No. 88, High Street
No. 88 High Street is an address that has considerable significance in Lynn’s printing and newspaper history. It was here that Lynn bookseller and publisher William Whittingham (c1740 – 1797) installed a press to complete the printing of the first edition of Blomefield’s Norfolk. Blomefield had run into difficulties in completing his mammoth work and then contracted smallpox. In 1769, William Whittingham purchased the unpublished and incomplete parts from Blomefield’s widow. Eventually, the last three volumes of Blomefield’s Norfolk were printed here in Lynn. The business was still listed under the name of William Whittingham in White’s Directory for 1836, the proprietor being William Griggs Whittingham (c. 1775 – 1856).
In later years, the importance of these premises to Lynn’s publishing history was to continue when they became the head offices of the Lynn News, until they moved to Purfleet Street, in 1892.
c1760 – 1797 (William Whittingham)
William Whittingham was responsible for completing the printing of Blomefield’s Norfolk (see above). He was born in Lynn in about 1840, and married Jane Lee at St. Nicholas Chapel in the town on 26th April, 1759. His son William Griggs was born in Lynn in about 1775.
William established his business as a bookseller, stationer and book binder on High Street, probably here at No. 88. He placed advertisements in regional and local newspapers indicating that he had an extensive network of contacts with other booksellers. In the Ipswich Journal for 14th March 1761 he advertised as:-
‘WILLIAM WHITTINGHAM, Bookseller, LYNN REGIS, NORFOLK; Where may be had, New Books as published, and the full Value for any Library or Parcel of Books; likewise Books exchanged.’
‘A CATALOGUE of a choice and valuable Collection of BOOKS, (lately purchased) in good Condition, and many of them in curious Bindings, consisting of several Thousand Volumes, in most Arts and Sciences; in which are included, the Library of a Rev. Clergyman, and the Rev. Mr. KEER of Snettisham in Norfolk, both lately deceased.’
His catalogues were available through booksellers in London, Oxford, Tunbridge-Wells, Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester, Yarmouth, Bury, and Downham.
He is recorded as taking apprentices in the indenture payment books for 1772 and 1781, and is listed in Bailey’s British Directory or Merchant’s and Trader’s Useful Companion for the year 1784.
It is not clear when the business was taken over by his son William Griggs, but since he died when aged about 57, he may have remained in charge until then (1797).
1797 – c1858 (William Griggs Whittingham) (Whittingham & Co.)
In 1797 William Whittingham of King’s Lynn was appointed as agent for the Westminster Life Insurance and Annuity Office, the Strand London (Norfolk Chronicle 21/01/1797). This would have been William Griggs Whittingham who had succeeded to the business after the death of his father.
Many of the records omit his middle name or initial. On 24th November 1798, William married Elizabeth Fysk at Norwich. Their son William was baptised in Lynn on 31st August, 1801, but he died when just three months old. Elizabeth had died before 1841 when William was living on the premises, along with his assistant, William Plowright (see below). He had two female servants, one of whom was Mary Yates (b. c. 1783 in Lynn), whom he married in 1843/4.
In 1836 (White) he was listed here as ‘Wm. Whittingham – bookseller, printer, stationer, binder, vendor of patent medicines and circulating library’. In a second entry he was recorded as an agent for Manchester (Fire).
He retired from business in about 1841 and moved to Valingers Road, where he and Mary were living in 1851. He died in January, 1856, aged 81.
The business was listed in Kelly’s directory for 1858 as Whittingham & Co. It would seem likely that Mary continued to run the business for a few years after William’s death. She died in 1861.
c1841 – 1854 (William Saddleton Plowright)
William Saddleton Plowright, a stationer aged 38 and born in Lynn, was living here in 1851. He had been listed in Slater’s Directory for 1850 under ‘Booksellers, stationers, & binders & printers’. He was also an agent for Freemasons’ Life Assurance. In White’s Directory for 1854, he was listed also as ‘Patent Medicine vender & circulating library’, but he died towards the end of that year.
