Shops and Shopping


This publication by The Survey of Lincoln places under the spotlight the history of the city’s shops and retailing more generally. The volume ranges across time from an exploration of shops and traders in Roman Lincoln, and the city’s medieval markets and fairs to a consideration of Lincoln’s changing High Street through the twentieth century and scrutiny of retailing in the contemporary city. The volume plots transformations in retail fashions in terms of architectural and shop design through to the types of goods that shoppers in Lincoln have sought out on their shopping trips.

At a time when many familiar names on the High Street seem to be under threat this volume examines both how changes in retailing have been a recurring feature in the last three centuries or so, and the reasons why some retailers have survived and thrived. The multi-authored collection includes chapters on the following:

· Shops and Traders in Roman Lincoln

· Medieval Fairs and Markets

· Development of the Shop Front Though Time

· Shops in the Nineteenth Century: Snapshots of Change in Central Lincoln

· Mawer and Collingham: Before the House of Fraser

· Bainbridges

· Corner Shops

· The New Market, Lincoln

· Chain Stores in Lincoln, c.1880-1939

· A.W. Curtis & Sons and Lincoln’s Butchers’ Shops Through Time

· Lincoln’s High Street Shops, c. 1950-1980

· Co-operative House: The Post-War Co-operative Society and its Central Store

· The Shopping Centre That Never Was: Centre 71

· Retail and the Rise of the Visitor Economy in Lincoln

Andrew Walker, ed., Shops and Shopping in Lincoln: A History

(ISBN 978-0-9931263-4-5).

The book retails at £7.50 and should be available from Lincoln’s bookshops and some online sellers but can also be ordered directly from The Survey of Lincoln by emailing for details of postage costs.

An extract from the chapter: Some Corner Shops in Lincoln by Geoff Tann

A shop on a street corner may lose heat in winter on two sides but this is a minor disadvantage when the location means that it is passed by potential shoppers using both those streets. The two elevations are available for display windows, particularly if the shop door is angled at the corner to maximise the length of the walls. Corner shop sites in Lincoln have been so numerous that it is difficult to make useful generalisations about them. Street directories are one way of identifying them, and the shops and shopkeepers made irregular appearances in the local press.

From 1866 the Lincoln Corporation/City Council’s Building Application files document and illustrate some. Most of these shops were also houses; although a room in some houses was converted to retail use, large numbers seem to have been built with the front room designed as a shop and with storage areas. The majority of the corner shops were in areas of denser population, frequently on streets of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century terraced housing close to industrial employers: near Canwick Road, close to Monks Road, but also near Burton Road, High Street, New Boultham and the West End. Later housing estates have fewer corner shops, instead having separate groups of shop buildings with much larger floor spaces than the nearby house designs.

Lincoln residents will be familiar with some of the Victorian and Edwardian corner shops as flourishing twenty-first century convenience stores, and there are numerous examples of grocers and ‘general provision merchants’ in these locations recorded in the trades directories. Despite this, a study of the directories and newspaper reports shows that corner shops were operated by other types of retailer too: tailors and bakers seem to have been ubiquitous in the late nineteenth century, with other corner sites hosting drapers, druggists, undertakers and butchers. As fashions changed, so did the demand for prime positions in the neighbourhood.

Many corner shops applied for licences to sell beer, wine and spirits for drinking on or off the premises – or both. The reputation of the shop determined how successful the applications were, and having gained a licence some shops gave up their original business to concentrate upon beer selling despite the presence of rival beerhouses in the close proximity. A handful of corner shop sites selected for study has highlighted recurrent themes of renewing the shop appearance, bankruptcies, short-lived tenures, family businesses, difficulty in selling the premises, and frequent changes of description, most of which were probably connected. Most of the shopkeepers resorted to selling alcohol, but the two shopowners who offered upholstery and fishing equipment respectively seem to have been among the most successful.

91 Ripon Street

Architects’ plans submitted with building applications show that some purpose built ‘house and shop’ premises differed from the neighbouring houses even when all were built in one exercise by a single builder. One particularly pronounced example is 91 Ripon Street (and two other shops at the same junction with St Andrew’s Street) where the corner property was designed with an additional storey to compensate for space assigned to the shop and storage.

The plans approved in April 1877 for 91 Ripon Street showed that the shop was to occupy the approximate 14 x 12ft corner room, with a corner door and a window facing each street (the houses had a front room 1ft narrower), and a fireplace on the western wall. Upstairs was the sitting room and a bedroom, with two bedrooms in the attic. This may not have been built; an application for alterations in November 1877 had a different configuration with a smaller kitchen, and the outbuilding’s position moved from the St Andrew’s Street wall to the western boundary, allowing for a broad passage to lead from behind the shop to a new stable and cart shed. John Henry Robson, coachbuilder and shopkeeper (who had been trading as a grocer there since the shop was built), perhaps thought that this would better suit his businesses. In 1888 he dropped the coachbuilding description when he applied for a beer licence.

After 1899 he traded variously as a grocer or coachbuilder, still unable to obtain a beer licence, but the shop later achieved the status of the departure point of the ‘Favourite’ char-a-banc trip to Skegness until 1922. The shop changed hands by 1907, and again before 1919 when Mrs Korff ran it until after the Second World War. She obtained the alcohol licence, advertising herself initially as general dealer, then grocer and beer retailer, and finally as beer retailer. This function continued through the 1960s, becoming G. Wheeler’s wine merchant’s in the early 1970s. The date of the shop’s closure is not known; in 2004 the rear storage buildings were demolished and replaced with residential properties.

(end of extract).