Memories of Joyce Gurney-Read. A woman with a passion for Norwich

It is time to pay tribute to author Joyce - who told the story of the great trades and industries of Norwich,

On Monday December 10 people gathered to honour and remember a woman who played a leading role in telling the story of Norwich and its people.

Joyce Gurney-Read, a wife, mother and grandmother, loved her city with a rare passion and dedicated much of her life to discovering just what made it tick.

Family and friends have been remembering Joyce, who has died at the age of 86, at St Faith's Crematorium and I would like to pay my own tribute by opening the pages of her greatest legacy.

It was a privilege to have been able to help her with the research for her magnificent book - Trades & Industries of Norwich back in the 1980s.

Most Read

As she delved into the history of 14 of the leading companies which provided work for generations of city men and women she was like a child in a sweet shop.

Documents, photographs and especially personal memories were treasured and cherished.

It's easy to see why Joyce had such a passion for Norwich and its people - the rich and the poor. The old and the young.

Joyce was born in Hellesdon and educated at the Notre Dame in Surrey Street. She had a deep feeling of belonging to Norwich.

Her great-great grandfather was a Norwich weaver, her great-grandfather a respected trader, and her grandfather, Ernest Websdale, lived in King Street. He was a city councillor and a member of the Board of Guardians - who helped the poor - for many years.

She loved the old King Street/Ber Street area and spent much of her time at Dragon Hall where she was a trustee and an expert on the extraordinary history of the medieval merchant's house.

Joyce, also a Norwich Guide, loved escorting visitors around the city and talking about the place she loved. She was in demand as a speaker.

She would mesmerise people with her tales of the city, its work places and its people.

Joyce had been married to Richard, who died in 2005, they had two sons Tony and Paul and five grandchildren.

Over the years she had worked at Mann Egerton, Norwich Union, the Samson & Hercules. Norfolk County Council, the Norwood Rooms and the John Innes Centre.

Joyce was a glorious advertisement for Norwich - and all that it offers.


In her book Joyce tells the story of 14 famous Norwich names:

James Southall, Chamberlins, Youngs, Rumsey Wells, Mann Egerton, RJ Read, Hills & Underwood, Panks Engineers, John Copeman, Bullards, Bonds (John Lewis), Boulton & Paul, Caleys and Barnards.

Let's begin our tribute to Joyce by reaching for the vinegar bottle and heading off to Hills & Underwood - a company long lost in the mists of time.

During the 18th and 19th centuries more than a dozen firms were making vinegar in Norwich and there are many references to 'vinegar yards' in the city leases.

The Norwich Vinegar Works and Gin Distillery of Messrs Hills & Underwood were situated in Prince of Wales Road/Recorder Road and were the largest of the kind in East Anglia.

It is thought the business was started in 1762 by Francis Gosling, a merchant of Duke's Palace Yard.

Squire & Hills, liquor merchants of Queen Street, got involved and a large factory covering 125,000 sq.ft with river frontage was built. This impressive property including offices, fermenting rooms, vat stores, gin stills, spirit stories, boilers, warehouses and a cooperage.

They were very proud of the fact that an ancient stone bridge, belonging to the Greyfriars' Friary was on their site.

Making vinegar was very similar to making beer. The size and number of the vats reminded visitors of those in the great breweries. They ranged in capacity from 11,500 to 27,000 gallons and were stretched in long lines almost touching the roof of the large storage building.

British Cordials, Liqueurs and the Celebrated Old Tom Gin were also manufactured, Thousands of casks were exported every year.

In 1911 the firm was incorporated with that of Sir Robert Burnett & Company Ltd and the works closed down. The last of the buildings was demolished in the 1960s.


Vinegar tips:

<t> A cheap toilet Vinegar. When travelling or on a sea voyage the washing water often has a very disagreeable smell. To remove this a little toilet vinegar should be put in it.

<t> For cyclists. Cyclists often complain of their lamps smoking and want a remedy Dip the wick in vinegar for a few hours and allow it to dry. It will never smoke after this.

<t> Vinegar for hiccough. A teaspoonful will immediately allay the most violent attack of hiccough. With infusion of sage it forms a most excellent gargle in all cases of sore or relaxed throat.

<t> For sprains and bruises. Where the skin is not broken, a lotion should be made with equal quantities of vinegar and warm water, and the part thoroughly fomented and wrapped in flannel.

<t> Vinegar for cough mixture. Boiled with honey it forms a most excellent and effective cough mixture, especially for children. A pound of honey, half a pint of vinegar, and a quarter of pint of water should be boiled and stirred until the honey is dissolved. Dose: For children a teaspoonful, for adults a tablespoonful, taken frequently.