The General Store

At the start of the 20th century Mulbarton was well-served with shops - villagers remember that in 'the old days'...'All the shops sold everything, from sugar to paraffin - and hands were not always washed between articles in those days.' By the end of the 20th century there was only the One-Stop / Post Office store and the farm shop at Paddock farm. A new century saw a smart new shop - the Co-op. Here are memories of past shops and some of the shop-keepers.

Cracknell's, Norwich Road

'On Norwich Road, just beyond the entry to the baker's yard, was Charlie Cracknell's shop. He sold everything you could think of, even clothes and boots. This shop was later taken over by a Mr. Smith, then Mrs. Gowen, and finally Len Butler' [Hence the present name, 'Butler House'. 
[ See photo above - the brick wall in the foreground is not part of the house but part of the old bakery, access to which was through the gates just visible on the right.]

'Opposite the World's End was Cracknell's shop. Everything was in sacks or boxes and had to be weighed up whilst customers waited. Tins of biscuits stood on the floor, open for customers to view. Chairs were provided for customers to "ease their owd rewmatiks".'
Birthday card to Miss Mitchell - later Mrs Carver, 1910
Birthday card to Miss Mitchell - later Mrs Carver, 1910

Nesda Gray wrote, 'My mother from a small child lived with her aunt at the shop opposite the World's End. Her name was E. Gowen, the shopkeeper'   [She also said that her parents met through the shop, which supplied goods to Mr. Carver, landlord of the World's End, opposite.]

Brenda Ford (nee Collins) remember the war years: 'There was Cracknells' grocery shop opposite the Worlds End which sold everything I can think of. My mother used to send her grocery order in there and it would be delivered to our house in a small cardboard box - the extent of what our rations allowed in those days! We did supplement our rations, as did so many country people, with eggs from our hens and mother reared baby chickens and the cockerels from these were very edible! We also grew our own vegetables and the occasional wild rabbit was always appreciated.'

On his bill-heads (above), Mr Cracknell described himself as a Draper & Outfitter also selling boots and clothing, tea and fruit (1937). The bill itself show he sold large quantities of maize, too! The following year, a more colourful bill-head advertised Crawford's Biscuits. 'Hearty Greetings from Mulbarton' displays some of the sites in and around the village on a postcard from Cracknell's shop.

A little further along the Norwich Road was....

Mrs Frost's Haberdashery Shop

'Mrs Frost, who had a small hardware and linen shop on the corner of her house on the Norwich Road. She sold all sorts of things from pots and pans to knicker elastic! It was a nice little shop and smelt of a paraffin heater in the colder days ‑ quite a comforting smell as I remember.' 
'There were also books for choosing wallpaper and paints, which she could order in.' 

Mrs Frost's original shop on Norwich Road
Mrs Frost's original shop on Norwich Road

'Further along the road towards Norwich, Mrs Frost ran a linen shop which sold fancy goods and haberdashery. This is now part of Tabor House, which later became a hairdresser's salon, and then Falcon Acoustics.' [Which in turn has closed...]

Tabor House being built for the Frost family. The old shop is still on the far left, and  a single-storey shop  is being added to the house.
Tabor House being built for the Frost family. The old shop is still on the far left, and a single-storey shop is being added to the house.

Continue a little further north, and you came to....

Mrs. Robinson's shop, St. Omer Close

'Maggie Robinson ran a shop in the front room of her home in St. Omer Close. She was Mrs. Mickleburgh's mother, and had owned the orchard that was cleared for St. Omer Close to be built.' [The doorway and ground floor layout of that house is still slightly different from all the others in the Close.]

Yo the south of the Common there was.....

Mr Larter's General Store, Cuckoofield lane

Mr & Mrs Larter opened a wooden shop in their garden at 22 Cuckoofield Lane which served the growing population at the southern end of the parish.

"He sold anything from ¼ lb of tea to a gallon of paraffin (no EU Regulations then!)"

'George Larter had a wooden shop in his garden in what were the council houses in Cuckoofield Lane. He sold sweets, Corona fizzy drinks and fruit among other things. I remember when the first bananas appeared after the war - the queue extended the length of his long front garden path as no-one had seen bananas since the war began!'

