26, High Street.
Situated on the northern corner of High Street and Sedgeford Lane, this is another of the shops at or close to the old High Bridge over the Purfleet where the numbering is very confusing. Charles Willett’s ironmongery business is listed at Nos. 23-26 in White’s directory for 1836 and in Kelly’s directory for 1846 but it would appear from the 1841 census that Daniel Devonshire was here at that date and he crops up again at this address in later directories. To complicate matters further, ‘The Boar’s Head’ is listed here in Slater’s directory for 1850 but elsewhere it is at No. 29, where it has been placed in this account.
For many years, from about 1900, No. 26 was Hilton’s boot and shoe shop. At that date, the living quarters at No. 26 had twelve rooms. A building at the rear, demolished in the 1960s, was built entirely of wood and had an ecclesiastical appearance.
Like several shops in the town, the premises were reputedly haunted, especially in the cellar, where the clanking of chains was heard by the staff. On one occasion a builder working down there came rushing out in great fear, claiming that someone had been holding him down.
1830 (Not listed – Pigot).
1835 – 1866 (Charles Willett – trading from Nos. 23 – 26 – see No. 23)
Listed in 1822 (Pigot) but with no number, Charles Willett’s ironmongery business was a feature of the High Street for over forty years. He moved from No. 101, on the west side of High Street into purpose-built buildings across the road in February, 1835, where the business was given the numbers 23 – 26 in several successive directories.
Charles Willett’s ironmongery business was principally situated on the southern corner of Sedgeford Lane and High Street, whereas in later directories No. 26 was on the northern corner. It may be that Charles Willett had the use of the premises at No. 26 for a few years, or that there was a numbering anomaly.
More details about Charles Willett, his family and his business will be found at Nos. 23 – 26, High Street.
c1841 – 1873 (Daniel Wilson aka Daniel Wilson Devonshire)
The directory and census entries for the fishmonger and game dealer Daniel Devonshire cause confusion for two reasons; lack of numbering and uncertainty over the name. He was referred to variously as Daniel Devonshire, Daniel Wilson Devonshire and Daniel Wilson. White’s 1845 entry is for ‘Daniel Devonshire, alias Wilson’. There is also a question mark over an entry for Samuel Devonshire in Harrod’s directory for 1863 – this may have been a mistake for Daniel.
Daniel Wilson (aka Daniel Wilson Devonshire) was born c1813 at Beeston, near Sheringham in Norfolk. At his baptism at Beeston Regis, his parents were given as Daniel Wilson and Sophia Goodwin Wilson. Daniel Wilson snr. had married Sophia Goodwin in Norwich on 20th April, 1807. It seems possible that Daniel Wilson jnr. was illegitimate and that he started to use his real father’s name of Devonshire sometime after 1841. This gives further complications for his children’s names – some records are for Wilson and some are for Devonshire.
Daniel Wilson jnr. married Mary Webb at St. Margaret’s church on 26th February, 1835.
In the 1841 census, Daniel Wilson, his wife Mary and their three children are recorded here at No. 26, High Street. Daniel and Mary had four children, all born in Lynn:-
1) William (b. c1836). 2) Elizabeth Sophia (b. 1837 – m. William Lemmon in 1860 – d. 1907, aged 69). 3) Daniel Robert (b. 1839/40). 4) John William Wilson, a fishmonger (b. 05/03/1843 m. Sophia Maria Curtis in 1868/9).
John’s birth was registered as John Wilson, but at his baptism, his parents are recorded as Daniel and Mary Wilson Devonshire. It may have been at about this date that Daniel started to use the Devonshire surname.
Mary (by now known as Mary Devonshire) died in January, 1846, and her burial was recorded in the Broad Street Stepney Baptist Chapel register.
Daniel is recorded in the 1851 census as Daniel Wilson Devonshire, a widower, with a son W. W. Devonshire, aged 15 (this seems to have been John William Wilson – recorded as William in 1841). On census night that year (30th March), his children Elizabeth Sophia and John were at school in Valingers Road, Lynn, run by sisters Sarah and Ruth Carver.
