A watch, clock and jewellery business that has been a fixture in Diss for more than 90 years is to close.
Laurence Chapman, the third generation of his family to run LJ Chapman, has decided to retire and the Mere Street shop will shut on Easter Saturday.
The business was founded by his grandfather, Frances Chapman, who was born in Stowmarket and rose through the ranks to become an officer in the Royal Norfolk Regiment. After he was shot in the Dardenelles fighting in the First World War he trained as a watchmaker in Clerkenwell, the centre of the clock and watchmaking business in London.
He opened his first shop in St Nicholas’ Street in Diss in 1922 and the business moved to its present Mere Street premises - which had previously been a house and Laurence Chapman’s home since 1946 - in 1969. Frances Chapman was succeeded by his son Charles and his grandson took over after serving for seven years in the RAF and then working as an engineer for car makers Lotus
“It is with some sadness, certainly, that we shall close,” said Mr Chapman. But many small town, independent jewellery shops were closing and it was ironic that the Juels gold shop, which is in the premises where his grandfather began his business, has also announced that it is closing and moving from Diss this year.
The strength of the shop had been a loyal customer base, said Mr Chapman, and many customers had become friends. “I thank them for their support over the years.”
He can recall serving three generations of some families, and selling wedding rings to couples whose children came to the same shop to buy theirs when they were getting married. In his grandfather’s time the shop had sold as much in silver and silver plate for wedding and christening gifts as it had clocks and watches - and the days when there was a mantelpiece clock in every house was also past.
“In those days as well you were given a watch for your 18th or 21st birthday and you had it for life. That’s not so any more,” said Mr Chapman.
Clocks and watches were mostly mechanical when Mr Chapman began but had given way to battery and solar power, and jewellery shops had been challenged like all high street shops by the changes brought about by online buying and selling.
Mr Chapman has no firm plans for retirement but he will be a more regular visitor to the golf course in future.