1854 (George Cranwell Phenix)
The butcher George Cranwell Phenix was listed here in 1854 (White). He had been at Pilot Street in 1839 (Pigot), and he turns up again at No. 98, High Street in 1858 (Kelly). Very little is known about him, apart from his death in 1859 and his burial at St. Margaret’s church on 6th February that year.
c1858 – 1865 (George Gale)
George Gale, listed as ‘Printer, bookseller etc., employing 1 man & 3 boys’, was here in1861. At that date he was aged 22 and unmarried. Staying with him on census night was his sister, Rebecca, who was acting as his housekeeper. Also in the house that night were his father and mother who were visiting from London.
George had been born in Hackney in 1838, and baptised in the parish church on 31st August that year. His father William (b. c1789 in Bewdley, Worcestershire) was a retired London Custom’s officer. William had married Elizabeth Pickin (b. 1801 in Kinnersley, Salop.) in 1830 in Claverley, Salop. George Gale appreciated the respect that was still felt locally for William Whittingham and he traded on the name, advertising his business as ‘Late WHITTINGHAM & Co’.
The Gales knew the extended Plowright family rather well, and George married Eliza Plowright on 20th August, 1862. Eliza was the daughter of the Norfolk Street ironmonger, Henry Plowright (b. c1806 in Lynn), and had been born in about 1830 in the town. Two years after his marriage, George’s sister Rebecca Lucy (b. c1837 in Hackney), married Edward Plowright (b. c1841 in Lynn), who was the son of George Plowright (b. c1801), Henry’s brother.
George Plowright had been a baker in Norfolk Street before moving to Gaywood where he worked as a miller for some years. He then moved to Clerkenwell where he worked as a commercial clerk to a dock company. His son Edward was a banker’s clerk in the City, where he and Rebecca lived before moving to Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
George Gale stayed here for a few years and left in November 1865. He moved from Lynn to Lincoln where he had a business as a bookseller and stationer for several years. By 1901, he and Eliza had moved to Scarborough, where he worked as a secretary before retiring. He and Eliza had four children, all born in Lincoln:-
1). Henry William, a bank accountant in 1911 (b. 1866 – m. Sybil Jane Parker in 1896 – d. 1941/2, aged 75). 2) Frederick George, a mining engineer in 1891 (b. 1867). 3) Margaret Rachel (b. 1871 – d. 1965, aged 94). 4) John Plowright, an assistant bank manager in 1911 (b. 1874 – m. Edith Merryweather Harrison in 1906 – d. 1944, aged 69).
George Gale died in 1922, aged 84, and Eliza died in 1922, aged 92.
1865 – 1874 (John Milbourne)
When George Gale left, he placed a notice in the Lynn Advertiser on 11th November, 1865. Beneath that notice, John Milbourne added the following:-
‘JOHN MILBOURNE, Having succeeded Mr. GALE, respectfully solicits a continuance of the patronage bestowed on his predecessor, and, from the experience he has obtained, both in London and the country, confidence may be placed in his properly executing all orders. The stamping of note paper and envelopes, in colours or plain, will be an additional feature under his special superintendence, and the general business conducted so as to compete with any London house in the quality and price of every article. 88, High Street, Lynn. November, 1865.’
In addition to his business as printer and bookbinder, John Milbourne sold daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and periodicals, music books and stationery. On 19th February 1870 he advertised in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘88, HIGH STREET, LYNN. Music Supplied to Teachers at Wholesale Prices. Alexandre Harmoniums and Pianofortes. Selected from any Maker’s Stock, at his List Prices, or on Hire for Three years, then to become the Hirer’s property. VALENTINES, REDUCED PRICES. Printing, Bookbinding. A New Stock of Photographic Albums, Tourists’ Cases, Purses, and Pocket Books. Books, Music, Writing Desks, Artists Materials, Playing Cards, Bezique, Chess, Draughts, Dominoes, etc., etc., at MILBOURNE’S, 88, HIGH STREET, Lynn.’
John had been born in Stokesley, Yorkshire in about 1828. He was the son of a Yorkshire weaver, Farrow Milburn (b. c1801) and his wife Charlotte. The spelling of his name varied in the records, another version was Milbourn. Farrow died in 1876, aged 78, and Charlotte died in 1889, aged 92.
John trained as a printer compositor and pressman and was working in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire in 1851, where he married Mary Clayton in 1854. They had one child, Emily Peach (b. 06/06/1856 in Penrith, Cumberland – m. Isaac Hallam in 1876 – d. 1904, aged 47).
