Jeff Knowles and his partner Tracey Clarke are having a bit of a do on Saturday to celebrate their first anniversary in business together.
A year isn’t long and not much cause for celebration, some might think, but Jeff in particular is conscious of his and Tracey’s place in the history of Bridge Hardware at Crowland.
The business has existed, in one form or another, since at least 1850, with a continuous line of owners and tenants going back into history serving the needs of the people of Crowland.
Both Jeff and Tracey are interested in history anyway but perhaps the shop’s position in East Street, right next to the historic Trinity Bridge, and with the old steppingstone immediately outside, has stimulated that curiosity about the past even further.
They have looked at online history resources for information about Crowland and the shop, but Jeff and Tracey have also been helped by some of their customers. Some have memories going back years, while others have been able to provide useful documents from the 19th century to help build a picture of how the shop has changed over the years.
At one time it was an ironmongers and blacksmith, the blacksmith producing anything his customers needed.
Jeff explains: “Years ago, when the likes of Josiah Goodwin owned the shop and it was listed as an ironmongers and blacksmith if people wanted a door handle or a hook they wouldn’t buy it, they would make it, and that’s really how the shop has evolved. Now, everything is pre-manufactured.”
Jeff has discovered that Mr Goodwin owned the business between 1851 and 1879, starting out on Church Street before moving the business to its current location in East Street.
A Crowland myth has it the shop was once owned by Nelson – as in the admiral – but Jeff suspects that, although he may have been related, the Nelson associated with Crowland’s ironmongery business was crafting nails and hooks long after Horatio’s death.
Following Mr Goodwin’s death, two gentlemen took over in 1880, William Spencer Hayward and William Reffell, and Jeff has been shown a tenancy agreement dated May 7, 1886, overseen by the Lords of the Manor of Crowland.
Jeff says that, according to White’s Directories, a useful source of historical information on towns and villages, by 1882 the business is listed as an ironmongers and agricultural implements.
Then, by the time of the 1911 census, the business’s proprietor was one George Williams, and that name was associated with the shop for a very long time, right until the 1970s, says Jeff.
Her adds: “We know when Williams was here they did bike repairs and sold petrol at the front. I’ve learned that from local people.”