Charting Norwich’s journey from postwar austerity to prosperity

On the Ball City! The ever-faithful Canaries fans back in the 1950s. Do you recognise anyone? Photo:

On the Ball City! The ever-faithful Canaries fans back in the 1950s. Do you recognise anyone? Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

It was a time for rebuilding…lives and communities which had been torn apart during the harrowing years of the Second World War…it was indeed a journey from austerity to prosperity.

The Closing Room at the big Sexton, Son & Everard shoe factory in 1959. Photo: Archant Library

The Closing Room at the big Sexton, Son & Everard shoe factory in 1959. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

In Norwich and across Norfolk and Suffolk children were getting to know their fathers again. They had been away fighting for our freedom. Many rarely spoke of the horrors they had witnessed or the hardships they had suffered.

As we look to the future now with concern we should consider what went before us.

One of the best books to be written about these extraordinary times was ‘Norwich 1945 to 1960: A Journey from Austerity to Prosperity’ by Frances and Michael Holmes of the Norwich Heritage Projects.

Published in 2017, the book uses first hand accounts and memories alongside photographs to illustrate what life in the post-war years was really like.

The Rolo line at the Mackintosh factory which was destroyed in the war. It was re-built in stages an

The Rolo line at the Mackintosh factory which was destroyed in the war. It was re-built in stages and opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1956 when it provided work for more than 2,000 people. This Archant picture was taken in the late 50s. Now it is just a memory. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant


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From the hardships of rationing to a time when some were said to have “never had it so good.”

But let’s not look back with rose-coloured specs. Yes times were changing, but life was tough for people.

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As the authors say: “It was a roller-coaster trip full of wondrous happenings, people and inventions, but also one of discontent, racism and tragedy.”

We had fought tooth and nail for our freedom but victory in 1945 came at a cost.

This wonderful photograph of the orchestra at Colman Road School, Norwich, in 1958. Photo: Contribut

This wonderful photograph of the orchestra at Colman Road School, Norwich, in 1958. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Contributed

The country was on its knees and big changes were on the way. A Labour government introduced the Welfare State and the National Health Service. There were new employment and sickness benefits, free school dinners and milk, a big re-building programme.

But taxes were going up, rationing was still in operation. By 1951 the Tories were back in power. The people backed their promise to build a “strong and free” Britain. Highs and lows were on their way.

The Norwich Festival was a great success but there was a war in Korea and in 1952 the much-loved King George VI died at Sandringham.

Many people then died in the “great smog” of London and in 1953 the terrible East Coast floods caused so much death and destruction in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Young Lynn Preston who is featured on the front cover of the book in her pink coat. Picture: Courte

Young Lynn Preston who is featured on the front cover of the book in her pink coat. Picture: Courtesy of Frances and Michael Holmes - Credit: Courtesy of Frances and Michael Holmes

The country came together to celebrate the Queen’s coronation in June 1953 with parties and celebrations across Norwich and Norfolk. The children had their fancy dress outfits on and in a way it was the dawn of a new era.

In 1954 rationing finally came to an end and it was reported by social historian Harry Hopkins, who said: “Suddenly the shops were piled high with all sorts of goods. Boom was in the air.”

In Norwich thousands of council homes were rising into the air on new housing estates. Heartsease described as “the last, biggest and the best.”

New schools were also being built, the city factories, making a huge range of goods, from huge electric motors to bars of chocolate and from shoes to caps, were employing tens of thousands of men and women.

The book packed with your memories and photographs. Picture: Frances and Michael Holmes

The book packed with your memories and photographs. Picture: Frances and Michael Holmes - Credit: Frances and Michael Holmes

Blitzed shops, such as Bonds (John Lewis) and Curls (Debenhams), were re-built and re-opened, Bill Haley was playing the Carlton, the people of Norwich and Norfolk came together to watch greyhound racing, the speedway Stars and of course the football.

And, as the 50s came to an end Norfolk turned yellow and green as the Canaries came so close to lifting the FA Cup, life was changing from black and white to colour and the 60s were starting to swing.

Your chance to win a copy of the book

Answer this question: In what year did Norwich City Football Club play in the semi-final of the FA Cup?

Was it:

(a) 1957

(b) 1958

(c) 1959

Answers to be emailed to info@norwich-heritage.co.uk by Tuesday October 27. Please include your name and postal address.

Five lucky entrants will receive a copy of Norwich 1945 to 1960: A Journey from Austerity to Prosperity.

Copies of the book can be bought from both Jarrolds and City Bookshop or direct from www.norwich-heritage.co.uk

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