He was a wealthy gentleman who died 300 years ago but his memory lives on…thanks an extraordinary will and his wish to educate his descendants.

I often think I would have liked to meet people from the past I write about and one of them was Alderman John Norman…who left us with a will containing more than 10,000 words dedicated to helping others and building a school.

And that included wiring down what the pupils should wear, eat, drink and on which day.

In those days education was for the rich but John Norman was a man who left his money and estate to help generations of boys and now girls in what became an pioneering educational foundation we can all be proud of.

John was born in 1657 and belonged to Old Catton where he owned land. He also had interests in Spixworth, Sprowston and other parts of the county and country plus a brewery in the city at St Peter Parmentergate.

Eastern Daily Press: Those Norman boys were handy footballers. Do you recognise anyone?

His grandfather was a silk weaver who was a Huguenot refugee who arrived in Norwich during the 17th century.

John was an astute businessman and also a popular figure always willing to help others. He served both as Sheriff and Mayor of Norwich

Goodness knows how long it took him to write his will of more than 10,000 words explaining exactly what he wanted trustees to do with his legacy.

Eastern Daily Press: Young musicians at the Norman School in Norwich, which followed the first one, in the 1940s

He wanted to establish a school to give boys an education and a future but they needed to be looked after and John decided what they should eat, on what days, and wear.

For example.


Each boy to have for his dinner, one pound of roast beef, and for his supper, twelve ounces of plumb pudding, and what roast beef he left out of his allowance at dinner.


For his breakfast, a halfpenny white loaf, with butter or cheese, which he liketh best: for his dinner, milk broth and suet pudding: and for his supper, bread and cheese or bread and butter.


Breakfast. Bread and cheese or bread and butter; for dinner twelve ounces of boiled beef, mutton or veal, with garden stuff and butter sufficient; and at night what meat he leaves out of his allowance, with bread and cheese or bread and butter.


Breakfast, Meat broth with oatmeal and bread; for dinner, peas porridge or fish, if reasonable, or peas and beans, if in season. At night bread and cheese or butter.

And…you get the idea. The table linen would also be cleaned, twice a week.

Eastern Daily Press: Pupils and staff at the original Norman School in Cowgate, Norwich, just before it closed in 1934.

John wanted two servants to make ready their diet, and attend them at meals to carve and cut their victuals and to do all other necessary things and services for them, as occasion shall be: and their care and pains to be taken therein.

They would be paid three pounds a year each and have the same allowances as the boys.

Then there were the clothes.

Each boy would have two hats, at eight shillings the two, two shirts of hussiffs cloth, three pairs of shoes and three times mending three pairs of stockings, neck cloths or bands, two pairs of gloves, and be allowed one shilling for hair trimming at the barbers.

Then there was  the uniform of a hazel colour, books, pens, ink and paper plus sixpence a quarter for spending money.

John had worked out exactly how much should be spent on each item.

It turned out his ambitious plans for this boarding school and university places at Catton didn’t go ahead…but a day school at Cowgate in Norwich did open in 1839 and planned a role in many young lives before closing in 1934.

In this photograph, taken just before it closed, we have headmaster for 36 years John William Howes with his assistant Miss Bowyer. Times were changing and when John retired at the age of 70, the school days were coming to an end.

At the beginning of 1935 Mile Cross School was renamed  Norman School and today we have the Norman Centre and Norman Road.

Two boats, modelled on a traditional Norfolk Broads reedlighter, have also been built and named Alderman Norman I (1988) and the Alderman Norman II (2019) both funded by the Foundation which continues to do much good work in memory of an extraordinary gentleman who died on May 10 1724.

Eastern Daily Press: A photograph of the Norman School in Cowgate taken by George Swain in the 1930s

Eastern Daily Press: Norman boys, all dressed up in their Sunday best. Do you know any of them?

Eastern Daily Press: We will never forget John Norman, thanks to his wonderful will.