The wooden shop that was once in a front garden in Cuckoofield Lane
The wooden shop that was once in a front garden in Cuckoofield Lane

In fact, there was a fuss about the early Cuckoofield Lane shop, as the Parish Council Minutes show:

1933 March 20th [Protest received about one of the Council Houses in Cuckoofield Lane being used as a shop, as] 'it was unjust to the other shopkeepers in the village who were compelled to pay much higher rent values.'

1933 April 20th Reported that higher rent to be paid by the shopkeeper in the Council House.

The Cuckoofield Lane shop became a garage until recently
The Cuckoofield Lane shop became a garage until recently

Amazingly the wooden shop survived until recently - it was dismantled and moved to a house in East Carleton road where it served as a shed and garage until the house was sold a few years ago....

Mrs Brighton's shop, Cuckoofield Lane

Eventually, when the 'new' council houses were built further along Cuckoofield Lane in the late '50s, a shop was included at no. 127. Doris Brighton ran it as a general store for many years, and later it was converted into a hairdresser's salon.

Mrs Brighton remembers that she was about the only person in Cuckoofield Lane to have a telephone and she would get emergency messages and be asked to fetch or tell people in houses all along the road.

All the above shops has ceased to exist by 1970. The village was growing, but so was car usage and the frequency of buses into Norwich... In Mulbarton, there were grocery sections at the Newsagent in Birchfield Lane and the Butcher's by the Common, and....

'The Pond Shop'

When the bakery finished, the shop became another General Store [see photo at page heading]. For many years it ran under the 'Mace' franchise. When Margaret Pitcher took over, she developed the newspaper side of the business, often showing great kindness to her delivery boys. She sold the round to One-Stop and the shop closed down. The end wall was rebuilt when the pavement was widened. For a short time the premises were take over by a clock and watch repair business, otherwise it has remained a private house.

The 'Pond Shop' awaiting a new owner. Now (2017) a clock repair & restoration business is located there.
The 'Pond Shop' awaiting a new owner. Now (2017) a clock repair & restoration business is located there.

Visiting Mobile Shops

By the 1960s and '70s bread was delivered by a baker in Hethersett. As the village grew, the local milk lady had competition from Dairycrest and Co-op milk rounds. A mobile greengrocer and a butcher also did their rounds. But there were - or had been - other mobile shops, too:

"In my young days, Jimmy Drake was the hard drinking, hard swearing coal merchant with his cob mare 'Dolly'. He lived in Swainsthorpe but delivered coal in Mulbarton. Whilst loading was in progress [at Swainsthorpe Station], Dolly laid down and slept in the shafts, oblivious of trains passing a few yards away.

Coal cart outside the Tradesman's Arms (owner probably inside...)
Coal cart outside the Tradesman's Arms (owner probably inside...)

"When loaded, Dolly was given a kick, Jimmy climbed onto the cart and off they went. They worked their way to Mulbarton. Having done several deliveries, the Tradesman's Arms hove into sight, Dolly would trot into the car park, Jimmy trotted into the pub: one slept and one supped. Halfway through the opening period normal service was resumed as far as the World's End, where they both practised their hobbies again. Sometimes a further stop was made at the Swardeston Dog, where Jimmy would be loaded up at closing time. Dolly was switched to auto-pilot and duly arrived home where willing hands took care of both."
(Tony Kent)

'I remember the coalman lived in Cuckoofield Lane - maybe he had a phone number, but we'd usually call or leave a note when we wanted more coal. He collected it from the coal yard opposite where Flordon Station once stood and brought it round in sacks on a flat-bed lorry. His round was much reduced once gas came through the village.'      Jill Wright

Fresh fish was brought by horse and cart in the 1950s (below), and later by van. Today, a van displays its wares at Paddock Farm shop weekly.



Russell's fish & chip van on its weekly visit to Mulbarton, on the corner of St Omer Close - with the usual queue! Everyone could smell when it arrived....
In the 1980s, after a long search for suitable premises and the necessary planning permission, Pip Eagling, who had helped his father on the van, opened a shop in what had been a kitchen show-room on the industrial estate and lived in the flat above. On some days they were so busy that the van was parked outside to supply extra chips, but after extending their equipment the van was released to go on other rounds. Graham helped his brother, and later took over running the Mulbarton shop and on his retirement it passed to Tom's, another Attleborough fryer. IWith thanks to Pip & Lynda for further information)