History of the shop
There has been a shop on the village green at Houghton near Huntingdon since at least 1847, when George Clark, a millwright, decided that his wife Mary should supplement the family income by opening up the front room of their thatched cottage and establish a baker’s shop and general store. Mary traded until about 1860 when George Stiles came from Essex with his wife Ellen and ran the shop until August 1880.
George and Ellen were followed by George Wilson as the tenant and shopkeeper. George Wilson, a mill-wright, came from Wadenhoe in Northamptonshire and, in 1853 at the age of 22, married Mehatabell Morton, daughter of a local butcher. They were running a butchers business from their cottage in St.Ives road and were able to move with their six children into the premises on the Green with their six children in 1880.
George retired to Horsham in Sussex in 1890 and was succeeded by a popular local man, John Burton. John was not a grocer by trade but had previously been a farmer’s boy for George Thackray of Wyton and a printer with William Goggs of Huntingdon. In 1878 John married Elizabeth Ashmore and by 1890 they had a family of ﬁve young children. They worked hard, especially in the bakehouse, where Elizabeth turned out special cakes for every occasion and John baked lovely crusty bread. In those days he made his deliveries by wheelbarrow with the bread covered by a sack. His dog accompanied him and guarded the barrow while John delivered the loaves. Elizabeth’s pet parrot, who sat on his perch in the shop, often caused much amusement by mimicking her voice and calling ‘Father’, causing John to rush through from the bakehouse expecting to ﬁnd the shop full of customers!
Their two daughters Mary (Polly) and Lily helped in the shop until they both married in 1913 and the boys, Harry and John (Jack) decided to go to Canada to seek their fortune working as lumberjacks and made for the Yukon.
During John and Elizabeth’s proprietorship the building was given a second storey and a new slate roof instead of thatch.
The boys returned from Canada and Jack settled down to run the bakery having married Florence Triplow in 1924.
Jack & ‘Flo’ delivered the bread by pony & trap somewhat erratically! Tom the pony knew the route via the Three Horseshoes and The Three Jolly Butchers and was known to kick the pub door until the landlady Hannah Upchurch gave him a lump of sugar. They earned the name of ‘The midnight bakers’ due to the lateness of the deliveries!
Jack continued to bake during the 1947 floods until the rising waters put out the fire in the bread oven. By about 1956 they became unable to compete with progress in the shape of ‘the white sliced loaf’ delivered by motor van and poor Tom the pony was put out to grass!
In 1924 the property became freehold and was bought by Mr.William Riddiford of Brampton for £650.00 for his daughter Olive, who was married to Herbert Rapley and he became a popular Postmaster and Shopkeeper.
In 1928 Herbert was killed in a tragic accident on Houghton Hill when the chain snapped on a heavy lorry, causing it to crash into the pony and trap in which he was travelling back from market with Ernest Walker, who survived.
Olive Rapley had already bought the property from her father for £1,000 but now moved out and leased it, first to two ladies, Eleanor Connor and Eveline Balmforth and then in 1933 to George Islip. George ran the business for fifteen years. He was a popular wartime shopkeeper and could always be relied upon to produce that’ little something’ from under the counter for a special occasion. He survived the Floods of 1947 when he arrived one morning to find his tins of biscuits and other stock floating in about three feet of water! George retired in 1948 and the business and property was put up for sale.
In April 1948 the business and property were put up for auction and purchased by Walter & Trudy Scrivener from London for £2,850. They moved in with their three sons who joined in with village life. Tony & Bernard joined the local scout troop and the church choir and Trudy was an enthusiastic member of the village Womens Institute.
In those days it was still necessary to draw water from the village pump if you fancied a cup of tea!
Due to Mr.Scriveners ill health Tony helped run the business and in 1961 on the death of his father, Tony became a partner with his Mother.
In 1963 the shop was extended into the cottage next door (formerly the home of Ada and Ephraim Parker (The village cobbler).Three years later it became self-service and a member of the ‘VG’ Group. (An independent Voluntary Buying Group)
Trudy died in 1971, and Tony and his wife Davina acquired the property and the business and set about major improvements to the house, and to further extend the shop into the end cottage (formerly the home of Jack & Flo Burton). Three Georgian style windows were installed in the front of the shop. The alterations were completed in 1975. The business was successful and specialised in home cooked hams, continental and English cheese and delicatessen. Fresh crusty bread and cream cakes from Giffords bakery at Fenstanton arrived early every day, fresh fruit and vegetables and a Wine & Spirit licence completed the picture.
Tony and Davina decided to retire in 1988 and sold to Philip and Carole Archer who had previously managed a delicatessen shop in St.Johns Wood London, but wanted their own business.
They had ten years in the shop before retiring and opening up the Antiques business in the former butchers shop across The Green.
In 1998 David and Margaret Ebdale came from The Isle of Man to buy the business from Philip and Carole Archer and after seventeen years are still with us!