Mary died in 1858 and John married Sarah Collingridge the following year. She had been born in Olney, Buckinghamshire in about 1833. They had four children, the first three born in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire:-
1) Helen Collingridge (b. 1860 – m. Charles William Odams on 22nd June, 1891 – d. 1937, aged 76). 2) Alice Trenholme (b. 1861 – d. 1922, aged 60). 3) John Cleveland, a linotype operator (b. 1864 – m. Kate Flower in 1903/4 – d. 1926/7, aged 62). 4) George Rooke, a printer’s manager (b. 1869 in King’s Lynn – m. Kate Caroline Emma Blake in 1901 – d. 1957, aged 88).
On 31st March, 1874, John Milbourne announced that he would be moving from No. 88 High Street into No. 87. He had spotted the potential offered by the premises at No. 87 to accommodate his business as bookseller and printer together with a hairdressing salon. More details about the new business will be found at No. 87, High Street.
John Milbourne died in Lynn in 1880/1, aged 53. His widow, Sarah, was running the business at census time in 1881, assisted by her daughter Helen, but later moved to Walthamstow, where she had a stationer’s and tobacconist’s shop. She died in 1897, aged 66.
1874 – 1892 (Lynn News & County Press)
On 16th May, 1874, Achilles Sylvester Page, formerly at the Lynn Advertiser (see Nos. 1-4, High Street) announced that he was moving into No. 88, High Street:-
‘PRINTING, BOOKSELLING, STATIONERY, & BOOKBINDING ESTABLISHMENT – 88, HIGH STREET, KING’S LYNN. I TAKE leave to inform you that I have entered upon the premises, 88, HIGH STREET, LYNN, where the above trades have been carried on for a long series of years, and which it is my intention to continue. The Shop has been stocked with Plain and Fancy Stationery of all descriptions; Account Books of every kind; Bibles, Prayer Books, and Church Services in plain and elegant bindings; and a variety of Books of General Literature. To this stock additions will be made as circumstances may require. BOOKS not in stock can be ordered and quickly supplied. ACCOUNT BOOKS ruled and bound to any pattern. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES supplied. GENERAL PRINTING and BOOKBINDING executed with promptness and economy. A. S. PAGE. Lynn News Office, 88, High Street, Lynn.’
Achilles Page had been at No. 102, High Street for some years since leaving the Lynn Advertiser, and was listed there as the editor of the Lynn News in Harrod’s directory for 1863. In Harrod’s 1868 directory his entry was as the proprietor of the Lynn News & Wisbech Chronicle.
Achilles Page was a staunch Liberal and his editorials for the Lynn News went up against those of the Lynn Advertiser which espoused the Tory view. In March 1869, Achilles Page gave evidence in an extraordinary case involving a petition presented against the return of the Conservative member for the borough, the Hon. R. Bourke. The petitioners alleged ‘corrupt practices’, ‘treating’ and ‘intimidation’ at the recent election. One of their complaints was that voters were treated to free beer at drinking sessions at public houses in the town, particularly those owned by Messrs. Eyre & Co., and Richard Bagge. Achilles Page said that he had been taking a walk one evening when he saw a flag outside the Earl of Richmond pub and heard a great deal of noise. He went in and spoke to some of the people who were drinking, one of whom said that he had not had to pay anything for the beer. Similar evidence was given by others, and Mr. Thew, amongst others, was accused of having handed money into the bar to pay for the ale that was being given out free to the men inside. The petition was dismissed and the Liberal supporters were roundly jeered when they left the court, whereas the Conservative members were cheered. This illustrates the extent of the animosity between the Liberal and Conservative supporters in the town and the views held by the editors of the two newspapers – Mr. Thew at the Lynn Advertiser and Mr. Page at the Lynn News.
Achilles Page was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire in 1835, and baptised in the town on 27th June that year. His parents were John Page, an excise officer (b. c1806 – d. 1847, aged about 41) and Elizabeth Jenkins Turpin (b. c1810 in Lynn – d. 1886, aged 86), who had married at St. Nicholas Chapel in Lynn on 6th October, 1830. The family were living at Waltham, near Grimsby, in Lincolnshire in 1841.
John Page died in 1847, and Elizabeth brought the family to her home town of Lynn. In 1851 they were living in Bentinck Street in the town, and had Elizabeth’s mother, Sarah Turpin (b. c1778 in Wisbech) staying with them.
