From Colman's to Caleys to Harmers - celebrating great Norfolk firms

A group of men show their chests.

Gentlemen at Colman’s were rumoured to have hair chests – and here is the proof. - Credit: Archant Library

It wasn’t so much a job…more a way of life where work and pleasure mixed.

A time when many people spent their entire working life at the same company.

The bond of friendship between those who were colleagues was strong and social clubs thrived.

Outings and events were popular the friendships forged in the factories, offices and shops would often last a lifetime and be passed down from one generation to the next.

Oh, and did you know some gentlemen at Colman’s had hairy chests and a handful at Woolworths in Norwich city centre were a dab-hand at ballet dancing?

A woman kneels as a group of men dressed as ballet dancers prance around her.

This is the display which caught the eye of those at the Woollies Christmas party all those years ago – a memorable display of “ballet” by the store’s floor-walkers. - Credit: June Vail

Long tables with women sitting at them for a Christmas party.

Those floor-walkers were a hit with the Woolworths girls at the Christmas party in the 1950s. These pictures were sent in many years ago by June Vail who was June Goldsmith in those days and worked in the big Rampant Horse Street store in Norwich…now just a memory. - Credit: June Vail

They certainly knew how to enjoy themselves in a different world to the one we live in today.

Think of buying a pair of shoes, There was a time when so many of them in our shops would have been made in Norwich.

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This was an industry which was the heart and “sole” of the city. More than 10,000 people, around 15 per cent of the workforce, worked in the boot and shoe trade, in huge factories,

Employees of Florida Shoe Factory in front of Cromer Pier wave at the camera.

Give us a wave!! The workers at the Florida Shoe Factory outing to Cromer in 1986. Whatever happened to young Bradley Walsh who was making a name for himself? Happy days. - Credit: Norwich Heritage Projects.

In 1972 they produced almost 10.8 million pairs of shoes and fashion boots which we described at the time as an  “all-time record.”

In the city there were the engineering works such as Boulton & Paul, Barnards, and Mann Egerton where skilled employees made a huge range of goods over the decades – even aircraft in the early days – and the breweries of course.

And of course there was the world-famous Colman’s Carrow Works – a village - which treated its staff so well, at work and at home.

Not forgetting Caleys, which became Mackintosh’s, Rowntree Mackintosh and Nestle before closing in 1994.

A woman stands behind a display of Mackintosh sweets.

A tasty display of Mackintosh treats made in Norwich and presented by Heather Dagless. - Credit: Archant Library


Reunion at Caley's Cocoa Cafe een 27/7/06

Where better to have a reunion for the Nestle workers than the popular Caley’café. - Credit: Archant Library

Remember when the sweet smell of chocolate rose above the city?

A group of staff from Harmer Clothing Factory in 1948

A company which had a reputation for looking after its workers. These are the ladies at the Harmer clothing factory in Norwich of 1948. - Credit: Archant Library

One firm which often gets overlooked was Harmers, one of the  largest privately owned clothing manufacturers in the country with factories at Norwich, Diss, Fakenham, Stradbroke, Syleham and Watton. It opened in 1825 and closed in 1990.

Times change….