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Colman's departure will break a Norwich factory link dating back 160 years

PUBLISHED: 14:00 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:39 04 January 2018

Carrow Works Council back in the 1920s. Photo: Archant Library

Carrow Works Council back in the 1920s. Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

Colman's decision to move mustard production out of Carrow will break a link with the site which stretches back 160 years.

The pavilion at Lakenham Cricket Ground put up in memory of Captain Geoffrey Colman. Photo Archant library.The pavilion at Lakenham Cricket Ground put up in memory of Captain Geoffrey Colman. Photo Archant library.

On a national scale, Colman’s has become almost synonymous with Norwich, but it has also played an important social and economic role in its home county for more than two centuries.

The brand has had its home in and around Norwich since Jeremiah Colman started his mustard and flour business in 1814 at Stoke Holy Cross. It was his great-nephew Jeremiah James Colman who in 1858 brought the company to Carrow, its current home, which it bought from Norfolk Railway.

The decades which followed were to prove prosperous ones for the growing company.

Colman’s won a special place in the heart of workers in the city, in part down to the way it looked after its employees, who enjoyed better conditions than in many other city factories. Shortly after moving to Carrow, JJ Colman set up a school for the children of employees, and in 1864 the company took on a staff nurse – the first such role and now recognised as a major step forward in industrial welfare.

Colman’s Connections exhibition at the Forum. Pictured: Women in their finery collecting at the Carrow Works gates. Picture: Reproduced courtesy of UnileverColman’s Connections exhibition at the Forum. Pictured: Women in their finery collecting at the Carrow Works gates. Picture: Reproduced courtesy of Unilever

Just two years later, Colman’s was awarded a Royal Warrant for supplying Queen Victoria, which was followed in 1868 by a warrant to supply the Prince of Wales.

In 1903, Colman’s bought rival mustard maker Keen Robinson & Company. As well as being the source of the phrase “keen as mustard”, the company owned a barley-water business which would go on to become nationally renowned.

Robinson’s production was moved to Norwich in 1925 and has been there since, though the drinks business was subsequently split from the condiments later.

In 1938, Colman’s merged with Reckitt and Sons to become households conglomerate Reckitt and Colman.

Colman's tug mustard pot. Carrow Works Magazine 1925. Picture: UNILEVER ARCHIVEColman's tug mustard pot. Carrow Works Magazine 1925. Picture: UNILEVER ARCHIVE

In 1995 the mustard, and condiment, side of the business was sold to Unilever, bringing the Anglo-Dutch company to Norfolk. It maintained its close link to the city through sponsorship of Norwich City between 1997 and 2001.

Britvic, which acquired Robinson’s, announced in December it would close its Carrow Works factory by 2019, prompting Unilever to review its own future on the site, which led to the decision to bring Carrow production to an end.

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