Apprentice told he couldn’t have sex for five years - historic documents reveal
PUBLISHED: 14:32 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:42 06 October 2019
Exhibition about iconic Hadleigh shop Partridges highlights loads of fascinating facts about the past, including a murder and highway robbery
Imagine landing an apprenticeship - woohoo! - and then reading the small print. Teenager John Raynham found there was a price to pay if he wanted to learn the secrets of his chosen trade. No fornication for five years, thank you very much. No getting married. Don't gamble your money away on cards or at the dice tables. Keep clear of taverns and playhouses, too.
That wasn't all. The 16-year-old's dad had to supply meat, drink and clothing, and pay the firm £20. (Easy terms: two instalments.)
Welcome to Victorian Suffolk.
In return, young John would be paid one shilling and sixpence a week, rising annually to seven shillings and sixpence in the fourth year. If he kept his nose clean, he'd also be taught the "art" of the ironmonger.
His employer in the 1870s was Graham & Joslin, whose site is now occupied by the traditional and independent home and garden store Partridges of Hadleigh.
The winds of change are blowing again, in this tough climate for retailing, and there's a blueprint seeking to redevelop the landmark plot with apartments and shop units.
A perfect time, then, for an exhibition charting two centuries of trading at this key town centre location. We got a sneak preview, thanks to Sally Looker. (Of whom more later.)
While MW Partridge & Co Ltd is iconic, a go-to place for everything from furniture paint and fuel containers to barbecues and breadbins, many folk might be surprised to know the name didn't appear until 1929. And even then it was Partridge and Partridge…
Gosh, adverts were polite (if obsequious) in 1819. Readers of the Ipswich Journal learned that Thomas Pritty "respectfully informs the inhabitants of Hadleigh and the public in general that he has commenced business" and is able to offer "such terms as he trusts will be found to merit their patronage and support, which he humbly solicits".
His business was as an ironmonger and dealer in china, glass and earthenware.
In 1823 it seems that Haughley-born Thomas inherited the premises, which included a house, shop, iron foundry and meadow. The buildings were, essentially, 58 and 60 High Street and 1 George Street round the corner.
Things went well. An 1839 map shows all the land and buildings, going well back from the roads, owned by the Pritty family. (One of the Prittys was Elizabeth, possibly Thomas's sister-in-law.) Some premises were rented out as shops.
Thomas had a real scare in the autumn of 1838.
He was returning after 7pm to his Ipswich home by chaise (a horse-drawn carriage). About a mile outside Hadleigh, the Ipswich Journal reported, he "was stopped by either two or three foot-pads". Robbers, basically.
Two "knocked his lamps to pieces on either side, while one, with a strong neckerchief, held Mr Pritty down on his back, nearly suffocating him".
One mounted the chaise, stealing his silver watch and between £3 and £4 of gold and silver. After he got over the initial shock, Thomas ("minus his hat") drove back to Hadleigh.
Two suspects drinking in a pub were apprehended at Layham, but were later released because there was no proof.
Thomas later formed a partnership with Henry Clayden (auctioneer, valuer and Pritty tenant). They traded as Pritty and Clayden until 1840, after which Henry carried on as sole trader.
Thomas, still only in his late 40s, moved to Bury St Edmunds with his family.
Henry lived at 60 High Street, next to the shop, and rented the premises from Thomas. The firm made stoves and ranges, and sold goods such as oils and glass. It was also an agent for Suffolk-made Ransomes' ploughs.
John… and Crush
Henry Clayden died at the end of 1860. He was 49. In 1861, the house, shop, premises and ironmongery business were sold by Thomas Pritty to John Graham for £900.
Born in Scotland, John had been working for Henry. In 1860, John had bought the stock of Derrick's Foundry in Hadleigh, after its owner died, and moved it to the site of his new foundry behind the High Street/George Street. His purchases had included a steam engine and boilers, furnace and ploughs.
John took on business partner Richard Crush Joslin, who came from a family of Colchester ironmongers.
In 1865 they bought three cottages in George Street for £245. In 1869 they added a meadow. John also bought a strip of land connecting George Street and Angel Street, which made access to the foundry much easier.
"They went from strength to strength," says Sally Looker. "I think they were very driven, and they were all master ironmongers."
The firm did work for the Hadleigh Grand Feoffment Charity, including installing and repairing stoves for the National School. It supplied and repaired water carts, and equipment for the town's fire engine. It also replaced a wooden fence around Layham's churchyard with railings.
When John died in 1883 he left the business and premises to his partner. Richard Crush Joslin carried on trading, moved into 60 High Street, and stayed there until retiring to Clacton in 1899. Rather sadly, he died less than a year later.
The lot for £1,000
There's something seamless about the business succession. Step forward Henry Taylor - another with Colchester roots, and the son of a cement merchant.
