• The adjective 'Victorian' was apparently coined exactly half way through the nineteenth century by an almost forgotten writer, Edwin Paxton Hood, who set out in his The Age and its Architects (1851) to relate the conditions of his own time to the whole 'development of the ages'. In a chapter called 'the Victorian Commonwealth' he began by describing it as 'the most wonderful picture on the face of the earth' and recorded as a 'fact' the observa­tion 'perhaps on no other spot of ground has heaven ever grouped so bright a constellation of its best mercies'. He rounded off the comment with an appropriate biblical text, 'He hath not done so with any people'. The 'fact' and its trimmings may properly be taken as evidence of enhanced national self-consciousness on the eve of the greatest period of Victorian prosperity.

Asa Briggs, 1958

5.1 The retail network

In the history of human settlement, once the needs of family and local community were met, it is a logical aspect of human behaviour that a cultivator of land would attempt to trade his goods for different goods produced elsewhere. Thus markets were formed. These early efforts to swap goods developed into more formal gatherings. When a producer who had a surplus could not find another producer with suitable products to exchange, he may have allowed others to owe him goods. Thus, early credit terms would have been developed. This would have led to symbolic representations of such debts in the form of valuable items (such as gemstones or beads), and eventually money. But was this really the by-product of a drift towards the legitimising of market forces and the pursuit of personal gain? It has been argued that for retailers and periodic markets there was no sudden transition from a medieval paternalistic economy to a mercantilist economy driven by market forces and competitive individualism. In fact, the same tensions between communal ideals of social justice, and giving way to market forces, were as apparent in the literary output of medieval England as in post-Reformation times. The progression of images of literature and art do not suggest any radical shift in market mentalities in the sixteenth century. Nevertheless, perhaps more subtle and complex developments in retail market attitudes can be discerned throughout the twelfth to seventeenth centuries, rooted in the changing shape of marketing and consumption patterns. That is to say, over time, producers would have seen value in deliberately over-producing in order to profit from selling these goods. Merchants would also have begun to appear. They would travel from village to village, purchasing these goods and selling them for a profit, often in a different village. Halesworth had peddlers up to the 19th century who were itinerant merchants operating on a small scale. Over time, both of these groups, producers and merchants, would regularly take their goods to one selling place in the centre of the community. Thus, regular markets appeared. Eventually, markets would become permanent fixtures as collections of shops. These shops along with the logistics required to get the goods to them, were the start of the retail trade. Although advantageous in many respects, this removed the mobility that a peddler or traveling merchant may still have enjoyed.

Thus the ‘retail trade’ is really rooted in the history of two groups, the peddlers and producers. Peddlers tended to be opportunistic in their choice of stock and customer. They would purchase any goods that they thought they could sell for a profit. Producers were specialists and interested in selling goods that they had produced. This division continues to this day, with some shops specializing in specific areas, reflecting their origins as outlets for producers, although their stock is usually bought from a wholesaler. Others, known as general stores, provide a broad mix.
Excavations reveal that shops in ancient Rome and its outlying towns like Herculaneum and Pompei, were, in many respects, much like small shops are today, so it is most likely that retailer chains existed then. Images of trade and markets are found throughout the literature and art of medieval and early modern England. Charters and their privileges are firm evidence of the character of buying and selling in the 12th and 13th centuries. The starting point, as in Halesworth in 1223, was the granting of a charter authorising a weekly market. In some places this process was coupled with a weeklong annual fair. A further development was that the burgesses (freemen, often merchants and artisans) were entitled to trade with the rest of the country as a privilege. Much of Halesworth’s food and other provisions would have come from the immediate neighbourhood, being sold by the producers themselves in the lord’s market place beside the church. Even in the medieval period it is likely that some goods did come from further afield, for example wine from France, leather from Ireland, and salt from the west coast all filtered into Suffolk’s market towns. Merchants, who either sold them direct or passed them on to craftsmen to weave cloth or make shoes, would have handled such imports. Aquavitae (later to be known as whisky) and beer would have been made in the town and sold directly.

Although medieval markets and fairs would not be very different from those of the 21st century, there would have been no shops, and people would have been as likely to acquire whatever goods they needed by barter. Nevertheless despite its distance from the great cities and trade routes of Europe, Halesworth in the 13th century, with its chartered market, was part of a thriving European world of commerce and Christianity.

Table 5.1 Fees for traders at Halesworth market in the 18th century

Space allocation
Lord’s fee
Stalls with customers in common
Single pot stall
Double pot stall
Single stall tilted
Single stall not tilted
Double stall tilted (i.e. covered)
Pig carts, each
Poundage money, per head
Four wheel carrier
Two wheel carrier
Sheep and lambs, per score
Sheep and lambs in pens, per score
1 horse
Sacks and hampers, each

For anyone interested in the history of retailing, Halesworth conforms to the above model. Its weekly market is a survivor of the spate of Royal handouts of charters in the 13th century. Richard de Argentein, who had been one of the witnesses to Magna Carta, was lord of the manor at the time. Richard was sheriff for Essex and Hertfordshire, and also for the counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon, and was constituted Governor of the castle of Hertford. He gave Henry III two palfreys for licence to hold a weekly market at his manor of "Halswode", and an annual fair on the eve, day, and morrow after the feast of St. Luke, on October the 18th. Market traders paid a fee to the manor according the space that was allocated to them, a simple arrangement that has continued through the ages (Table 5.1).

It was not until the 19th century that the retail shop usurped the function of the market place. The commercial traveller with his samples took the place of the itinerant merchant with his wagonload of goods. People began to specialise in particular classes of goods and to use every device to attract the attention of passers by. For some shopkeepers, it made sense to obtain extra stock and open up another shop, most probably operated by another family member. This would recover business from peddlers, create new business, and the greater volume would allow the shopkeeper to strike a better deal with suppliers. Although families would have mostly run retail chains, as some chains grew, they would have needed to employ people from outside their family. This was an important factor as there would have been a limit to the number of trusted non-family members available to help run the chain. Another, even more definite limiting factor, was the distance the furthest shop would have been from the original shop. The greater the distance, the more time and effort would have been needed to effectively manage outpost shops and to service them with goods. There was, therefore, a natural barrier to expansion. That was the case until transport and communications became faster and more reliable. When this at last happened towards the end of the 19th century, chains became much bigger and more widespread.

The large shop with many departments, first found in Paris at the start of the 19th century, was copied in British towns. Halesworth’s Bon Marche appeared in the second half of the century. Many of these businesses became more structured and formalized, leading to the retail chains that we see today. However, it was not until the end of the 19th century that retail chains made contact with customers in Halesworth.

Although specialist shops are still with us, over time, the general store has increasingly taken on specialist products. Customers have found this to be more convenient than having to visit many shops - thus the term "Convenience Store" has also been applied to these shops. As the popularity of general stores has grown, so has their size. This, combined with the advent of self-service, has lead to the Supermarket, or Superstore. This sequence is illustrated in Halesworth. The first grocery chain to reach Halesworth was the International Tea Company, which advertised in 1904. In 1923 it had changed its name to the International Stores. There was also a branch in Saxmundham, which employed carters who visited villages and farms to collect and deliver orders. Between the wars the Co-op national chain arrived in the town. It was actually an offshoot of the Beccles branch, and occupied premises in Rectory St next to Tooks grocery store in Bridge St (Fig 5.1), a shop run by a local family. The exact status of the Halesworth Co-op at this time is uncertain. Unlike Tooks it did not advertise goods in the local papers. The only newspaper reference is for 1937, when it advertised that tickets to visit the Beccles shop to view the furniture department and a mannequin parade could be obtained from the Co-op ‘office’ in Rectory St. Following the death of Mr. Took in 1945 the Co-op expanded into his former shop. It remained in Rectory Street until moving to new premises on the site of the old livestock market, where it was rebranded as the Rainbow Supermarket. The library now occupies the site of the Co-op’s former premises. From the end of the Second World War until the 1960s it appears that Halesworth’s shoppers had the choice of three large grocery concerns, the Co-op, the International Stores (site now occupied by the SPAR convenience store) and the grocery department of Roe’s Bon Marche in the Market Place. Their co-coexistence seems to have been due to the strong family loyalties on the part of shoppers rather than price competition. For example, those townsfolk who grew up with the situation say that many women ‘would not be seen dead in the Co-op’.

