Jean Margaret Allen – A Sudbury childhood

Jean Margaret Allen – A Sudbury childhood

My mother was born and brought up in the market town of Sudbury, in the county of Suffolk, and while she was staying with me in September, 2000, we together visited Sudbury, and Lavenham where Mum worked after leaving school, for the first time since I was very young. I had been to both towns in the intervening years and had often wondered where the places were that Mum had known in her childhood. This was my chance to find out, and as we explored together Mum started to recall many incidents from her childhood, and some from later years. I was fascinated by the details that Mum could remember at the age of 77, so after she had returned home I decided to try to write down the things we had talked about.

Jean’s father, Edward Wheeler, (later known as Ted to distinguish him from the other butcher called Edward Wheeler, whose shop was in Melford Road, and who was known as Eb), was the oldest of the ten children born to Edward and Martha, and born on 29th October 1883 at 37/38 Melford Road, Sudbury.

The family moved to Lavenham in about 1892 for Ted’s father to become the butcher at 1 High Street. Although he lived in Lavenham Ted was able to become a Freeman of Sudbury on 9th August 1905, being the son of a Freeman and born in the borough. He went away (possibly to Leicester) to learn the butcher’s trade and whilst there he saw black pudding being made, resulting in him saying he would never eat it.

Thomas Wheeler’s butcher shop (Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive)

In about 1907 he took over running the butcher’s shop at 16 North Street, Sudbury from his uncle Thomas Wheeler, and he later rented it from his cousin Maud Victoria Wheeler (later Warden) who inherited the shop from her father Thomas when he died in 1911. Jean can remember five other family butcher shops in North Street (Bailey’s, Byham’s, King’s, Worter’s and a pork and bacon butchers) and at least two others in the town (both run by relations – Edward (Eb) Wheeler in Melford Road and Arthur Wheeler at 75 East Street).

Ted married his first wife, Kate Maud Bulley from Gorleston, on 31st July 1911 but she and the baby died when she was in labour with their first child in 1912. He then married Ray Bradnam at Trinity Chapel on 3rd May 1915. Their first child, Paul Edward Wheeler, was born on 16th October 1916 and Jean can remember her mother saying that her father was really concerned and worried when she was in labour lest Ray should die in the same way that Kate had done.

Ted had to close his butcher’s shop during the second half of World War I while he was in Royal Garrison Artillery. During this period Ray moved back to her parents’ home, ‘Mount View’, in Waldingfield Road, with baby Paul and worked in ‘Brown and Jay’ the chemist shop on the Market Hill, as women were expected to work during the war.

Image from the Sudbury Photo Archive, 1950’s

A second son, Peter James Wheeler, was born to Ted and Ray on 21st February 1921, and on 2nd June 1923, Jean Margaret Wheeler was born at 16 North Street.

Jean Margaret Wheeler

(Extract from ‘A Sudbury Childhood And Other Memories Of Jean Margaret Allen’ by Margaret Seager)