Daniel Devonshire married again to an Elizabeth (b. c1821 in Lynn), but the records of this event have not been found yet.
Daniel and Elizabeth had four children all born in Lynn:-
1) Henry Frederick Wilson (b. 18/10/1852). 2) Emma Priscilla (b. 1854 – died in infancy). 3) (Edward) Arthur Wilson (b. 1857 – d. 24/02/1878, aged 21). 4) Emma Priscilla Wilson (b. 1862 – m. Edmond Winsland on 10/12/1885 – d. 29/03/1936, aged 73).
In both Kelly’s directory for 1846 and in Harrod’s for 1868 the fishmongery business is listed here at No. 26 under the name of Daniel Devonshire. In 1871, the order of the High Street census is erratic but the Devonshires are recorded in the property between Sedgeford Lane and New Conduit Street (No. 26). Their son Henry, aged 18, was working as an assistant in the shop. Daniel Devonshire advertised as ‘Manure Manufacturer, High Street, King’s Lynn’ in the early 1870s and on 7th December, 1872, he advertised in the Lynn Advertiser as ‘Fish Merchant and Manure Manufacturer’.
Daniel died on 15th February, 1873, aged 59, and his widow Elizabeth continued the business for another ten years (see below).
John followed his father into the fishmongery business, establishing a shop at 135, Norfolk Street and he is listed there from 1875 until 1892. In White’s directory for 1890 he is listed as a fishmonger and mineral water manufacturer. He also became licensee of the Dock Hotel in North Street in 1880 and the following year was recorded as living there with his wife Sophia Maria and their children Emily (b. c1863), Frederick (b.c1865), Walter (b. c1873), and Herbert (b. c1875). Sophia was the daughter of John Curtis, a Lynn tailor.
1873 – 1882 (Elizabeth Devonshire)
Following Daniel’s death, his widow Elizabeth continued the business, placing the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser on 1st March, 1873:-
‘NOTICE. ELIZABETH W. DEVONSHIRE, Executrix of the late Daniel Wilson Devonshire, FISHMONGER, High Street, King’s Lynn, Begs to announce that it is her intention to continue the business of her late husband as hitherto conducted. She embraces the opportunity of returning her warmest thanks for the very liberal support bestowed upon her husband, and trusts by faithfully executing all orders, to merit a share of the patronage of the gentry, clergy, and public of the town and neighbourhood.’
Elizabeth Devonshire died on 19th October, 1882, aged 62.
1882 – 1887 (Henry Devonshire)
Following the death of his mother, Henry took over the business at No. 26, moving back to the High Street from his premises in North Street, where he was listed in Kelly’s directory for 1875.
One of the products that he advertised was his fish manure which he recommended for growing potatoes, turnips and mangolds. Priced at £5 per ton, he received many testimonials from satisfied local farmers.
On 16th June, 1883, Henry advertised in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘NOTICE! NOTICE! TO THE NOBILITY AND GENTRY OF LYNN AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD Henry Devonshire, Fish, Game and Poultry Salesman, 26, High Street Offering prize fowls late the property of J. Tucker Esq., of Woodrising Hall, near Watton, and other gentlemen breeders, including: PURE PARTRIDGE BRAHMAS original cost £20 per pair. Eggs from these, 10/- for Thirteen. The Handsomest Peacock and Hen ever seen. Pure Pye Bred Black Hamburghs. Pure Minorcas. Prize Winners. Egyptian Geese. East Indian Ducks. Silver and Gold Pheasants in pairs. Game Fowls, Crevecoeurs and many others. These will be sold cheap. No offer refused. No fancy prices asked. Also just arrived a large quantity of gold and silver fish with globes.
On 23rd August, 1884, he advertised in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘OYSTERS! OYSTERS! OYSTERS! NOTICE! NOTICE! NOTICE! HENRY DEVONSHIRE FISH, GAME & OYSTER SALESMAN, 26 HIGH STREET, LYNN AND 235a EUSTON ROAD, LONDON, Begs to give notice to the Nobility and Gentry Of Lynn and surrounding district, that he Intends OPENING OYSTER rooms on the 1st September, At 26, HIGH STREET, where Oysters Can be obtained from 1/- per dozen. N.B. A room will be kept entirely for ladies.’
