Mrs. Carla Broderick, as Chairman, introduced our guest speaker Mrs Judith Blatch who delivered a most interesting and multi-layered talk on the history and future of Sudbury’s oldest and largest independent shop – Winch and Blatch.
She held the attention of her audience of 125 local history buffs from the start with an update on the historic structure of the main store on the Market Hill. Although there have been many changes over the centuries, including the introduction of moulded timbers from elsewhere in the l960’s, at the core are substantial remains of an important early 14th century aisled Hall with a rare crown-post supporting the roof in situ. This is of immense interest and forms a direct link with the original layout and conception of the Market Hill area for Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare, in the l320’s which the Society have been studying in recent months.
Various subdivisions over the centuries have resulted in an interesting mixture of periods and styles and variations in merchandise. The first Winch shop was further down in King Street, between the Rose and Crown Hotel and Manchester House Linen Emporium, all of which were destroyed by fire in 1926. Mr. Winch immediately secured the occupancy of what is now the main store, part of which was Mauldon’s Brewery shop. The subsequent history after the 1939-45 war, when the Winch and Blatch partnership was formed, is a remarkable story of private enterprise and vision against all the odds.
Two other well established shops, Stephen Baker and Joy’s were taken over and their premises retained resulting in a well-stocked and pleasant independent shopping ambience, which suits a town like Sudbury admirably.
Mrs. Blatch was most informative in replying to questions from the floor about trading today and the challenges they have to face with the multiples’ and the Intemet.
Mrs Broderick thanked her on behalf of the membership for a thoroughly enjoyable talk.
After the interval Mike Crome projected a series of photographs of the events earlier in the week to commemorate the centenary of the unveiling of Gainsborough’s statue.
Barry Wall reported on the visit from Australia of some descendants of the Burkitt family a few days earlier. He had been able to arrange access to the two premises created from the original Burkitt House, now a restaurant and Estate Agents in Gainsborough Street. They were also taken to All Saints Church where 14 members of the Burkitt family are buried in the chancel although without a memorial stone. The visitors had been most impressed with Sudbury.
Barry Wall, Secretary 2013/14