Fig 5.1 Tooks grocery store at the corner of Bridge St and Rectory St (circa 1920)
5.2 A spatial economy

Commercial development has been a process of geographical expansion. In fact, geographical space, as a source of explanation, affects all historical realities. These realities are all spatially defined phenomena such as sovereign states, societies, cultures and economies. A small town economy like that of Halesworth is an expression of family needs, which focus a market for goods and services in a localised area. The economic zone is effectively defined by the space containing the families that are drawn to its market and shops in order to buy and sell.

Fig 5.2 Halesworth economic zone in 17th century

L=Lowestoft; S=Southwold; B=Blythburgh; D=Dunwich; Sa=Saxmundham;F=Framlingham; De=Debenham; M=Mendelsham; E=Eye; H=Harleston.

A town economy therefore has a social boundary, and the line that defines it gives it an identity just as coastlines do the sea. This boundary lies where other similar ones begin. The frontier is hazy because buyers and sellers on the boundary have options of orientating towards more than one economic centre. The easier it is for people to access a particular market place the less they are likely to travel to others. Based on the its proximity to other thriving markets in North East Suffolk and the Waveney Valley, it is possible to estimate the size of Halesworth's economic zone in the 17th century (Fig 5.2), which extended deep into the western parts of the Blything Hundred.

Because they are hubs of an economic system, towns are also elements of a world-economy, which always has an urban centre of gravity, a city, as the logistic heart of its activity. News, merchandise, capital, credit, people, instructions and correspondence all flow into and out of the city from far and wide. Its successful merchants lay down the business law, sometimes becoming extraordinarily wealthy in the process. Towns lie at varying and respectful distances from the centre, directing the flow of business toward it, redistributing or passing on the goods it sends to its inhabitants, living off its credit or suffering its rule. Thus metropolises come to be accompanied by a train of subordinate communities that have been expressed as an 'archipelago of towns'. So it was with Suffolk's overgrown villages like Halesworth, which were orientated for the most part by coastal maritime trade towards the English world economy of London.

The financial roots of Halesworth's retail trade go back almost 800 years. Until the eleventh century there were practically no financial mechanisms in England to facilitate the transformation of savings into investment. From the eleventh century onwards there was a remarkable development in European business techniques. The list of innovations is long, such as the organisations of markets and fairs, the appearance and spread of trading manuals, the evolution of new techniques of accounting, the cheque, the endorsement, and insurance. From the eleventh to the sixteenth century, Italy was the birthplace of most of these innovations. England responded to this economic momentum relatively late. In a national context it was Edward I who first took advantage of the new international monetary system, borrowing money from the Ricciardi family, bankers of the independent Italian town of Lucca, to finance his war with the Princes of Wales. This happened in the 1270s.

It appears that Halesworth, with its market granted in 1223, was one of the earliest manifestations of the economic development of Suffolk after the turbulence of the English baronial wars, which only ended in the reign of Edward’s father, Henry III. The wars of the 12th century were symptomatic of the prevailing primitive social structure. Society was more or less divided into those who prayed, those who fought and those who laboured. Fighting and praying were the only respectable activities. The founding of markets in the 13th century was a political peace dividend; a response to the fact that during the reign of Henry III Europe began to move beyond direct agricultural consumption, i.e. self sufficiency, to the stage of indirect agricultural consumption, which was created by the determined marketing of surplus farm production. A town with a market began to attract all the skilled crafts, creating for itself a monopoly of the manufacture and marketing of their products. At the root of the growth of towns was a massive migratory movement. Towns grew because their populations grew, not by increased fertility or survival, but because of an influx of people from the countryside.

5.3 The retail community

By the end of the 15th century Halesworth was creating an economic surplus and stimulating the transfer of such surplus from savers to producers, when and where the latter could invest such resources more productively. This financial process can be first glimpsed in the 15th century Calendar of Close Rolls (Table 5.1).

Table 5.1 References to Halesworth townsfolk in the Calendar of Close Rolls/Patent Rolls
Joan Reve Parish chaplain A Thomas Clement persued Robert Fitzrauf, Gentleman, of Keteryngham Norfolk, a debt of 5 marks.
Robert Sampson tailor.
Robert Meke yeoman, a debt at 40s.
Robert Randolf, chapman, a debt to a mercer of London of £7 4s.
John Deynes of Halesworth a cutler, a debt of 40s to a bladesmith of London.
Richard Symonds tailor
A pardon to John Edderych, bocher, (butcher) broke into close and houses of Michael Strowlyour at Cookley and took 13s and a piece of woollen cloth valued at 5s.
The will of Nicholas Dunmore, a barker.
Robert Sewale mercer & Robert Randolf draper.
Henry Warner, Halesworth, tailor; general pardon with others from Spexhall charged with murder.

This list gives some of the occupations typical of an urban centre, such as cutler, draper and several tailors, the latter implying that a large proportion of families in the town’s economic zone were rich enough to instruct others to clothe them. Dress was in fact an unsettling social influence. In particular it encouraged rivalry and ostentation. Even before 1400 there were complaints that extravagance in dress was tending to upset generally accepted class distinctions. The Sumptuary Laws were an attempt by London to check the forces that were creating a new type of society. The livery, which had been the badge of common interests among members of a guild, now emphasised difference in wealth and economic status. Only the more prosperous townsfolk could afford it.

The wealth of Halesworth’s townsfolk at this time can be assessed from the steady rate of production of wills during the 15th, and on into the 16th century (Fig 5.3).

Fig 5.3 Will-making in Halesworth 1419-1525

As urban wealth increased so did the efforts of government to take a proportion of it in taxes (Table 5.2; Fig 5.4). As always, few people were rich; most were poor.

Table 5.2 Halesworth entry in the tax list of 1524

Alman John in goodes £1
Deryk Elizabeth in goodes £1
Fowlyng Thomas in goodes £10
Appulby Thomas in goodes £4
Deryk Henry in goodes £7
Fuller Robert in goodes £1
Arnold John in goodes £1
Kokar Robert, in wages £1
Fysk Johanna in goodes £1
Balle William, in wages £1
Kolsale Thomas in goodes £1
Fysk John mercer in goodes £10
Barett Robert in goodes £1
Koo Edmund in goodes £1
Fysk John the elder in goodes £13: 6: 8
Bedford Peter in goodes £1
Kurtes Robert, in wages £1
Garerd Richard in goodes £1
Bontyng Christofer in goodes £1
*Launce John in goodes £40 (2.0.0)
Garerd Robert in goodes £1
Bradlee Christofer in goodes £5
Neve John in goodes £1)
Goodale Nicholas in goodes £1
Bryghte Thomas in goodes £4
Newell Robert, in wages £1
Goodale William in goodes £1
Buk John in goodes £5
Norman William in goodes £2
Heynde Henry in goodes £4
Clerk Robert pynner in goodes £1
Edmondes William in goodes £1
Hunt William in goodes £1
Cooke John, in wages £1
Feitham John in landes be yer £5
*John Hugh in goodes £80 (4.0.0)
Couper Thomas in goodes £2
Flyk Henry in goodes £1
Kersey Bendes in goodes £1
Crowe Richard in goodes £1
Flyk John in goodes £10
Knyght Robert in goodes £10
Rechardes John in goodes £1
Pye Thomas in goodes £1
*Norton Walter in goodes £20 (1.0.0)
Russell Thomas in wages £1
Saunderson John in goodes £2
Palmer William in goodes £1
Sadborn Edmund in goodes £4
Sawmson William in goodes £5
Payn Thomas in goodes £1
Pek Maryon in goodes £10
Sepens Richard in goodes £1
Wallard Robert in goodes £1
Pek Richard in goodes £12
Srayth Roger in goodes £ 10
Walpoole John thonger in goodes £1
Davy John in goodes £7
*Tower Thomas in goodes £20 (1.0.0)
Walpoole William in goodes £1

Welton Thomas in goodes £1

Wrighte Richard in goodes £1 Wrythok John in goodes £5 Wurlych John in goodes £ 13:6:8
Summa hujus ville - £13.2.6: * = the four highest taxpayers

Fig 5.4 Distribution of the 1533 tax for Halesworth between 64 inhabitants.

