A Village With a Shop

National Lockdown certainly reduced your horizons if you stuck by the rules. Stay at home, only go out for exercise or to buy food. Here in this village we are very much luckier than a lot. We have a number of walks that we can be on within minutes of leaving our doors and these are not just country walks but walks through an area of outstanding natural beauty and what beauty! I know there are other very beautiful places in this country, ask anyone who comes from the Brecon Beacons or the North Yorkshire Moors and yes, they have a brooding magnificence, but this area has its own shade of beauty.

We have seen a lot of community spirit within the village and this is down to the ordinary folk. One of the villagers started a Social WhatsApp group and whilst not being a member it was a marvellous thing that kept people in touch with one another. We also had a lot of offers of help and actual help from neighbours who supplemented our grocery delivery which was, at best, sporadic. We have our pub and campsite (Blue Rabbit). The first opened a shop and the Blue Rabbit has the free’est of all free-range eggs and other goods on sale. The eggs vary from dark brown to a blue that you would have been very happy to paint your bathroom that colour in the 1960s. We have eaten their bacon in our bacon and mushroom risotto and their sausages were a triumph in our toad in the hole. Toad in the hole with some vegetables and potatoes from the boxes that were provided by Pub’s shop was one of my favourite lockdown menu items. That is not to forget poached Blue Rabbit eggs on sough dough toast made with the bread flour obtained by the guys in the Sorrel Horse when it was as rare as the teeth in the Blue Rabbit chicks. The pub shop and the campsite were such a godsend and that, with a very occasional grocery delivery, meant we did not have to venture out much, to put our self in danger of adding to the statistics.

Very strange times having a shop in the village for the first time since the Post Office closed in the early 1990s. The Pub shop got me thinking about what it was like in the village when it did have quite a few businesses. I decided to have a look at the period from about 1855 to 1861 when the village had the most residences ever. It also had the biggest population of modern times with over 350 souls. Their need to go outside the village except to get to their place of work, which was very likely to be a farm, would be very unusual I think.

In 1855 the world was a very different place. It was thirty odd years before Karl Benz who, in 1889, made the world’s first production motor car. He made a number of the same vehicle hence the word ‘production’. It was four years before the railway line pushed through Woodbridge and Shottisham, when looked at alongside its neighbouring villages, was a very small place. It was dwarfed by Hollesley with 578 villagers, Sutton at over 730 and Alderton with 430 people. It was also thirty years before, arguably, the most famous of the historic personalities of the Wilford Hundred, Sir Cuthbert Quilter, built Bawdsey Manor and set about changing the lie of the land to include his game woods and to change the road from Bawdsey to Bawdsey Ferry. You can imagine that for the Shottisham Villager there were only a few ways of going anywhere, either by horse and cart, or just horse, or by shanks’ pony. The faff of the six-miles walk along tracks, which were very unlike the B1083 is today, to get to Woodbridge would have meant that you really needed to shop local. If you could not get something in the Village then it would be a trip to Woodbridge either in the back of someone’s cart or maybe in whatever room the carrier William Kemp had on his trips to Woodbridge on a Monday and Thursday or to Ipswich on a Saturday. Even old Sir Cuthbert must have thought the trip to Woodbridge a bit of a fag because he built his chain ferry at Bawdsey to get him to Felixstowe Rail Station so he could go off to his London businesses or the Houses of Parliament.

So a trip with the carrier William Kemp may have been a possibility. The first mention of him is in the 1841 Census for Shottisham where as a 15-year-old boy he was living with his father Benjamin Kemp the carrier for Village at the time. He had a couple of brothers and a mother called Dinah, however, because of the vagaries of the Censuses at the time it is impossible to tell exactly where an individual lived unless the house is named and the name exists today. By 1855 William had the business of carrier for Shottisham whilst his dad did the carrying for Hollesley to Ipswich on Saturdays. His dad also farmed 9 acres and a lot of the business folk at the time had more than one enterprise. Short and long hall carriers became prolific in the 18th Century but with the advent of the railways the long haul carriers stated to fade but because of the lack of transport in villages and towns without rail stations, carriers remained the main way of getting goods in and out of places. It is thought that by 1881 there were around 25,000 carriers in England. Although not always the case the carriers would normally carry poultry, game rabbits eggs and fruit. You can imagine William Kemp carrying the produce of the village into Woodbridge to shops.

