincolnshire, in 1871.
William Massingham died in Lincolnshire in 1875, aged 62, and Martha moved to Heacham, where she was living with her spinster sister, Emily Plowright (b.1820 – d. 1888, aged 68). Martha died in Heacham in 1890, aged 76.
c1839 – c1841 (Jacob Bunnett jnr.) (No. 102)
Jacob Bunnett jnr. a cabinet maker and upholsterer, was here at No. 102 in 1839 (Pigot). He was born in Lynn in 1817, and his parents were Jacob and Isabella Bunnett. Jacob snr. had been running a day and boarding school at 4, St. James Street in 1830 (Pigot), but was working as a ‘collector’ in 1841 – presumably as a collector of local taxes. He died at the end of that year. Isabella died in 1848.
There is a record of Jacob Bunnett living in White Lion Court, Norfolk Street, in 1851. Although he was a professor of dance at that date, this would seem to be the same man. He married Eliza Thompson at St. Margarets church on 14th November, 1838, and they had three children:-
1) Isabella Elizabeth (b. c1839). 2) Edward William, a cabinet maker in Cambridge in 1881 (b. 1841 – m. Emily Jane Sewell in 1862 – d. 1914/5). 3) Elizabeth Ann (b. 1850).
Eliza died in 1850, and Jacob married Louisa Ludbrook in 1851. Louisa had been born in about 1830 in Walpole, Suffolk. She and Jacob had eight children, the last five born in Cambridge:-
1) John Henry, a cabinet maker in Battersea in 1881(b. 1848 in Ely). 2) Arthur, a paper hanger in Cambridge in 1901 (b. 1852 in Sudbury, Suffolk). 3) Walter, a painter in Cambridge in 1881 (b. 1853 – m. Mary Ann Cross in 1874 – d. 1904, aged 51). 4) Frederick, a railway porter in 1881, a clothier in 1911 (b. 1857 – m. Isabella Dean in 1876/7 – d. 1935, aged 77). 5) Louisa (b. 1859 – d. 1940, aged 80). 6) Bertie, a house painter in Cambridge in 1911 (b. 1867 – m. Emma Loisa Ryder in 1887 – d. 1950, aged 82). 7) Minnie (b. 1869 – m. John Melchior Wilson in 1899 – d. 1950, aged 80). 8) Annie (b. 1873/4).
The family was living in Norfolk Street in 1841, two doors away from Henry Plowright’s ironmongery shop, and Eliza (recorded as Elizabeth), was working as a cabinet maker. She was at home with her children Isabella (4) and Edward (just five weeks old). Jacob was not at home at census time. It appears that he was pursuing a career as a dance teacher while his wife was working as a cabinet maker, and that he subsequently took up the latter trade. He was still working as a dance teacher in 1851 but had made the change by 1861, when he had moved with his family to Bradmore Street in Cambridge. He had moved from Lynn at an earlier date than this and had stayed in both Sudbury and Bocking in Essex before arriving in Cambridge.
Jacob stayed in Cambridge for the rest of his life, working as a cabinet maker and paper hanger. He died in 1902, aged 85. Louisa died in 1915, aged 84.
1846 (William Rollin) (No. 102)
A gardener, William Rollin, was living on the premises in 1846 (Kelly).
1850 – 1858 (William Rose Smith) (No. 102 / 102½)
William Rose Smith, linen and woollen draper, born in about 1809 in Kettering Northants, is listed here in Slater’s Directory for 1850. He was living at No. 37 in 1841 and at No. 102 ½ in 1851, when he was here with his wife Ann, 34, and their four children, Henry William, born 1841/2, James Rose, born 1844, Ann Upsher, born 1848, and Jane Rose, born 1850. William appears to have come to Lynn between 1836 and 1841. He is not listed in White’s Directory for 1836 but was recorded in the census of the latter year. He was listed in White’s Directory for 1854 but moved to Middlesex and was living in Hornsey in 1861. More details of his family will be found at No. 37.
