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The cat that stopped a brewery - mystery behind Norwich's most bizarre strike is solved

PUBLISHED: 17:52 24 June 2016 | UPDATED: 17:52 24 June 2016

The strike at Bullards in Norwich. The man at the front (holding the poster) with the eye-patch was Albert Crowe of Lakenham. He has been recognised by his son Victor, now aged 90. And yes, the worker did get his job back.

The strike at Bullards in Norwich. The man at the front (holding the poster) with the eye-patch was Albert Crowe of Lakenham. He has been recognised by his son Victor, now aged 90. And yes, the worker did get his job back.

Archant

At last... the story of the brewery strike in Norwich many years ago following the sacking of a worker after a cat was found in a beer vessel can be told.

“That’s my dad,” said 90-year-old Victor Crowe, pointing to the gentleman, with the flat cap and patch over one eye, holding a placard at the front.

“I remember him telling me about the walk-out which resulted in the worker being reinstated,” said Victor who was delighted to see the photograph published the other day.

His father, Albert Daniel Crowe, was a Norwich-born lad who lived at Lakenham and was lucky to escape with his life during the First World War.

“He served in the medical corps and was badly hurt when a shell hit him in the head. He often wore an eye-patch when he came home,” said Victor.

Like so many others Albert rarely spoke about his terrible time in the Great War a century ago.

“I remember his frost-bitten feet. Lumps and bumps all over them. He had to go to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to have a special pair of boots made and fitted. Sometimes he found it difficult to walk,” said Victor.

When he returned from the front-line Daniel got himself a job at the big Anchor Brewery, the home of Bullards – and that’s where this strike was. These men worked hard in tough conditions... and they stood up for their rights.

“We lived at Mansfield Lane and I used to go to the brewery on a Sunday morning. It was his job to keep the vats hot, make sure the fires were going. It was hard work and he was always sweating. But the smell was lovely. I have never forgotten it,” he said.

“Cats were also part of the workforce. They were brewery cats to kill the rats trying to get into the sacks containing the malt,” added Victor, who lives in Norwich with his wife Jean.

“I vividly remember watching the men stoking the vats and the smells. It was lovely to see the photo of my dad. It brought back many memories,” he said.

Albert worked at the brewery until it closed and ended up as the controller at Wells, the well-known taxi company in Norwich.

Victor, who served with the Norfolks during the Second World War, went on to be a fireman on the steam locomotives operating in and out of Norwich. With the arrival of diesel he left the railways to work as a taxi driver.

Bullards founded the Anchor Brewery near St Miles’ Bridge in 1837. It went on to be a huge operation. Brewing ceased in the 1960s and in 1972 the site was sold to a private developer. It is now known as Anchor Quay.

Watch this space for the story of Bullards which stopped brewing 50 years ago. They made a fine pint for a fine city.

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