By 1861, Achilles had taken the place of his mother as head of the household, and was working as a newspaper reporter for the Lynn Advertiser (see Nos. 1 – 4, High Street). The 1871 census, although not giving any numbers, places Achilles and his mother at No. 101, High Street. It would seem that they lived there but that he had his office and business next door at No. 102.
Achilles was the eldest of three siblings, all born in Waltham:-
1) Achilles (b. 1835 – d. 1904, aged 70). 2) Rosina (b. c1838 – d. 1859 in Lynn, aged about 22). 3) John William, a bank manager in Swaffham (b. 1840 – m. Elizabeth Hartt in 1867 – d. 1923/4 in Swaffham, aged 83).
Although Achilles did not admit to having any family, and his obituary states that he had no next of kin, he fathered two children out of wedlock. He had a relationship with Eleanor (b. 1841 in Lynn), the daughter of William Green, wine cooper and coal merchant of 39, King Street. He fathered two children, both born in Lynn:-
1) Alfred Percy Green (b. c1876 – m. Ethel Bowen in 1896/7). 2) Eleanor Page Green (b. 1878).
At some date between 1891 and 1901, Eleanor changed her name and that of her two children to Page.
There were regular advertisements in the Lynn News and the rival Lynn Advertiser for the services provided by the business here, including this in 1885:-
‘THE LYNN NEWS PRINTING WORKS PAMPHLETS, CARDS’ REPORTS, CIRCULARS, BILLS, POSTERS, and every description of General Printing executed promptly, tastefully and at moderate cost. 88, HIGH STREET, LYNN.’
One of their publications was ‘The Lynn Almanack and Diary’, and the Lynn News advertised books and other stationery items from time to time, the following advertisement appearing in the Lynn Advertiser on 6th September, 1890:-
‘SPECIAL NOTICE TO FARMERS. AIKIN’S FARMER’S LABOUR ACCOUNT BOOK, Price 3/6. WINGATE’S FARMER’S ACCOUNT BOOK, Price 4/- THESE well-known publications, the efficiency of which has been practically tested during the past fifty years by landowners and farmers throughout Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, are now Published only at THE “LYNN NEWS” OFFICE, 88, HIGH STREET, LYNN. Sent Post Free on Receipt of Order.’
In the 1891 census, the premises were recorded as being unoccupied – reflecting the fact that no-one was living there – although the Lynn News office and business was still at this address.
The Lynn News built a new office and printing works in Purfleet Street, and moved there in 1892.
1894 – 1926 (Custance & Son)
Following the move by the Lynn News to Purfleet Street, the following notice advertisement appeared in the Lynn Advertiser on 2nd July, 1892:-
‘A SHOP of first-rate importance with large Warehouse and Residence, No. 88, High Street, Lynn, in the occupation of the Lynn News Company, TO BE LET. The Shop has a striking front, and in prominence and effect of position is unequalled. It must command a business. – Apply to, Mr. EDWARD BELOE, Solicitor, Lynn. 30th June, 1892.’
Eventually, the premises were let to two different users; Scott & Son, the house furnishers next door at No. 89, leased the warehouse, and Custance and Son, tailors from Peterborough, leased the shop. Scott & Son announced the extension of their showrooms:-
‘We have just added to our showrooms the large Warehouse lately occupied by the Lynn News Company (which are adjoining our premises) where we are now showing a larger stock than ever of Carpets, Floor Cloths, Linoleums, Bedsteads, Bedding, Dining-room, Drawing-room, and Bed-room furniture.’
Scott & Son were engaged by George Custance to move his furniture, including two pianos, from Peterborough to King’s Lynn in February 1894. They also supplied a bedstead, mattress and other furniture, with the total bill amounting to £11/18/4½. The bill was settled in an interesting manner. Scott & Son rented out some space in the outbuildings at the back of No. 88 to George Custance and £3 of the total was paid off against rent that was due. A further £3/5/0 was accounted for by the value of a new bespoke jacket and waistcoat that William Scott had ordered. The remaining £5/13/4 was paid by cheque.
