Take a look back at the firms that helped rebuild Norwich and kept the city looking sharp
PUBLISHED: 18:33 08 August 2017
Norwich 1945 to 1960: A Journey from Austerity to Prosperity by Frances and Michael Holmes
The big department stores Curls (Debenhams) and Bonds (John Lewis) were rebuilt along with many other shops. New factories were opening....Norwich was slowly coming back to life after the Second World War.
The first half of the 1940s had been brutal. It brought death and destruction but victory was sweet and the fascinating story of how the city and its people recovered is told in the best-selling new book: Norwich 1945 to 1960s: A Journey from Austerity to prosperity by Frances and Michael Holmes.
Large parts of the city centre and suburbs were in ruins but the rebuilding that followed led to regeneration with new modern houses, new schools, new shops and modern factories.
During the war, 130 Norwich factories, large and small, had been destroyed. As these were rebuilt, they were modernised and redesigned to meet the challenges ahead.
As a result, by the late 1950s the city was home to some of the most up-to-date industrial units in the country. Norwich was back to its manufacturing best.
They included the big new Caley’s factory on what is now the Chapelfield shopping centre. It was described in 1956 as one of the most modern and efficient confectionary enterprises in the world.
And there was Harmers large clothing factory where hundreds worked and was said to be one of the leading firms of its kind in the country.
The leading employer in the city was still the shoe industry employing around 9,000 men and women and the construction sector was also booming as the city was rebuilt providing work for some 7,000 people.
The footwear made in Norwich was among the best in the world.
In 1955 Start-rite (or James Southall & Co., as it was then) was granted a Royal Warrant for supplying shoes for Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
“It was a real honour to be selected to work on the shoes for the Royal Family but making them was a nightmare because they had to be absolutely spot-on. Goodness knows how many times a pair went around before it was let out of the factory,” said worker Jean Woods.
The next year, Thomson & Son, on Golden Dog Lane, were selected to make the shoes for Grace Kelly’s pageboys when she married Prince Rainier.
And our engineering firms were among the best in the land – in 1959 Laurence, Scott & Electromotors were awarded a share of the £16m order from British Rail to build new diesel locomotives. Boulton & Paul opened new premises.
The shape of Norwich was also changing with a booming economy, more traffic on the roads, the time had come for many factories to set up on the new industrial estates such as Harford on Hall Road and it was also time for plans to be announced to move the famous cattle market out of the city centre and down to Harford.
The days of animals being driven through the city streets was finally coming to an end.
Expansion also took place in the city centre.
It had been proposed to house all Norwich Union staff (now Aviva) in a large modern block of offices facing All Saints’ Green. It was put on hold because of the post-war austerity measures but by 1955, Norwich Union decided it was time to go ahead with the new buildings grouped around their Head Office.
By 1960 building had started on a nine-storey office block designed to accommodate 2,000 staff.
• Norwich 1945 to 1960: A Journey from Austerity to Prosperity by Frances and Michael Holmes of Norwich Heritage Projects is in the shops now.