By the time he was 26 he'd been working for Graham & Joslin as a shopman. In 1899, after 18 years' service, he took out a 21-year lease on the premises at £80 per annum.
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When Ellen Joslin died in 1908 (she'd inherited when her husband died) the whole caboodle - including ironworks, "well-placed corner shop", foundry and meadow - was auctioned. Henry scooped the lot for £1,000.
He retired in 1929 at the grand age of 74, selling the house, premises and ironmongery to the Partridges. Henry and family moved to 8 George Street. He died in late 1930.
The Partridge family
The new residents of 60 High Street were Maitland Partridge and his four sisters. Their house featured a servant's bedroom and tennis lawn.
Maitland Walter Partridge was born in Hadleigh in 1892. He came from a farming family but was apprenticed to an ironmongery at Saxmundham as a young man.
He was a master ironmonger when he and relative Daniel Partridge acquired the business in 1929. The firm was rechristened. Partridge and Partridge did well, doubtless benefiting from their agricultural connections.
In 1934 the partnership was dissolved. Daniel left. Maitland and sister Edith registered the name MW Partridge & Company Ltd. It's still with us.
After all those years in the hands of various master ironmongers, the firm became a limited company in 1949. When Maitland died in 1969 the remaining directors inherited the business and property, which they continued to run.
Cosford Property Company bought it in 1984 and Keith Young became managing director. Partridges continued to draw customers from a wide distance, and cemented its place in the town's commercial history.
But if the past 200 years have taught us anything, it's that change is a constant. With that redevelopment plan on the table, a new era is on the cards.
Good deeds all round
I have Sally Looker to thank for almost all the information above. Here's why.
Keith and Ann Young, in essence the owners of Partridges of Hadleigh, have retired and moved out of Suffolk. They had a clutch of deeds relating to the firm and its site, dating from 1859 to 1911. Feeling the documents should stay in the town, they gave them earlier this year to Hadleigh Archive, where they have been catalogued and stored.
Sally is one of the volunteers looking after the archive. "I tend to catalogue any deeds. And having got these deeds, I thought 'Oh! This would make a nice display,'" she explains.
It more or less coincided with news of the potential redevelopment. "The two things combined, together with the 200-year anniversary, and that's how it started."
"It" is a two-day exhibition, researched and prepared by Sally on behalf of the Hadleigh Town Council Archives Group, using documents and photographs to tell the story of a business, its owners and employees over those 200 years.
"Basically, it's telling a story - using the deeds, but fleshing it out a little with other sources," says Sally, who used to work for the county's record office.
The deeds relate to 58 and 60 High Street, 1 George Street, and 3 and 5 George Street. There will also be a look at more recent changes after the sale to Cosford Property Company, including building on the corner with Magdalen Road.
The exhibition is on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday 20th, 10am to 4pm each day, at The Guildhall, Market Place, Hadleigh.
Admission is £2, with children (under 12) getting in free. Proceeds go to the Hadleigh Market Feoffment charity.
Don't forget the shooting!
Ah yes. Numbers 3 and 5 George Street had long belonged to the Chisnall family. Thomas Chisnall was a shoemaker and corn chandler. He, wife Ann and children lived in one cottage that also included a shop. The other cottage was rented out.
In 1831, Thomas was killed during what the Ipswich Journal called a "dreadful murder".
One June night, he'd gone to his granary to finalise a sale of oats… and was felled by a musket-shot from a neighbour.
"It was loaded with a marble, which passed through his neck, struck the door, (which is indented) and ultimately broke in halves," reported the Journal.
Rescuers stemmed the bleeding, but Thomas died at about 2am.
Assailant Edward Offord, meanwhile, shut himself in his bedroom and cut his throat with a razor. The wound wasn't very deep, and was easily sewn up. "In a few hours he rallied and became quite rational, but disclaimed any knowledge of the murder."
The report continued: "It appears that Offord, who is an old soldier and receiving his pension, has been for some time in a desponding way, and was at the time considered to be deranged…"
The 65-year-old had been a sergeant in the Suffolk Militia. He was charged with murder.
A doctor told the trial he believed Offord suffered from partial derangement and had imagined the corn merchant was trying to do him harm.
The pensioner was declared guilty but insane, and sent to the County Lunatic Asylum at Melton, near Woodbridge.
Thomas had left the two tenements to Ann. Son William carried on as a boot and shoemaker, and corn dealer.
Henry Taylor was able to buy numbers 3 and 5 George Street in 1911 and combine them with the main site.
One last question
Is there more to see at the exhibition? Yes! More old photographs. More rich detail. And you can find out about the time when 1 George Street (once home to booksellers, stationers and printers) became a beerhouse called The Moulder's Arms… and a lodging house for tramps. As Sally says, "it was probably a bit rough".