On 3rd March, 1894, the following advertisement appeared in the Lynn Advertiser:-
‘CUSTANCE & SON (FROM PETERBOROUGH) PRACTICAL, CLERICAL & LIVERY TAILORS, BREECHES MAKERS, HATTERS, HOSIERS AND JUVENILE OUTFITTERS, 88 HIGH STREET, KING’S LYNN. CUSTANCE & SON having opened a branch at this address, respectfully beg to solicit the favour of a share of your patronage and support. The Bespoke Department is under the personal superintendence of Mr. G. B. CUSTANCE, who is the holder of a First Class Certificate as a Cutter, from the Tailor and Cutter Academy, Drury Lane, London, W.C., consequently gentlemen in the town who have experienced a difficulty in getting good fitting clothes can rest assured they are now able to obtain a Perfect Fit, combined with Ease and Elegance, for all garments.’
Custance & Son gave their premises the name ‘The Breeches House’. The proprietors of the business were father and son John Edward and George Burton Custance. However, John, who had a business in Peterborough, appears not to have played a part in the management of the Lynn shop. He died in Peterborough in 1905, aged 65.
Although the Custance family were at this date firmly based in Ely and Peterborough, John’s mother, Elizabeth Burcham (b. c1817 – d. 1894, aged 77), had been born in Lynn, and his father William worked in the town for several years. Elizabeth married William Mark Custance (b. c1817 in Denston, Suffolk – d. 22/11/1897, aged 80) in Norwich on 07/09/1838. Elizabeth and William had four children, the elder two born in Lynn, the younger two in Ely:-
1) Ann (b. 1839 – m. Richard Murray Codling, a post office clerk, in 1859 – d. 1868, aged 29). 2) John Edward – see below – (b. 1841 – m. Annie Stevens in 1864/5 – d. 1905, aged 65). 3) George, an Inland Revenue officer (b. 1844 – m. Susannah Kidman in 1871 – d. 1908, aged 64 in Hampshire). 4) William Burcham, a grocer’s assistant in 1911 (b. 1846 – m. Agnes Louise Cross in 1873 – d. 1927, aged 81).
In 1841, William Custance and his family were living in Melbourne Street in Lynn. William was working as a tailor and Elizabeth as a straw bonnet maker. After their son John was born later that year, they moved to Ely where William worked as a tailor. There are no directory entries under his name. He may have been working as an assistant to another tailor, or he may have chosen not to subscribe to the publishers of the trade directories. However, the most likely explanation is that he was in business on a very small scale, working from home. By 1879 (Kelly) he had taken the up position of Assistant Overseer and Income Tax Collector for Ely Trinity, and he retained this post until at least 1891.
Elizabeth Custance died in 1894, aged 77, and William died in 1897, aged 80.
Their son John became an apprentice to James Osbourn, a tailor employing 12 men at his shop at 1, Market Hill, Cambridge (1861). In 1865, he married Annie Stevens in Ely. Annie was the daughter of Joseph Stevens, a farmer (b. c1800 in Devonshire), who moved to Landbeach in Cambridgeshire where Annie and her siblings were all born.
John and Annie Custance moved to Ampthill, Bedfordshire, where their second child was born, and John worked as a tailor’s cutter (1871). The family’s next move was to Peterborough, where they spent a few years before going to Fletton, a village in Huntingdonshire, on the border with Northamptonshire. John was by now working on his own account, although he may have been running his business from his home, rather than from a shop. He employed his son George Burton as his tailor’s cutter. By 1891, John was back in Peterborough, living at 7, Narrow Bridge Street and listed as an outfitter in the census. His two sons George and Herbert were employed as his assistants, and he may still have been operating on a small scale.
John and Annie had eight children:-
1) George Burton – see below (b. 1865 in Ely – m. Emily Jane House in 1894 – d. 09/01/1936, aged 70). 2) Herbert John, an assistant to George in 1901 (b. 1868 in Ampthill, Bedfordshire – d. 1903, aged 35, in Lynn). 3) William Mark Stevens, a clerk at an engineering works in Gateshead in 1911 (b. 1869/70 in Ampthill – m. Georgina Liddell in 1895). 4) Annie Mildred (b. 1877 in Peterborough – m. James Innes Sawyer, a watchmaker, in 1903 – emigrated to Canada on 01/06/1911). 5) Harry, a tailor in Peterborough in 1911 (b. 1878 in Peterborough – m. Ruth Ritchie Liddell in 1906/7 – d. 1914, aged 34). 6) Frank Stevens (b. 1880/1 in Peterborough – m. Lilian Phyllis Brewitt in 1908). 7) Jessie (b. 1883 in Peterborough – m. Frederick William Hignell, a schoolmaster, in 1906 – d. 1928, aged 45). 8) Victoria (b. 1884, in Peterborough – m. Christopher Brewitt in 1908).
