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Mr Hugh Vincent. Part Two (July 1993)

Recalls his apprenticeship in the stores of the legendary Barley P Porter. It was housed in the present Feltwell Wine Lodge and he used the adjoining cottages, which are now Lyde Pet Care, as warehouses.

To get our supplies for the shop, we went to Lakenheath station a few days after we had placed an order with the Norwich wholesalers. We all got into an open horse drawn van and went to meet the train. There was no pre-packing in those days and everything arrived in huge quantities. We'd get a ton of sugar in 2 cwt bags, butter and margarine in big boxes, all wired up, great cheeses weighing about half a hundredweight, and all covered in cheesecloth, which had to be stripped off and cut into halves and quarters, There were currants and sultanas in wooden boxes too, nobody bought a cake in those days so the demand for them was great, especially at Christmas when everyone baked a lot. The currants and sultanas had to be taken out, put in a sieve with some water to be cleaned before we weighed them into bags. We had one lot of currants but charged two prices - some sold at 4d and some at 6d! The salt came in two stone bars and had to be sawn up. It was stored on the stairs or landing as the place had to be very dry. People killed pigs and put them in brine to preserve them for the winter, so there was a big demand for salt, and there was no packet or tinned salt.

We'd go to Brandon to buy a load of whitening from the factory there - F J Mount it was called - it was used for ceilings and walls and people used a lot of it. It came in a big bar which weighed about a stone, and you had to mix it with water to get the mixture for painting it on. It was for inside as well as outside.

A wholesaler used to come from Cambridge, Eaden Lilley it was, he came in a horse and a cart and would put up at Brandon for the night, then come to Feltwell in the morning. The horse would stand outside the shop with a nosebag, and all the goods would be brought in for Barley P. Porter to select. Everyone made their dresses then and the materials were stored on fixtures all over the walls, high up, with a yardstick for measuring on the counter. Calico was always a lovely clean tear when you cut it. There were laces and all the haberdashery to go with the dressmaking, elastic, cotton, everything. Poor people in Feltwell paid 6d a week into a clothing club run by Miss Annie Spence who lived by the Post Office. They paid in 26/- for the year and Barley P gave one penny in the shilling extra. In October they came with their clothing cards to the Drapery department. After each purchase they'd say, "How much have I got left?" A farthing left at the end bought a packet of pins.

We kept vinegar in a barrel and people would bring their bottles for a pint. Black treacle was in a barrel too, this was for ginger cakes and I think people put it on their bread too; they brought a jar for that. Everything else had to be wrapped in paper. We took orders and delivered them every week. For 10/- you got just about everything, including a hock of bacon and Watson's Matchless Cleanser, which was a long hard yellow bar of soap. The prices were something like this:

butter 1 /- a lb marg 6d a lb
sugar 41/2d for 2lbs tea 41/2d quarter
rice 4d a lb currants 4d a lb
sultanas 6d a lb jam 1/- for strawberry

We sold cigarettes too, mainly in tens. Mr Broadwater, who kept the other shop, had a customer called Johnny Maggs. "What can I do for you, Mr Maggs?" he said ." Packet of Woodbines," he replied. "Would you like the Wild ones?" said Mr Broadwater "Yes," said Johnny, "I'll soon tame them!"

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