Remembering one of Norwich's most influential Victorian entrepreneurs

George Fisher

George Fisher - Credit: Courtesy of Andrew Fisher

Amidst our justified celebration of those giant and good citizens who helped to build Norwich, we must not overlook those in the next tier.

So says the writer, geologist and cycle instructor Matthew Williams in an article for the latest issue of the booklet Aspects of Norwich.

Once again this is a first-class offering from the Norwich Society. One they can be proud of and we can enjoy.

There are stories about Will Kemp (Jonathan Hooton), Eaton – From Farmland to City Suburb (Vivien Humber), Princes Street United Reformed Church (Barbara Searle) , Norwich’s Victorian Commercial School (s) (Alan Metters) and Mary Ash has reviewed the book, Colonel Unthank’s Norwich by Clive Lord.

There is much to read in Aspects out this week but today I would like to tell you a little more about a certain Mr Fisher and his entrepreneurial flair.

As Matthew says: “The less prominent contribution of family businesses throughout the city was nonetheless vital for underpinning its economy and helping to meet the day-to-day needs of the growing population.”

Dereham Road Shops, then and now.

Dereham Road Shops, then and now. - Credit: The Norwich Society

There were many tradespeople operating from shop outlets on the main roads and on street corners looking after the needs of local people and one of them was George Henry Fisher (1865-1922).

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George, along with family members, ran his stationary and later tobacconists business from outlets in the Dereham Road area, on the west side of the city.

He also had businesses in the city centre and Matthew, a keen cyclist, discovered that in the late Victorian and Edwardian era, his entrepreneurial activities extended well beyond being the inventor (or at least purveyor) of that vital piece of cycle-cleaning equipment…Fisher’s Cycle Brush.

“More famously, George Fisher was responsible for the annual Fisher’s Almanac, a half-letter-sized printed directory, which he published every year from 1888 to 1918.

“It was well illustrated, reaching 48 pages, and sold for a halfpenny. At the time of the First World War, the front page was claiming a guaranteed circulation of 6,000,” writes Matthew.

Norwich Floods on Barn Road. Date: 1912

Norwich Floods on Barn Road. Date: 1912 - Credit: The Norwich Society

George’s own retail business focussed on selling stationary, fancy goods and tobacco but he was also an agent for local manufacturers/wholesalers and was a talented photographer.

The business empire, he also had a shop in Barn Road, was in pole position at the time of the great flood of 1912 and one of the photographs shows water lapping around his tobacconists, with George, his wife Harriet, and possibly their son Cecil standing on the step.

Matthew has based his story mainly on four editions of the almanac lovingly kept by George’s grandson Andrew Fisher.

Aspects of Norwich: Autumn 2021 costs just £5 and is on sale at Jarrold and City Books in Davey Place, Norwich. It is highly recommended.

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