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No. 96, High Street

Along with Nos. 95 and 97, this shop was bought by Scott & Son and incorporated into their large furniture store without any demolition or major alteration and modernisation.

 c1836 (James Rix)

White’s Directory for 1836 lists James Rix, a hosier and haberdasher, at this address, and he was still here in 1839 (Pigot).

By 1846 he had moved to No. 90, High Street, where more details of his family may be found.

c1843 – c1850 (Harriett Eldridge)

On 23rd May 1843, Harriett Eldridge placed a notice in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘The Cheapest Bonnet Repository in LYNN, is at Mrs. G. ELDGIDGE’S, No. 96, High Street. Mrs’ E’s Repository is now replete with all kinds of British and Foreign TUSCANS, RICE, RUTLAND, ALBERT, DUNSABLE, and FANCY BONNETS, also SHAPES, FRENCH FLOWERS, and CHINESE FEATHERS, which she has just received from the Principal Houses in London, assuring all Ladies an inspection to her Fashionable Stock, will be to their advantage. One Trial will prove that Bonnets can be CLEANED, TURNED and ALTERED to the newest Fashions, equal to any house in London. OBSERVE No. 96’.

Harriet had been born in Lynn in about 1814. Her husband George (b. 1818 in Lynn) was an engraver and printer. In an advertisement dated 25th October 1842, he stated ‘House No. 96, High Street’. He moved into No. 95 for a short time in 1843. By 1851 the family were living in Quincey’s Yard, next to No. 46, High Street.

Harriet and George Eldridge had two children, both born in Lynn:-

1) George William Melchizedek, a painter in Middlesbrough in 1881 (b. 1843 – m. Elizabeth Vine in 1867). 2) Jane Elizabeth (b. 1845).

George died in June, 1855, aged 36.

Harriet was working as a shoe binder in 1861, and living in Surrey Street with her daughter Jane, who was a seamstress. Harriet died in 1867, aged 56.

c1846 (Robert Elmer)

Kelly’s Nine Counties Directory for 1846 lists Robert Elmer, a gardener, at this address.

c1850 (William Bostock) (Elizabeth Bostock)

William Bostock, a basket maker, is listed in Slater’s directory for 1850 at this address, and he also had premises at No. 24, Tuesday Market Place. In the same directory, his wife, Elizabeth, is listed here as a fruiterer.

William Bostock had been born in Upwell in about 1811, and in 1841 he was working as a basket maker and shop keeper in that village. He and Elizabeth had eight children, all but one being born in Lynn:-

1) Sarah (b. c1836 in Upwell). 2) Eliza (b. c1843). 3) Thomas (b. c1845 – d. 1850, aged 5). 4) Rebecca (b. c1847 – d. 1850, aged 3). 5) Elizabeth (b. c1849). 6) Hannah (b. c1851). 7) Rebecca (b. c1853). 8) Lucy (b. c1859).

A beer retailer by the name of William Bostock is listed in Jews Lane, King’s Lynn in Kelly’s Nine Counties Directory for 1846 and this may be the same man. What is certain is that he was in the town from 1843 until his death 34 years later.

It is not clear how long he stayed at No. 96, but it was at least three years. By 1854 he had moved to Purfleet Street and was still working as a basket maker. In 1861 he was living in Broad Street and was combining the basket making with a fish shop. By 1865 he had moved to Norfolk Street where he ran a butcher’s shop.

Elizabeth died in 1876, aged 64, and William died the following year, aged 66.

c1854 (Edward Saxby)

In White’s Directory for 1854, the listing under ‘Smallware Dealers’ is for Edward Saxby at No. 96. He sold Birmingham and Sheffield goods.

c1861 – c1899 (Hannah Plowright) (George Plowright jnr.)

For some years this was George Plowright’s ironmongery shop. He moved here from 18, High Street, where he was in 1850. Between about 1836 and 1846 he had been at 43, High Street, where he was listed as a ‘tinman, brazier and gas fitter’ in Kelly’s Nine Counties Directory for the latter year. More details of George and Hannah Plowright’s family will be found at No. 43, High Street.

Born in about 1806, George Plowright jnr. married Hannah Springfield (b. c1815 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire) in 1837. George and Hannah had eleven children:-

