Old Directories list a number of shops and shop-keepers from the days before living memory. William Crisp and William Middleton are listed as shopkeepers in 1845, though in the 1851 census and thereafter William Middleton is a shoemaker.
The Postmaster / mistress
Ewen Cossey, shopkeeper, was the 'receiver of post' in 1845 - not long after the penny post was introduced in 1840. he is listed as a Grocer in the 1851 census and as running a Post Office in 1854. By 1861 Robert & Elizabeth Spurgeon are listed as shopkeepers, and Susanna Spurgeon is the postmistress in 1869, but Elizabeth has taken over that role by 1871. She is listed as grocer and draper, too. Her husband, Robert pursues his own trade of carpenter and builder. By 1883 only Elizabeth is listed, assisted by Mrs Sophia Brigham. And then in 1891 we have 'The Shop', run by a very busy man: Robert FUNNELL, carpenter, builder, baker, grocer, postmaster. He continues through 1892, 1896, and 1901 (listed only as baker) until The Shop is taken over by Mr Watling.
Watling - Grocer, Baker, Draper, etc & Post Office
From 'Within Living Memory' by Gladys Watling:
In 1902 my father took over the Bakery, General Store and Post Office in Bracon Ash, having moved from Flordon. Our family shop was situated opposite the old Reading Room (now the Village Hall) and there was a vast difference between then and now. It was a General Store, Post Office and a Bakery and I sometimes feel amazed at the work involved as most of the stock came in bulk. The sugar came in 2cwt sacks and was weighed into 1lb and 2lb blue paper bags. The 1lb packets were fastened by neatly tucking in the tops but the 2lbs were always folded over and securely tied with white twine. The tea was kept in large metal containers for the different qualities and always the end one had green tea.
One item of stock kept on a high shelf was gunpowder; there were also lead pellets so I suppose the men had guns which they primed for themselves before the coming of cartridges. Another use for the gunpowder was to blow clear the flues of the oven in the wall.
The shop was lit by oil lamps- one was an oil lamp near the door and the other a hanging lamp in the middle of the shop. A near catastrophe occurred when the door lamp 'flared up' with the draught and set light to bunches of fibre brushes hanging from the ceiling. The village men rallied round and dealt with the fire and my father had the presence of mind to take the gunpowder to a building far away down the yard.
The stock in connection with the bakery was of different grades of flour. Also there was an assortment of animal feeding stuffs known as offal and consisted of bran and supers and maize for feeding fowls. The bakers had to keep a supply of small quantities of flour weighed up in quarter stone and half stone bags. I remember one occasion when the shelf was packed too full and gave way and down came the paper bags of flour.
My father was an enterprising man and when a travelling photographer came along [Tom Nokes] he had a lot of views of the village printed for sale in the shop. One which was very popular was taken in the harvest field which apparently attracted half the village there to see the rabbits run and they brought a picnic tea (postcard below).
My father was the first person to have a motor car in the village though he still kept the horses for the bread rounds. People often used to ask for a lift to Norwich as my father went regularly to get supplies from the wholesalers and to bank the weekly takings.
Watling's shop was also the Post Office: In the early days the Royal Mail came from Norwich by horse and cart and our mail was delivered in the early hours on the way to New Buckenham; the return to Norwich picked up our mail about seven o'clock in the evening. We had two postmen who made deliveries in Bracon Ash and Hethel- they were called auxiliaries and in the course of time various arrangements were made for the transport of mail. At one time the mailbag came by train to Swainsthorpe Station and a postman had to cycle there to fetch it. Then eventually the motor vans came into use and once again this meant an early call but the bakers had started work and this meant they could take in the sealed bag and hand it over to my father and the postman when they came on duty.
& Mrs Saunders of Bracon Ash - Postman and Postlady (thought to be first married couple
in Norfolk to
both deliver post.)
Mrs Stubbing's Grocery Store
There was also a small grocer's shop behind the Harness-makers which was owned by Mrs. Stubbings. Jean Goodrum remembers going down the 'loke' beside the harness-makers and through an entry and round into the shop to the high counter. George Stubbings is listed as a harness-maker in census returns for 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901, and his son Albert was first an apprentice (1891) and then a Journeyman Harnessmaker (1901) in the business with him. By 1911 George, now 68, and his wife Caroline are living with another son, Charles (34), occupation Shopkeeper, and his wife Edith. Ted Moore's memory of 'the little shop at the back of the harness maker's' is, 'If you went in the wrong way round you didn't see anything. You had to go in sideways as it was so full of stuff - stacked up with biscuit tins!'
of Bracon Ash delivered goods to villages around. The delivery cart is loaded and
ready to go from The Street, Bracon Ash. Mr Stubbings sets off to deliver
provisions, early 1900s
The post-war emergency housing 'camp' on the old Hethel air base housed around 700 people. In the centre of the "village" there was a Post Office and general store in what had been the base's 'PX' during the war and a fish & chip shop.`In addition, the camp was very well served by visiting tradesmen each week as well as the daily visits of Mr Walker's milk cart.
Michael Coates remembers: 'Each week a van from the Wymondham branch of the Norwich Co-operative Society would call with orders sent with the driver the previous week.... A greengrocer visited each site, carrying a variety of fresh produce.... An elderly couple from Ashwellthorpe came each week in a very old van to sell fresh fish - known as the 'fish man' and 'fish lady'.... The 'oilman' came in a large van which was identical to that used as Cpl. Jones' butcher's van in the TV series 'Dad's Army' - he was basically selling household hardware, soaps, etc as well as paraffin for lighting and heating. Smith's from Hethersett brought bread, but ours was delivered from the bakery in Bracon Ash... Our baker was one of the few people who actually had a new van and its registration letters always intrigued me: EOR for Hampshire, so how did that arrive in Norfolk?'
'At fairly frequent, but usually irregular intervals, the Ice Cream van would make its way up the site with chimes ringing out. As absolutely nobody on the camp owned a refrigerator, ice cream was a great luxury and only obtainable when the van arrived. Consequently, there was usually an almost full turnout of residents.... Another regular trader was the 'Corona' lorry which delivered soft drinks in large, returnable glass bottles...'
'In the winter months coal merchants would make deliveries; either Thomas Moy from Norwich or the Co-op lorry which was based at Wymondham. There was also the usual collection of brush salesmen, the odd encyclopaedia salesman and possibly other door-to-door salesmen....'