At the Hadleigh Society, Sue Andrews took us back in time to trace the development of Bildeston and its shops. Having shown us an aerial photograph that revealed the ground markings close to the church where the early village had been, she went on to illustrate how the medieval street stalls had developed into covered stalls and then shops. The area surrounding the market, over the years developed into today’s Bildeston.

A pictorial tour then gave us a good impression of the shops of today and of the 19th century when Bildeston was well served with businesses, there were 3 grocer/drapers, a baker, a butcher, 3 boot and shoe makers, a dressmaker and 3 tailors. Other shops included 2 newsagencies, 2 toyshops, a hairdresser and a watchmaker.

Sue then told us that in 1985 some documents had been found, walled up in an old fireplace at Bank House Stores. The documents were over a hundred years old and among them were a number of notes sent to a Mr Crickmore ordering goods or making requests.

Mr Crickmore arrived in Bildeston in 1871 to take over the position of postmaster with a grocery and drapery business, he also sold wines, ironmongery, stationery and haberdashery, was an agent for an insurance company ran a telegraph office and provided a banking service.

His shop served not just the town but via the local carrier and the postman, the surrounding villages. Some of the surviving scraps of paper illustrate this.

"Would you be so kind as to send me two rolls of butter tomorrow by Cresswell by so doing you will greatly oblige" (James Cresswell was a local carrier).

Notes seem to have been the standard way of communicating. "Will you oblige me by taking some butter of me on the account of we are not going to let Mr Gibbs have any more, for his son have proved very dirty about butter and, if you please I will have a book and settle it up every 3 months.

Please to send me a note if you will agree to it and I think I shall have some butter in a month’s time and eggs too.

Yours truly, Mrs Baldry, Naughton"

From the Old Manor, Chelsworth came a note saying "Miss Pocklington would like Mr Crickmore to get 45 yards of the same carpet that he has just got for Miss Cautley and a rug to match.
Miss Pocklington lets Mr C. know at once in order that he may secure the quantity.".

Sometimes customers made mistakes and hoped Mr Crickmore would get them out of trouble. "I found I made a great mistake in sending for half pound of ground mace for 3 ounces would have been a plenty for me, so if you can help me out of this scolding I hope you can do so.
It is a thing that will be sure to sell this time of the year, as Mr Gedge will be surprised when he sees what it cost. I had no idea it was so expensive. I have sent it as I feel sure you will take part of it back"

Telegrams were dispatched, often with Mr Crickmore’s help with the wording.
"To Miss Smith, Creeks Mouth, Barking, Essex
Dear friend Unforeseen events have occurred. Could you pay us a visit at some future time? I am sorry.
S Sewell.
dear Sir,
Would you please send this telegram. If you think it would be better put in any other form, will you please alter it.
Send word by the postman how much it is and I will send the money."

These are only a few of the many originals messages that Sue used to illustrate her talk but she ended by telling us that at the turn of the century Mr Crickmore’s son Harry took over the business so the people of the town and surrounding villagers were still able to go on writing "Mr Crickmore please to send............