1858 – c1860 (Dawson Plane)
The following notice appeared in the Lynn Advertiser on 9th October, 1858:-
‘CHEAP DRAPERY ESTABLISHMENT, HIGH STREET, LYNN. D. PLANE begs to inform the public that the above establishment, lately occupied by Mr. SMITH, will be opened on MONDAY NEXT, October 11th, 1858, with a good assortment of DRAPERY at reasonable prices. Funerals Completely Furnished. Terms to wholesale customers, three months or 1¼ for cash.’
Dawson Plane was born in South Creake, Norfolk, in about 1829. His father, Dawson Plane snr. was a general shopkeeper in South Creake, and kept a small farm (1871).
Dawson could have been here for only about two years, because he was working as a draper in Wells in 1861. He married Rosalind Fanny Coker (known as Rosa) in 1867. Rosa had been born in Lowestoft in 1842/3 and was the daughter of John and Charlotte Coker, who had a draper’s shop at No. 66, High Street for a short time. More details of the Coker family will be found at No. 66.
Dawson Plane snr. had been born in Hindolveston, Norfolk, in about 1807, and married Willoughby Fuller (b. c1807 in Bale, Norfolk) at Bale on 2nd July, 1826. Dawson and Willoughby had seven children, all but one born in South Creake:-
1) Anne (b. c1826). 2) Dawson – see below (b. 1828 – m. Rosanna Fanny Coker in 1867 – d. 1896, aged 66). 3) James (b. 1830). 4) Mary Anne (b. c1832 at Bale – Married Edwin Sherringham in 1857 – d. 1891, aged 61). 5) Willoughby (b. 1833 – m. William George Walker in 1863 – d. 1891, aged 51). 6) George (b. 1836 – d. 1838). 7) George (b. 1839).
Dawson Plane snr. died on 8th March, 1885, aged 78, and Willoughby died in 1894, aged 87.
In 1861, Dawson jnr. was at High Street, Wells working as a draper and his sister Willoughby was acting as his housekeeper. He had two female shop assistants, one of whom was Rosanna Coker, who had moved with him from Lynn. It may be that Dawson and Rosa then moved to Bury St. Edmund, because they had two children in the town, in 1863 and 1864. However, they were not married until 27th October 1867, following which it seems that they moved in with his parents in South Creake. In 1871, the family were together in the village, where Dawson snr. ran a shop and a small 6 acre farm. Dawson jnr. was a draper, and it may be that he was in charge of that department in his father’s shop.
Dawson and Rosa had five children, the first two born out of wedlock in Bury St. Edmund:-
1) Arthur Edgar Plane Coker (b. 1883, died in infancy). 2) Helena Augusta Plane Coker (b. 1864 – d. 1878, aged 14). 3) Albert Edward (b. 1868 – m. Lilly Constance Dyer in 1891/2 – d. 1947, aged 78). 4) Maud Mary (b. 1872 – m. Edward Morris Trevor in 1897 – d. 1941, aged 69). 5) Victoria (b. 1882).
Dawson and Rosa continued to live with his parents in South Creake, but he gave up the drapery business and became a horse dealer (1881) and a pig dealer (Kelly, 1896).
Dawson Plane jnr. died in 1896, aged 66, and Rosa moved to Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, to live with her daughter Maud, who had married Edward Morris Trevor, a draper born in Conway, Carmarthenshire.
Rosa died in 1921, aged 78.
For more about Rosanna Coker, see No. 66, High Street.
c1851 – 1853 (Frederick William Hunter) (No. 102)
Mary Hunter, a widow aged 63 was living here in 1851 with her son, Frederick, a watchmaker. Frederick had been apprenticed to William Massingham and was recorded as staying with him and his family here in 1841. Frederick’s father, William Hunter, died in 1849.
A notice appeared in the Lynn Advertiser on 30th July, 1853, which read:-
‘NOTICE. ALL persons who stand indebted to Mr. F. Hunter, Silversmith and Jeweller, No. 102, High Street, King’s Lynn, are requested to settle their accounts on or before the 10th day of August next, as he is leaving the town; and all persons to whom he stands indebted are requested to send in their accounts by the above date, that the same may be discharged.’
No references to him have been found in the directories and he was here for a very short period of time.
