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From bootmakers to tobacconists - Old Great Yarmouth directory is portal into town's bygone shopping past

PUBLISHED: 09:10 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:53 24 April 2019

A 1937 business directory is a portal to Great Yarmouth's shopping past. Businesses today are struggling against a host of pressures but numerous small, independent firms once flourished.
Picture: James Bass

A 1937 business directory is a portal to Great Yarmouth's shopping past. Businesses today are struggling against a host of pressures but numerous small, independent firms once flourished. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Although most of us weren't around in 1937 a business directory offering a glance back to the shopping scene in that year is full of familiar names.

Pages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz CoatesPages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz Coates

In those days people living in Great Yarmouth could pretty much pop out for whatever they wanted with a grocer or corner shop on every street as small, independent, firms flourished.

The goldmine Archant directory lists every business trading in the town and reveals some glinting nuggets about what life was like, and who did what and where.

Early closing, Kelly's directory tells us, was Thursday.

Most of the those offering services advertised via their address, only about half listing a four-digit phone number and the select few more than one line.

Thousands of businesses command an entry, many of them one-man-bands, revealing that enterprise and industry were the back bone of local life.

Chiming with its status as a major port there are countless fish curers and marine merchants with pubs and boot makers/repairers ranking among the most prolific.

Also conspicuous by their number are the tobacconists and confectioners in an age when the health risks associated with taking in a lungful were still a twinkle in a smoker's eye and no-one knew that sugar was killing us too.

Fishmongers, florists, bakers, boarding houses, butchers, music teachers, and shoe-makers all vied for the local shilling in an era when things were still made and sold in the town - and not a take-away, nail bar, or betting shop in sight.

Well-remembered names including some that are still going are:

Lacons, The Brewery, Church Plain

Marks and Spencer Bazaar, 3,4,5,6,7 King Street and Theatre Plain

Plattens, 3,4,5,6,7,8 and 26 Broad Row

Smiths Potato Crisps, Caister Road

Brundish and Son, 86 and 87 Albion Road

Cox and Son, jewellers, 3 and 4 Northgate Street

Camplings, laundry, Portland Place, Southtown and three other locations

Exterior of Skippings drapers which closed after 110 years in 1998. It is one of the businesses which appears in the 1937 directory Picture: Daniel KennedyExterior of Skippings drapers which closed after 110 years in 1998. It is one of the businesses which appears in the 1937 directory Picture: Daniel Kennedy

Chamberlin, Talbot and Bracy solicitors, 13 Queen Street

Bowers and Barr, electrical engineers, 24 Regent Street and 9 Bakers Street, Gorleston

Dewhurst butchers, 20 Broad Row

Coopers, ironmongers, 32 and 33 Market Place and Market gates stove show rooms

Palmers department store overlooking a bustling Market Place in 1909. Photo: Clifford TemplePalmers department store overlooking a bustling Market Place in 1909. Photo: Clifford Temple

Palmers, drapers, 37 to 42 Market Place and 21-29 the Arcade, Marine Parade

Brunswick family and commercial hotel (Walter Bliss), King Street

Others whose trades have fallen away in modern times include:

Jn Shepherd, a hatter at 13 Regent Street

Pages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz CoatesPages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz Coates

Miss Annie Jarvis, day and boarding school for girls at 36 Camperdown

Ellen Lily Jerrard, baby linen warehouse, 61 and 62 Central Arcade

Kendall and sons, umbrella manufacturer, 67 and 68 Central Arcade

Edward Goate, pianoforte tuner, 10 Alderson Road

Pages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz CoatesPages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz Coates

H Fuller and Son, sailmakers, South Denes Road

Herbert Freeston Ltd, yeastmakers, 4 Howard Street South

Leonard Cushing, tailor, 87b Middle Market Road

Dixon and Eagle, costumiers, 21 and 22 Central Arcade

Pages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz CoatesPages from an old directory are providing a glimpse into a bygone world before supermarkets and online shopping when small business were the backbone of the community Picture: Liz Coates

Ellis Edward, basket maker, 17 Lancaster Road

Dr Scholl's Foot Comfort Service, foot appliance manufacturers, 115 Regent Road

Hotels and herring businesses are among those to feature numerous times, with hairdressers, solicitors, and tax collectors also appearing in large numbers alongside the odd blacksmith and shrimper.

In the more than 80 years since the directory was published the retail landscape has changed beyond recognition, big names rising and falling into oblivion, and leisure uses beginning to eclipse retail and services.

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