Joyce Gurney-Read: Norwich historian donated research material to city library

A passionate Norwich historian, Joyce Gurney-Read, who has died aged 86, was also actively involved in the city's medieval merchant's house, Dragon Hall.

She also wrote a definitive history of the Trades and Industries of Norwich after spending more than eight years researching her beloved city.

When it was published in 1988, she said it had taken just three months to write about 14 of the city's leading companies including Bond's, Boulton & Paul and Bullards the brewers.

Joyce Gurney-Read was born in Hellesdon in 1926. She left Notre Dame High School aged 13 and began her working life at automotive retailer, Mann Egerton, which had provided the country's first driving school.

She joined Norwich Union at 15 as a typist and later became an assistant secretary at the John Innes Centre, before retiring at the age of 60.


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It was her love of Norfolk that drove her second career, and she had a long association with Dragon Hall on King Street, a medieval merchant trading hall dating from around 1430.

During her retirement she delivered many lectures on the history of Norwich at various events and Women's Institutes across the city, bringing to life the names such as Colman's and Caley's, which have made Norwich famous. A J Caley's later became Rowntree's.

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She donated her impressive collection of works to the Norwich Millennium Library, which has since been bound and is known today as Joyce Gurney-Read's collection.

One of her former students, a fellow Norwich historian, Chris Barringer, who wrote the introduction to her book, paid tribute.

'After her retirement Joyce threw herself into a world of research and writing about many aspects of Norwich life out of which came her much-praised book on Norwich trade and industries.

'Her tremendous enthusiasm and energy went into teaching many courses on Norwich industries and many valued her support in all sorts of projects.

'In particular the great support she gave to the Dragon Hall project as a guide and with her research and many documents she donated to the Dragon Hall archive.

'In the best sense of the word, she was a great character who will be missed by many,' he added.

She leaves two sons and five grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on Monday, December 10 at 11am.

Michael Pollitt

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