On 12th March, 1887, the following notice appeared in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘To be Let or Sold, immediate possession, all those commanding and extensive premises, situated High Street, now in the occupation of the owner, Henry Devonshire. – For particulars enquire on the premises’.
Henry Devonshire seems to disappear from the records after this date and he may have emigrated.
c1889 – 1900 (Edward Reeve)
On 14th December, 1889, Edward Reeve, a butcher, advertised his Christmas meat show from this address in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘Christmas Meat Show. E. REEVE, 26, High Street, King’s Lynn, returns thanks to his many friends for their continued kindness, and reminds them that for the coming season he has purchased some grand BEASTS, SHEEP and PIGS, from W. SUTTERBY Esq., Middleton, E. W. BETTS Esq., Babingley, F.L. COOKE Esq., Flitcham Abbey, H. RINGER Esq., Rougham, F. KNIGHT Esq., Castle Rising.
SHOW on MONDAY NEXT. Come and See and Judge for Yourselves, and be Well Served.’
Born in 1858 in the town, Edward was the son of James Reeve (b. c1823 in Lynn) and Mary Ann Claxton (b. c1824 in Rudham, Norfolk). James was a brewer and the couple, who married in 1845, were living in one of the Norfolk Street yards in 1851. James and Mary Reeve had seven children:-
1) Mary (b. c1845). 2) Elizabeth (b. 1845/6). 3) Charles (b. 1847/8). 4) Walter James (b. 1849 – m. Harriet Riley in 1885 – d. 1891, aged 41). 5) Deborah (b. 1850/1 – m. Robert Walter Seals in 1874). 6) Jessie (b. 1853 – m. Charles William Maltby in 1875). 7) Edward – see below – (b. 1858 – m. Ann Maria Harrowing in 1879/80 – d. 1937, aged 79).
James died in 1857/8, leaving Mary having to work as a charwoman and the children having to go out to work as soon as they were old enough. By 1861 the family had moved to Church Lane, close to All Saints Church, where they stayed for over ten years. In 1871, Mary was still working as a charwoman, supported by Charles (a chandler), Walter James (a grocer’s porter), Edward (a messenger boy), Deborah (a machinist), and Jessie (a domestic servant). Mary also took in boarders to augment her meagre income. Following the death of her son Walter in 1891, Mary Reeve moved in with her daughter-in-law Harriet, and was financially supported by her surviving sons. She died in 1914, aged 92.
In 1879/80, Edward Reeve married Ann Maria, the daughter of Robert Harrowing, an agricultural labourer from West Acre and his wife Sarah. Edward and Ann Maria had two children:-
1) Ethel May (b. 1880). 2) Ernest Charles, a butcher (b, 1882).
In 1881, the family were at 6, Providence Street in Lynn, before their move to 26, High Street some eight years later.
Edward’s business was listed in White’s Directory for 1890. In 1891 he was living here at No. 26 with his wife and two children. They had a butcher and an assistant boarding with them. In Kelly’s Directory for 1892, Edward’s butcher’s shop was still listed here. He also had a partnership with a Mr. Collison in a fellmonger’s business at Highgate, Lynn (a fellmonger dealt with skins and hides, mostly sheepskins, preparing them for the tannery). Edward was listed in Kelly’s Directory for 1896 but it would seem that he left the premises before the start of that year. The fellmongery business is not listed in that directory.