By the 1861 census, William is still shown as having the job as carrier but without an address to pin him down. If I was to venture a guess and assume that the census records were clustered in areas then William would have been close to, or in the houses on Bussock Lane. The 1861 Census starts at Brew House which is on the eastern edge of the Parish and according to one other source Bussock Lane was the main route off the Peninsula so it could make sense for William to have his residence near there. In this part of the lane there are few houses now or then although in 1881 there were at least two more cottages near where Bussock Barn is today. These were pulled down at some point in the past but they are shown in the Ordnance Survey Map for around the latter part of the 19th century. William was married to Elizabeth nee Manthorpe which is a name that we have seen in previous blogs. By 1881 William was still a Carrier but by this time he was a Widow with a housekeeper. In 1892 he had passed and is buried in St Margaret’s graveyard with headstone by the side of the path heading towards the grass car park and alongside the hedge. Laid to rest with him is his wife who died before him in 1879.

William Kemp and father before him would have taken goods to Woodbridge and whilst I have no documented evidence to prove it, it is nice to imagine Villagers hitching rides on the back of the cart to get to the town. It must have seemed like a big town to our local populous. It is unlikely that every household would have a horse and is more likely that making do was the order of the day and walking everywhere was the most likely form of transport. Anything that you could not get in Shottisham, or one of the surrounding villages, would have needed a 6 mile walk to Woodbridge. Our Villager could have cut a bit of the journey by taking the ferry from this side of the Deben to the quay near the Tidemill.

At least you could write and send a letter although I am not sure how quick it would reach its destination. The first adhesive stamp, the penny black, was introduced in 1840 although it was soon replaced by the penny red because the franking of black on black allowed stamps to be reused when the cancellation could not be seen. A thought that occurred to me was how did the mail get to Woodbridge? In the Post Office directory of 1869, a bit outside my dates of interest, it shows that letters would be received from Woodbridge at 7 am and the post box closed at 6:45 pm. So were these letters sent and received by a guy on a horse? Maybe not. Up and until the advent of the railways the mail was taken around the country on mail coaches and after that by trains. Neither would have been possible in Shottisham. If we look at the Hollesley entry in White’s Directory of 1855 we can see that letters were sent by ‘foot post. So even the Post Office could not afford a horse and some poor soul had to bring the letters overnight to the Village and take them back in the evening on foot. In the winter it was not a great job finding your way to Woodbridge and back in the dark.

White’s directory indicates that the post office was at J Fairhead’s. I always worry about writing about someone when you only have an initial but I have checked a bit wider and I am fairly sure it is James Fairhead who was the Postmaster in 1851 as well as the wheelwright. In 1861 he was still the Postmaster for the Village but by now he was living in Sutton and by 1871 he was still in Sutton where he was buried although I do not have a date. It is clear that the post office was not the post office which it was in modern times and I cannot find out when the post office was moved to the building in The Street.

So what else could the average villager in Shottisham spend their money on without the journey to Woodbridge? A lot of our views of the history from then until now are from writings and photographs. In 1850 the camera was early in its development so we are reliant on the writings of individuals or official documents. It was not until the 1870’s that a usable instantaneous dry plate camera became available so it is unlikely that I am going to find any photos of Shottisham at the time and therefore it is just writing and official documents.

Our Villager would need the staples, food and drink and other things. Looking at staples the first thing that comes to mind are groceries and provisions. From what I can find groceries would have been similar to what we can expect to see today. Certainly tea had reduced in price in the early 19th century such that tea was cheaper than beer which made a change from earlier times when the rich locked their tea in ornate caddies to stop the servants from enjoying an afternoon cuppa. So you would have expected that tea would have been available with sugar for sweetening the brew. Flour, which could have been milled just down the road, would have been available and our villagers bread could have had a little jam on with local butter, or even marmalade which is purported to have been invented in 1677 by Eliza Cholmondeley. Perhaps the Marmelos making Portuguese would dispute that ‘first’ although their ‘marmalade’ was made with quinces so perhaps Eliza does get the accolade. The milk to go with the average villager’s tea would not have been sold in a bottle. Bottled milk was introduced about 1870 and pasteurisation would not have been applied until the 20th Century. I can recall as a youngster getting milk served from a churn with a half and pint measures which were just metal cans at the end of a metal handles. Mind you this was in Cornwall and the 1950’s. +