On 10th September, 1853, Daniel Burlingham placed the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘Watches, Clocks, Jewellery, Silver, and Plated Goods. SELLING OFF!! 102, HIGH STREET, Danl. Catlin Burlingham, of Tuesday Market Place, begs respectfully to inform the public that he is now offering the entire stock which he has purchased of Frederick Hunter, who is declining business from ill health, at greatly reduced prices, as the premises must be cleared at Michaelmas. N. B. Second-hand Silver, Comprising Forks, Spoons, Soup and Sauce Ladles, Salad Spoon and Fork, Fish Slice, Tea Pot, Cream Jugs, Cans, Wine Funnel. A large assortment, un-engraved, and polished as new, offered at low prices.’
1856 – c1883 (Bowler & Reynoldson) (Frances Bayfield Bowler) (Mary Emma Reynoldson)
Bowler & Reynoldson moved here from St. James Street in April, 1856. They had established the business in about 1845, and sold wools, canvasses, patterns, English and foreign needlework, embroidery, perfumery, cabinet and leather goods, toys and haberdashery.
Frances Bowler was living on the premises in 1861 with a young assistant. The numbering of the shops in this part of the street is particularly confusing at the time that Bowler & Reynoldson’s shop was here. Always listed at No. 103 in the directories, their shop appears to be immediately next to No. 101. However, in the 1861 census there are four unoccupied premises recorded between No. 100 and Frances Bowler’s shop.
Frances Bayfield Bowler
Frances Bayfield Bowler was born in 1824 in Lynn. Her father was Ferrand Bowler, a grocer, tea dealer and tallow chandler, who had a shop at No. 1, Saturday Market Place for over fourteen years, having moved from Norfolk Street between 1822 (Pigot) and 1830 (Pigot). Ferrand died in 1845/6.
Ferrand Bowler had married Frances Bayfield at West Winch on 13th June, 1819, and following his death, she continued the business for a time in St. James Street (Kelly, 1846). In 1851, Frances snr., was living in St. James Street, together with her daughter, Frances jnr., and niece Mary Emma Reynoldson, who were both working as haberdashers.
Mary Emma Reynoldson
Mary’s parents were Benjamin and Mary Maria Reynoldson, and she had been born in St. Marylebone, London, on 20th September, 1819.
Bowler & Reynoldson
The two cousins appear to have had an equal partnership and lived together at High Street (1871) and at Albion Place (1881).
In July 1859, Bowler & Reynoldson placed a notice in the Lynn Advertiser announcing that they were selling off all their stock in preparation for a move to London. Evidently the move fell through and they continued in business in Lynn for another 25 years or so. Their last directory entry was in Kelly’s for 1883.
Mary Reynoldson died in 1885, aged 67, and Frances Bowler died on 26th January, 1892, also aged 67.
c1879 – c1883 (Ellen Clarke) (No. 102)
In 1881, Miss Ellen Clarke, 48, a milliner born in Ashcott, Somerset, was living at No. 102, with her sister-in-law, Matilda D. Clarke, 50, from Poplar and two nieces, Fanny Clarke,18, a milliner and Sarah Clarke, 13, both born in Snettisham. She was listed by Kelly in both 1879 and 1883 at No. 103. However, White in 1883 has her at No. 102. It may be that the address for the Clarke’s living accommodation was No. 102, and the business address No. 103. More details of the family are given at No. 103.
1863 – 1868 (Achilles Sylvester Page)
Achilles Page, the proprietor and editor of the Lynn News & Wisbech Chronicle, was listed at this address in the directories for 1863 and 1868 (Harrod) and in Kelly’s for 1865.
On 9th January, 1869, he advertised in the Lynn News; ‘GENERAL PRINTING. Printing of every description EXECUTED by the publisher of the LYNN NEWS, 102, High Street, Lynn.’
More details of Achilles Page, his business and his family will be found at Nos. 1-4, 88, and 101, High Street.
1890 (Edwin Taylor) (No. 102)
Edwin Taylor, the agent for the London & North Western Railway Company, had an office here in 1890. He lived elsewhere in the town, being in Lansdowne Street in 1881.
Born in Drayton, Worcestershire, in 1844, his parents were John Taylor, a plasterer, and his wife Harriet, from Kidderminster.