Edward left Lynn for a short time and in 1900 he became licensee of the New Inn, Lynn Road, Grimston, but still ran a butchery business. He was at the New Inn on census night 1901, with Ann, Ethel, who was assisting in the house, and Ernest, who was a railway clerk. Edward stayed in Grimston for only one year and by 1903 had moved to No. 6, Saturday Market Place, Lynn, placing the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘6, SATURDAY MARKET-PLACE, LYNN. Having taken the Old-Established Butcher’s Business carried on by Mr. F. RANDS at No. 6, Saturday Market-Place for over 40 years, I respectfully solicit the favour of your kind patronage so liberally bestowed upon him, and beg to say that the business will be under my personal supervision, thereby assuring old friends and customers prompt and careful attention to their esteemed commands. Thanking you in anticipation, faithfully yours, REEVE, late of 26, High Street. June 26th, 1903.’
In 1908, Edward’s son Ernest Charles is listed as a butcher in his own right, with premises in Windsor Road. Interestingly, Edward’s brother-in-law, Alfred Harrowing, also worked as a butcher and became licensee at the New Inn, Grimston seven years after Edward had left there.
Edward died in 1937, aged 79.
1900 – c1990 (Stephen Hilton & Sons) (Hiltons Ltd.)
The business was founded by Stephen Hilton (born Leicester in 1845) in Leicester in the 1880s and expanded rapidly throughout the county and then throughout the country. Stephen was the son of Joseph Hilton and Mary Ann Smith, who married in 1838. Joseph was a frame worker in a knitting factory in Leicester and his wife was a stitcher. They had at least four children:-
1) George Edward (b. 1838/9). 2) Stephen. 3) Mary Jane (b. 1847). 4) Lydia (b. 1850).
In 1867 Stephen married Harriett Gibson, from Leicester, and in 1871 they were living in Wharf Street in the city. Stephen was working as a currier and Harriett as a machine hand.
In the census for 1881, Stephen Hilton is recorded as a boot manufacturer and in Wright’s directory of Leicestershire for 1887/8 he is listed as a boot and shoe manufacturer with a retail shop at 146, Belgrave in the city.
Harriett and Stephen had seven children:-
1) Rosanna (b. 1868 – m. Robert William Eagleton, a shoe finisher from Norwich, in 1893 – d. 1904). 2) Mary Ann (b. 1869/70 – m. John William Gregory, a Primitive Methodist Minister from Sheffield, in 1893 – d. 1955). 3) Joseph Arthur, a boot dealer (b. 1871 – m. Emma Rayner in 1892 – d. 1927). 4) George Edward, a boot factor – mayor of Leicester in 1920 (b. 1873 – m. Sarah Ann Hickling in 1896 – d. 1936). 5) Harriett (b. 1876 – m. Richard Hallam, a boot manufacturer, in 1898 – d. 1902). 6) Stephen jnr., a shoe factor (b. 1877 – m. Edith Kate Crawford in 1901 – d. 1928). 7) Frederick James (b. 1883 – m. Margaret Annie Patrick in 1908 – d. 1946).
Stephen Hilton became a county councillor and then a borough councillor in Leicester. He was Mayor of Leicester in 1904, was appointed a J.P. in 1905, and an alderman in 1907. He died in Bournemouth on 16th March 1914, aged 70.
The business was advertised as Hilton’s Booteries in the early years but more formally as Stephen Hilton & Sons, after the boys had joined their father in the company. By 1891, Joseph and George were assisting in the business.
The King’s Lynn shop at No. 26 opened in 1900 and by 1903 there were over 100 branches nationwide.
The first manager here at No. 26 appears to have been Frank William Hind (b. c1874 in Gloucester). His parents were Henry (b. c1830 in Avening, Gloucestershire) and Sarah (b. c1840 in Cirencester).In 1901 he was lodging with Mrs. Elizabeth Watts (daughter of Thomas William Scott – see No. 89), tobacconist and newsagent, in St. James Street, Lynn. Later that year he married Amelia Taylor and they moved in to live on the premises here at No. 26, where their daughter Gladys Mary was born on 26th January, 1903. They had moved to Nottingham by 1911.
