The South Asia Collection Museum and Shop or as many might know it as Country and Eastern. Owned and run by Philip Millward and his wife Jeannie, Country & Eastern was established over 40 years ago and by 1994 the business comprised of 3 shops, 2 in Norwich and 1 in Kensington plus a wholesale and decorator’s business. A that time the shop specialised in imports from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma and China. Philip and Jeannie’s philosophy from the early days was that they thought shopping should be more than just buying items and should be an uplifting experience. They felt that customers should be aware of the skills and traditions behind items sold. This led to us them building up the collection based on each country they did business with and in turn to the museum and their research activities.
They bought the Old Skating Rink in 1993 and restored it. Located on Bethel Street, next to the old Fire Station it is about 100 yards from the market. The fact that they have an architectural gem of a building, which in itself has a fascinating history from 1876 to present, and because it is spacious, and part of the city centre, it gave them opportunity to put this philosophy into practice. The result is a unique shopping experience which brings people to Norwich from all over the UK and overseas.
The building is an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful decorative furnishings based on the traditional crafts of the countries they import from including oriental rugs, hand printed table and bedlinen – possibly the largest range in the country, clothes especially kimonos, small furniture items some painted, and a wide range of traditional crafts such as papier mache work, bronze statues of South Asian deities, jacquard loom scarves, stone carved objects and statues, handwoven mufflers, scarves, stoles and shawls as well as Christmas decorations including handmade and painted ones.