By the age of 16, Edwin was working as a railway clerk and he remained an employee of the railways until he retired. In 1871 he was working in Harwich. A year later, he married Jane Mann, and they moved around the country to follow his job. By 1881 he had had spells of work in Manchester and Essex, before moving to Lynn, where he spent the rest of his life. Edwin and Jane had two daughters:-
1) Minnie Adela (b. c1876 in Manchester – d. 1962, aged 86). 2) Violet May (b. c1880 in Forest Gate – m. Arthur Samuel Shirley in 1903 – d. 1964, aged 84).
Both sisters became music teachers. Minnie was a teacher at Lynn’s High School for girls in King Street, and Mrs Shirley gave private lessons from her home in Tennyson Road for very many years.
1891 – 1900 (Hayes & Porrett) (No. 102)
In 1891, Isabella Emma Hayes, born c1858 in Lynn, and her business partner, Anna Porrett, born 1861 in Welborne, Norfolk, were running a ladies’ outfitters here. The business was also described as a fancy draper’s.
From 1890 until 1900, their shop was here at No. 102, but in December 1900 they moved into W. R. Pridgeon’s old shop at 103a.
An account of the business is included here for the years 1891 to 1900 and at No. 103a for the years 1900 to 1920.
In 1891 both Isabella and Anna were living on the premises, numbered 102 in the census, and the business was listed at the same number in 1892 (Kelly).
The two had met when they were employed by Isabella’s uncle, Thomas Curson (b. c1819 in Hockwold), a grocer and draper who had a shop in the High Street, Little Walsingham, and who married Isabella’s aunt Ann Hayes in Lynn in 1849. Isabella, being about three years older, than Anna, was an assistant at the shop when the latter was an apprentice there in 1881. Within nine years, they had formed a partnership and opened their shop at No. 102. They continued in business for over 25 years.
The business was moved from here into the next door premises at No. 103a, formerly occupied by William Read Pridgeon, the following announcement appearing in the Lynn Advertiser on 7th December, 1900:-
‘NOTICE of REMOVAL. MESSRS. HAYES & PORRETT have Removed their Business to Larger Premises, formerly the Late Mr. W. R. Pridgeon’s Jewellery Shop, HIGH STREET, LYNN, With a LARGE STOCK of NEW GOODS. LADIES’ and CHILDREN’S UNDERCLOTHING. HOSIERY, GLOVES, UMBRELLAS, etc.’
The other half of Pridgeon’s premises, on the Baker Street corner (No. 103b), was taken over by the Misses Weston
Isabella Emma Hayes
Born in 1857/8, Isabella was the daughter of Jonathan Roberts Hayes, a master cooper, and (Charlotte) Susanna Tilney. Her brother, Thomas West Hayes, had an ironmongery shop at No. 44, High Street, and her uncle, James West Hayes, had a cabinet making business at No. 41.
Her grandparents were Jonathan Hayes, born about 1791 in Lynn, a master cooper, and Sarah West, who married on 10th May, 1810 at St. Nicholas chapel in Lynn. Jonathan and Sarah had ten children, all born in Lynn:-
1) Sarah, a milliner (b. c1814 – d. 1891, aged 75). 2) Ann (b. c1816 – m. Thomas Curson, a grocer & draper, in 1849 – d. 1892, aged 81). 3) Nelson Roberts, a cooper (b. 1815 – d. 1894, aged 78). 4) Elizabeth (b. c1820). 5) Mary Ann (b. 1821 – m. William Cooper, a grocer & draper, in 1846 – d. 1908, aged 86). 6) James West, a cabinet maker – see No. 41, High Street – (b. c1825 – m. Naomi Laws in 1854 – d. 1915, aged 90). 7) Jonathan Roberts – see below (b. c1824 – m. Charlotte Susanna Tilney in 1852 – d. 1881, aged 57) 8) Emma (b. c1828 – m. George Henry Back, a tailor, in 1854 – d. 1880, aged 52). 9) William Henry (b. c1830 – m. Catharine Boulton in 1860 – d. 1885/6, aged 57). 10) Maria (b. c1834 – m. Joseph Sidgwick in 1857 – d. 1908, aged 73).
