Millionaire potato farmer closes Russian consulate in Norwich

Cavell House

The official Russian honorary consulate in Norwich was based in Cavell House. - Credit: Simon Parkin

One of Britain’s biggest potato farmers has closed a Russian honorary consulate in Norwich as war rages following the invasion of Ukraine. 

Potato king Ronnie Bartlett, who runs fruit and veg firm Albert Bartlett, has also stood down as Russian honorary consul with responsibility for Norfolk, a position he had held since January 2020.

Ronnie Bartlett

Ronnie Bartlett, chairman of Albert Bartlett, who was Russian honorary consul with responsibility for Norfolk. - Credit: Albert Bartlett

The honorary consulate, based in Cavell House, an anonymous looking office block on St Crispins Road, is still included on the UK Russian Embassy website.  

Its functions are listed as including the “registration of Russian nationals living in Norfolk and protection of their rights and interests”.

One of his main roles of the honorary consul is stated as “developing and strengthening economic relations between Russia and Great Britain”.

The Russian office was also included on a list of official honorary consulates in the UK published by the Foreign Office this week.

The Russian Embassy still lists Russian honorary consulate in Norwich.

The Russian Embassy still lists the Russian honorary consulate in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

It gave the Norwich Russian honorary consulate contact details as the Albert Bartlett factory at Worstead, near North Walsham. 

Based at Airdrie in Scotland, Albert Bartlett is one of the largest vegetable growers, suppliers and processing companies in the UK. Ronnie Bartlett, grandson of the company’s founder, is its chairman. 

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When contacted, the company said Mr Bartlett had now resigned as honorary consul and the Norwich office was closed this week.

Albert Bartlett factory in Worsted

The Foreign Office lists the Albert Bartlett factory in Worsted as the contact address for the Russian honorary consulate in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

Tim Hammond, the company’s international development director, said: “The present situation in Ukraine is terrible.

“We cannot endorse any sort of action by any country whether it is Russia or anyone else. It’s a very bad situation.”

In 2019 Mr Bartlett was pictured attending an economic conference in St Petersburg including a panel discussion chaired by Vladimir Putin.

Mr Hammond said the Norfolk honorary consulate had been established as a way to explore agricultural links between Russia and the UK. 

“We don’t trade with Russia and haven’t traded anything since the sanctions took place back in 2014, but we have always thought that there are opportunities for agriculture and British products in Russia,” he said. 

“It was just really the future potential that we saw at that time in Russia. Obviously that potential is quite rightly not there at all now.”

Cavell House

The functions of the Russian honorary consulate in Cavell House was said to include the registration of Russian nationals living in Norfolk and protection of their rights and interests. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Workers leaving Cavell House, which houses offices for several companies, said they had been unaware that a Russian consulate was based there.

What are honorary consuls?

An honorary consul is appointed by the government of the foreign country and are commonly residents of the host nation.

The function of honorary consulates is to enhance the relations between the two countries in the form of economic and social trade.

They can also assist the citizens of the country with information and can offer help in certain circumstances like its citizens being arrested or going missing.

The Russian consul in Norwich offered appointments for Russian citizens in Norfolk but stated that it did not provide services such as applications for citizenship, civil status registration, passports or visas.