John Edward Custance died in Peterborough in 1905, aged 65, and Annie died in Lynn in 1908, aged 61.
The business that was established at No. 88, High Street in 1894 was ‘Custance & Son’, a partnership between John and his son George. John’s second son, Herbert, was not included in the partnership even though he was only two years younger than George. However, Herbert did play a significant part in helping to establish the Lynn shop, working as George’s assistant for nine years until his death in 1903 at the age of 35.
Soon after he had moved to Lynn, George married Emily Jane House (b. 1866 in Peterborough) in 1894. They had two children, both born in Lynn:-
1) Emily Annie (b. 5th Feb. 1895 – d. 1979, aged 84, in Lynn). 2) (George) Frank (b. 1899 – m. Gertrude M. Feetham in 1920 – d. 1937, aged 37).
The shop manager in 1910 was Edward Henry Goodall, born c1876 in Leicester. He and his wife Julia were living in accommodation at No. 88 when their daughter Lydia Mary was born on 4th February that year. However, Edward did not stay in Lynn for long and he was managing a store in Coventry by 1911.
George and his family lived on the premises at No. 88, High Street until the business moved in 1926.
During the Great War, Custance & Son supplied military uniforms, the following advertisement dating from January 1919:-
‘CUSTANCE & SON, Military Tailors and Breeches Makers “THE NEW R. A. F. BLUE UNIFORM. Correctitude of style, excellence of material and beauty of finish – a first-rate tailored effect, – guaranteed in every order. Tunic … …£7/10/0. Slacks … … £3/5/0. Breeches, Cloth Strappings … … £4/10/0. British Warm Lined Fleece … … £7/12/6. Cap & Badge … … £1/17/6.’
Very soon after that date they were advertising ‘Civvy Suits’ in the newspaper.
The business flourished and was moved into purpose-built premises on the corner of New Conduit Street and Baxters Plain, in 1926, the following announcement being placed in the Lynn Advertiser on the 23rd April that year:-
‘CUSTANCE & SON, Tailors & Breeches Makers, 88, High Street, King’s Lynn. Sir (or Madam), – We wish to express to you our thanks for the support kindly given to us at the above address during the last 32 years. Owing to increasing business, we have purchased new and more convenient premises: “THE BREECHES HOUSE” (Opposite the Post Office), where we ask you to be good enough to continue your patronage. We have opened the New Premises with a complete range of all NEW GOODS for Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s High-Class tailoring. Yours obediently, Custance & Son.’
George Custance lived over the premises at ‘Breeches House’ and died there on 09/01/1936, aged 70. In his obituary published in the Lynn Advertiser the following day he was described as a quiet, courteous and considerate man, who counted his customers as his friends. He had few interests outside of his work, occasionally playing bowls or snooker, but was said to have been a ‘keen and clever skater’ in his youth.
On the death of his father, Frank, who had been running the Custance & Son branch at 1, South Bank, Wisbech, took charge of the Lynn business. However within eighteen months he too had died, at the age of 37.
On 14th May 1937, the following notice was placed in the Lynn Advertiser by Frank’s widow Gertrude:-
‘Established 1841. CUSTANCE & SON, Ladies’ & Gents.’ Bespoke Tailors, Breeches Makers, Hunt and Livery Tailors, THE BREECHES HOUSE, King’s Lynn (Phone 2823) BEG TO ANNOUNCE that owing to the death of Mr. Frank Custance the above Business WILL BE CARRRIED ON by MRS. FRANK CUSTANCE, with the managership of Mr. R. Bucke (who has been with the firm for 12 years). We thank you for your past patronage and hope for your continued support.’
Ten years later, Gertrude married William M. Davies, the manager of the W. H. Woolworth store in High Street, King’s Lynn.
