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Shooting a longbow for Norfolk and running a pawnshop may seem strange bedfellows, but North Walsham's Christopher Smith has tried out most things in his eventful life.

PUBLISHED: 09:32 16 October 2012

Chris Smith, owner of Smith's Pawnbrokers in North Walsham, holds the silver skull sculpture which was recently brought into his shop.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Chris Smith, owner of Smith's Pawnbrokers in North Walsham, holds the silver skull sculpture which was recently brought into his shop. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

Shooting a longbow for Norfolk and running a pawnshop may seem strange bedfellows, but Christopher Smith has tried out most things in his eventful life.

He has been a marathon runner, triathlon athlete, plater and welder, an amateur boxer, a nightclub bouncer, and he once ran a guesthouse on the Lowestoft seafront.

He has been a pawnbroker for nearly two decades and in his spare time he has won prizes for his skill in shooting a longbow and is currently the Norfolk champion.

His current business, Smith’s jewellers/pawnbrokers in North Walsham Market Place, hit the headlines last week when Mr Smith received a life-sized skull fashioned out of silver.

Mr Smith, who has been in the pawnbroking business for 18 years moving from Lowestoft to Bungay and then on to North Walsham, has seen many unusual and wonderful items pass through his door.

Many of the items he has found so strange and fascinating that he decided to keep them himself.

These include a parrot, which he had no qualms about taking in and later became his pet, a cockatoo, a classic estate car, a hang glider and a tractor.

“The Anglia Estate classic car was deep blue, the same colour as my then shop, so I put my logo on it and it became my company car,” he said.

On another occasion at the pawnshop a customer asked him if he would like to buy gold, and then opened his mouth to reveal a complete set of gold teeth.

He said: “The man asked me, ‘How much would you like for these?”

He later found out that the customer was having a laugh, but he once had so many gold teeth in his shop that he used Blu-tac to glue them together and stuck them in the window as a set of dentures.

The skull was taken into the shop by a local sculptor. It was a piece that was commissioned for £3,000-£5,000 around 18 years ago and the person never came back for it. The almost life-size skull was pawned for £100.

He intends to keep the skull for a month, and then, under the pawnbroking system the person who brought it in can either buy it back with interest or just pay interest if he wants the broker to keep it for longer.

But he admitted: “It is so weird and wonderful I might keep it myself if he does not buy it back.”

He got into pawnbroking by accident.

He said: “I went into a Lowestoft pawnshop to get repairs done, and the man said he had another shop in Bungay he was thinking about selling, and I was looking for a change of direction.

“With the current economic climate, the pawnbroking side of the business has recently been doing better, with more people desperate to get cash, but sales of items from the shop have gone down. The price of gold is so high, and it’s a luxury item, so not so many people are buying. It’s a double-edged sword.”

In his time he has also been an amateur boxer winning about half of his 23 fights. “I enjoyed that and it was a great time, but I was not that good,” he said.

He was also a marathon runner and ran the London marathon an incredible 11 times.

He then took up the triathlon, and he qualified to take part at amateur level at the world championships in Cancun, Mexico. And a few years ago he took up the longbow.

Last weekend he was due to take part in the Clout archery championships at Fakenham Racecource.

He said: “I read a lot of history novels and chatted to my partner, who had a friend into it, and I really enjoy it now.

“I love the history of it, and I go all over the country competing. I also go to medieval events to take part in competitions against the best from this country and abroad.”

Born and bred in Lowestoft, he attended Roman Hill School in the town and left to become an apprentice plater/welder.

He added: “Not in a million years would I have thought I would end up a pawnbroker. It’s funny how your life can take different paths. I would never have believed about shooting a longbow either.”

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