Monday, April 17, 2017

Farewell to Ruddocks of Lincoln

Ruddocks of Lincoln, stationers, in March, 2014.
Sad news from the city of Lincoln.  The BBC reports that Ruddocks, a stationer's which has occupied this shop on the High Street continuously since 1904, closed down on Easter Saturday.  The owner, Henry Ruddock, though "immensely sad," is pragmatic: he cannot, he says, "put sentiment in the till".  The business itself is actually nearly two hundred years old, having been in operation before 1820 and in the hands of the Ruddock family since 1870. 

I bought some postcards from this shop on a trip to Lincoln a few years ago.  A traveller from afar, I had no idea of its history and distinction then.  But these things must have a way of making themselves felt, since I recognised the establishment when I read the news, two hundred miles away.   I remember being struck by its elegant frontage, and the quiet dignity of the lettering, and I suppose it was also a breath of fresh air to see a family name — one of Philip Larkin's 'established names' — and so I took the (rather inelegant) photograph above.

I suppose it is in part to Ruddocks that I owe my personal impression, hatched at the foot of the hill and consolidated by the time I reached the Cathedral at the summit, that cathedral-crowned Lincoln is nearly the ideal city, and certainly my favourite, though I have only visited it once.  (I'm sure the locals would say there are plenty of faults, too!)  I think this because all the trades and businesses ascend the hill in a single sweep, to be unified under the cathedral that lends the city its unity and purpose. (Tradition holds that it is because of Lincoln's High Street that we speak of districts or institutions going 'uphill' or 'downhill').  Thus at the foot is the river Witham, with the rolled-up sleeves of the workaday railway and the wharves of Brayford Pool.  Further up are the market, the caf├ęs and the shops like Ruddocks.  Higher still are the Crown Court and the Council chambers.  All this is consecrated by the Cathedral at the summit: by far the city's highest and greatest building, as it should be.  That Lincoln's cathedral is also one of England's three or four most precious and beautiful (and was for three hundred years the tallest building in the world) is in some ways only a bonus...

Lincoln Cathedral and the Brayford Pool, with all trades in between.
I think that the end of Ruddocks is a twofold cause for sorrow: firstly that such a venerable family business should have been lost, and secondly that it should have been lost to Lincoln of all cities.  If we but knew what we do when we cheat and choose those temples of desolation, the distribution centre, the chain store and the retail outlet.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Please add your thoughts! All civil comments are warmly welcomed.