A family-run jewellers shop in St Neots is closing down at the end of December after trading for more than half a century in the town.

Barritt jewellers in 1905Barritt jewellers in 1905

W. Johnson, on the High Street, has been run by the Johnson family since 1950 and the announcement follows the closure of the A Freemam jewellers in April, which was also a family-run business and based in the High Street.

William Johnson and his wife Nora ran the business at 23 High Street and lived at the back of the premises with their two children for many years. The current owner is William’s son Dennis, who took over in 1976, and is now retiring at the end of the year.

Mr Jonhson told The Hunts Post he had been unable to sell the business as a going-concern, but the shop had been sold and would be operating as a business.

“When my parents ran the business it was quite usual for families to be working and living at the same premises,” he said.

“Lots of the neighbouring businesses operated in the same way. That’s just the way it was. I believe at one time there was a tailor’s shop next door and it may have been called Duffields.”

Mr Johnson said he was sad to be closing the business, but he had been thinking about it for some time.

“It has been quite difficult to get my head around it. I have never been the person people would see in the shop as I am a very hands-on jeweller and I did a lot of repairs in the workshop, but I have been lucky enough to have had some wonderful loyal staff, some of whom stayed with me for more than 30 years.

“I am sad for my staff who have shown me so much loyalty and my loyal customers, but I have to accept that the town centre has changed as all market towns have changed and it is time for me to retire.”

Mr Johnson’s son Peter is currently working in the shop during a break from his university course and his wife Carole also works part-time and his daughter Frances has helped out in the business.

St Neots town councillor Barry Chapman said: “Johnson’s Jewellers have been a wonderful asset to our High Street over many years. I think St Neots will miss such a quality independent retailer, but I also wish them a long and well-earned retirement.”

The shop at 23 High Street has operated as a jewellery business since at least 1818 and was originally called Bettles.

The black and white photograph shows the shop in 1905 when it was called Barritt the jewellers.

INFO: If you have any information or photographs about the history of the high street shops in St Neots, contact Debbie Davies by email; debbie.davies@archant.co.uk.