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City school born from seeds of Colman's success

PUBLISHED: 17:27 16 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:27 16 August 2019

Carrow Hill School

Carrow Hill School

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It was a unique centre of education which closed its doors a century ago. Derek James remembers Carrow School in Norwich and pays tribute to members of the Colman family

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Carrow School, which was opened in 1864. Colmans pioneered education about 20 years before the State system began in Norfolks Carrow School, which was opened in 1864. Colmans pioneered education about 20 years before the State system began in Norfolk

As the glory days of mustard making in Norwich fade into history it is important we never forget the way members of the Colman family have helped to shape the city and county we enjoy living in today.

They were way ahead of the times when it came to running Carrow Works and how they treated their workers...with dignity and respect.

A job at Colman's was for many a job for life. They were proud to work for a company known and respected across the world.

In 1814, the deaf Beethoven was still composing, the Battle of Waterloo was a year away 
and Charles Dickens was two years old.

Colman’s Connections exhibition at the Forum. Pictured: Carrow School, Norwich. Picture: Reproduced courtesy of UnileverColman’s Connections exhibition at the Forum. Pictured: Carrow School, Norwich. Picture: Reproduced courtesy of Unilever

In the same year, Jeremiah Colman began milling mustard at Stoke Holy Cross before moving to Magdalen Gates in Norwich. He had no children of his own so he adopted his nephew James, took him on as his partner and also took on his nephews Jeremiah and Edward.

The business grew and grew and moved to Carrow where the mustard empire was established and many other products were made as the company took a leading role in Norfolk life.

The family reached out to their employees. Unlike some other large companies they cared for their welfare and in 1864, a school opened its doors in a fine flint building still standing proud on Carrow Hill overlooking the factory.

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There had already been a small school at Stoke and then over a carpenter's shop in King Street, Norwich, before the school opened.

The Norfolk News reported at the time: "The spacious and elegant building erected on Carrow Hill has been opened for the Day and Sunday Schools. Special attention was directed to the admirable arrangements adopted for ventilation, lighting and for the separation of classes, to the large and spacious Infant Class-room."

In 1871 Francis Beales took over headmaster and introduced activities such as domestic economy, gardening, physical care and games.

There was also manual instruction in chip carving, Venetian ironwork. Clay modelling, carpentry, bee keeping and embossed leather work.

When Frances left the school and went to work as secretary of the pensions department at Colman's the new head was former pupil John Olorenshaw who took over in 1899 until the school closed in 1919.

A century ago, when the school transferred to Norwich Education Authority there were more than 600 boys and girls on the books.

The pupils transferred "up the hill" to Lakenham Council School on City Road which opened on Armistice Day - it had been used as a hospital during the Great War - with members of the Colman family present.

The much loved and respected Mr Olorenshaw became headmaster at Lakenham and when he retired was elected to Norwich City Council where he represented the people of Lakenham.

The buildings remained in use by J & J Colman Ltd., for Sunday School and adult school work, entertainments and meetings and research laboratories the 1960s. Today the old school, now offices and homes, stands as a memory of the mustard-makers.



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