This slideshow requires JavaScript.

View all images

12, High Street

The premises at No. 12 remained as a single shop unit until 1861, when John Thorley combined the premises with No. 13 (see Nos. 12 – 13, High Street).

c1822 – 1847 (Thomas Ryley) (Thomas Marshall Ryley) (Ryley & Ervin)

In the 1822 directory (Pigot), there is a listing for Thomas Ryley, a linen and woollen draper on High Street, and in 1830 (Pigot), he was listed here at No. 12. In the Poll Book for 1844, Thomas Ryley was listed as living at No. 18, High Street, and as being the freehold owner of No. 12. His son-in-law, Thomas Marshall Ryley, born in Wisbech in about 1807, was listed as living on High Street and owning the freehold of a house on the Saturday Market Place. It is clear that Thomas Marshall Ryley had taken over the running of the business from his father-in-law at some earlier date.

Thomas Ryley died in 1847, aged 75, and the burial register at St. Margaret’s Church for 16th February lists his address as ‘High Street’ and his occupation as ‘gentleman’.

White’s Directory for 1836 lists Ryley & Ervin, linen and woollen drapers, at No. 12. At census time in 1841, Thomas Marshall Ryley, a draper, with his wife Mary and their son Thomas, born in 1840, were living here. Staying at the premises with them were three drapers, two assistants and four servants. One of these, John Dunthorn, a journeyman draper, apparently set up in business on his own account but was made bankrupt in 1849 (see under Ryley & Catford below).

In the Nine Counties Post Office Directory for 1846, Thomas M. Ryley is listed here as a linen and woollen draper and Henry Ryley, who was his brother, a grocer and tallow chandler, is listed at No. 1, Saturday Market Place.

Thomas Marshall Ryley married Mary Ryley (daughter of Thomas Ryley), who had been born in the town in about 1807, at St. Margarets church in Lynn in on 19/12/1839. They had five children, all born in Lynn, but three died in infancy:

1) Thomas, a bachelor living on his own means in London in 1891 (b. 1840). 2)  Mary (b, 01/01/1842 – died in infancy). 3) Mary (b. 19/02/1844 – died in infancy). 3) Henry Thomas (b. 1846 – died in infancy). 4) Frank, an Army Officer (b. 1848 – m. Laura Mary Poulter on 09/11/1855 – d. 02/02/1899, aged 50).

Frank Ryley joined the army, spending time in India and had reached the rank of Captain by 1881.

Thomas Marshall Ryley left Lynn to live in Lee in the Borough of Lewisham (then in Kent) where he served as a Justice of the Peace.

Mary died between 1861 and 1871 and Thomas died on 21/04/1884 at the age of 77.

1847-1849 (Henry Ryley) (H. Ryley & Co.) (Ryley & Catford)

Henry Ryley placed the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser on 26th June, 1847: ‘H. RYLEY & Co., (Successors to Mr. T. M. Ryley), LINEN & WOOLLEN DRAPERS, etc., Beg to inform the Public, that having visited the Manufacturing Markets, they are now prepared to offer a well assorted Stock of the newest and most Fashionable Goods, and being determined to meet the times, will offer them at the lowest possible prices. The remaining part of the old Stock will be sold at a very large reduction. 12, High Street, Lynn, June, 1847’

There is no listing for a business here in Slator’s Directory for 1850 but Henry, aged 42 and unmarried, was living on the premises. Staying with him as a visitor was his brother – listed as ‘Thomas M. Ryley, 44, landed proprietor’. Thomas, it seems, had saved sufficient funds to relinquish the business listed as Ryley & Ervin and to live the life of a ‘gentleman’. Henry had given up the grocery business to take over Thomas’s drapery shop.

By 1849, the business was under the name of Ryley & Catford and on February 3rd that year they placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser:

‘12, High-street, Lynn, Ryley & Catford, Having bought the Stock of Mr. J. D. Dunthorn (under an Execution directed by the Sheriff of Norfolk), consisting of Silk, Woollens, Shawls etc., beg to announce that they will be selling it off at great reduction in price. June 2nd, 1849.’

In a little over four months, however, Ryley & Catford had given up business, placing the notice below in the Lynn News on June 9th 1849:

‘RYLEY & CATFORD Are Relinquishing the DRAPERY BUSINESS And SELLING OFF At a Great Reduction in Price. The Premises to be Let or Sold. 12, High Street, Lynn.’

It is apparent that the domestic accommodation was not vacated until a couple of years later, even if the business had been sold because, as mentioned above, Henry was still living here in 1851.

Henry moved to Uxbridge and returned to the grocery trade. He died on 14th May, 1863, aged about 56.

c1852 (John Thorley) – see also No. 6 and Nos. 12-13

John Thorley took over Ryley’s business in about 1852, moving here from No. 6, High Street, and placing what seems to have been his first advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser on 3rd January that year:

‘No. 12, High Street, Lynn. JOHN THORLEY. In taking this method of giving increased publicity to his Establishment, begs to tender his acknowledgements to his numerous patrons, of all classes, for the increasing support he continues to experience. He receives it as the highest approval a discerning public have it in their power to bestow.