The next manager here was Frederick Thomas Dyson. Born in Lynn in 1878/9, he was the son of a Lynn lathe mender, Robert Thomas Dyson and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Smith. Frederick’s elder sister Florence Hannah (b. 1876), died in 1882, aged five. Less than three years later, his father died, aged just 30, and his mother married a shoe maker, George Henry Boulton (b. c1841 in Norwich). Frederick was living with his mother and step-father at Harrod’s Yard in Lynn in 1891 and this was when he was introduced to the shoe trade. He was apprenticed to a large firm of drapers at 63-69, Deptford High Street, where he was working as a boot salesman in 1901. He lived on the premises with about 20 other assistants.
Moving back to Lynn, Frederick Thomas Dyson married Edith Blenkhorn (b. 1884/5 in Deptford) in 1908.
In April 1912 he advertised for a ‘sharp boy’ to help in the shop between school hours. Amongst the types of footwear that they offered were boots for gamekeepers which were guaranteed to be waterproof.
Frederick Thomas Dyson died on 2nd May, 1925, aged 46.
The next manager was Sydney Amies Mortimer, although the first record for him here was not until Kelly’s directory for 1951. He was born on 5th January, 1890, in Notting Hill, London.
His great grandparents were Francis Mortimer (b. 1786 in Cringleford, Norwich) and Mary Carter (b. c1786 in Wyke, Devon). Francis was a farmer but had entered the Great Hospital in Norwich by 1851. Mary died in 1852/3.
Sydney’s grandfather was Charles Mortimer (b. c1824 in Felthorpe, Norfolk – m. Charlotte Amiss in 1850 – d. 1913, aged 88), who provided services as a coachman to people in the vicinity of Norwich for very many years, not retiring until his late 70s. Charles married Charlotte Amiss (b. c1823 in Norwich – d. 1897, aged 74) in 1850, and they had six children, all born in Horsford, Norfolk:-
1) Fanny Elizabeth (b. 1850 – d. 1932/3, aged 82). 2) James, a jeweller in London (b. 1854 – m. Charlotte Freezer in 1877/8). 3) Charles Richard, a bicycle salesman in Cambridge (b. 1855/6 –– m. Harriet Southgate in 1884/5 – d. 1904/5, aged 49). 4) Francis / Frank, a driver for the LCC (b. 1857– m. Fanny Barritt in 1881). 5) Edwin John, a church and domestic glazier in Norwich (b. 1859 –– m. Ellen Sophia Rump in 1892 – d. 1948, aged 90). 6) Henry Thomas – Sydney’s father – (b. 1861 – m. Elizabeth Ann Willsher in 1888 – d. 1942, aged 81).
Henry Thomas Mortimer had started out as a footman at Hockwold Hall in Norfolk (1881), before moving to Kensington, where he worked as an ‘agent’ (the line of business not specified in 1891). While in London, Henry married Elizabeth Ann Willsher, and their first child, Sydney, was born in the city. Soon after the birth of Sydney, the family moved to Cambridge, where Henry became a second-hand furniture dealer (1901). Henry and Elizabeth had four children, the three youngest being born in Cambridge:-
1) Sydney Amies – see below – (b. 05/01/1890 – m. Sarah May Fisk in 1916 – d. 1986, aged 96). 2) Bertha Elsie (b. 26/08/1898 – m. Joseph Mandley in 1943 – d. 1984/5). 3) Henry (Harry) Aubrey (b. 09/01/1901 – m. Winifred J. Clutten in 1938 – d. 1972). 4) Robert Clifford (b. 26/01/1905 – d. 1990).
In 1916, Sydney married Sarah May Fisk (always known by her middle name) in Norwich, where she had been born on 23rd January, 1894, and where she and her siblings were living on their own in 1911. Sydney and Sarah had one child, Russell George (b. 30/10/1919 in Norwich – d. 2004), and moved to Lynn about six years after his birth.
Sydney and May worked together in the shop and guided the business though the Second World War and the Depression years, staying here for over 30 years.
In November 1927 they advertised:-
‘A good display ladies’ high-grade shoes, “Gipsy Queen”, comfort model; with freedom foreparts, snug fitting heel. – Motor to Hiltons, High-st, Lynn (Conduit-st. corner). Parking stand. Every attention.’