1) Thomas Edward, an engine fitter (b. 1838 – m. Frances Lack in 1863 – d. 1913, aged 74). 2) Ann Elizabeth (b. 1839 – m. 1889). 3) Hannah, a drapery assistant at Grundy & Pond – see Nos. 76 to 77, High Street (b. 1842 – m. Frederick James Hodgkinson in 1871 – d. 1921, aged 78). 4) George Curties Springfield, a brazier & tin plate worker – see below (b. 02/02/1844 – m. Sarah Elizabeth Smith on 09/06/1902 – d. 15/06/1907, aged 63). 5) William Henry, an auctioneer’s clerk in Chester – (b. 1845 –m. Isabella Rawcliffe in 1869 – m. Mary Ann Leete in 1902 – d. 1927/8, aged 82). 6) James, a bicycle manufacturer – see below (b. 1847/8 – m. Annie Burke in 1879/80 – d. 1920, aged 72). 7) Anna, a draper in Luton (b. 1849 – d. 1927, aged 77). 8) Jane, a draper in Luton (b. 1851 – d. 1922, aged 71). 9) Mary, a draper in Luton (b. 1852/3 – d. 1929, aged 76). 10) Alice, a Cromer boarding house keeper c1901 – 1911 (b. 1855 – d. 1933, aged 77). 11) Lucy, a Cromer boarding house keeper c1901 – 1911 (b. 1859 – d. 1939, aged 80).

George Plowright snr. died in 1859, leaving Hannah to bring up their children on her own. Hannah took over the shop, which retained its name as G. or Geo. Plowright and is recorded as working as a dealer in tin goods and hardware in 1861, and as an ironmonger and tin plate worker in 1863 (Harrod). In 1868 (Harrod) and in the 1871 census, she was listed as a tin plate worker, as was her son James, aged 23, who became a bicycle manufacturer. Four of Hannah Plowright’s daughters were still at home in 1871. Mrs. Plowright was listed as a ‘tinner & brazier’ in Kelly’s Directory of 1875. She was an occasional advertiser in the local newspapers and, on 1st May, 1875, placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘STOVE ORNAMENTS. G.  PLOWRIGHT begs to call the attention of the Inhabitants of Lynn and neighbourhood to a large assortment of STOVE ORNAMENTS just received from LONDON, of the Newest Designs. Likewise Paper Flowers, Cut Tissues, Shavings &c. 96 HIGH STREET.’

Hannah Plowright died in 1877 at the age of 63.

Although the business at No. 96 continued under the name of George Plowright, this did not indicate that Hannah’s son George Curties Springfield was the proprietor, although the listing in 1879 (Kelly’s Post Office Directory) was for a ‘tinner and brazier’. The 1881census records that six of Hannah’s children were living here, and it would appear that brazing and tin plate working was only a part of a wider family business. Also George C. S. appears to have had an equal, rather than a leading role alongside his siblings.

Anna (29) was head of the family and acted as housekeeper. George C. S. (36) was a brazier employing one man and a boy, Mary (27) was a ‘fancy ironmonger’, employing one boy and Alice (23) was an assistant ironmonger. Lucy (21) was working as a governess. Another of the siblings, James Plowright (33), had set up on his own as a bicycle maker and lived at 27, Railway Road.

White’s Directory for 1890 lists the business at No. 96 as that of George Plowright ‘ironmonger, gasfitter, tin and iron-plate worker’. However, by 1891 George C. S. had given up working here and was boarding at 1, Stanley Street. Anna and Mary had taken over the business completely and were running it as a fancy ironmongery shop.

The last directory entry for George Plowright at this address is as tinner and brazier in 1896 (Kelly), but this does not reflect the fact that George C.S. had left, and it may be that the sisters forgot to amend or cancel the directory entry.

The business had ceased trading by the end of 1897, because in December that year, following the great High Street fire that destroyed his shop, the chemist Sydney Count moved in for a few months while his premises were being rebuilt.

In December, 1899, the following notice appeared in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘G. PLOWRIGHT 96, HIGH STREET, LYNN. Selling Off the Entire Stock of FANCY IRONMONGERY at Greatly Reduced Prices, previous to leaving the town.’

It is likely that this notice was issued by Anna and Mary Plowright, because it referred specifically to the fancy hardware stock. The decision to leave town had been taken by the two sisters who moved to 46, Wellington Street, Luton to run a drapery business. They were joined in this enterprise by Jane, and were there in 1901 and 1911. The younger sisters Alice and Lucy ran a boarding house in Cromer for over ten years, before retiring and moving to Luton to join their elder siblings.

1876 (James Plowright)

On 17th June, 1876, James, the son of George and Hannah Plowright, placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘BICYCLES. THE BICYCLE AGENCY, 96, High Street, Lynn – New and Second-hand Coventry Bicycles, with latest improvements, for Sale or Hire. Agent for the Excelsior and Challenge make. Illustrated price lists on application to J. PLOWRIGHT.’

Born in 1847/8 he had trained as a tin plate worker and after his father died in 1859 assisted his mother Hannah in the business.

