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One of Norfolk's oldest shops shuts its doors for final time after nearly 200 years in business

PUBLISHED: 14:28 30 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:23 30 June 2019

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Pictured is Sam Gibbs, one the children of owners Brian and Sue Symonds (fourth from the left) with family and colleagues. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Pictured is Sam Gibbs, one the children of owners Brian and Sue Symonds (fourth from the left) with family and colleagues. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Archant

One of Norfolk's oldest village shops, which was once famed for being embroiled in a murderous past, has closed its doors for the final time.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

The Burnham Market pharmacy, on Market Place, has been trading for nearly two centuries after opening in the early 1800s.

But following the owners' death, the family has taken the heartbreaking decision to shut for good.

The shop is known to locals for its role in a dark moment in the village's history - the Burnham Market murders.

The chemist is believed to be the shop that Frances Billing and Katherine Frary bought poison from to lure their victims to their deaths back in the 1830s.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOPBurnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

The pair killed three people before being found guilty of multiple murder and sentenced to death at Norwich Castle, where 20,000 turned out to see them hang.

Now, despite retaining its olde-worlde charm from those days, the owners' children have been forced to sell up shop following their deaths.

Married couple Brian and Sue Symonds took over the running of the pharmacy in September 1985 after moving to the coastal village from London, where they had previously run another pharmacy.

They lived in the adjoining house until the pair died at the end of 2018.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Mrs Symonds suffered with ovarian cancer and died aged 70 on December 12, before Mr Symonds suffered a stoke the day after her funeral on December 23. He was 83.

Their daughter, Sam Gibbs, said the family had many fond memories of the shop.

"Mum first worked here before setting up her business Country Dogs in Wells," she said.

"My children have known the shop all their lives and we have had many good Christmas and Easter celebrations here - as well as holidays.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Pictured is Gilbert White Jnr, one of the previous owners. Picture: WHITE FAMILYBurnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Pictured is Gilbert White Jnr, one of the previous owners. Picture: WHITE FAMILY

"It hasn't been an easy decision to shut the shop. It is just not a viable business here anymore. We would like to thank all of the customers past and present and also the amazing staff here. We would not have done it for these past few months without them."

The business was still very much a family-run enterprise, with the granddaughter and great-granddaghter of the most recent owners working behind the counter.

Former owner, Walter White's great-great-great-granddaughter was also a member of staff when it closed its doors for the final time on Saturday June 29.

The White's ran the business for three generations, passing down to Gilbert Snr before Gilbert Jnr, who died in 1983. His daughter Rosie Hall also worked in the shop.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOPBurnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

What were the dark deeds of the Burnham Market murderers?

Frances Billing and Katherine Frary brought terror to Burnham Market in the 1830s.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

They killed three people and planned to add to their grim tally before the finger of suspicion pointed their way and the hangman intervened.

Billing and Frary's MO saw them use dumplings laced with arsenic to bump off Mary Taylor, the shoemaker Peter Taylor's wife, in the summer of 1835. The doctor said she'd been poisoned. Rumour had it her husband had become involved with mother-of-14 Billings, who lived next door.

Billing had bought arsenic from Burnham Market's chemist. Flour found at the Taylors' house contained the poison.

Frary came under suspicion because her husband and child had both suddenly died weeks earlier. Both were exhumed and their stomachs found to contain arsenic.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Billing and Frary went on trial at the assizes. During the hearing, it emerged Billings had tried to kill her husband, while Frary had also tried to poison her sister-in-law.

More than 20,000 turned up to see them hang at Norwich Castle, after they were found guilty of multiple murder.

They helped each other up the scaffold steps, before they were hooded and fell through the trap to their fates.

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP Burnham Market Pharmacy has closed its doors for the final time. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

Frary and Billing cuts. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYFrary and Billing cuts. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Frary and Billing cuts. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARYFrary and Billing cuts. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Burnham Market village sign. Picture: Matthew Usher.Burnham Market village sign. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Burnham Market from the church tower. PHOTO; Matthew UsherBurnham Market from the church tower. PHOTO; Matthew Usher

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