For many years, several members of the Hayes family were prominent traders in King’s Lynn’s Norfolk Street. The business of Jonathan Hayes & Sons (coopers) was run from premises at 121, Norfolk Street from 1836 (White) or earlier. The two eldest daughters, Ann and Sarah, had a business making straw hats at No. 4, Norfolk Street (1846, Kelly), and Sarah continued working as a milliner for the rest of her life, being at 10, Norfolk Street in 1890 (White). Cabinet maker James West Hayes was working from the family premises at 121 Norfolk street in 1846 (Kelly). He eventually moved to 41, High Street. Isabella’s brother James Roberts Hayes had a chemist’s shop at 115, Norfolk Street for many years.
Jonathan Roberts Hayes had been born in about 1824 and married (Charlotte) Susanna Tilney at Lynn on 17th March, 1852. They had seven children:-
1) Elizabeth (Lizzie) (b. 1852/3 – m. Arthur Harry Feltham in 1880 – d. 18/01/1931, aged 78). 2) James Roberts, a chemist (b. 1855 – m. Harriet Emma Kerkham in 1881 – d. 22/08/1915). 3) Isabella Emma (b. 1857/8 – d. 1944, aged 86). 4) William Thomas, a cork manufacturer (b. 1860 – m. Mary Burgess in 1889 – d. 9/10/1944, aged 84). 5) Thomas West, an ironmonger – see No. 44, High Street (b. 1863 – m. Marion Green 31/01/1894 – d. 23/06/1955, aged 92). 6) Charlotte Ann (b. 1864/5 – m. Albert Morriss 26/12/1894 – d. 1944, aged 87). 6. Annetta (Annie) (b. 1871 – d. 1909, aged 37). 7) Alice Roberts, a ladies’ outfitter (b. 1876 – m. Joseph Audley Cox in 1908 – d. 17/10/1952, aged 74).
Isabella never married and retired to live in Dersingham, where she died on 6th June, 1944, leaving over £22,000 in her will.
Anna Elizabeth Porrett
Anna Porrett was born in Welborne (sometimes written as Welbourne), a village near Dereham, in 1861, where the Porrett family had been for several generations.
Anna’s grandparents were James Porrett and Frances Brock. James had been born in Welborne in 1791 and was a blacksmith (1841) and wheelwright (1861). Frances was born in Dunham, Norfolk in 1801. They had eight children, all born in Welborne:-
1) James (b. 1827 – d. 1871, aged 44). 2) Robert, a carpenter & joiner in St. Pancras (b. 1829 – m. Hester Winnett in 1856 – d. 1910, aged 81). 3) Samuel, a wheelwright, (b. 23/04/1830 – m. Elizabeth Anna Sendall in 1858 – d. 11/10/1919, aged 89). 4) Walter, a bricklayer (b. 09/09/1832 – m. Ellen Dunthorne in 1858 and Elizabeth Baker in 1871 – d. 1909, aged 77). 5) Eldred, a miller (b. 1834 – m. Lucy Harling in 1834 – d. 1898, aged 60). 6) Emily (b. 1837/8 – m. Richard Green, a farmer, in 1870/1 – d. 20/02/1936, aged 97). 7) David, a coach builder (b. 1840 – m. Elizabeth Brock in 1868/9 – d. 20/03/1905, aged 64). 8) John, a wheelwright and carpenter (b. 1843 – m. Hannah Tunmore in 1871 – d. 22/12/1920, aged 77).
Anna’s father was Samuel Porrett, who married Elizabeth Anna Sendall in 1858. The family lived at Welborne where Samuel was the local wheelwright. He and Elizabeth had two children, both born in Welborne:-
1) Alice (b. 05/04/1859 – d. 1947). 2) Anna (b. 1861 – d. 1940).
Alice worked as a lady’s help for some years and, like Anna, never married.
In their later years, the two sisters lived at Heacham House, Heacham. Anna died on 20th December, 1940, aged 79, leaving over £9,000 in her will. Alice died on 11th April, 1947, aged 88, leaving over £20,000.