The CARPET WAREHOUSE contains hassocks, mats, rugs, mattings, druggets, Venetian, Kidderminster, and Brussels carpets, damasks, Moreens, furnitures, floor-cloths, oil-cloths, blankets, etc., etc.

The WOOLLEN DEPARTMENT consists of West of England and Yorkshire broad-cloths, black and fancy doeskins, single and treble-milled Kersey, beavers, pilots, vestings in immense variety, trimmings, scarfs, mufflers, ties, handkerchiefs, etc. Gentlemen will here secure a fit equal to any London house, and effect most important savings, while the seaman, labourer, mechanic, or artisan may also spend his earnings to the best advantage in cords, beaverteens, velveteens, drabbetts, striped shirtings, calicoes, etc.

LINENS, etc., This department comprises table-linens, sheetings, long-cloths, Irishes, towellings, nursery diapers, dimities, quilts, with every description of goods suitable for household and domestic purposes.

HABERDASHERY – This branch includes tapes, cottons, threads, pins, needles, braids, wires, laces, bindings, webs, bone, pipings, hooks and eyes, buttons, tassels, worsteds, cotton, merino, and silk hosiery, gloves of all kinds, including the CELEBRATED ‘Dent’s Kid’, umbrellas, carpet bags, etc.

FLANNELS are purchased direct from the makers, and the merchant’s profit given to the public.

In the SILK, FANCY, and MILLINERY DEARTMENTS provision is made for the various recurring seasons, and the newest styles and fabrics in dresses, shawls, mantles, bonnets, caps, head-dresses, flowers, ribbons, etc., etc., are secured at prices to excite the surprise of those accustomed to the old system.

Charities supplied. Wedding orders completely executed.

FUNERALS – REFORM YOUR FUNERAL BILLS!!! J. T. conducts this branch of his business on the same economical principles, by which a saving of nearly one fourth is realized.


John Thorley is listed here in White’s Directory for 1854. Although he appears to have been away on census night 1861, his wife, Mary Ann, aged 37, from Lincolnshire, was at home with a number of assistants, ‘shopmen’, servants and a visitor – 18 people in all. It was quite usual at this date for drapery assistants and apprentices to live on the premises. Those whose homes were in the rural areas would stay the week on the premises.

Mrs. Thorley took an active part in the business, and placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser on 13th May, 1854:

‘No. 12, HIGH STREET, KING’S LYNN. MAY FASHIONS. MRS. THORLEY has just returned from her monthly visits to the Markets, and her DISPLAY OF FASHIONS for MAY is NOW READY. She has purchased largely the latest novelties in FLOWERS, RIBBONS, CAPS, HEAD-DRESSES, BONNETS, MANTLES, SILKS, MUSLINS, etc., etc., and begs to solicit early calls.

Alongside the drapery departments, John Thorley’s undertaking business continued to expand, and he placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser on 3rd Marc, 1860:

‘NEW PROVINCIAL CARRIAGE. This Carriage (the first that has been built) is a happy design for meeting a want occasioned by the use of our new Cemetery. It combines Hearse and Coach, drawn by one, two or four horses; is in the best taste; and, avoiding the errors of former constructions, is commodious without being cumbrous. Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Mourning of all kinds always on hand. Funerals of every class conducted with economy and fidelity. JOHN THORLEY, UNDERTAKER, 12, High Street, King’s Lynn. N.B. – The well-known HAND HEARSE on Hire, as heretofore.’

1854 – 1859 (Thorley & Fysh)

On the 22nd July, 1854, John Thorley placed the following announcement in the Lynn Advertiser: ‘No. 12, HIGH STREET, KING’S LYNN. Notice of Partnership, and HALF-YEARLY STOCK-TAKING. JOHN THORLEY, Draper, 12, High Street, Begs gratefully to acknowledge the liberal patronage he enjoys. Buying in the producing markets – supplying Goods at the smallest shade of profit – at a fixed price at which no deduction can be afforded, the Public has shown its approval by a four-fold increase in his trade. Believing that an adherence to this system will lead to a much further increase, and anxious that his trade should continue to receive the same personal attention, he has taken into partnership Mr. JOHN FRANCIS FYSH, and the trade will hereafter be conducted by the firm of THORLEY & FYSH. The usual Half-yearly STOCK-TAKING will take place, and the partnership commence on Thursday next, the 27th inst., when the Premises will be Closed until 2 p.m., after which the remains of Summer Stock will be offered at GREATLY REDUCED PRICES. King’s Lynn, 20th July, 1854.’

In early 1859, Frank Fysh split from John Thorley and opened his own drapery business at No. 46, High Street, where more details about him may be found.

1859 – 1861 (John Thorley)

After Frank Fysh had left the partnership to open his own shop at No. 46, High Street, John Thorley continued to run the business under his own name.

In 1861, John Thorley acquired the next door premises at No. 13 and redeveloped the site with a new drapery shop, carpet and furnishing warehouse. He remained there until 1872 when he sold the business to Alfred Jermyn.

More details about John Thorley and his family may be found at No. 6, High Street, and at No. 12 & No. 13.