In 1871 he was still assisting his mother as a tin plate worker, and the 1876 advertisement is the earliest reference to his bicycle business. However, the following year, after setting up on his own account at premises near Purfleet Bridge, he stated in the Lynn Advertiser that he had eight years experience in the manufacture and repair of bicycles:-

‘205 MILES IN THE DAY is the longest distance on record. JAMES PLOWRIGHT having had eight years practical experience in the manufacturing and repair of Bicycles, calls the attention of Bicyclists generally to the Express, which is undoubtedly the lightest running Bicycle before the public, and used by the fastest riders of the district. The following Coventry Bicycles in stock to select from:- Challenge Special, Patent Safety, Racing, Excelsior, Tangent and Swiftsure. 48in. from £8, fitted with break (sic), etc. Bicycles on hire. Trial before purchase. Iron work and every article connected with the trade in stock. Illustrated Catalogue Free. Every Machine Guaranteed. Works:- PURFLEET BRIDGE, LYNN.’

His claim to have had eight years experience indicates that he was involved with the repair and manufacture of bicycles from about 1869, when he was still working for his mother. In later life he was to claim to have been the first man to have made a bicycle in England. This may have been a blatant piece of self-promotion, but it appears that he was making ‘bone shakers’ copied from those imported from France and manufactured by the Michaux family in Paris in those early days. The Michaux velocipedes had been shown at the first international bicycle exhibition of 1867. Rowley Turner of the Coventry Sewing Machine Company had agreed to manufacture the Michaux machines for sale in France but the Franco Prussian war of 1870 intervened and he sold them in England instead.

Meanwhile one of the greatest inventors and pioneers of bicycle technology, James Starley (1831 – 1881) had entered the scene. In 1870 he patented the all-metal Arial bicycle. His inventions included the tension-wheel with pre-stretched wire spokes, and in 1874 the ‘tangent-spoke wheel’.

Although James Plowright may not have been the first man to make a bicycle in England, he appears to have been involved in the development and manufacture of bicycles in the early 1870s. He exhibited some of his bicycles in Paris in 1878 and was awarded four medals.

James remained at Purfleet Bridge for a few years, being listed there in 1879 (Kelly’s Post Office Directory), and in 1883 (Kelly). By 1890 (White) he had relocated to No. 27, Railway Road, where he stayed for over 30 years. On 4th August, 1888, he placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘JAMES PLOWRIGHT 27, Railway Road, and Market Street, Lynn. PERAMBULATORS, BICYCLES and TRICYCLES MADE and REPAIRED ON THE PREMISES. INSPECT our STOCK of PERAMBULATORS, over thirty choice designs in Show Room to select from. Indestructible Steel Perambulator Wheels for hard country wear. LAWN MOWERS ground by Special Machinery on the premises, and guaranteed to cut equal to new. INDIA RUBBER GARDEN HOSE and FITTINGS complete (60ft) 20/-. Agent for JONES’S CELEBRATED SEWING MACHINES. Sewing Machines of all Makes Repaired on the Premises. WRINGING & WASHING MACHINES, etc.’

In an advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser on 11th May, 1895, James Plowright gave an impressive list of 88 patrons, including 11 British, Russian and Greek Royals, 4 Dukes, 10 Earls, 4 Barons including Baron Rothschild, 6 Counts and Countesses, 8 Knights, and the MPs. Herbert Gladstone and Arthur Balfour. He advertised a stock of over 100 bicycles, perambulators and mail carts.

On 29th March, 1915, the following report appeared in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette:-

‘MADE the FIRST BICYCLE. The man who is understood to have made the first bicycle in England has just retired from business in King’s Lynn. He is Mr. James Plowright, who claims to have copied the first ‘bone-shaker’, as he describes it, from France. The original machine was made by Mr. Michaux, and, says Mr. Plowright, “the first one I made had iron wheels and was of iron throughout”. Mr. Plowright speaks of the days when bicycles had wooden wheels, and says he has ridden thousands of miles on one of these machines. One of his longest journeys was from King’s Lynn to Spalding and back.’

His death on 5th September, 1920, was reported in newspapers as far away as America, the following notice appearing in the Milwaukee Journal on 1st Oct 1920:-

‘BICYCLE PIONEER DEAD. London. The man who made the first bicycle in England, James Plowright, 72, died. Plowright copied the first French models’.

 1897 (Sydney Count)

Sydney Count moved here temporarily after his chemist’s shop at No. 17 was destroyed in the fire of 27th December, 1897. He was in business here by 31st December, and stayed a few months while his premises at No. 17 were being rebuilt.

1896 – 1904

There is no evidence from the directories as to the ownership and occupation of Nos. 96 & 97, High Street in the years from 1896 to 1904. There are no listings for No. 96 in the directories for 1900 and 1904, and the premises were unoccupied at the time of the 1901 census.

1904 (Scott & Son)

Scott & Son may have purchased the premises prior to this date but in 1904 the first real evidence that they owned the building was the submission of an application for a new shop front with the building line set back. This application was approved in March, 1904. More information about Scott & Son is given under Nos. 91 to 97, High Street.