1901 – 1904 (Walter Boughton & Sons)
No. 102 had a spell as a photographer’s shop. Walter Boughton & Sons ‘photographers & photographic apparatus and materials dealers & publishers of Britannia series of picture postcards for Lynn & district’, are listed here in Turner’s directory for 1901 and in Kelly’s for 1904.
1916 (William Reynolds)
William Reynolds, a photographer, is listed here in Kelly’s Directory for 1916.
1922 (Frederick Drew)
William Reynolds was succeeded by Frederick Drew, another photographer, who was listed in Kelly’s Directory for 1922.
In June that year, J. Lawrence Brown, a photographer from Wisbech, announced that he was taking over the business.
1927 – c1966 (S. Fell & Son)
In February, 1927, S. Fell & Son, cycle dealers of Wisbech, opened a branch here. They were listed at this address in Kelly’s Directory for 1929. In addition to their head office and premises at Norfolk Street and Nene Quay, Wisbech, they had branches at Bridge Street, Downham Market, The Crescent, Station Road, March, and at High Street, Long Sutton.
The founder of the firm, Sidney Fell (James Sidney Pearcy Fell), was born in Hunstanton in 1888. His father, James Pearcy Fell, had been born in Knightsbridge, London in about 1845 but had moved to Norfolk where he worked as a publican. James married Catherine Wilkes at St. Luke’s Chelsea on 24th June, 1883, but within less than a year she had died, at the age of 43.
James married Catherine / Katherine Mary Stern (b. c1856 at Limpsfield, Surrey) at St. Margaret’s church in Lynn on 24th June, 1888. James and Catherine had two sons:-
- James Sidney Pearcy – see below (b. 21/08/1888 – m. Lily Harmston in 1917 and Verdun V. M. Hircock in 1952 – d. 1973, aged 85). 2. Edward (b. 1894 in King’s Lynn – d. 1967, aged 73).
In 1901, the family were living at South Clough Lane in Lynn and James had retired from business. Sidney joined Curry’s and became manager of one of their branches in Wisbech. There he met Lily Harmston, who was another of Curry’s managers, and they married in 1917. They had two sons, both born in Wisbech:-
1) John Harmston (b. 12/02/1922 – m. Enid L. Seaton in 1950). 2) William (Bill) (b. 1924/5).
Sidney was a dynamic businessman and he and Lily left Curry’s to set up their own business, as dealers for Raleigh and Hercules bicycles. They expanded rapidly and developed a chain of shops in the region with, at one time, fifteen branches.
They were very much more than just cycle dealers and in 1929 were advertising a wide range of the latest gramophones. Portables cost from 37/6 and the larger pedestal models ranged from £5 5s up to £20. They offered monthly terms starting at 5s. The makes that they stocked included Gilbert, Geisha, Metropole and Coronola. They sold Columbia, Metropole, Regal and Broadcast records. As an incentive to purchasers their promotion included a free ballot ticket with every Metropole record sold, with £5,000 worth of prizes, the first prize being £2,000, which was a large sum in 1929. They also sold toys and wireless sets. Boys’ toys in 1929 were the traditional tool sets from 1/6, pedal ‘Kars’ from 6/6, train sets from 11½d, fretwork kits from 1/-, stationary ‘Bowman’ steam engines from 7/6, and toy motor-cars from 15/- . Girls had a more limited choice of dolls prams, from 4/11, and push chairs from 3/6.
The Philco ‘Baby Grand’ radio, with a curved top, was one of a series with this design feature first introduced in 1931. They later became known as ‘Cathedral-style’ radios and sold in greater numbers than that of any other maker at that time. Philco (the Philadelphia Storage Battery Company) entered the radio manufacturing business in 1926 and by 1930 were out-selling every other company. The business was bought by Ford in 1961, becoming Philco-Ford, which was taken over by Philips in 1981.
K.B. was short for Kolster Brandes, a company that became established in Britain as Brandes in about 1924 making accessories for radios. In 1928 they expanded into a new factory in Kent and became Kolster Brandes in 1930.
Pye radios were made by the Cambridge business founded by William G. Pye and his wife in 1896, W.G. Pye and Company, which manufactured military equipment during the Great War. William’s son Harold joined the business and designed the company’s first commercially successful radio, the Pye 700 series. This was so popular that a new company, Pye Radio Limited, was formed to make it.
