Norwich at Work: Photographs from the collection 

Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell

Norwich at Work
The Museum of Norwich holds an extensive archive of photographs linked to the working life of the city during the C19th and C20th. Norwich was once well known for producing textiles, shoes, chocolate, mustard and beer, as well leading the field in insurance, banking, engineering and printing. Behind the success of many countless firms, both big and small, was an army of workers, skilled in their own particular craft and trade. This mini exhibition highlights and celebrates just a small sample of this workforce, from the better known weavers and clickers, to the now often forgotten wire weavers, mattress makers, propeller varnishers and cracker makers.  Photo opposite: Norwich Glass Company, leaded light shop, c.1950s
The Shoe Industry
Norwich made high quality ladies fashion shoes which were exported around the world. The Norwich shoe trade had a reputation for producing elegant, classical designs using the best grade leathers. Shoes were finished to the highest standard of craftsmanship. Norwich also made footwear for children and took a leading role in correct fitting and foot care. Start-rite and Kiltie shoes became household names. Shoe-making has been an important trade in Norwich for over 700 years. It replaced weaving as the main industry in the city from 1860. At its peak, there were 26 shoe factories employing 12,000 people. In 1960, eight million pairs of shoes were made in Norwich. The industry is now in decline due to foreign competition and the public demand for cheaper shoes. Only one major manufacturer - the Florida Group - continues to make shoes in the city today. Picture opposite : Shoe factory, the finishing room, c.1920

Shoe factory, closing room, c.1930s

The Textile Industry
Norwich was an important centre of textile manufacture from medieval times, with its golden age in the mid-18th century. During the 1840s, there were at least 28 manufacturers, producing shawls in Norwich. In 1849, one firm, E. & F. Hinde, made 26 different types of shawl, representing a total of 39,000 shawls for one year. During the 1850s, shawl production was at its peak. Norwich was represented at the Great Exhibition of 1851, when a number of businesses entered their finest shawls and won top prizes. Photo opposite: James Churchyard, the oldest Norwich handloom silk weaver, 1913

Jack Cornell, weaving on a Jacquard loom, 1926

Francis Hinde and Sons Ltd, weaver, c.1930s/1940s

Francis Hinde and Sons Ltd, weavers, c.1930s/1940s

In the 19th and 20th centuries, engineering was one of the major industries in Norwich. Products included steam engines, electrical motors, agricultural equipment, street furniture and domestic ironwork. Norwich firms were pioneers in the manufacture of wire netting and aircraft design.  They specialised in the manufacture of pre-fabricated buildings in iron, steel and wood as well as producing some of the very best examples of decorative art metalwork.  Their products regularly won prize medals and many reached world-wide markets. In 1910 Boulton and Paul built the sled used on the ill fated Antartic expedition of Captain Scott.  Colman's, another local firm, also supplied flour and mustard for the trip.  Photo opposite : Barnard, Bishop and Barnard, wire weavers, c.1910  

Barnard, Bishop and Barnard, brass foundry, c.1920

Lawrence & Scott, iron foundry, c.1920s

Boulton and Paul Limited, propeller varnishers, 1916

Engineering workers, 27 October 1896

The Chocolate Industry
For over a hundred years, the city was well known for producing chocolate. Albert Jarman Caley first opened a chemists at London Street, Norwich in 1857. The firm firstly produced mineral water and in 1886 they began manufacturing chocolate. During the First World War, Caley's 'Marching Chocolate' became popularly known amongst the British troops as "Marcho." In 1932, John Mackintosh and Son bought the firm and in 1969, the firm went on to merge with Rowntree's. In 1937, 'Rolo', the city's most well known chocolate, rolled off the production line. In 1988, Nestle took over the site and in 1994 the business was closed with a loss 900 jobs.   Photo opposite : A.J Caley Ltd, chocolate factory, c.1920s
City of Shopkeepers
Norwich has long been a bustling market city and a centre for regional trade. Since the Norman invaders set out their stalls, the market place has been packed with the sights, smells and sounds of traders selling their wares. By the 18th century, Norwich had become a fashionable place to shop. Coaching inns, banks and smart stores developed around the market-place. Shopkeepers, market stall traders, shop assistants and delivery boys worked long hours to serve their customers' every need. Behind the scenes, there was an army of manufacturers and suppliers, producing an ever growing range of products and services. Picture opposite : Davison's fruiterers, c.1900

Leonard Grint, shop keeper, and his mother, c.1930

A.J Caley Ltd, cracker department, early 1900s

Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers
As well as the better known industries, Norwich, like all cities, hosted a wide variety of crafts and trades, that kept the city ticking on.  Picture opposite : Big Peter Chiesa, reputedly the first ice-cream seller in Norwich, early 1900s

Toy factory, 1917

Norwich Glass Company, leaded light shop, c.1950s

Soldier, Norwich market place, 1914-1918

Bretts, mattress-makers, c.1920

Norwich Electric Tramways Company, 1901

William Drake, publican, shoe factory worker and prize winning canary breeder, c.1900

Group of women in Norwich Yard, c.1914-1918

Credits: Story

Arts Council England

Norfolk Museums Service
Hannah Henderson, Curator of Community History. Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.
Samantha Johns, Collections Development Manager.

Norfolk County Council

Norwich City Council

Picture Norfolk
Clare Everitt, Picture Norfolk Administrator

With thanks to
Hollie Warman, Postgraduate student at the University of East Anglia
Maria-Theresia Wehner, Postgraduate student at the University of East Anglia

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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