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A Shop Through Time: The Griffin

Sarah Standley Published: 26 May 2022

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Today No.6 Market Street is the home of Elementals Magikal Emporium and behind, in Griffin Court, are various offices and services. However if you were taken back to the same spot in the early 1600s you would be at the Griffin Coaching Inn. The Griffin possibly even dated further back to the late 1500s.

In 1607 during a criminal case it was reported that Stephen Nicols of Ely had stayed one Wednesday night at The Gryffin, Wyndham.

The inn was enlarged around 1700 and then the Griffin became firmly established as one of Wymondham's main coaching inns along with the King's Head on the Market Place.

In the 1800s as well as being a stop for coaches, including the twice daily Mail coach, carriers' carts used the inn as their terminus. The carriage entrance to the rear is on the left hand side under the jetty and the area is called Griffin Court commemorating the inn's coaching history.

Auctions and sales were regularly held at the inn, for land, property and goods. Every Friday evening after the town’s market closed, corn was sold by the sample.

One well known auctioneer who frequently held sales at the inn was James Blomfield Rush who would become the notorious Stanfield Hall murderer.

The Griffin

In 1848, James Blomfield Rush was living at Potash Farm, Hethel and he owed Isaac Jermy of Stanfield Hall rent and mortgage payments and was in dispute with him. On November 28th 1848 Isaac Jermy, his son Isaac Jermy Jermy and his wife were in residence at Stanfield Hall and disguised and armed with a pistol Rush hid in the grounds. When Isaac Jermy appeared at the door at 8pm, Rush fatally shot him and then his son. Then Mrs Jermy Jermy and Eliza Chestney, a housemaid, were shot and wounded. Rush was arrested, found guilty at his trial and hung at Norwich Castle on April 21st 1849.

Accommodation was provided at the Griffin and some census returns show licensees as Hotel Keepers and Managers

The earliest known licensee was William Riches in 1794. Others followed including John Chapman 1830 to 1839, Richard Foulsham 1839 to 1858 and William Bowden who also was a bricklayer / builder from 1864 to 1891 followed by his wife Caroline from 1892 to 1898.

Walter Dodman was landlord from around 1900 to 1903, his wife Mary was a dressmaker. Walter was also a wine merchant and after leaving the Griffin they moved to Church Street and had a wine merchants, Dodmans Stores, opposite Becket's Chapel.

William Blyth followed Walter as licensee with wife Salome in 1903 to 1927. They had eight children, some of whom helped in the trade.

From 1937 and through the war years saw Frederick Wright and wife Bessie running The Griffin.

The Griffin auction

The Griffin was owned by Wymondham brewers Cann & Clarke who sold their business to Morgans of Norwich in 1894. In time Morgans was acquired by Bullards of Norwich. It was in 1961 when Bullards closed the inn on October 31st and they then sold the property in 1962.

Following the sale, The Griffin was converted in about 1963 to a modern state of the art youth club, Wymondham Youth Centre, known as The Octopus Club which had moved there from the Baptist Hall. The club was very popular with Wymondham's youngsters for the next few decades. It was run by John Young and later John Rutherford, Divisional Youth & Community Officer. Table tennis, snooker, a record player discos and refreshments were amongst the entertainment provided and even live local bands played in the hall too.

Memories were made and many first kisses occured at the Octopus Club. Friendships and even marriages came from those early gatherings

The venue could also be hired for community events. A postcard display of Old Wymondham and different postcard collections was held there in the late 1980s organised by Wymondham's celebrated postcard collectors, including Philip Yaxley and my Dad, Philip Standley. The Women's Institute held their popular Wymondham Country Market on Friday mornings at the rear for several years when in its infancy. Many jars of jams and marmalade and homemade sausage rolls and cakes were purchased by their appreciative customers.

Norfolk County Council sold the property in 1999 and offices were put in place at the rear for businesses. The former Griffin Inn became ladies clothing shops for almost the next twenty years. The first occupants were Dragonfly Clothing who had a successful business in North Norfolk. Later shops were Doves and Ratio all selling similar lines of quality womenswear.

In 2019 Gary and Samantha Wootten chose Wymondham to open Elementals Magikal Emporium because of its history and old buildings reminding them of Rochester, Kent where they previously lived.

The Griffin

They are proud to have more than 100 different predominantly small businesses supplying their products, these are hand picked and mostly based in the UK, with product ingredients being natural, and ethically sourced and with recyclable packaging wherever possible. For example, coconut wax melts and soy candles, handmade soaps and perfumes, oils and tinctures and herbal teas. You will also find clothing, handmade jewellery, gods and goddesses, Oracle cards, flying Pendle witches and lots of hand blended incense direct from Glastonbury! They also have a wide range of Anglo Saxon and Norse goods such as jewellery, leather goods, beard oils and drinking horns, not to mention traditional honey mead, believed to be the oldest fermented alcoholic beverage known to mankind!

Due to their unique range of gifts and wellbeing products, people visit from all walks of life and from surprisingly far afield, who will then spend time in Wymondham visiting the Abbey and stopping for lunch or tea and cake!

Gary and Samantha said “We decided to open a shop rather than an internet business because we prefer to engage with our customers. This has proved to be the right decision because of the number of people who feel they can come into the Emporium and chat openly with us. We receive regular feedback thanking us for our time and help, and that is what traditional retailing is all about.”

One of the reasons Gary and Samantha sell traditional honey Mead at the old Griffin is to honour its history of purveying alcoholic beverages. They also honour its past through “Ogham”* their magickal Griffin, who welcomes good folk and guards the store from negative energy!

The Griffin Inn may no longer be open but its legacy is still here over 400 years on with the building's striking presence on Market Street, Griffin Court to the rear, many memories and honey mead!

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