Mystery poet whisks us back in time to Colman's and 1950s Norwich

An aerial view of Norwich showing the Carrow Works site in 1950.

An aerial view of Norwich showing the Carrow Works site. Dated: June 1950. - Credit: Archant Library

It is a poignant piece of poetry that illustrates another time… when the place where they made mustard was a second home to generations of men and women.

A man in a white coat sits at a machine making and filling Colman's mustard tins in 1940.

Colman's employees making and filling mustard tins at the Carrow Works site in Norwich. Date: circa 1940. - Credit: UNILEVER ARCHIVE

Working at Colman’s of Norwich wasn’t so much a job - more a way of life. They were one big family and many spent their entire careers at Carrow Works.

Colman's Carrow Works in Norwich. Dated January 29 1960 

Colman's Carrow Works in Norwich. Dated January 29 1960 - Credit: Archant Library

Colman’s men and women were proud people with a genuine bond of love and affection for their company. When they were not working so many belonged to the social clubs run by the employees.

A posed photo of Colman's workers who had completed 50 years at the factory in Norwich.

A job at Colman’s was often a job for life. This picture of those who had completed 50 years was taken in 1957. - Credit: Archant library

What memories the world-famous Lakenham ground bring back for so many and there were those who lived their entire working lives in Colman houses.

Carrow Works was a self-contained industrial city, employing 2,000 people where flour, starch and washing blue were produced along with the mustard that is famous across the world.

A young man is giving a packet of Colmans Semolina a very careful once-over at Carrow Works in Norwich

A young man is giving a packet of Colman's semolina a very careful once-over during a weights and measure test at Carrow Works, Norwich. - Credit: Archant Library


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They had their own school which educated 300 children in 1870 and Phillipa Flowerday was the first female industrial nurse in the land.

The Colman family played a leading role in the life of the city and county and how the people respected them. They knew running a successful business was a team effort.

An old Carrow Works fire engine takes part in a 1951 parade through Norwich

In 1951 the city procession at Norwich used to run alongside the market - now it goes down St Stephens. In the picture is the old Carrow Works fire engine built about 1880. Dated: June 24, 1951. - Credit: Archant Library

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Today the industrial city is a memory, the buildings are coming down and new ones will take their place with thousands of new homes and more.

One thing we can all look forward to is the arrival of spring so we thought we would pay tribute to a gentleman known to us only as JOHN of HEIGHAM who wrote this beautiful poem 'Spring at Carrow' in the Carrow Magazine from the spring of 1958.


'Spring at Carrow'


How will the exile of twelve months or so

Find Carrow precincts that he once did know?

Inviolate as yet the House remains

Though desolation on her threshold reigns.


Up King Street’s reaches toiling, first he’ll spy

A lofty crane against the Eastern sky;

Full soon more signs of change his eye will view

With unfamiliar landscapes not a few;

“There where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,”

The vista opens to Thorpe and Trowse.


That gate through, which at morn and eve he passed,

Like Eden ‘gainst his entry now’s made fast;

Another way perforce all now must tread

To gain admittance to the cycle shed.


Those steps down which his feet have often clattered

Have in the ruin all long since been shattered;

Gone, too, Research’s ancient domicile

Where sundry others sojourned for a while,

And down the yard – it’s there for all to see,

Enframed, the Mustard Mill that is to be.


Yet, ‘midst transitions and this “much ado,”

The lusty hooter still sounds forth “ten to;”

Amongst the changing scene these labours bring

Snowdrops and aconites announce the spring,

The golden crocus greets the early bees,

And rooks return to Carrow trees.


If you know who John of Heigham was please drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com.

For more old photos and articles about Norfolk history and heritage, subscribe to our new fortnightly Through the Decades email newsletter. Sign up by clicking here

Redevelopment at Carrow Works in Norwich in 1952.

The redevelopment at Carrow Works in Norwich. Dated: August 19, 1952. - Credit: Archant Library

Interior view of the newly erected garage, Carrow Works in Norwich in 1954

Interior view of the newly erected garage at Carrow Works, Norwich. Date: 7 August, 1954 - Credit: Archant Library


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