Norwich Through the Decades: Roots of Norwich Christmas cracker tradition
Mustard, chocolate and shoes are all industries which have pride of place in Norwich's history. However, another more seasonal trade saw the city become a hub for one famous Christmas good.
Millions of Christmas crackers will soon find a home on dining tables.
Paper hats will be briefly worn, jokes groaned at and combs, nail clippers and bottle openers shared around, as the popular tradition returns.
It has been 169 years since, in 1847, confectioner's apprentice Tom Smith stumbled on the cracker while trying to add love messages into the wrappers of his bon-bons, which were wrapped in a twist of paper.
The story goes that it was the crackle of a log on the fire that saw him add a banger mechanism and up the size of the bon-bon, before the sweets were dropped for trinkets.
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Tom's London business boomed and rival cracker producers sprang up - including Caley's chocolate and confectionary factory in Norfolk, which launched its own crackers in 1898. But Tom's triumphed - securing a royal warrant in 1906 and distributing hundreds of cracker design all over the country.
The outbreak of the Second World War saw trade ceased at both firms, but, as hostilities ended, talks started between Caley's owne Eric Mackintosh and Smith's chairman GW Morrison.
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An agreement was reached to merge the two companies - and in 1953, the Tom Smith name started operating from a factory on Salhouse Road in Norwich, previously owned by renowned city form Colman's.
The next four decades were a golden period - countless crackers were made in Norwich and transported around the world, with 50 million produced every year during the 1980s.
The Royal Family enjoyed crackers produced in Norwich during those years, while Prince Charles Diana had locally-made crackers at their wedding breakfasts - bearing cutt links for him and a brooch for her.
At its peak, 500 staff were employed by the firm, split between Norwich and its subsidiary in Stockport, and while many of the more expensive crackers were made by hand, two machines that could produce almost 40 per minute were bought.
Things looked rosy - until a management buyout in the 1990s saw clouds began to gather.
In 1996, it was taken over by Guinness Mahon and Co, who installed a new management team and two years later, exactly 100 years after cracker production started in Norwich, the last crackers came off the Norwich Tom Smith production line. Today, based in South Wales, things are brighter for the business - the Tom Smith name remains synonymous with Christmas crackers, still stocks the Royal Household and is remembered fondly by those in Norwich.