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John Henry Stebbing (1849-1919)

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John Henry Stebbing was born in Bury St Edmunds on 25th February 1849. His parents were shopkeepers in the town, running first a confectioners in St John Street and then taking on a fruiterers business in the Traverse. By 1869, part of the building had become a licenced premises and by 1874 John Stebbing had become the licensee of what has since become a pub renowned as one of the smallest in the world – the Nutshell. By 1891 it had already taken on some of the character it still retains now, as it was listed as ‘Nutshell Museum and Bar’: his trade was also described in the census as ‘pawnbroker and licensed victualler’. The pawnbroker’s business (‘Exchange & Mart’) may be clearly seen to have included many musical instruments in a photo which hangs on pub wall.

By 1901 he had left the Nutshell but was still trading as a pawnbroker in nearby Whiting Street. He then, in his fifties, married his housekeeper and by 1911 they had turned the Whiting Street home into a boarding house. His wife, Emma, died in early 1918, as did his brother-in-law, and it seems that he then moved out to live with his widowed sister Ellen Pechey in her home in Elmswell, a village about 8 miles out of Bury in the Stowmarket direction, where he was living at the time of his death on 19th August 1919.


The report of his funeral in the Bury Free Press described his musical activities: ‘In bygone days he was often seen at concerts, where he was in the habit of giving musical performances. He was extremely clever with all classes of instruments, especially with the dulcimer. Mr Stebbing was an old regular soldier and had seen service abroad. At one time he was bandmaster of the old Volunteer and Yeomanry bands.’


  Bury Free Press 1919



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Photo descriptions & sources

Photo of the Nutshell and Exchange & Mart  (courtesy of the landlord of the Nutshell)


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