It is likely that most of these people lived in the town, and suggests a 16th century population for the parish of between 70-100 primary families. This conclusion is supported by lists of communicants of St Mary's parish church made in the 1580s. The lists contain a maximum of around 80 surnames of those who took communion on important saints days, and probably represent most families of the parish.

It was in the 16th century that the first 'maps' of Halesworth were produced. These were essentially descriptions of the town's principle inhabitants and the houses and land they possessed. These documents have been transcribed to produce virtual maps by matching the descriptions of properties and their relative positions with properties on a modern map. These virtual maps indicate that the general layout of the modern centre of Halesworth from the church to Bridge St has changed little over the centuries. One of these produced as part of a local Workers Educational Association local studies project is presented in Figs 5.5/5.6 and Table 5.3. A general conclusion is that the town’s land was being used less intensively in the 16th century. Altogether there were 74 properties, most of which were described as having houses or cottages.

Four people were in possession of 38% of the properties; John Sone (5); John Browne (6); Thomas Feltham (7) and John Launce (10). There were two capital messuages (Sir Walter Norton and Thomas Feltham). Five women held properties; Alice Knight, widow, Cecilia Feltham, Margaret Kelsal, Woman Everrage and Joan Smyth.

Fig 5.5 Conceptual map of north central of Halesworth in 1577

Fig 5.6 Conceptual map of south central of Halesworth 1577

Table 5.3 Persons listed with property in the 1557 survey of Halesworth (M. Coleman)

From the 16th century onwards, Halesworth as a local retail centre gained in strength. Of the cluster of six markets of Blything, all within four miles of each other, that had received their charters during the 13th century, only Halesworth's was still in use in the 17th century, and has survived on the same spot until the present day.

On average in the 16th century, four-fifths of the population of England was tilling the land, but a gradually increasing proportion were engaged in trade or industry, in both town and country. The number of small employers and tradesmen was on the increase. The 1674 hearth tax returns for Halesworth provide an indication of above average prosperity in that half of the 226 households were paying tax. The average number of families per house was only about 1.4, another indicator of a wealthy group of traders who could afford to keep themselves to themselves.

A cross section of the occupations of Halesworth folk during most of the second half of the 17th century may be obtained from St Mary’s parish registers. During that period, men (dying as heads of household, and listed as husbands or fathers of wives and children buried or baptised) were designated by occupation or status. For example, during the 65 years between 1661and 1726 a total of 100 different designations, most of which were occupations, were listed in the burial register (Table 5.4). There was great variability from year to year with regards the number of persons so designated (Fig 5.7). For example, in 1658 a total of 18 designations were listed whereas in the following year there were only 2.

Table 5.4 Occupations of men in St Mary’s burial registers: 1653-1726.

Fig 5.7 Frequency of individuals in burial register with designations of status

A comparison of the annual number of designations of occupation or status, with the annual number of burials indicates that, although the same general trends were followed in both time series, the custom of designation was not consistent from year to year. This was particularly evident towards the end of the period under examination (Fig 5.8). In some cases the lack of consistency coincided with a change in the handwriting of the registrar. The custom of designating men by occupation or status lapsed during the first quarter of the 18th century.

Comparing the indices for labourers and schoolmasters may make a quick check on the reliability of this approach. This yields a ratio of 180 labourers to each teacher, which seems a reasonable order of magnitude. It is a pretty rough and ready method because, on the one hand the index probably underestimates the number of actual families involved at particular times, while on the other hand it overestimates the real situation, because deaths and recruitment of families were inevitably taking place during the three decades covered by the registers. For example, the burial and baptismal registers taken together tell us that three families of Aldreds, represented by John, Samuel and William, were employed as masons. However, these three families contributed only one surname to the mason index. The Aldred surname was also represented in the blacksmith index, by the families of Phillip and Thomas. Phillip died in 1659 and Thomas in 1674, and no more Aldreds had been recruited into this category by 1726.
Nevertheless, taking the figures for comparative purposes only, there is no doubt that labourers made up the greatest proportion of men at the bottom of Halesworth’s social pyramid (just under a fifth of the total surnames). Probably most of them worked on the land surrounding the township, and they outnumbered their employers, the farmers, yeomen and husbandmen, by about 6:1. Upper class townspeople, who described themselves as ‘gentlemen’, amounted to around 4% of the surnames in this category, and at the top were the Bedingfields, represented at the very apex by the Rt Hon. Henry, Kt, who at that time was lord of the Manor of Halesworth.

Those who provided basic foodstuffs, the grocers, butchers, bakers, oatmeal makers, millers and gardeners made up about 10% of all designations. There appeared to be only one family making candlesticks, and it is represented in the index by Browne, the ‘candler’, who died in 1566. The medical establishment was well represented by apothecaries, surgeons and physicians (4%). Barbers (12%) also functioned as a kind of paramedic, particularly with regards bloodletting. There were as many barbers as butchers. The age of wood was still dominant with regards occupations such as cooper, joiner, sawyer, turner, wheelwright, carpenter and pailmaker (13%). However, buildings were increasingly being constructed of bricks (bricklayer/mason), although thatchers were still required for roofing them. Metalworking was moving from the blacksmiths to specialists such as braziers, locksmiths and watchmakers. Pipemakers and tobacconists were in business for the growing number of smokers, which was being taken up as an adjunct to male social gatherings in the several inns. With respect to special manufacturing, there appears to have been a concentration of jobs linked with leather working such as currier, glover, knacker, shoemaker, tanner and cordwainer (getting on for 20%). Another group of specialist jobs were associated with the cloth trade; weaver, draper, flaxdresser and tailor (about 10%). In all of these activities Halesworth seems to have generated sufficient legal transactions for two attorneys.

Any belief that in 17th century England everyone was solely engaged in agriculture, in a subsistence economy with little economic specialization, is undermined by many local studies involving this kind of analysis of the occupational structure. Also, by the late sixteenth century the market in land was fully developed. This may be studied by concentrating on a decade of manorial activity. A typical finding is that, of the parcels of copyhold property surrendered to the lord of the manor, around 50% of these would be expected to be sales of copyhold estates for cash, and a number of others would be surrenders at the end of mortgage terms or leases. About a half, would be transfers by inheritance between kin. Such research has shown that this was not a simple 'peasant' society with families holding on to ancestral plots for generation after generation. Rather there was a rapid turnover of family holdings, where only about 10% would be held by the same family (female links included) two generations earlier. This massive shift in land tenure can be seen even in short periods in the records of Halesworth’s Rectory Manor. Property in the manor was very mobile and there seems to have been no strong attempt to 'keep the family name on the land'.