In November, 1934, the council approved plans for a new shop front. At the same time the interior of the shop was refurbished and the shop re-opened for business on 1st March, 1935. Their advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser for 3rd May that year celebrated the King’s Silver Jubilee.
By the time they retired, May was nearly 65 and Sydney was nearly 70. Unfortunately, the business had been allowed to grow old with them and, as a consequence, the branch was losing money. Like some of the older shopkeepers at that time, Sydney and May always dressed completely in black and they both carried a bunch of shop keys slung across their bodies, in the manner of jailors. The shop itself was now becoming very dull and dowdy and the stock was seriously out-of-date. They maintained a curious policy of deliberately holding back stock on days other than Tuesdays and Saturdays, their aim being to have plenty to sell on those two weekly market days. In 1958, they retired and moved to Devon, where their son was the Borough Treasurer at Alphington. May died in 1980 and Sydney in 1985/6.
Samuel (Sam) P. Hurry (b. 1933/4) was brought in by the Hilton family to revive the ailing branch, with instruction to change it around within three months. Failing this, the branch would be closed. Sam already had extensive experience of relief manager work for Hiltons and set about addressing the two main areas of concern; the stock and the shop environment. He had two members of staff, Miss Sylvia Wagg and Miss Oaks, and they worked hard at clearing out the old stock, which had either to be sold or transferred to a clearance shop that Hiltons had in Liverpool. Re-stocking took longer.
King’s Lynn was the nearest town with entertainment facilities to RAF Sculthorpe, which housed several thousand American airmen who were stationed there for many years after the end of the war. They visited Lynn regularly, especially for the dances held in the Palm Court of the Globe Hotel as well as other venues. It seemed to Sam Hurry and his assistants that the girls attending these dances would welcome a choice in the latest shoe fashions, with higher heels and a variety of colours. The Americans were very keen on black patent shoes. So new stock was ordered and sent to Lynn by the Hiltons, who expressed some misgivings about the new policy. The local girls responded very positively, however, and by 1959 the shop accounts had moved back into the black, allowing Sam Hurry to order more stock. The shop carried the latest in men’s and ladies hosiery, and the men’s department reflected the Rock ‘n Roll fashions of the day. So popular was the shop that on some Saturday mornings there was a queue waiting for the door to open. At one point, the stock ran down so quickly that Sam Hurry asked head office if they could send a car load of shoes down as an emergency stop-gap. Apparently, no manager had ever done this before. In 1962 the stock was valued at £98,000 – a lot of money at that date for a branch shop.
The interior of the shop was entirely re-vamped and up-dated and the exterior was given a make-over, including a green Italian marble fascia. Large delivery lorries negotiating the narrow High Street would regularly hit this fascia and the shop kept replacement slabs (costing £100 each) on the premises.
The Hiltons’ branch at No. 61 had long since closed. The idea of the two shops in the first place was that No. 26 would catch the Saturday Market trade and that No. 61 would do the same at the Tuesday Market Place end of the street. However there were extra costs in maintaining two branches and this was not justified by the extra trade. In addition, the other branch was affected by stock problems. Here at No. 26, Hiltons ran the shop as a training branch. Sam Hurry would take on trainee managers and when they had finished their training they would move on to take over a branch of their own.
In addition to Hiltons own brands the shop stocked seven national brands of ladies’ shoes and eight other brands of men’s shoes. They also held a large range of Wellington boots, and even provided bespoke boots for farmers. Footwear came from Cockermouth, Trent, Norwich, Yarmouth, Leicester, Northampton, Kettering and London.
In the 1970s, this branch became only the second shoe shop to switch to a Danish model of self-service. This was very successful in spite of an increase in shop-lifting. At that time there were four full-time, three part-time and three Saturday staff. These included, Sylvia Wagg, Frances Chappel, Bridget Rouse, and Lavinia Clements.
In 1980, it was reported that the Hilton family were selling out and Sam Hurry decided to leave. He moved out of the flat over the shop and found a job at the Lynn Technical College, leaving Hiltons in 1982.