Remembering when Sunday trading divided opinion
PUBLISHED: 18:34 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:34 07 April 2020
In these strange and worrying times our busy shopping streets are almost deserted…just the way they were on a Sunday until relatively recently.
And on early closing days during the week.
How times have changed and continue to do so in these troubled days.
Back in the 1950s I remember doing my homework on a Sunday morning when I ran out of ink.
There was a small shop near to our home in Diss which I knew was open for a couple of hours in the morning so I paid them a visit. I could see the bottles of ink behind the counter but the assistant wouldn’t sell me one saying it was against the law.
That was the way it was.
Sunday was a time for going to church, some quiet reflection, odd jobs around the house, and a walk in the country or, for a special treat, a trip to the seaside.
Mind you many a gentleman looked forward to a Sunday.
While they went off for a pint or two when the pubs opened at 12 noon their wives or mums would be at home slaving over a hot stove so there was a meal on the table, usually a roast, when they returned from the pub.
Most pubs served drinks not food in those days. Some did offer a rare treat – a pickled egg from a jar on the counter.
While they shut at 2pm the cinemas opened where you could get a Kia-ora drink and a tub of ice cream at the interval and of course puff away on cigarettes if you needed to.
Remember the time when it was smokers one side of the aisle and non-smokers on the other….the actual smoke knew no boundaries.
Supermarkets did open but could only sell certain items and parts of the shops were roped off.
Then there was early closing when traders shut at lunch-time. In Norwich it was on a Thursday and in other towns across Norfolk and Suffolk a different day was chosen for early closing.
This fizzled out and by the mid-1990s a campaign led by the Evening News and the Norwich Retail Chamber took off despite some objections and shops were opening in the run-up to Christmas.
In September 1998 we announced all-year Sunday trading was on its way with Eric Kirk, manager of the Castle Mall, saying: “Norwich has to react to what is happening in the outside world.”
Among those objecting were Bonds (John Lewis) and many of the smaller traders,
Sharon Crerand, manager of the Discovery Store, said: “Sunday is the only day people get to catch up with friends and family and it’s going to be taken away.”
While Mike Mallet, owner of the Christian business The Tea Junction added: “In the run-up to Christmas my wife and I open on Sundays just for our customers but for the rest of the year we don’t agree with it.”
And the popular Canon David Sharp of St Peter Mancroft Church in the city said: “I think this a battle we have already lost.”