At the time of the first count of all its inhabitants in 1801 the actual population of Halesworth was about 1,600 individuals. The average national ratio of persons per inhabited house was 5.6, and this would equate to Halesworth having about 280 households at the turn of the 18th century. It indicates that the population had increased approximately three fold in two hundred years. In the larger picture this may be compared with the United Nation's estimate that it took 150 years for the preindustrial population of Europe and Russia to double between 1650 and 1800. During the next century the rate of increase in Halesworth's population from 1821-31 actually amounted to a doubling every 50 years. Of course this rate was not maintained. It was not a biological increase, but a response of immigrants towards the town as a thriving economic centre, and therefore a magnet for those in search of economic betterment. The route to prosperity was paved by economic developments in the previous seven centuries. The particular boost to Halesworth's fortunes in the 18th century were notably the events, national and local, that led up to the canalisation of the Blyth from Halesworth to Southwold in the 1780s. This highly significant engineering feat to construct the ‘Blyth Navigation’ was initiated by a collection of local investors, many of whom were not natives of the town.

In summary, at the beginning of the 19th century, Halesworth represented England at the core of the world economy, the country where there was a dissemination of business techniques through London whereby wage labour was penetrating the countryside, and where urban activity was soon to be spread to every area of British life. One of the first signs of the beginning of a seller’s market was the appearance of mass advertising.

The Halesworth Times And East Suffolk Advertiser was first published by George Rackham of Quay St in July 1855. It was a weekly publication costing one penny, containing 24 columns of close print, comprising important domestic and foreign news of the week, with a full page of advertising. In five issues taken at random for the months of July-December 1855, a total of 25 businesses were advertised. About half of these appeared once only, and a quarter were published in three or more issues (Table 5.6). An innovative approach to the relatively new but rapidly growing advertising industry was the presentation of Joseph Dyer, who captured the spirit of the times by picturing the railway; the latest means of connecting Blything families with the products of Empire. The dialogue by which he talked up and promoted his wares has a very modern ring about it (Fig 5.9). He and his wife are listed at 5 Thoroughfare in the 1851 census, aged 22 and 24 respectively. They were both born in Liverpool, which raises the interesting question of what fired them to set up business in Halesworth. In any case, Joseph was too dynamic for small town retailing and we next hear of him in Norwich in the 1860s, where he appears to have taken over a larger outfitting depot, Womacks, from where he offered a mail order service to his old Halesworth customers, based on a range of several thousand ready-made items. By all accounts Joseph Dyer was a prototype of a new kind of retailing world that was developing alongside the industrial manufacture and mass marketing of old and new kinds of clothing. At about the same time that Dyer moved to Norwich, a branch of Riches and Skoyles, another outfitting depot, moved into the Thoroughfare at ‘White Hart Corner’. Possibly this translocation triggered Dyer to move onwards and upwards.

Table 5.6 Local advertisers in five random issues of the Halesworth Times and East Suffolk Advertiser: July-December (1855)

Aldred William H (oil and lamps)
Botham B W (clothing and cheap warehouse grocery)
Bowles Alfred (dancing and drilling)
Brown Samuel (grocery and provisions, bacon curer)
Burgess N (ironmongery, furnishing ironmongery, paints and polishes)
Burleigh R W (manure, beer, coal, malt, and hops)
Davy Thomas P (drapery)
Day, John (bookseller)
Dyer J (clothier)
Easterson Messrs (iron founding, and maker and supplier of agricultural machinery)
Ellis W (watch and clock maker, silversmith, jeweller and supplier of spectacles )
Fisher E (tailor)
Foreman John (wholesale and retail grocer and fruiterer)
Freeman, George P. (livestock auctioneer)
Harvey J B (classical, mathematical and commercial academy)
Haward Robert (insurance)
London John F (clothing wharehouse and outfitter)
Rackham George (publisher, bookseller, health foods and patent medicines)
Smith Samuel (coachbuilder)
Strathern F B (wine and spirit and porter merchant)
Taylor G. G., Kings Arms Inn and Commercial Hotel (accommodation , wine and spirit merchant)
Upton William (property auctioneer/appraiser, animal manure works, bone grinder, implement hire)
Wade Denney (brewer)
Wigg Mrs (boots, shoes and bonnet-renovator)
Wigg N (watch and clock maker)

Fig 5.9 Advert for Joseph Dyer’s ‘Clothing and Out-fitting Depot’ (Dec 18th 1855)

From the wording of the adverts we can learn much about the dynamics and character of an expanding local retail trade. For example, there were two people advertising their services as coachbuilders. Samuel Smith of Halesworth stated that he was late foreman to Thomas Brown, also of Halesworth. The other coachbuilder advertising his business was J J Webb. He had transferred Thomas Brown’s Halesworth business to Yoxford, presumably on Brown’s decease, from where he was in partnership with Mrs. Brown.

F .B. Strathern had recently taken over the wine and spirit business of Farr and Leman and had opened the vaults formerly in the hands of Mr. F Haward. E. Fisher, nine years a Halesworth tailor, informs his friends that he is about to move into premises formerly occupied by N Burgess ironmonger, opposite the White Hart Inn. Here is revealed a bustling group of people ‘on the make’.

George Rackham was trying to capitalise on the new age of chemical science. Although he was the publisher of the Halesworth Times, he was also making his own patent medicines and health foods, such as an improved lemon-flavoured Seidlitz Powder for relieving bile, indigestion, nausea, heartburn etc., and supplying his own special baking powder, an offshoot of new food technology that was being applied to staple foods. He claimed his powder (probably sodium bicarbonate) produced dough that was superior to fermented bread, particularly for those liable to constipation. Rackham also sold famous national patent medicines, such as Page and Woodcock’s ‘wind pills’, and Professor Morton’s ‘cough balls’. Rackham was soon to face competition, for in December, H Pedgrift opened up as a chemist. He stocked ‘every assortment of English and foreign perfumery, horse, cattle and patent medicines of every description’. There were seasonal sales, as for example when B W Botham sold off his summer stock of shawls, mantles, dresses, bonnets, and ribbons at cost price, ‘owing to the lateness of the season’. There were also more opportunistic salesmen. From an advert of Thomas P Davy, we are told that he had bought the entire stock of drapery from George Elliot of Ipswich, valued at £468 6s 8d, and intended to sell it off at Norwich House, Thoroughfare. The scale of this event must have been overwhelming to the likes of the Bothams, and of Halesworthians in general. To take only one category, Davy’s monster sale included 500 pairs of children’s and women’s boots and shoes commencing at 2d a pair. Many of the advertisers go into great detail regarding their stock. For instance, John London lists the new stock of his warehouse, as furs, gloves, scarves, cravats, mufflers, shirts, collars, handkerchiefs, and general hosiery: silk and alpaca wool, umbrellas, traveling bags, cases and portmanteaus. He commanded national agencies for ‘a special elastic stocking and knee cap’, and Ford’s ‘Eureka’ shirts. R. W. Burleigh is an interesting example of a multiple warehouse vendor, supplying wheat-manure, Peruvian guano, stout, porter, ales, fresh malt and hops. He also sold Sunderland coal from the Navigation wharf. In contrast, Denny Wade was a specialist brewer, advertising four grades of his own production, from his best beer at 1s 4d, down to a fourth table-grade at 6d per gallon. ‘The Advertiser’ had little to say about the butcher and baker, which most inhabitants would of necessity visit every day. But even at this basic level, the grocer Samuel Brown, as part of an increasingly expanded, globalised grocery and provision trade, was seeking strenuously to purchase at the best markets a supply of every article. This particularly included former luxuries, demanded for family consumption, ‘of dairies of good butter and genuine fine teas, coffees and spices’.

Farmers were served by George P Freeman, livestock auctioneer, and Messrs Easterson and Son, iron founders. The latter were making their own improved ploughs, chaff cutters and engines for coupling to horse-drives. The firm also sold weighing machines, field rollers, horse-hoes, corn mills, feeding troughs, and hurdles. In addition, the firm undertook work in cast iron and wrought iron. Also, they were agents for a variety of patent agricultural machinery, a portent that small-scale ironworkers were on the way out. Freeman’s auction market dealt, large-scale, in horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. On August 1st he disposed of 41 horses, 78 cattle, 2000 sheep and 100 pigs, most of which were probably walked to town from neighbouring farms.