I expect that the grocers shop was very different to what we had in recent times with the goods being similar to today but presented very differently. Bread the staple of life for thousands of years would also have been different to what we have now. The flour would have not been white. White flour could be made but the cost of production was exorbitant being screened with silk and it was only available to the rich. The first method of producing white flour on a large scale was introduced in the 1870s. I cannot see the mention of any bakers either as a primary or secondary job in Shottisham or any of the villages around. Although bakers were around at this time obviously not on this part of the Peninsula so perhaps all the bread baking was done at home. However by 1869, as shown in the Post Office directory of the time, the village had his own baker.

Thomas Bedwell was our local grocer and draper. Draper is a supplier of cloth in those times although it has represented many things since then. So, old Tom would have seen to the grocery and cloth needs of the village. He is living in Shottisham in 1861 with his wife Mary Ann Bedwell and on the Census he is living in a dwelling which was the 46th registered so difficult to see where about in the village his shop was. On the 1871 census he is shown as a farmer of 97 acres and the 1869 Post Office Directory confirms his status as farmer but there is no mention of the grocers and drapery. It is much easier to see where the ‘shops’ existed on the 1881 census which seems to be more ordered with more naming of dwellings. On the 1881 census old Tom is living in a cutely named place called Angel Hall. This home and his record sits between Ford Cottage and a road named Mill Hill. Now it is not much of a stretch of imagination to see the hill as that which comes up to The Street from the Mill. I have a map from about 1881 which does show quite a cluster of buildings near the Mill and along the stream which are no longer there. Somewhere there is what looks to have been an extra 3 residences and some non residential buildings including one on the mill side of the Ford as it was then. None of these buildings appear on our maps now.

Whilst I am down at this end of the Village I want to look at Frederick Fletcher who appears as the Miller in White’s 1855 directory and in the census from four years before. By 1869 the milling had been passed on and the miller then is Robert Hayward. Living with Fred in 1851 was his wife, Mary, his daughter, Emma, and three of the four millers he employed. Interestingly one of the three millers is shown as a visitor, so a worker in the mill but not resident at the time. There is also a housemaid living at the mill with what appears to be a barman but the script is somewhat indistinct although, I think that this may be my misreading because in later censuses he is shown with miller in his title.

In 1861 I have found that Frederick Fletcher, who by now is 74 years old, living with his daughter Emma and her Husband Charles Hayward who is the miller as well as a farmer of 100 acres. Charles employs 4 labourers but it is not clear if these are agricultural or milling labourers. There is also another Frederick Fletcher who at 17 was also living at the mill and is shown as the nephew of Frederick Snr. who is shown as Father-in-Law to Charles. Interestingly Fred Jnr. was born in Aldeburgh in 1844.

It is unfortunate that the census records at the time show little discernible relationship with the residences shown on a map. There may be some geographic ordering to the entries but that is difficult to make out. I am making a leap here in saying that the ordering of the records show a little to the layout of the village. It brings up some interesting, for want of a better word, ‘things’. The census records are numbered and split into inhabited dwellings. Records start at 1 and then end with a number which depends on the number of inhabited residences. Also the records will start from different places. In the 1851 the records start at Shottisham Hall which is identifiable on maps old and new. In the 1861 census the records start at Brew House and they are at quite different parts of the Parish. I am concentrating on the Village in 1855 but I am happy to slip from the different censuses because this is just a bit of fun to see the businesses the Village in 1855ish and is not intended to be an historical record.

So we have seen a couple the businesses that have provided some of the essentials of the Village and the people who owned and run them, e.g. the grocer and draper and miller. As I have said earlier, in 1855 there was no recorded baker in the Village so I suspect that most bread was baked at home. This is maybe not always the case and I know from what people have told me a bread oven may have served a number of cottages. There are a couple of houses in the Village that retain what reputedly are the original bread ovens and these are built into the fabric of the original building. One can image that at the time the cook of the house, whether family or servant, would have cooked the daily bread for the home. Baking bread takes time and having that time back and meeting the needs of the family with just purchasing a loaf with your other groceries must have been attractive even for the Victorian Villager. It would not have been white flour which started about 1870 when grinding with steel replaced grinding by stone. John Mills and his wife Elizabeth were both bakers as shown in the Shottisham census and by 1871 John was 66 years old and Lizzie was 68. John was born in Bawdsey and Liz in Shottisham. There was also a John Mills Jun, which I assume is junior, who was a seed merchant but I cannot seem to find any trace of the Mills junior so maybe he was not resident in the village. As I have said this is not an historical account of the Village so I will not delve too far.

