1750 - Village Shop

The town's 'business community' was made up of craftspeople rather than shopkeepers. The shop where they sold the goods they made would have been part of the house where they worked. Gradually many villages began to acquire their own small shops selling general goods. These were retail rather than manufacturing businesses, however, and usually a room in a cottage or outbuilding sufficed. They were often run by a trader who for most of the week would be away at local markets and fairs, so opening times would be limited and inconsistent. How did people living in the more remote areas of the countryside get their supplies?

In the 17th and 18th centuries the distinctions between manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer were not as clear-cut as they are now. Shoemakers, for instance, might make and sell their own products and also sell some of them wholesale to other shopkeepers. From such traders, especially at markets and fairs, travelling pedlars would stock up on the goods that they hawked around the outlying hamlets and rural areas. With poor roads - and long before public transport became available - many country people could not go very far to buy things. Some town and village traders, on the other hand, were principally retailers - ironmongers or milliners, for instance. It would seem that many of these, far from being specialists, sold other goods as well. While nominally a mercer (silk dealer), one Lincolnshire shopkeeper also stocked groceries, tobacco, horse-shoes, medicines and religious texts. This seems fairly typical, and by the 1870s almost half the shops in the larger villages would have been general stores of this kind - 'a grocer with a sideline in drapery or a draper with a sideline in grocery'. Like their urban counterparts, the corner shopkeepers, they would sell not just staples but anything for which there was a local demand. Foodstuffs, though, were still mostly bought from markets. The business would usually occupy part of the owner's home and, in the days before state pensions, keeping a small village shop saved many a poorly-off widow or spinster from the workhouse. Family-run businesses predominated, however; wives and daughters may have helped in the shop but it was usually the husband's responsibility to buy in stocks, keep the books, conduct any wholesale business and attend the local markets.

1750 - Markets and Fairs

1810 - Trader's Shop