Fascinating new history book explores city's grass roots footie

Jarrold & Son Ltd Business Houses League Football

Jarrold – the first ever winners of the Business Houses League. Formed after the war the club replied on coupons from the FA to purchase kit. - Credit: Jarrold & Son Ltd.

This isn’t just a book on football…it is about a way of life and lifelong friendships between tens of thousands of players over almost a century.

Some years ago Paul Oxbury wrote a wonderful best-seller called The League of Forgotten Men – a history of the Norwich & District Thursday Football League with a foreword by one of their star players, world cup winner Martin Peters.

Now Paul has hit the back of the net with this absolute cracker of a follow-up called Close of Business which tells the story of the Norwich Business Houses League which ran from 1924 to 2017.

Paul Oxbury Business Houses League Book Cover

Close of Business by Paul Oxbury, £15 from Jarrold Books and The Bookshop (Davey Place, Norwich). - Credit: Paul Oxbury

Trowse Villa FC

Trowse Villa who won the league a record five times in a row. In the team was journalist Anthony Grey held in China when working with Reuters. - Credit: Close of Business by Paul Oxbury

Earlham Football Team 2001-2006

Earlham face the camera before a Shoe Trades Final, they won the league a record equalling five times between 2001 and 2006. - Credit: Close of Business by Paul Oxbury

The 52-year-old accountant has produced a glorious 342-page book packed with photographs, match reports and tables which will bring back so many memories, given that in its heyday the league dominated the action on the parks and school pitches of Norwich.

Whilst it initially catered for businesses in the city, it evolved and grew and was the starting point for many well-known teams and players.

At the beginning of the 1930s St Andrew’s Hospital dominated the league, playing all their matches at home and then in 1937 CNS Old Boys took their first steps in adult football under the direction of a young Billy Ribbons… and swept all before them.

UEA FC Carrow Road Business Houses League Norfolk Junior Cup

UEA celebrate at Carrow Road in 2004 as they become the first and only Business Houses League side to win the Norfolk Junior Cup. - Credit: Close of Business - Paul Oxbury

St ANdrew's Hospital footballers eith Keith Skipper 1968

Three former St Andrew’s Hospital players, Alec Hawkshaw, Joe Newson and Bert Pluckrose when they reminisced with our Keith Skipper in 1968 about the side’s domination of the Bussiness Houses League in the 1930s when they played all their games at home. - Credit: Archant Library

Norwich Union Football Club Aviva Team

NUFC – the picture includes (back row far right), Philip Wilkinson, the grandfather of England rugby union legend Johnny Wilkinson, and (sitting front row far right) Radio Norfolk presenter John Taylor, father of author DJ Taylor. - Credit: Aviva Group Archive

After the war, Trowse Villa were the team to beat, with their sloping pitch, and when they eventually faded Sprowston Athletic and then Hellesdon came along to the fore before stepping up to the Anglian Combination.

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Then it was the turn of Lomas Athletic (who remembers Dick and the late Terry Cann?) to rule the roost followed by Diamond H, UEA, Earlham and Marlborough Old Boys.

The book also covers the thriving family social scene which the league had in the 50s and 60s with Geoffrey Watling and Billy Butlin presenting trophies and looks at the link with industry.

Norwich Business Houses League Football Lomax Athletic

Lomax Athletic collecting the Norwich Business Houses League championship trophy at the Samson and Hercules Ballroom in Tombland, Norwich. - Credit: Close of Business - Paul Oxbury

Archant Library Brian Bloom Pink'Un Player of the Week Ted Bell Bill Long

Copemans player (and well known cricketer) Brian Broom receives the first-ever Pink Un Player of the Week award from Editor Ted Bell. Also pictured is Copeman’s long-serving secretary Bill Long. - Credit: Archant Library

Rangers versus Attleborough at Carrow Road Norwich Business League

Rangers on the attack at Carrow Road against Attleborough in the 1996 Norfolk Junior Cup final. - Credit: Close of Business - Paul Oxbury


It was in 1929 when Henry Sexton, of Assembly House fame, donated the Shoe Trades Charity Cup for competition for those who worked in the industry with its final staged at The Nest on Easter Tuesday to much fanfare. The league eventually took over the running of this until the late 1960s.

Paul thanks all those who helped him put this great book together including former Archant librarian Rosemary Dixon. “Archant have kindly allowed articles and photographs to be reproduced and for that I would like to thank them.”

Close of Business – A History of the Norwich Business Houses League costs £15 and is available from City Books, Davey Place, Norwich, Jarrold Books department or from  Paul at paul_oxbury@hotmail.com

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