Modest war hero Ted Snelling who became the voice of ‘old Norridge’

PUBLISHED: 10:58 10 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:58 10 September 2017

'Back from the dead': Ted Snelling, pictured during his Second World War service. Picture Snelling family archive.

'Back from the dead': Ted Snelling, pictured during his Second World War service. Picture Snelling family archive.


Derek James salutes the memory of Ted Snelling, a much-loved teller of stories with a local flavour.

Master Norwich raconteur Ted Snelling, pictured as he celebrated his 90th birthday. Picture Archant.Master Norwich raconteur Ted Snelling, pictured as he celebrated his 90th birthday. Picture Archant.

We often talk about characters we have met or heard about over the years...but there was one storyteller who stands head and shoulders above the rest in more recent years.

His name was Ted Snelling, the voice of “Norridge.” Thanks to him people all over the world got to know how we speak in these parts - and, my, how they loved to listen to him.

Ted, who died 15 years ago, put his tales on tape, later CDs. They were called Grandfather’s Norwich and they raised thousands of pounds for Age Concern.

Former Lord Mayor Brenda Arthur, then working for the charity, said at the time of his death: “Ted was a very special man who brought much joy and happiness to so many people.

“He had a unique talent and was an inspiration to older people everywhere,” she added.

Not bad for a chap who had been officially declared “dead” during the Second World War.

He told me: “My commanding officer wrote to my wife Nellie telling her I was dead. When she got the letter I was in hospital at Wakefield. She got a shock when I wrote to her,” Ted smiled. His Norfolk sense of humour was as dry as a bone.

Born in Norwich of 1910 he was brought up in Barrack Street and went to Bull Close School...and he grew up listening to stories by his granddad, who was known as Little Jimmy.

When he left school he got a job as a bricklayer and became a skilled craftsman, building his home at Hellesdon with his brother Jack. He and his wife Nellie moved in and they lived there for the rest of their lives.

“I got the garden looking lovely. Then the war started and I joined the Parachute Regiment. You should have seen the size of the weeds when I got home!,” he said.

Yes, Ted was always looking at the funny side of life but during the war he was a brave and courageous soldier who was highly respected by his comrades on the battlefield.

During an attack on a bridge in Germany many members of his regiment were killed when it was blown up. Ted was shot but managed to escape. And, happily, news of his death was greatly exaggerated.

When the war ended and he had recovered from his injuries Ted got a job working as a bricklayer at May & Baker in Norwich but he was always very shy about his rather high-pitched Norwich accent.

“I never liked speaking in public because I thought people would laugh at me,” he once told me.

In fact, it turned out, they laughed WITH him not AT him.

People twisted his arm to step forward when Dick ‘Bygones’ Joice of Anglia Television appealed with people interested in local dialects to step forward and upped popped Ted. His life was about to change. Television viewers loved him and this led to story-telling appearances on BBC Radio Norfolk which attracted a big following. “The thing is,” said Ted. “Once I start talking I can’t stop.”

He was in great demand as a speaker. He illustrated his talks with photographs and this led to him making tapes for Age Concern. One was about life in the city between 1850 and 1920 and another was yarns from old Pockthorpe plus a song or two.

Apart of telling stories of life in old Norwich and the colourful characters who made it so special, Ted was a historian who wandered around with his camera – taking unusual pictures of nooks and crannies of landmarks. His photographs made us stop and consider our surroundings, often taking pictures of places we never give a second look.

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