Family business behind century-old Lanes sign revealed

The Walter Little and Sons sign was uncovered in Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Inset, Bethan Holdridge of Museum of Norwich

The Walter Little and Sons sign was uncovered in Lower Goat Lane, Norwich on Thursday (June 9). Inset, Bethan Holdridge, assistant curator of social history at Museum of Norwich - Credit: Maya Derrick/Bethan Holdridge

The Lanes are abuzz after a historic discovery has been uncovered in the heart of Norwich - and left on show for the public to enjoy.

Two Walter Little and Sons signs - one metal and one painted directly onto the woodwork - were uncovered on June 9 when workers stripped back the shop front of Elm in Lower Goat Lane.

And now the Museum of Norwich has revealed some of the details of the business, saying it gives a "glimpse of the past".

Walter Little arrived in Norwich in the 1890s and opened his tailors in Colegate.

He expanded to other units in Norwich as well as Diss, Watton and Wymondham.

All dressed up for a staff outing to Horning in the summer of 1934. Walter is flanked by his three s

All dressed up for a staff outing to Horning in the summer of 1934. Walter is flanked by his three sons. Charles on the left, with Frank (with the child on his lap) and Jack on the right. Walter died soon afterwards - Credit: ARCHANT } NORFOLK 2002.

Walter died aged 62 in 1934 and left his empire to sons Frank, Charles and Jack who ran the business until 1965, when national chains moving to Norwich forced the brand to close.

Bethan Holdridge, assistant curator of social history at Museum of Norwich, said that although signage like this is not rare it is still an important find.

"This is every day history," she said. "We often think of history as big churches but something as beautiful as the discovery of an old sign can lead you down pathways of discovery.

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"I was delighted to come across it.

Nelle Sibley of Elm in Lower Goat Lane with the 100-year-old sign, unveiled on Thursday, June 9

Nelle Sibley of Elm in Lower Goat Lane with the 100-year-old sign, unveiled on Thursday, June 9 - Credit: Maya Derrick

"There was quite a buzz on Twitter and it's uncovered a tie with the football club as well, which is lovely."

Walter and his sons loved Norwich City and did much to support the football club.

The metal sign has been taken down for safe keeping

The metal sign has been taken down for safe keeping - Credit: Ivan Adcock

The company slogan, Lots are dressed by Little's, was written across the top of the River End at Carrow Road.

Bethan added: "Social history is a lovely way of getting people to relate to the past, because people can connect to the likes of clothes shopping.

"It holds lots of stories and is a part of our heritage."

Bethan Holdridge, assistant curator of social history at Museum of Norwich

Bethan Holdridge, assistant curator of social history at Museum of Norwich - Credit: Bethan Holdridge

Elm said it had hoped to keep the sign in its place but it had to be removed as the shop front was riddled with rot.

"It's nice if you can leave signs up but you have to assess the impact that would have on the sign. 

"It being left in situ could mean that it would only last another 10 years, then there's no point.

"People do like to see history peaking through from time to time," Bethan said.