When the main street was as busy as Candleford...

Jack Read in the general store in Market Street, Laxfield, in 1975.
Picture: contributed

Jack Read in the general store in Market Street, Laxfield, in 1975. Picture: contributed - Credit: Archant

Laxfield: There’s a new book out on the village’s long-lost shops

Butcher, baker, perhaps even a candlestick maker…

It’s almost impossible to imagine the Laxfield of 170 years ago. The pretty village today boasts a couple of pubs, a Co-op and the family business of Grayston Bros, but in the middle of the 19th Century it must have been positively bustling.

White’s 1844 Directory of Suffolk lists a couple of blacksmiths, half a dozen boot and shoemakers, two corn-millers, more than a handful of inns and a clutch of beer houses, several grocers, three tailors, and six wheelwrights and carpenters. The community nine or so miles south-west of Halesworth also featured butcher George Atkins, surgeon Robert Canley, baker Joseph Garrard, two bricklayers, a plumber and glazier, and a postman, among others.

In 1844, Laxfield’s population stood at 1,172 souls. That, really, was the peak. The population dropped to 813 by 1911, and to about 650 by the 1970s. And, over the years, businesses disappeared – the buildings invariably converted into houses.

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These changing times are chronicled in the latest book from amateur historian Leslie Larnder, whose previous publications include Peasenhall: A Suffolk Journey Into the Past and the story of seed drill manufacturer Smyths of Peasenhall, whose reputation spread worldwide. It even had a presence in Paris.

Laxfield, Suffolk – A Journey Into The Past is being launched on Saturday, December 19 at The Baptist Church, Laxfield, between 10.30am and 12.30pm. The book will be available at a special price of £8 (£2 off).

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