There were some things it seems that Halesworth could not supply, such as teeth, for which readers were invited to visit Mr. Neep, surgeon dentist of Norwich. If they needed pianos, the place to go was Suggate’s gigantic ‘Music Warehouse’ at Lowestoft. To fill the gap in things of the mind, we learn that Mrs. Corbyn of Beccles, professor of the pianoforte and singing, would be visiting the people of Halesworth after Michaelmas for the purposes of giving instruction.
The other source for information about the Halesworth retail trade is the Ipswich Journal. This has a longer history of publication. For instance, the issue of Jan 10th 1851 contains information about the pending auction, in June, of the business effects of George Godbold, a Halesworth cabinetmaker and upholsterer. It included:-

“The entire and valuable stock of cabinet and upholstery furniture of the latest manufacture and newest design, together with the unmanufactured stock and furniture and general effects throughout the dwelling house. Excellent pony, luggage and dog carts etc.
Capital pony, carts and harness and miscellaneous property in and about the spacious showroom, shops and premises situate in The Thoroughfare, Halesworth.
Comprising excellent carved mahogany four post French and half tester bedsteads; feather beds and bedding; splendid French polished mahogany wardrobe; a large assortment of birchwood and neatly painted chamber tables and chairs, modern mahogany chests of drawers; handsome chimney box, tray and other glasses in gilt and mahogany frames; tastefully constructed and finely grained mahogany dining and Loo card and Pembroke tables; neatly fitted mahogany escritoire, elegant Pickwick hall and easy chairs; costly rosewood and mahogany estriole and other couches, fully-sized mahogany sofa, Spanish mahogany sideboard and chiffoniers; sets of horsehair seated, fancy, drawing room, reclining and Dover chairs; mahogany whatnots and ornamental stands, rosewood and mahogany writing desks and music stools, wainscote napkin press; upwards of 1100 pieces of paper hangings, about 250 yds Kidderminster, Venetian, patent felt and other carpets of good quality, 12 handsome Brussels rugs, 100 yds painted floorcloth, a quantity of cocoanut, Manila, dyed wood and other matting and mats, several pieces of drab moreens, chintz, richly figured damask, patent felt and painted table cloths, a quantity of bed ticking, hair seating and black Holland gimp, fringes, tassels, loops, miscellaneous effects in the trade.
The unmanufactured stock etc embraces about 600 ft of Spanish and Honduras mahogany, a quantity of Wainscot, Walnut tree, Beech and deal plank and board; 230 ft of veneers; 6 work benches, cupboards and nests of drawers, several pairs of bed sides and rounds, a valuable assortment of ironmongery, packing cases and other useful articles.
The stable and outdoor offices include a very superior chestnut pony, 6 year old, cob-sized dog cart and harness, furniture truck, grindstone, wheelchaff engine, corn chest and numerous effects, particularised in the catalogues to be obtained of Mr Joseph Farrow, Bungay, and Mr Nathaniel Burgen, Halesworth, the Trustees, at the Principle inns in Beccles, Bungay, Harleston and Saxmundham, and of the Auctioneers, Howlett and Lenny, Wissett near Halesworth. Jan 29th-30th”

Taken together with other information from the Halesworth Times, the local newspapers not only provide a window into trade, but also throw light on domestic consumption, and highlight the globalisation of Halesworth’s commercial footprint, which, already in the mid-Victorian period, extended the town’s wants from the tea, coffee, spice and rubber plantations of the far East, to the guano ‘mines’ on Pacific Islands off the coast of Peru, and the primeval mahogany forests of the tropics. In Britain, the first recognisable community directories emerged during the seventeenth century, meeting a growing demand for accurate information about trade and industry for the purposes of travelling salesmen. They also met another important growing demand for information on local history and social structure. In the latter context they provided a 'Whos Who?' to sustain the local social hierarchies based on wealth in property and land. From this point of view they were by no means comprehensive since they set out to record the "principal inhabitants" of a community, those in trade, and others affluent enough to be recognised as the important people in the community, such as the gentry or clerics, professionals etc. The labouring men and women in a community rarely figure in these publications.

Directories were compiled by publishers for profit. They appeared at almost random intervals during the late 18th and 19th centuries, and there must always be a question mark over who was included or excluded. We shall never know the precise relationship between an entry in the Directory, say of a business, and the payment to the author of the Directory of a subscription to finance the publication. If someone refused to pay, did his or her business disappear from the list? There is no certainty, therefore, that the information they contain is either comprehensive or accurate. Such information has to be crosschecked with other local sources, such as Parish Registers or the census returns; to establish as far as possible what the real situation was at the time the Directory was compiled.

Nevertheless, directories are an invaluable primary source for historians. They provide first hand data about local communities, their infrastructure and the individuals inhabiting those communities. Published more frequently than the census, directories can also help fill in any missing gaps.

A later development was the emergence of larger-scale directories during the late eighteenth century. These covered substantial parts of the country. Such ambitious publications were costly to produce, requiring the collection of data by a large number of local agents. Consequently, the production of these national and provincial directories was increasingly concentrated into the hands of a few large companies.

By the early nineteenth century, methods of compilation had become highly organised. In part, this reflected the growing links between directories and the Post Office. Many postal officials, such as Frederick Kelly, turned their hand to directory publishing as a means of both aiding their work and making some extra money. Information was collected by letter carriers, who circulated forms during their postal rounds, and also delivered the finished directory on commission.

Trends in the number of directories published in England and Wales show considerable fluctuation over time.
· The period 1760 to 1850 was one of sustained, if rather erratic, growth for directories. This was driven by increased trade, urbanisation and transport improvements.
· The 1850s saw some consolidation within the industry leading to an initial decline, followed by a period of relative stability.
· From around 1870 far more directories started to be published again, with particularly rapid growth after 1880.
· The heyday of the trade directory was the early twentieth century, when over 250 were published each year, apart from a dip during World War I.

The peak year for directory publications was 1936, with around 320 directories appearing. This sustained growth stemmed from continuing urbanisation and the increasing importance of retail and service activities in the British economy. During World War II, however, the publication of directories declined sharply to less than 100 per year. Despite a slight recovery after 1945, they never again approached pre-war levels. Many of the publishers had gone out of business during the war years. After World War II trade directories also faced growing competition from telephone directories, particularly for business and commercial use. The 1950s, in many ways, marked the end of large-scale directory production and usage.

Some of the key features likely to be found in many directories are:
· descriptions of cities, parishes, towns and villages. These may include geographical, historical and statistical details
· information about local facilities, institutions and associations
· listings for private residents, traders, trades and professions
· details of important people in the community
· advertisements

The early directories were speculative ventures and tended to concentrate on towns and their immediate surroundings. There was a growing demand from the late 18th century onwards because of the rapid expansion of commerce carried forward by an increasing number of tradesmen, many of whom were becoming more specialised and forging business links. By the Victorian period most towns, cities and regions had publications listing most local tradespeople, professionals and public office holders together with details of transport services, newspaper circulations and potted local histories. By the later 19th century, directories were produced by commercial publishers attempting a national coverage. Some, such as Kelly and Pigot, went on to become household names.

Early directories appear to have followed two paths of development:

· Some early directories were speculative ventures. These were established by entrepreneurial publishers in response to the expansion of trade.
· Other directories evolved from the lists of traders kept by the earliest registry offices. This type of directory was particularly common in provincial towns.
Directory publishers during this early period came from all lines of work, which gave them access to information about names and addresses. Some typical examples of publishers include:

· registry officers
· printers
· house agents
· auctioneers
· policemen.

The ways in which publishers collected data also varied considerably. Some obtained information by personal canvassing and combined the results with existing listings. Other publishers simply asked people to send in their names together with a small payment if they wanted to be included in the directory.

