Rumsey Wells was one of the institutions of Norwich. It goes right back to 1815 when they had a shop in London Street, then known as Cockey Lane. In the nineteenth century the business went by the name of T. Wells. By the 1870s their shop was in St Andrews, which is where they were when I used to frequent the shop athough I think they may have moved along the street a door or two.
Rumsey Wells died in 1937 although his name remained till the shop closed for good in 1974. However the staple product of Rumsey Wells was caps and hats of all shapes and sizes. Head gear of any shape or description was as rare as hen’s teeth in the 1960s and 70s, so it is no surprise that the shop closed. It is rather remarkable that it went on as long as it did. My interest was more in the military outfitters side of the business, but with Norwich ceasing to be a garrison town when the Royal Norfolk Regiment was amalgamated in 1959 that too withered away.
I did however buy a Royal Norfolk regimental tie from Rumsey Wells in honour of the Britannia cap badge I wore as a member of Gresham’s School CCF.The high point of Rumsey Wells had long past by then.
That was in the early years of the 20thcentury when caps and military outfitters were the flavour of the day. In those days the company was still called T. Wells after the founder of the business, Thomas Wells. The firm had a great flair for marketing and self promotion well in advance of most similar outfitters. This little booklet (see picture above) bears the date 1902 in pencil inside the cover. It is an example and was one of many similar publications/ In this case as well as a history of the Norwich silk trade it covers all the products the shop stocked, from hats to miniature medals.
The name RUMSEY WELLS lives on in a pub on the site of his shop in St Andrews. It was a well known establishment and it deserves its fame. I am glad that I frequented the shop, and even still have a piece of their merchandise. I have never been to the pub.