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South Asian museum and shop celebrates 40 years in business

PUBLISHED: 11:37 29 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:28 02 July 2019

Country and Eastern is based in the former skating rink on Bethel Street, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Country and Eastern is based in the former skating rink on Bethel Street, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

It is a business that started life in the mountains of Pakistan but is now based in a former Victorian skating rink in the heart of Norwich.

Phillip and Jeannie Milward, trustees of SADACC, inside Country and Western, Bethel Street, Norwich. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodPhillip and Jeannie Milward, trustees of SADACC, inside Country and Western, Bethel Street, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

For the past 40 years Philip and Jeannie Millward have been collecting interesting and unusual items from across South Asia for their shop on Bethel Street.

During that period they have amassed more than 6,000 items, with many now on display inside their Grade II listed premises now known as the South Asia Collection Museum and Shop.

To mark the business' 40th anniversary this year, Mr Millward, aged 79, has revealed how it all started thousands of miles away in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1979.

Mr Millward said he was visiting the country with his wife on a business trip.

Louis Pugsley Birch relaying a rug inside Country and Eastern, Bethel Street, Norwich. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodLouis Pugsley Birch relaying a rug inside Country and Eastern, Bethel Street, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

As they travelled through the various provinces they started collecting ornate items and trinkets made by the locals.

Mr Millward said: "We ended up in the northern part of the country, in the Swat Valley, and we saw all of these marvellous wood carvings.

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"We decided to put together a shipment, and on April 9, 1979 we sent it back to Norwich. It all started from there."

Country and Eastern is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodCountry and Eastern is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Two years later and the couple opened their first shop in Redwell Street under the name of Country and Eastern. It sold the contents of the first shipment, along with items from the Lahore Bazaar.

In 1984 they opened a second shop in Bridewell Alley, this time selling ceramics, silk and paper goods from Thailand, followed by a store in Kensington, London, in 1990.

Mr Millward said festivals celebrating Indian culture held in London around that time helped stimulate interest in their business.

In 1993 they moved into the roller skating rink in Norwich, which provided them with more space to show off their collection.

Country and Eastern is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodCountry and Eastern is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

It was in this new location that the couple founded the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust in 2010, which aims to record and preserve the arts, crafts and cultures of South Asia.

The trust has gone on to help fund research projects with universities and students in South Asia.

Mr Millward said 13 people are employed in the shop, while a further four work within the museum.

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