The shop in Forncett End, known for many years as Tann's Stores, stood at the junction of Long Stratton Road with Tabernacle Lane. At different times it served not only as a Grocers but also as a petrol station and as the village Post Office.
In 1817 there was no building on this site and the land was owned by Ann West who ran a shop further along the Long Stratton Road, adjacent to the Old Bakery.
However, the 1839 Tithe map shows a cottage had been built on the plot (No. 58) and it was owned and occupied by William Feltham who was born in Forncett in 1792.
William married Elizabeth Kemp in Forncett in 1813 and he was listed as a grocer in the directories for Forncett from 1836 to 1851. By 1861 William had retired and the shop had been taken over by Robert Thorsby and his sister, Ann. Robert Thorsby died in 1867 (aged 58) and his sister continued to run the shop for a couple of years but by 1871 she had retired and was living at Rectory Cottages which were formerly the Norfolk Arms public house but had recently been acquired by the church. Robert and Ann Thorsby are commemorated by a stained-glass window in St. Peter's church.
The new owners of the shop were Robert and Louisa Day. Robert (age 24) was a harness maker and Louisa (age 23) ran the shop. In later years (1875, 1877) Robert took over the shop but by the 1881 census the couple had moved to Ashwellthorpe where Robert was a grocer and also the publican at the Bakers Arms.
The 1882 O.S. map shows that the buildings had been extended considerably.
In 1881 the shop was home to Miles Tann (age 26) and his wife Martha (age 24). Miles was born in Tacolneston and was the son of George and Sarah Tann who ran a grocer's shop in Tacolneston. Miles initially earnt a living as a carpenter. He married Martha Tubby in October 1878 and soon afterwards took over the shop in Forncett which they ran for about the next 40 years.
Miles Tann died in 1913 (age 62) and sometime after that Martha Tann retired and the shop was taken over by Gabriel Jackson who had previously run a grocer's shop in Bunwell. So, the 1921 census shows Gabriel running the Stores but by 1929 he had moved to take over Fox's Stores further along the road and Miles Tann's son, George, had taken over the shop. George then ran Forncett Stores, with help from his son, Tom, until the 1950s.
The Tann family finally sold the shop in about 1952 to Harry and Betty Weatherington who came to Forncett from Mattishall. Harry was in the police force and the family moved many times with his job but when they came to Forncett Harry gave up the police force and ran a mobile grocers in a dark green converted WW2 ambulance with shelves either side and a passage down the centre. He also had a milk round delivering to surrounding villages using a Ford Van with back doors removed! Betty ran the shop and a young lady called Molly, from Bunwell, assisted.
and Betty Weatherington (photo courtesy of Sally Tovell)
The Weatheringtons sold the shop in about 1956 to James Reginald (Reggie) Cloake and his family. Reggie, his wife Cecilia and their two sons, Terence and Timothy came from London but knew the area because Reggie's sister-in-law, Irene Sharpley (née Donovon) lived in Carleton Rode.
It was Reggie Cloake who decided to install two petrol pumps outside the shop, thereby starting the first garage in Forncett. His son, Terence, recalled that the garage initially sold Shell petrol. However, in later years the brand changed to "Little David" and later still to "Valiant". Little David petrol was an East Anglian brand launched in the late 60s and distributed from Ipswich. It was initially owned by the Carless oil company which was later taken over by Fina and then by Total. The name was phased out in the 1990s. Valiant was a short-lived brand owned by Texaco in the 1980s. The sign in Forncett End is reputedly one of only two still standing today, the other being in Horncastle, Lincolnshire.
The Stores in about 1960
The Valiant petrol sign
At some time during their time in Forncett, James Cloake bought an Austin 7 Cambridge Special (in a dilapidated state) from Bob Barnes who worked for Norwich Union. James intended to "do up" the car together with his sons. However, this never happened and in 1962 they sold it to Richard Young – a farmer who lived at Quaker Farm in Bunwell. In 1963 the Cloakes moved to Beccles, where Terence still runs a garage today.
Following the Cloake's departure the shop had a number of different owners.
1. M. Byers and G. H. Atkinson.
Mrs. Kitty Fox worked in the shop at that time and her husband Bunny was the
2. Mr and Mrs Jansen.
3. Geoff Rowsby and Trevor Pringle. Trevor was Geoff Rowsby's son-in-law.
4. Terry and Marian Moses.
"Valiant Corner" - January 1987 (photo courtesy of Phil Whiscombe)
5. Michael and Mary Mellor.
At this time (the late 1990s) Barry Bradford ran his "Pine Workshop" in the barn alongside the shop.
Barry Bradford (photo - John Webster)
The shop and post office closed in about 1997.
The Old Stores after it had closed (photo - John Webster)
It was subsequently converted into a private house and in 2005 the small extension which had been added at the front of the building was demolished, taking the building back to its original footprint (see header photograph).
With particular thanks to Su Leavesley, Barry Bradford, Sally Tovell, Terence Cloake and Phil Whiscombe for their invaluable help in researching this page.