Directories are also a major source for research into economic activities such as manufacturing and retailing. They provide data about:

· the expansion or decline of individual firms and particular areas
· types of business, locations and ownership patterns
· commercial relationships between local communities
· occupations that have since disappeared or changed beyond all recognition.

Directories offer the opportunity to research aspects of social mobility, such as the fashionable status of certain areas in cities or towns, immigrant communities in the nineteenth century, and information about local administration, charities and public services. However it is important to know whether or not the information in a directory is accurate, whether it offers a good representation of the economic and social structure of an area, and how its coverage compares with other directories of a similar date.

The content of a 19th century directory throwing light on the pattern of Halesworth retailing is best illustrated by William White's 'History Gazetteer and Directory of Suffolk', which was first published in 1844. Its stated purpose was to provide an up to date general survey of the county. It included histories, and statistical/topographical descriptions of the hundreds and liberties (administrative divisions) with current information describing their extent, population, agriculture, manufactures, markets, fairs, trade, and commerce. Social well being was set out in terms of charities and public institutions, including churches and chapels, their annual value and the patrons and incumbents of the benefices, the lords of the manors, and owners of the soil and tithes. The poor law unions and county court districts were defined. Each community was described with addresses of the inhabitants, the railway trains, steam packets, coaches and carriers, and the seats of nobility and gentry, magistrates, and public officers, and a variety of other agricultural statistical and biographical information. All of this was contained in one A2 volume, about two inches thick. William White was the author of similar works for Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and many other counties. The Directory was priced at 14s in calf binding or 12s 6d in boards. The primary information was provided by local 'literary and official gentlemen of the county' and was compiled in Sheffield by White and his assistants. This massive publishing exercise was financed by around 3500 pre-publication subscribers.
At the other extreme is Stebbings directory for Halesworth published in 1877. This was the product of a local publisher in Lowestoft solely for the townsfolk and includes many private individuals, artisans and their addresses.
Regarding the value of White's and similar directories with a commercial orientation as reliable sources of information about the economic structure of communities, there are questions to be answered regarding their production: -

What was the system by which individuals were selected for inclusion in a directory?
What proportion of the population was represented in a directory?
Can directories be used to quantify the sociality of economic development with respect to:

· the life of businesses;
· the mobility of individuals;
· consumerism, patterns and changes;
· distribution of wealth.
· occupations

Answers to these questions are difficult to obtain because in most cases the directory is the only evidence available.

From the Halesworth entry in White's directory for 1844 we learn of two large industrial activities comprising an iron foundry/agricultural implement manufacturers, and several malting houses. Regarding the presence of enterprising individuals, the following list shows the variety and numbers of jobs, trades and professions (Table 5.7).

Table 5.7 Occupations listed in White's directory for Halesworth (1844)

Half a century later, the following people were entered in the 1912 directory (Table 5.8).

Table 5.8 Occupations listed in Kelly's directory for Halesworth (1912)

The 1912 directory has about 10% more occupations than the one published in 1844. However, taking the two directories together, a total of 189 distinct occupations are listed, and of these, only 34 (18%) are common to both lists. Many of the descriptions in both directories were assigned to one individual only. In 1844 these occupations that were distinct to one person amounted to about a third of the entries, whereas in 1912 two thirds of the entries were in this category. In the half century that had elapsed between the publication of these two directories some common occupations such as straw-hat maker and part-time fire and life insurance officers had become extinct, and new occupations associated with technological change, such as ‘cycle agent’ and ‘photographer’, had come to the town. However, some of the changes were fortuitous, as was the presence of a musical instrument maker in the 1844 directory, and the girl's school owner in 1912. On the whole, the differences seem to reflect a turnover of individuals rather than a fundamental difference in the supply of goods and services. Nevertheless, the comparison does reveal a move away from small family concerns towards fewer and larger enterprises, which were associated with large-scale specialised production. This is particularly evident in the smaller numbers of bakers, tailors, and boot and shoemakers in the directory for 1912.

By 1912 the existing retail patterns of Halesworth were for the most part the result of past decisions by innumerable individuals or groups, and those decisions included many more factors than simply those related to where to locate a new enterprise. In an ideal world the decision to invest in a new business enterprise would be taken after a thorough appraisal of the numerous elements that combine to render the project viable. In practice the majority of such decisions are probably taken without such a complete appraisal. The vast majority of new enterprises set up during the 19th century were quite small, and lacked the resources necessary to conduct any detailed analysis of locations; the location decisions were therefore necessarily of the 'hit or miss' variety. Nevertheless, such new businesses commonly enter the field of some already established local speciality product, or one for which existing local demand is manifestly large, so that the location has some internal rationale.

For small town business in general, the normal 'location question' historically posed to investors ('What is the best location in which to manufacture or market this product?') is inverted, to become 'What is the product I can best make or sell in this location?’ which is equally rational and cost effective. In the world of mass-production, which grew much more competitive from 1844 to 1912, not all new business enterprises would survive. Then, as now, many would fail because their location decision was inappropriate or the initial financial investment was inadequate. Others would survive, although at below optimal levels. A few would be expected to grow in stature within their communities, their regions and their nations, and no doubt thereby confirm the superior wisdom (or good fortune) of their founders. Evidence from the trade directories supports the idea that this was the small-scale scenario in 19th century Halesworth, with inevitably a rapid turnover of family businesses.

The above comparisons made between directories published at different times can be developed as a method to quantify the instability of family enterprises. Families in trade may be defined in relation to their surnames, and an analysis of changes in surnames between directories will provide a good approximation of the rate of flow of businesses through the town. This approach has been developed by comparing a sequence of pairs of Halesworth directories that were published between 1783-1892 (Tables 5.9 and 5.10). The following paragraphs describe a method of charting the coming and going of traders. Those who only want to read the conclusions are advised to go to subsection 5.7.1.

Up to 1844 the average gains and losses of surnames per year of those in trade both increased, with gains exceeding losses. During the period 1844-55, both the rates of loss and gain of surnames decreased, with the losses slightly exceeding the gains. After 1855 both rates increased up to 1883, but rates of loss continued to exceed the rates of gain. Between 1883-92, the average rates of gains and losses decreased by about 50%, with losses exceeding gains (Fig 5.10).

Table 5.9 Comparisons of surnames in pairs of Halesworth directories (1793-1892)

Fig 5.10 Comparison of rates of gains and losses of surnames

Over the entire period of the study, between 1783-1892, the pattern of change in surnames of those in trade was characterised by there being a decline in the proportion of new surnames added in each interval between publications. There was also a rise in the proportional losses of surnames from paired directories, which reached a peak between 1855-79 (Fig 5.11). At this time, the Halesworth directories were more or less in a steady state, with gains, losses and carry-overs all being around a third of the total surnames in pairs of directories added together. The time of the peak in losses between directories was preceded by a maximum in the total number of surnames for each pair of directories. The latter occurred between 1844-55 (Fig 5.12). Between 1773-1892 there was around a ten-fold variability in the average rate of loss of surnames between paired directories (1.3-11.5/yr). The variability in gains was less (3.5-9.5/yr). However, the average rates of loss and gain over the entire period were about the same (6.6 and 6.7 names of persons in trade per year).

Fig 5.11 Changes in surnames: paired comparisons of losses and gains as a proportion of those occurring in both directories (1855-79)

Fig 5.12 Total number of surnames 1783-1892

In order to examine these conclusions in relation to the bigger socio-economic picture it is necessary to turn to the Halesworth population censuses. These ten-year surveys show that the population began to increase exponentially at the start of the 19th century, attaining its fastest rate of growth between 1811 and 1821 (addition of about 36 people per decade; Fig 5.13).

During the next decade the rate of population growth decreased, and came to an abrupt end, at a level of about 2660 persons, in the mid 1840s. The population then began to fall, and apart from a small upturn in 1881, it continued to decline until the end of the century, at which time there had been a 16% decrease in the number of inhabitants from its mid-century level (a loss of 419 people, or 8 persons/decade). These changes in population and directory surnames of those in trade are summarised in Table 5.11. There were no changes in parish boundaries that could play a significant part in the process.

