Featured Acquisition – April 2023

Sudbury’s Markets: past, present and future

Way back in 2018 members of Sudbury Ephemera Archive heard about a project being set up by Suffolk Archives, “Saving Suffolk Stories”. This seemed an ideal venture for SEA to become involved with. The focus for SEA was to be around the markets held in Sudbury since Saxon times, naturally the personal stories would not be captured from that far back. Unfortunately just as plans were put in place to begin this project in February 2020 the Covid19 pandemic hit the world. Setting out on a project that required access to the county archives, when the offices were closed and only began to open for short sessions as lockdowns eased, the main Archive at Ipswich was moving to new premises, interviewing people who would be wearing a mask and had to social distance would not make the process run smoothly. Group meetings were held online.

Despite all of the above and with the modern means of accessing material online, the team discovered some interesting facts about the provision market, the cattle, dead stock and Corn Exchange. The cattle market log proved to be a means of identifying the changing pattern of farming in the area.

  • The mixed farms giving way to the farmer managing larger fields as arable farms.
  • The disappearance of local grain merchants who had bought grain directly from the farmer through the Corn Exchange, as fields were being sold to large commercial enterprises, long before they were harvested.
  • The decline in horse sales and obviously the disappearance of the working horse as it was replaced with mechanisation.
  • The decline in the sale of cattle as the local butcher with his slaughterhouse facility ceased to exist.
  • The growth of the supermarket and its pre-packed meat that the shopper could select by price, size and personal budget.
  • A complete change in the way families shopped:
  • Out of town shopping, because they owned at least one car and could visit bigger supermarkets
  • Monthly shopping, because of earnings being paid monthly instead of weekly and the ability to store food in freezers
  • Two wage earners in a family, so daily shopping had to be replaced with a more time efficient way of procuring household necessities and food

The deadstock market had its own story to reveal about the changes in lifestyle and law. Deadstock is the sale of second-hand goods. Although it was on the site of the Sudbury cattle market, it took place in the afternoon after the sale of animals. As the houses in the rural areas and Sudbury were given mains water and power, people wanted to update from washtubs, scrubbing boards and washing dollies to electric machinery – the old tin baths got sold at the market together with unwanted furniture and household belongings. When rationing still existed (in the 1940s and 50s) it was away to furnish a new home.

This link connects to the online presentation and film made for this project.


This link connects to the film only.

For more Featured Acquisitions, see https://sudburyephemera.org/featured-acquisitions

For more details of all the items we hold, see our Ephemera Catalogue.

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