Seven of the oldest Norfolk businesses

The Start-Rite factory in Norwich in the 1930s. Pic: EDP archive.

Start-Rite shoe manufacturers is one of the oldest businesses in Norfolk. The inside of the Norwich factory is pictured here in 1930 - Credit: Archant

Some of the longest running businesses in Norfolk have weathered global financial crises, world wars and now a pandemic.

From shoe making to pillows, they have been industry pioneers and many continue to nurture a national reputation for quality.

Here are some of the oldest businesses in Norfolk that are still operating today.

1. Roys

Roys of Wroxham 16/04/87 Picture by: Judd

Roys of Wroxham pictured in 1987. - Credit: Archant

Roys first started in 1895 as a general store in Coltishall, run by the Roy brothers Arnold and Alfred.

The brand expanded into Dereham and then Wroxham, which is where the business particularly thrived, and became known as Roys of Wroxham.

It expanded throughout the town and nearby Hoveton, opening a pharmacy, a garage, a tailor.

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The business also helped install public utilities such as street lights and public toilets.

Roys continues to have a presence in a number of places in Norfolk and remains an independent family-owned business.

It currently operates at 14 locations, providing the community with everything from toys to DIY supplies.

2. CT Baker

bakers and larners store front. Picture: Submitted

The store front of Bakers and Larners in Holt - Credit: Archant

The company started trading in 1631 but has served the local community in Holt since 1730.

It was taken over by the Baker family in the 1760s and has gone through many incarnations over the years as a blacksmith, a brewer and a builders' merchants.

The original store remains to this day, under the name of Bakers and Larners of Holt.

The CT Baker group employs more than 250 people across its four sites located in Aylsham, North Walsham, Stalham and Holt. 

In Holt, it also managed a Budgens store, which was one of the biggest in the UK until it was devastated by a catastrophic fire in 2020.

3. Jarrold

Jarrold pictured since the coronavirus lockdown. It is now going to be opening its website again. Pi

Jarrold began over 250 years ago and remains a family-run business. - Credit: Archant

The Jarrold business began in Woodbridge in 1770 by John Jarrold but moved to Norwich the following century in 1823.

The involvement of the founding family continues to this day.

While other department stores such as Debenhams and House of Frazer have been forced to close in recent years, Jarrold remains popular with locals and visitors alike.

4. The Bell Hotel

Bell Inn in Thetford.

The Bell Inn in Thetford is reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in the UK. - Credit: Archant

The Bell Hotel in Thetford was built in the 15th century and has been established as an inn since then.

Many owners and guests have passed through over the years and the building is steeped in history.

Rumour has it an ex-landlady and a hooded monk haunt the hotel. 

A number of paranormal investigators have visited the site and it is thought to be one of the most haunted buildings in the UK.

Today it is part of Greene King's chain of pubs and is still open to visitors for drinks, foods and overnight stays.

5. Start-Rite

Start-Rite staff at the Ward Shoe Company, Magdalen Street, Norwich. Date: Jan 1974. Picture: EDP Li

Start-Rite staff at the Ward Shoe Company, Magdalen Street, Norwich in 1974. - Credit: Archant

Start-Rite was born out of a Norwich shoemaking business established in 1792 by James Smith.

It was one of the first retailers to emphasise the importance of well-fitting children's shoes to protect their feet.

It now outsources its manufacturing to India and Portugal but its headquarters remains in Norwich at the Broadland Business Park.

6. Norfolk Feather

Take a look inside the Norfolk Feather Company. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Behind the scenes at the Norfolk Feather Company in 2019. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

The family business has been providing home comforts for more than 90 years with its range of feather and down products.

The production plant remains in Diss and is known for producing a luxury range of pillows.

The company has continued to move with the times and now emphasise the use of sustainable materials and eco-friendly processes. 

7. Maids Head Hotel

Maids Head Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in the UK, dating back to the thirteenth century. Pic

Maids Head Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in the UK, dating back to the thirteenth century. - Credit: Archant

The Maids Head Hotel claims to be one of the oldest hotels in the UK and the site has been used as an hospitality business since the middle of the 1090s.

It is located in one of the oldest parts of Norwich and is right next to the Norwich Cathedral, which was constructed during the Norman era.

The hotel is still thriving today, having been taken over by the Chaplin family in 2012, who embarked on a number of renovations to bring the business into the 21st century.

Do you know of a business in Norfolk which has been running for hundreds of years? Let us know by emailing