Catering to the meat needs of the Village was Thomas Kemp. With it being such a small community I suspect he was related to the carriers ‘Kemp’ from a previous paragraph. By 1869 no butcher is shown separately although there is an early photograph of the houses on the Knowl with one clearly shown as a ‘pork’ butcher. With the villagers doing a lot of walking then cobblers would be key to the well being of the Parish and fortunately they had two, William Hudson and James Laws. Laws was also the beer house owner who dabbled with shoe making on the side. William Hudson is quaintly recorded as a Cordwainer with two apprentices and what looks to be two workers although the script is very indistinct. With less than 400 people in the village and with a Cordwainer making new shoes with new leather he could he have provided shoes for outside the Village maybe carried to Woodbridge by Kemp the Carrier.

The 1850’s was the golden age of agriculture so you would expect that the majority of the wage earners in Shottisham were employed on the land and from a quick look at the 1851 census there are a number of agricultural labourers. Whilst it was the golden age of agriculture, for agricultural workers and those working on the land it was hard and they were often quite poor. In the census for 1851 the first recorded entry is for Robert Edwards shown as living in Shottisham Hall and owning 500 acres of land with a workforce of 29 which included what appears to be 6 ‘boys’.  By 1861 his workforce had reduced and in 1869 the Farm and Hall were in the hands of a Charles Edwards and by 1881 the Robert Edwards Family appear to be living in London Road in Ipswich. Not such a bad life for our Robert and his family, with 500 acres a ‘hall’, a ‘living’ Cook and Dairymaid, Housemaid and Nursemaid.

There were two levels in our community, the wealthy and the not so wealthy. The ‘not so’ would vary, no doubt, from those ‘getting by’ to the ‘hand to mouth’ existers. On the next page of the Census we have John Gibbons who is living with his wife, son-in-law, his son-in-law’s wife and three grandchildren. John is shown as born in London and having married a Shottisham lass ends up at age 66 as a ‘pauper’. Before the introduction of the state pension in 1909 poor relief was provided in two ways. The first, if the person was able bodied, would be to force the poor unfortunate into a workhouse and if they were not able bodied, because they were infirm or old, they would receive payment hence being recorded as a pauper. His wife Elizabeth, whom he married in 1818, was from Shottisham and it would be good to know what brought John up from London to work on the land which we know because he is shown on the 1841 as an Agricultural Labourer.

Robert Spall appears to be the only Thatcher in the 1851 census and also on the 1861 version. Not such a prevalent trade in this day and age with just a few specialists left but it must have been quite in demand then before the houses were re-roofed with tiles or slates. One of Robert’s sons William, I believe, became the Grocer for the Village and there is a early photograph of the Post Office with the name of Spall above the shop windows. Interestingly the Census of 1891 records that William and his family were all living in the ‘Grocers Shop’, which is the first time I have seen the building named as such. I am not able to determine when the picture was taken. Maybe someone will tell me.

Young William Boon was an errand boy at 15 years old but it does not say who he worked for, nor how he managed to get around the Village and outlying areas to deliver his ‘errands’. At 15 he would likely have walked because cycles were in their infancy and most at the time appear to be pedal-less but run-more.

I have only found one mention of a Fisherman. In fact it was a fisherman’s wife, Liddia Beady. There would have been a number of fishing vessels at various points around the coast and up the Deben but none appeared in the 1851 census because ships had their own schedules but none survive from then. If I get a chance I will look at the 1861 census to see if if Liddia’s husband is on a ship. She is shown as the head of the household on the day of the census and made ends meet by having three lodgers living with her and her son. I do have a record of boating type person, a Charles Bird, or Bind it is really not clear, who was 17 and quaintly recorded as ‘a mariner’ at home.

As we can see from Whites Directory, the Post Office Directories and the Censuses Shottisham must have been quite a busy place with 350 Villagers packed into far fewer houses than we have now. Would it have been a nicer place to live?

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