Cavendish’s village store is contender for ‘Britain’s oldest shop’
- Credit: Gregg Brown
A contender has been put forward to share the title of ‘Britain’s oldest shop’.
The Boxford Stores, in Swan Street in the south Suffolk village of Boxford, has long been thought to be the oldest, dating back to 1420.
But it has now emerged that the village stores and newsagents in Cavendish, The Duck or Grouse as it is now known, was also established the same year.
Arthur Kemp, 82, who has researched the history of the stores, said his house was built in 1380 and the shop was formed from part of the building in 1420. It is understood to have traded as such for nearly all of 595 years since.
When Mr Kemp and his wife Shirley, 78, moved to Newman’s cottages in 1986, the shop was being used as offices, but the couple reopened it as the village stores. They ran it themselves for four or five years, but then decided to get tenants in. Now, it is being run as a community shop – open every day – with only a handful of paid staff and many volunteers.
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Mr Kemp, who volunteers in the shop, said it is well-supported, adding according to his log 867 people had used it in the last week of March. And in the summer the numbers increase due to the tourists.
“Use it or lose it: that’s the message,” Mr Kemp said.
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He recalled visiting the shop during the Second World War, saying: “During the war I used to bike over here. Then the owner was a Mr Little. It sold everything: ham, paraffin, bacon, all sorts of things.”
Today, the shop still sells all the essentials, and Mr Kemp said they would like to introduce sticks of rock with ‘Cavendish’ written through them for the tourists.
It has been run as a community shop, with a committee, for five years this October, and makes a profit.
The community took it over as the shop’s success had waned, with people saying they had to travel to Sudbury or Clare for their purchases.
Liz Graham, one of the paid members of staff at the shop, said villagers really appreciated the facility.
“Because it’s a newsagents and Cavendish is populated by a lot of pensioners they love their local morning routine to go down to get the paper, and we sell the basic groceries as well.”
Just like the Boxford Stores, the shop in Cavendish has been around during many major events in history; in its opening year, Henry V received France from Charles VI.
And history still haunts the building today, according to Mr Kemp. He said his wife had seen the ghost of a man wearing a sweater and a beret on more than one occasion in their home. According to a woman who was born in the village, this fitted the description of Mr Newman, who dates back to the early 1900s.