One of the most popular makes of bicycle prior to WWII was the ‘Hercules’. These were made in Birmingham, by the Hercules Cycle and Motor Company Limited, which had been founded in 1910 by Sir Edmund Crane. The name was chosen because of its association with strength and durability and it was these qualities that were emphasised in the company’s sales literature.
Fells promoted their cycles, radios and gramophones at local trade fairs and events and had very distinctive advertisements attached to a miniature car and to their delivery and service vans.
Fell’s manager at their Lynn shop until the beginning of the Second World War was Mr. Eric Wiseman, who lived at South Wootton Lane with his wife, Peggy. He was called up and served in the RAF, moving to the Wisbech branch after his demob. Peggy continued to help at the shop during the war, where the new manager was Mr. William (Bill) Tuck. Bill had been working in London where he was involved in the rapidly developing world of radio and television. However, he was anxious to take his family away from the dangers of the regular bombing raids on the capital and television broadcasting had ceased, so he applied for the vacant manager’s job at Lynn.
The war years were difficult for every retailer. Bicycles, tricycles, scooters, ‘Meccano’, dolls prams and other goods all required steel and this was very strictly rationed. Indeed, many of the larger manufacturers ceased production during the war. Customers had to adopt a completely different approach to purchasing and soon learnt to ask ‘What have you got?’ Like many other traders, Fells bought what they could to plug the gaps in their supplies, including toys made by local artisans. These included the output of a Mr. Gawthorp of Lynn. He had been an ice cream maker before the war but turned his hand to making small wooden models from all manner of off-cut materials. These toys sold well, especially at Christmastime. Two of the bicycle and radio repair ‘boys’ were Bill Moses and George Snelling. They worked minor miracles in the spirit of ‘make do and mend’. George was killed in the war when his Wellington bomber was shot down. Bill Tuck stayed at Fells for about ten years. The next manager was Bill Davies and other staff included Mike Frary and Dave Sharp.
By 1947 Fells had branches at Wisbech, King’s Lynn, Downham Market, March, Swaffham, Brandon, Long Sutton, Holbeach, Watton, Sutton Bridge and Marham. They also had a distribution centre at Ravenshaw’s Yard, in Chapel Street, Lynn. In 1947 they were offering a 36 hour repair service for radios and in 1950 they advertised that they were willing to rebuild old cycles within 48 hours. They also offered to take old cycles or radios in part exchange for new ones. Another service was the re-charging of accumulators.
Sidney and Lily’s marriage broke down, and Bill went with his mother to live in Bournemouth. John, meanwhile, took a job with Mann Egerton, before serving in the RAF during the Second World War. After the war he joined the family business.
Sidney married for a second time, to Verdun Victoria M. Hircock (b. 1916 in Wisbech) in King’s Lynn in 1952.
Fells gradually closed their branches one-by-one during the 1960s and no business was recorded here at No. 102, High Street in Kelly’s Directory for 1966.
Sidney Fell died in 1973, aged 85, and Bellmans’ wool stores had taken over occupation of these premises by that date.
No. 102 was vacant at the time that Kelly’s went to press in 1966.
Bellman’s wool stores were here in 1970/1 (Yates), 1972, 1973 and 1974 (Kelly).
The company had been in business since the 1940s, and perhaps somewhat earlier. They advertised regularly in Sussex, and may have started in the southern region of the country. Advertisements from those earlier dates include:-
‘Bellmans Pure Wool Fair Isle Fingering 10½d per oz. Make a Fair Isle jumper for 7/-, ideal for knitting all outerwear. Thoroughly tested for washing and fast dye. Available in the following colours: Medium Natural, Light Natural, Gold, Royal, Saxe, Rust, Bottle Green. Wine, Scarlet, Emerald, Black, White, Grey, Rose, Light Navy. SUPER BOTANY WOOL 3-ply. In over 25 delightful shades … … 1s 4d per oz. DOLPHIN RUG WOOL made of pure virgin wool Over 15 colours to choose from. Now only … … 7s 11d per lb. Make your own rugs at home – demonstrations and advice gladly given.’