Fig 5.13 Change in population of Halesworth (1801-1904)

Table 5.11 Timeline of population dynamics of Halesworth through the 19th century.

To summarise, a study of Halesworth’s trade directories has shown:
· that most traders may be classed as colonists;

· the incoming specialist traders reflected national trends in the development of new technologies;
· the rise and fall of the number of traders more or less followed the trends in population;
· initially, as the town’s population increased, more traders arrived and no doubt took over existing private houses, which then became live-over shops; even today, customers entering the ‘Ancient House’ and the Toy shop are immediately very much aware of moving within the original timber compartmentation of medieval town houses;
· the number of new traders declined because the number of premises suitable for trade became saturated;
· at any time it was probably vacant shops that controlled the inflow of new shopkeepers;
· businesses were short lived and were seldom passed on to the next generation.

Fig 5.14 Birth categories of heads of households recorded in three census returns

The above dynamic flux between native-born tradespeople of Halesworth and those who came to the town as colonists was generally true for the population as a whole. In 1851 only about a third of the heads of household were born in Halesworth. By 1901 the total number of householders had actually declined by about 6%, yet from 1851 to 1901 the number of native heads of households remained well below that of colonists (Fig 5.14). Most of the colonists were born in Suffolk, of which just less than a half came from within the Blything Hundred. Over the whole period there was a trend for householders to come from a wider area, and by the 1901 census people born outside the county had risen by about 40%. However the majority of the householders were still Suffolk born.

Over the half century between 1851 and 1901 a large turnover of householders would be expected as people died or moved away. The question as to how many were replaced by natives may be answered by first counting the householders present in 1901 who had the same surnames as those in 1851, and then finding out how many of these had been born in the town.
In 1851 the number of householders was 571. By 1901, out of a total population of 537 heads of household, there were 273 who had the same surnames as those present in 1851. This means that in 1901 around half of the 1851 heads were no longer present and had been replaced by people with different surnames, many of which were common to all communities. Of the 273 people present in 1901 with the same surnames as those present in 1851, only 123 had been born in Halesworth. This indicates that, as a minimum, about three quarters of the 1901 population were colonists. Since the population size had hardly changed since 1851, the conclusion is that during the second half of the 19th century, migrants were replacing native householders at a rate of about 10 per year. Looking back to 1851, only 107 out of the town’s 292 householders had the same names as those present in 1901, which suggests that this high rate of replacement of Halesworth’s property owners with incomers was a long-standing historical feature of the town’s population. On the whole, it appears that few families can be said to be truly native to the town. The rule was that, generation-by-generation, people came and went, but remained attached to their family’s roots in the county.

5.8 History of retail premises

Since the middle of the 19th century retail businesses in small towns have always faced increasing challenges as they strive to attract new shoppers and retain customer loyalty. ‘Big box’ retailers lure customers with extensive product diversity and competitive prices made possible by the economies of scale in manufacturing and purchasing. Yet the central business area of market towns, which in Halesworth has meant The Thoroughfare and Market Place, has historically been the hub of civic life. Essential goods and services were offered in a walkable setting between church and river. Shoppers conducted their business and in so doing the social networks and economic vitality of a community were established and strengthened.
‘Main Street’ districts have been good places for socialising in towns and cities. Yet, since the early 1980s commentators on the retail trade have lamented the loss of these places that give towns their character and provide a sense of identity for residents. At the start of the 21st century many communities, recognising the loss of the centres that bridged economic and community life, are making attempts at revival. Needs for physical improvements are many, as business communities reckon with the physical decline brought on by years of inadequate maintenance and the need to separate pedestrian shoppers and traffic.

Fig 5.14 Portion of the Halesworth tithe map of 1839 (numbers refer to the Tithe Apportionment)

Building facades, streets, pavements, and infrastructure need attention, all of which are being addressed by the process of pedestrianisation of main streets so as to draw consumers away from supermarket car parks. In all of this, Halesworth has followed national trends, the major response being to bypass the medieval centre by constructing a semi ring road through the wet pasture lands immediately to the east of the settlement, and linking this with the road to Harleston through a new housing estate to the south of the church. The small ancient core of Halesworth as a market settlement still remains within the boundary of the new roads. This can be confirmed from the earliest map, the Tithe Apportionment map of 1839, to which the main retail premises of today can be aligned (Fig 5.14). Each premises on both sides of the Thoroughfare was but a small frontage of a large irregular plot extending deep into closes between the road and the river.

Table 5.13 Retail occupation of properties in central Halesworth in 1979, which occupied plots, numbered on the Tithe Map for The Thoroughfare and Market Place
In 1979 a project organised by the Workers Educational Association attempted to relate the positions of modern shops in the Thoroughfare and Market Place to the sites of properties numbered on the Tithe Map. These two roads have most of the town’s retail establishments. A total of 51 premises were so identified (Table 5.12). There was a good match of position showing that the general layout of properties had changed little in seven decades. Most of the family businesses represented one of their kind, and apart from banks and solicitors there was virtually no competition for services
The authors repeated this survey in 2005 using a modern map (Figs 5.15 and 5.16). A total of 79 shops, businesses and private houses were identified in The Thoroughfare and Market Place, all of which occupied sites originally delineated on the Tithe Map. There had been some changes in ownership and type of business since 1979, notably a garage and car showroom in the Market Place had been replaced by three private houses, but the range of goods and services on offer were mostly the same (Table 5.12 and 5.13).

Fig 5.15 Retail establishments in Thoroughfare December 2005

Fig 5.16 Retail establishments in Market Place December 2005

Table 5.12 Key to Figs 5.15 and 5.16

Another approach to continuity and change is to follow the history of a particular property. In 2005, the authors were permitted to examine a package of deeds and related documents belonging to the Palmer family, who were then in business as butchers at 1 Thoroughfare, a listed property by the river, immediately to the south-east of Town Bridge. The deeds of entitlement covered the period 1723-2003. From 1723 to 1875 the premises were held as copyhold of the Manor of Halesworth, which held most of the land south of the river. Between 1723 and 1848, a period of 125 years, there were 9 copyhold tenants, who each occupied the premises, on average, for about 14 years. The first mention of the property being a butchery was in 1875, when a mortgage was taken out by William Seamans. During the period, 1875-1913 there were 4 owners of the property, giving an average occupancy of about 9 years.
There were no documents for the interval 1914 to 1953. Then, in 1954 the owner was George Woods. After his death, his widow continued the butchery. She married William Harry Spindler in 1963, and the couple continued in business until 1970, when the Palmers bought the property. The papers covering just over two centuries of the property’s history are listed in Table 5.14.

Table 5.13 Papers referring to the Halesworth property No1 Thoroughfare
Although the first mention of an owner of the premises being a butcher was in 1875, the 1851 census lists a Joseph M Brown as a butcher and head of the first household censused in the Thoroughfare. This person is probably the Joseph Moses Brown who, according to the Palmer papers, was admitted a copyhold tenant of 1 Thoroughfare in 1848. A will of the latter person was mentioned in one of the Palmer papers dated 21.10.1848, which also states that George Collett was his tenant. In the 1851 census, a George T Collett is listed head of household at 2 Thoroughfare, and classed as a cabinetmaker journeyman, so it is likely that the Browns also owned this property (Table 5.15). Both families were not natives of Halesworth. Joseph Brown was deceased by 1865 when the butchery was leased to George Seamans, who subsequently took up the copyhold.

Table 5.15 Entry in the 1851 census for numbers 1 & 2 Thoroughfare
The combination of the processes of becoming a retailer of goods and the personal motivations of customers who purchase them, raises the question; Does desire to buy have to come first? In other words, is consumerism ‘natural’? Early Halesworthians clearly had a preference for land over consumerism, and many traditional societies used economic surplus for religious investment, rather than spending it on personal-consumerist display. If clothing is bought why do some buy better but traditional clothing, rather than purchasing novel consumerist fashions. The coincidental uptake of each of these options challenges the assumption that consumerism is a natural phenomenon.

