East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food

Flintham Museum…


Flintham Museum

A week or so ago I paid a visit to Flintham in Nottinghamshire. The village shop was kept by Fred White for much of the 20th century, and is now Flintham Museum, with displays of some of the items that he sold across the years. I was interested to know how he supplied his customers with food, what their preferences were, and how these changed over time.

The museum’s records include invoices from around 1911 to the early 1980s. These show how customers’ preferences changed over time, along with changes in suppliers and the transition from handwritten to typed invoices. They also demonstrate the extent to which goods were available already packaged by the earlier 20th century. Cheese still came in large blocks, to be cut into portions to suit individual customers, but bacon (imported from Denmark) was already pre-packed. During the First World War the village Women’s Institute produced its own magazine with advice about home cooking – but as the century progressed even dried cake mixes made their appearance in the shop. Was this because Fred White’s customers asked for them, having seen them advertised, or because he was keeping an eye on the trend himself, or had been persuaded to stock them by one of the growing number commercial travellers who were selling to village shops well before World War II? As competition grew from large food retailers such as the Co-op, Home and Colonial and Maypole, manuals on how to run a village shop and advertise its products and services also became available.  

Stockpiling in advance of the war, prompted by anxieties after the Munich Crisis in 1938, was considered ‘unpatriotic’, but in the spring of 1939 shopkeepers were encouraged to lay in supplies of dried fruit, tinned food and other non-perishable items sufficient for up to three weeks. Rationing came into effect early in the war, and checking entitlements, collecting the coupons and accounting for them to the authorities all added to the usual work of the shopkeeper for the duration.

Flintham Community Shop

Like many other village shops, that at Flintham closed some years ago – but a Community Shop now operates from a building at the back of the Museum. This was established with European funding under a scheme run by Nottinghamshire Rural Community Council to provide a ‘Shop in a Box’ – a portable building that could be located on a suitable site. It is run entirely by volunteers – but just like its predeccessor it serves as a meeting place and information exchange as well as a place to buy food and other household provisions.

Normal opening hours at Flintham Museum are Bank Holiday Mondays, Easter to August 2.00-5.00pm; and Sundays after Easter to end of October 2.00-5.00pm, and other times by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are always welcome. Group visits to the Museum can be arranged by appointment, and usually include a visit to the parish church, a guided walk in the village conservation area, and tea and biscuits. There is a small charge for these which includes donations to the museum and church, the guided walk and refreshments.

Flintham  is located Flintham off the A46, midway between Newark and Bingham, approximately 20 miles from Nottingham, Lincoln and Grantham. See the website at www.flintham-museum.org.uk for more details, or contact Sue Clayton at the Museum at Inholms Road, Flintham, Nottinghamshire, NG23 5LF, 01636 525111, flintham.museum@googlemail.com.

Many thanks to Sue Clayton for showing me around the museum, allowing me to take photographs, and giving me an insight into the life of a village shopkeeper.


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About this Sponsor

A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.