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Is this Norwich's most bizarre strike?

PUBLISHED: 14:57 10 June 2016 | UPDATED: 14:57 10 June 2016

Can you throw any light on this photograph - and the curious incident which triggered the labour dispute?

Can you throw any light on this photograph - and the curious incident which triggered the labour dispute?

Archant

They talk about the “good old days” when Norwich was a “making city” – a time when thousands of men and women worked in the breweries, shoe factories, engineering plants and the like.

Our workers were skilled people and they always had a reputation for standing up for their rights. They are respected for working hard, still are, but they have always asked to be treated fairly.

Many of the bosses, the beer and shoe barons, the factory owners, did indeed treat their workers well but there were times....

This splendid old photograph, which looks as if it may have been taken in the 1920s, illustrates an episode when the trade unionists were standing up for themselves.

Just look at the expressions on the faces of these men. They had dressed up for the photographer, putting on their best “go to meeting” clothes and were ready for action.

You wouldn’t want to mess with them. I wonder what the outcome of this “industrial dispute” was?

Today I would like your help in trying to discover the story behind this picture. Perhaps you have a copy of it? Maybe you recognise one of the gentlemen? Maybe you worked in a brewery and have seen this picture before?

The message on the banner tells the story. The poster on the wall at the back says: “Norwich Trade Unionists have agreed not to purchase Morgans or Bullards beers unless re-instatement of employees takes place.”

Could it be that other workers came out in support of the worker sacked following the discovery of the dead cat in the vessel of beer?

Judging by the look of the 11 men in the photograph, it may have been taken during the 1920s or perhaps earlier. A time when unemployment was high, jobs were hard to come by, and thousands of men and women struggled to survive. Many families lived in appalling conditions.

In 1836 there were 27 breweries in Norwich but by the 1920s there were just the big four left – Steward & Patteson, Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs and the two involved in the cat saga – Morgans & Bullards.

At the start of the First World War Bullards had 133 tied houses in the city, seven more than their nearest rival S&P. Morgans, based at the Old Brewery on King Street, also had a large collection of pubs (no fewer than 600 in 1904) but most of them were outside Norwich as they had swallowed up smaller breweries. Youngs had more than 200 tied houses.

Thousands of men and women worked in the breweries dotted around the city until the last of the of the major players, Norwich Brewery, stopped making beer in 1985.

If you can shed any light on this photograph please drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com



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