There has been a shop on the village green at Houghton near Huntingdon since at least 1847, when George Clark, a millwright, decided that his wife Mary should supplement the family income by opening up the front room of their thatched cottage and establish a baker’s shop and general store. Mary traded until about 1860 when George Stiles came from Essex with his wife Ellen and ran the shop until August 1880.
George and Ellen were followed by George Wilson as the tenant and shopkeeper. George Wilson, a mill-wright, came from Wadenhoe in Northamptonshire and, in 1853 at the age of 22, married Mehatabell Morton, daughter of a local butcher. They were running a butchers business from their cottage in St Ives Road and were able to move with their six children into the premises on the Green with their six children in 1880.
George Wilson – Shopkeeper with dog Oscar 1880 -1890
George retired to Horsham in Sussex in 1890 and was succeeded by a popular local man, John Burton. John was not a grocer by trade but had previously been a farmer’s boy for George Thackray of Wyton and a printer with William Goggs of Huntingdon. In 1878 John married Elizabeth Ashmore and by 1890 they had a family of ﬁve young children. They worked hard, especially in the bakehouse, where Elizabeth turned out special cakes for every occasion and John baked lovely crusty bread. In those days he made his deliveries by wheelbarrow with the bread covered by a sack. His dog accompanied him and guarded the barrow while John delivered the loaves. Elizabeth’s pet parrot, who sat on his perch in the shop, often caused much amusement by mimicking her voice and calling “Father”, causing John to rush through from the bakehouse expecting to ﬁnd the shop full of customers!
Village Green between 1902 & 1912
Their two daughters Mary (Polly) and Lily helped in the shop until they both married in 1913 and the boys, Harry and John (Jack) decided to go to Canada to seek their fortune working as lumberjacks and made for the Yukon.
1905 John Burton, Lily & Polly outside Village Shop
During John and Elizabeth’s proprietorship the building was given a second storey and a new slate roof instead of thatch.
Mrs Woodbridge & her assistant Alice Clark – Shopkeeper c. 1914
Houghton Green & Shop c. 1920