High Street History in Halesworth

Despite the weather conditions on a snowy Sunday the Centre of East Anglian Studies ran a small project to investigate the history of shops and shopping in Halesworth in north Suffolk. The day was a resounding success!

An overwhelming turnout of over 100 people including residents and shop-owners from Halesworth and the surrounding area came to share their memories and research the history of their shops. Many people brought old photographs and their own archival material to show to volunteer undergraduate students and staff from UEA. Staff from the Suffolk Record OfficeHalesworth Museum and Halesworth Library were also present to help and had brought many materials of their own, including old maps, photographs and newspapers.


Together we were able to piece together the hidden mysteries of the high street. For example, the present greengrocers called ‘Melons’ (50 Thoroughfare) used to be a chemist and evidence of this can be still seen in the rooms upstairs. The chemist was called ‘Paranol’ and an almanac from 1940 showed that the shop was owned by Wilfred Miles George, whose son, Wilfred Shardelow George, sold the shop in 1976.

In the New Year, we plan to return to Halesworth to carry out a series of archaeological test-pit digs followed up by an evening lecture and an exhibition in the town plus publication of the team’s findings on the Halesworth town website. Lots of the people who attended this drop-in session are keen to continue with this research, so we hope to see many of them again!

Text by Rachel Broomfield and Charlotte Hurst, undergraduate students taking English History with Landscape Archaeology at UEA.

High Street History in Halesworth

Working with BBC Learning, the Centre of East Anglian Studies (part of the School of History at the University of East Anglia) is running a small project to investigate the history of shops and shopping in Halesworth in north Suffolk.

Halesworth is a delightful market town full of independent shops, many of which have been there for decades, if not centuries!  This town has recently fought off a sustained attempt by Tesco to build a large supermarket in the town and, whilst not everyone in town necessarily agreed with the campaign, it has highlighted just how important the independant ‘high street’ is to the local community.

Staff and undergraduate students from UEA including Lucy Marten, Sarah Spooner and Jon Gregory, have arranged to take over Halesworth Library on Sunday 28th November from 11am to 3pm to run a drop-in workshop with archive materials provided by Suffolk Record Office and Halesworth Museum.  Staff from the Suffolk Record Office, Halesworth Museum, Halesworth Library and Archaeologists from Suffolk County Council Archaeology Unit will also be available to help.

Members of the local community will be encouraged to drop-in for this one day event, research the history of their shops or the high street in general from written sources to oral recollections and record their findings, to uncover the history of retailing in the town. This event will be followed up by an evening lecture and an exhibition in the town plus publication of the team’s findings on the Halesworth town website.

Text by Rachel Broomfield, undergraduate student in History and Landscape Archaeology.

Autumn field trips

This autumn we had a return trip to the site we surveyed with our third year students during the summer (see here for more). The woods looked very different now that the dog’s mercury which blanketed the ground has gone. The earthworks of the medieval wood bank and moat show up much more clearly now.

We also took our second year students to a number of sites in Norfolk – the site of the Late Saxon cathedral at North Elmham, the Norman motte and bailey castle at Mileham and the deserted medieval village of Godwick.

The sun finally came out at Godwick, so we saw the earthworks of the village in lovely, raking late autumnal sunshine. The village was gradually deserted over the course of the medieval and post-medieval periods, and the site also has a fantastic barn which is being restored by the owners as a wedding and event venue.

All three sites are open to the public, and Godwick in particular is an evocative and exciting place to visit.

There are more photos on our Flickr photostream.