Meet Norfolk’s Ark-Wright: Ron celebrates a career of 70 years at traditional ironmonger Blyth and Wright in Sheringham
08:48 03 June 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
When Ron Wright began work in Sheringham family business Blyth and Wright in 1944, he was 13 years old and fresh out of school.
What they once sold
Over the past century the stock in Blyth and Wright is little changed.
But with progress in technology, old-fashioned flat irons were replaced with modern electric ones in the 1920s.
And one of the shop’s biggest sellers, dry toilet buckets, were phased out with the advent of flushing lavatories.
But unlike many hardware stores, the traditional ironmongers still sells old-fashioned ceiling clothes airers, enamel buckets and single screws and bolts.
Back then it was half-a-crown for a bag of kindling and his father’s shop was one of three ironmongers in the seaside town.
After steadily expanded the business to stretch out along the high street, 70 years on Mr Wright still puts on his shop coat each day to come to work.
And though times have changed – the shop now employs a staff of 16 and sells everything from kitchen goods to garden furniture and fine china – customers can still walk in and buy a single screw for five pence.
Mr Wright, now 83, said the business had been his labour of love carefully crafted over the years into the busy shop it is today, now managed under the watchful eye of son Chris, 47.
History of the shop
The shop was opened as C A Sadlers in 1897 and it was not until Ron Wright’s father Clarence Granville Wright bought into the business in 1930 that it took its current name. Mr Blyth, who also worked in the shop, died in 1934.
Mr Wright was also well-remembered as a gunsmith, who did a brisk trade in shotguns.
As Ron Wright and his brother Richard, who is now retired, grew up they expanded into glass and china.
Speaking in 1975 with the launch of the shop’s new front, Richard had said: “We pride ourselves on our service to customers. Although this is a large shop, you can still be served by the proprietor. Whether you spend 5p or 50p we like to feel you get just as good service.”
He said: “I lost my mother when I was six and my step-mother kept me fed, clothed and clean but not a lot else.
“Because of the circumstances at home this became home to me.”
A bout of rheumatic fever kept Mr Wright off school for a year when he was 12, and rather than go back until leaving age at 14, he went into the family business.
Back then it was a single shop front, but over the years Mr Wright bought adjoining shops that came up for sale, developing the business into the hive of rows and rooms stocking thousands of products it is today.
He said: “I used to be very awkward to make sure I got my way.
“As the houses next door came up for sale I got hold of them. I had already made the decision.”
The eclectic plot of land also includes a six-bedroom Victorian townhouse at the back of the site, now used for storage space and providing a right-of-way through to the high street.
But despite the shop’s change in size and range, Mr Wright has fought hard to keep much of its traditional charm, a washing mangle can be spotted tucked in between the wood-burning stoves and a collection of ancient screws from before his time still sit on a shelf.
Mr Wright, who lives in Sheringham with wife Bridget, 77, went on to have three sons, Chris, Andy and Jamie.
Jamie died from a rare blood disorder in 2012, 10 years after middle brother Andy died at the age of 34 from a brain aneurism.
Chris, who is the third generation of Wrights to work in the shop, said he had thrown himself into the business to cope with the loss of his two brothers.
He lives in Beeston Regis with his wife Kristi, 39, and nine-year-old daughter Freya, said: “It is sad now that it is just the old man and myself.”
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