The manager appointed by Gertrude was Robert Dickens Bucke. Born 04/05/1910 in Wisbech, Robert was the son of Charles Benjamin Bucke and Alice Scrivener. Alice was from Suffolk where they married in 1890. They were living in Wisbech in 1911 where Charles worked as a warehouse foreman for a corn merchant. Robert had started working for Custance and Son in about 1924 as an errand boy and had worked his way up. Two years after his appointment as manager he had to leave the business at the outbreak of the Second World War but resumed his position after hostilities ceased in 1945. In about 1952 he bought the business from Gertrude Custance and moved it, first to 7, Broad Street and then to 25 New Conduit Street. When the latter was redeveloped, Custance & Son moved to 7/9 Blackfriars Street. On the death of Robert Dickens Bucke in 1974 the business was taken on by his sons David and Robert, who moved it again, to new premises at 28 Broad Street and later to Horsley’s Fields. They ceased trading in 1987.
1926-c1966 (The Belfast Linen Warehouse)
In early 1927, the Belfast Linen Warehouse Co., applied for permission to alter the premises and they opened their new shop here on Saturday, 18th June that year. They advertised gifts for the first customers to spend one pound or more:-
‘Our first customer to spend One Pound or over will be presented with a Double-bed Down Quilt, list price 50/-; our second customer to spend One Pound or over will be presented with a pair of All-Wool Double-bed Witney Blankets, list price 45/- a pair.’
The first directory entry for the Belfast Linen Warehouse at No. 88 was in Kellys for 1928, which read ‘Belfast Linen Warehouse (Custance & Son) Linen Drapers, No. 88’. There is no known trading connection between the two companies and the inclusion of the name of the previous occupiers of the premises (Custance & Son) is presumed to have been as a guide to the location of the business.
The Belfast Linen Warehouse continued to be included in the directories from that year through to 1973 but with the occasional change in name. In 1951 the entry was for the ‘Cambridge & King’s Lynn Belfast Linen Warehouse Co. Ltd. household linen specialist, soft furnishers, fancy linen and handkerchiefs’. For a time it was ‘The Restwell Belfast Linen Warehouse Co. Ltd.’. The company became a very well-known business on the High Street and was popularly referred to as ‘The Belfast’, a title adopted by the trading company and used in their directory entries by 1960.
The Belfast Linen Warehouse ceased trading at their High Street store during the war years. In January 1940 they held their usual New Year Sale, advertising ‘BUY AT PRICES WE MAY NEVER SEE AGAIN. Reductions in all departments are on Pre-war Prices and not on “Replacement Value”. We are well-known for the value we give – today our values are greater than ever before’.
On 20th September that year they placed the following notice in the newspapers: ‘We regret to announce that, OWING to the WAR, OUR KING’S LYNN BRANCH WILL BE CLOSED ABOUT THE FIRST WEEK IN OCTOBER. ALL STOCKS BEING CLEARED’. The company gave the premises over to the Borough Council for the remainder of the war and the following report appeared in the Lynn News on 29th November 1940:-
‘The premises in Lynn High-st. placed at the Mayor’s disposal by the Belfast Linen Warehouse have been converted into an Evacuees’ Centre, and are proving uncommonly useful. Mrs. Brand, the leader of the L.C.C. helpers in Lynn, has made her headquarters there, and is displaying her usual efficiency in making the best use of the available accommodation. Evacuees are encouraged to drop in at the Centre while they are doing their shopping, and they are thus able to meet others from their own district, and to discuss all the questions that arise from time to time among those who are far from their own homes. A working-party is being formed, and it seems likely that a great deal of good work will be done in regard to the children’s clothing. A sewing-machine has been provided, and traders are invited to do as some of their number have already done in sending old stock of all kinds for conversion by Mrs. Brand and her helpers’.
The origin of the Belfast Linen Warehouse business is obscure, although it would appear that individual regional companies were formed under the ‘umbrella’ company title. Some of these flourished while others struggled and were liquidated, and there are reports of a few of these in the London Gazette. In March 1956 the Gazette reported the voluntary winding-up of ‘Robinson’s Belfast Linen Warehouses Ltd.’ of Southport, but it is not clear whether this was the umbrella company. In September 1972, ‘The Belfast Linen Warehouse Ltd.’ company of Manchester was liquidated. However, ‘The Belfast’ linen drapers were still trading at No. 88 High Street and were listed here in Kelly’s Directory for 1973.