A reasonable shorthand definition of modern consumerism involves:

  • a serious commitment to the acquisition, display, and enjoyment of goods and commercial services, which are clearly not necessary to subsistence however generously defined;
  • participation in the process by social groups outside the upper classes.

Consumerism has a long history. Looking back in time to China under the Tang and Sung, and again under the Ming dynasties, this ancient civilisation frequently displayed symptoms of socially expansive consumerism in the cities, with style-setters among women and business families outside the aristocracy. Chinese consumer styles would even have impact elsewhere, as in European imitations of Chinese women's headgear in the later Middle Ages.

Why did modern Western consumerism first emerge? Without going into great detail, the conclusive finding that Western consumerism began in its basic modern shape during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with appropriate changes both in commercial apparatus and in individual motivation, is one of the real discoveries of recent social history. We can fuss about exactly when it first happened, but the basic pattern seems clear, and with it an understanding that consumerism preceded, rather than followed from, industrialization, though it would later be enhanced by it.
Causation, however, is more elusive. Vital to world history is an appreciation of how much access to goods from other regions, such as sugar, helped stimulate broader consumer demand and the apparatus needed to sustain and enhance this demand. Likewise, rising prosperity for many, though not all, was a vital precondition. On a world scale, the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries are crucial periods in the development of consumerism.

The triteness and hedonism of consumerism have made it an inviting target to a variety of critics. These criticisms include:
  • religious objections, on grounds of inappropriate priorities;
  • social objections, based on a sense that society has an established (often racial) hierarchy, which consumerism threatens to overturn by allowing unworthy people to look and act just like their betters;
  • and age-based objections to the consumer leadership of the young.

Also fairly standard are attacks on women as particularly vulnerable to consumerism's encouragement of public display to the detriment of financial prudence and respectable family behaviour. Consumerism has often also been attacked as foreign. Even umbrellas were protested in eighteenth-century England as effetely French. While in many societies resistance seems to lessen after a while (Western Europe after World War II, for instance), some anxiety or guilt about consumerism may persist in less explicit forms, even in the United States. And new movements against consumerism, based on religion, environmentalism, antiglobalism or other factors, remain an important part of world history even today. There is no inevitable trend toward unqualified acceptance.

Consumerism arrives in different societies in different ways and encounters different traditional contexts through which its reception is shaped. Certainly the timing of consumerism varies from place to place. Levels of prosperity and poverty vary, which in turn diversely affect the path consumerism takes. Different rates of urbanization are also important variables.

Consumerism involves materialism and acquisitiveness, and it tends to redefine emotions such as envy towards these qualities. However consumerism has also been involved in the emergence of greater individuality. This may or may not be a good thing, but is not simply being greedy. In many societies, within and without the West, consumerism has often seemed quite liberating from traditional social constraints, which has been one of its key attractions for youth, women, and the less well off. And, more vaguely, it seems to provide a way for people to feel connected to wider global meanings, to transcend the parochial and become part of a larger, if trendy, movement.

Today, consumerism is firmly associated with supermarkets, and in this connection consumerism became visible in Halesworth in the form of the Rainbow superstore, which opened in 1984. This was a branch of the National Co-operative Society that developed from Took’s grocery store in Bridge St (Fig 5.16). The concensus of local people is that the Coop arrived in Halesworth, via the Beccles Branch, in the mid 1930s. Nationally the Cooperative Movement itself came from the banding together of groups of people for mutual assistance in trade, manufacture, the supply of credit, housing, or other services. The original principles of the Movement were laid down in 1844 by the Rochdale Pioneers, under the influence of Robert Owen, and by Charles Fourier in France. It was in the 1960s that Co-op stores began to be transformed into the first generation of supermarkets.
The Halesworth Co-op transferred from its relatively small site at the top of the Bridge St, now occupied by the library, to a new building with a car park and petrol station occupying the former livestock market at the edge of town. The comparison of retail outlets in the town between 1979 and 2005 indicates that this particular supermarket development has equilibrated with lively and diverse street shopping. However, the damage created by the placing of supermarkets in and around market towns was officially recognised over a decade ago. Supermarkets are doing well. Tesco recently announced half-yearly-profits for 2005 amounting to some £800 million pounds. For those who read the profits statement closely, a significant fact is that a great share of these massively improved profits come from non-food sales like clothing, electrical goods, CDs and videos and in some stores, medicines from in-house pharmacies. The damage done by supermarkets to small food retailers like butchers, grocers, fishmongers and the like is already monumental. But if supermarkets continue to push their way into more non-food operations, the present generation of retailers of clothes, shoes and white goods will be the last. The issues were supposedly thrashed out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the seemingly unmitigated might of supermarket chains was challenged by John Gummer, during Margaret Thatcher's regime. In 1993 the Conservative Government responded by introducing Planning Policy Guidance Note 13 on Transport (PPG13), which required the consideration of locally accessible shops in planning decisions. A response of several supermarket chains has been to concentrate on smaller branches in town centres on the unproven, and unlikely assumption that supermarket shoppers will, after filling their shopping trolleys, then go on to patronise local retailers. In-town stores now form a growth core of the supermarkets. They have plenty of experience from around the country in negotiating their way through planning permission, with PR campaigns in the local press, planning experts and expensive lawyers. The PPG's did much to curb the excesses of out-of-town retail development, but it appears that more measures are now needed to reconsider insensitive development in old town centres. Pressure from smaller retailers in 2006 provoked yet another national inquiry into unfair practices. This, like all previous investigations, is bound to fail unless people, en masse, turn away from the variety of cheap goods daily available on supermarket shelves.

The needs of a vociferous minority are exemplified by Halesworth, where the planning process for yet another supermarket has been activated. For a town like Halesworth, with its rich history of family retailing, two supermarkets sited within a few hundred yards of each other could bring the 'trolley wars' to the heart of a relatively small town and sever it from its past. It is ironic that this would take place at a time when the town council has just regained control of the town's ancient market rights from the district council. Supermarkets rely on their firepower, nuisance value, and the fact that the council would be wary to issue an enforcement order, in case it lost an appeal and costs were awarded against them. On paper, there are grounds for local authorities to refuse permission for a new supermarket, but they may be reluctant to do so. After all, the resources at the disposal of the big supermarkets are many times greater than those of the local council. There has also been some sharp practice. In Stockport, Manchester, a Tesco was built much bigger than originally planned. Tesco then applied to the council for retrospective planning permission for the extra floor space, which it insisted was only for storage. But over two hundred local traders signed a petition urging the council to serve an enforcement notice, meaning the store will go back to its original size. The extra space was the equivalent of 19 independent shops!

There are many examples of East Anglian towns, which illustrate the harm done by local supermarkets. Main streets become places where no one walks. If the developers of a second supermarket have their way, at best the likelihood is that Halesworth will become a town of charity shops, instead of the great variety of local family concerns, which have given local people an excellent friendly service, and provided a social focus for many years.
However, lest we forget the historical context of retailing, the following quotations from Glyde’s Suffolk in the Nineteenth Century, proves the past we glorify was not pleasurable for most who patronised the family shops.

“Man aged 42 earnt 9s. a week, wife 9d., boy of twelve 2s., boy of eleven 1s.; ditto eight 1s., gal of six nothing, same by a boy of four, total 13s. 9d.”
And this is how the earnings passed into the pockets of retailers:
“Bread 9s., potatoes 1s., rent 1s. 2d., tea 2d., sugar 3 ½d., soap 3d., blue ½d., thread, etc., 2d., candles 3d., salt ½d ., coal and wood 9d., butter 4 ½d., cheese 3d.”