Exhibition tells the trading history of Diss’ Heritage Triangle
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
The 250-year-old story of the shopkeepers and businesses which have traded in Diss' Heritage Triangle has been told in a new exhibition.
As one of the town's longest-serving retailers, Diss Ironworks owner Peter Hyde was approached by the Heritage Triangle Partnership to put together a display about the trading history of the area.
After 12 months of painstaking research by him and others trawling through old town guides, directories, museum stores and newspapers, he believes the project provides a vivid picture of the area's past – and a positive lesson for its future.
'It proves that every business has a story to tell,' Mr Hyde said.
'Sometimes it's a success and sometimes there are trials and tribulations. However what it has proved over time is that small, independent businesses can survive.'
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The exhibition shows commercial activity in the Heritage Triangle Area - which comprises as St Nicholas Street, Market Hill and Market Place - since the 1700s, with the earliest recorded in 1760.
Since then almost 500 businesses have been recorded, showing that while firms may come and go there has always been activity.
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For example, one display demonstrates the changing occupants of 24 St Nicholas Street.
The iconic site was home to the Garnham Brothers, trading as Cash Boot Stores, for 46 years, before becoming a shoe shop, a men's clothing store and then a series of restaurants in the past 60 years.
It is currently occupied by Weavers Wine Bar.
Each of the boards at the exhibition, in the Stables Gallery at Diss Corn Hall, also tells a story behind an individual building or business. For example, an advert by the Aldrich and Bryant store in 1868 advertises eight tons of cheese, while another records how Geoffrey Brame started the Wireless Shop in the 1920s.
It also tells the story of the famous fire at J Aldrich and Son ironmakers in 1938. Firefighters had to pump 170,000 gallons of water out of the Mere.
However old photographs show that the fabric of the Heritage Triangle is remarkably similar to how it looks today.
'It's still maintained most of the buildings,' said Mr Hyde. 'A lot of towns had the heart bulldozed out of them in the 1960s but we are fortunate here because the history is still with us. We're fortunate to have all this heritage here.'
He said it was important for towns to make the most of what they have got when planning for the future - and that the Heritage Triangle's rich past is an asset.
The exhibition is open until June 28, between 10am and 4pm weekdays and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Traders and organisers are in the gallery between 11am and 1pm on Saturdays to talk to visitors.
Share your memories of Diss by writing, giving your full contact details, to: Mercury Letters, 26 Mere Street, Diss IP22 4AD or email firstname.lastname@example.org