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The day a film star popped into Bally

PUBLISHED: 15:11 18 May 2012

Richard Todd visits the Bally shoe factory.

Richard Todd visits the Bally shoe factory.

Archant

Do you have any memories of the movie or pop stars calling into the Norwich shoe factories? A pair of authors who love to hear from you.

He was a star attraction at the Bally shoe factory in Norwich of 60 years ago – screen idol Richard Todd.

A crowd of autograph hunters had gathered at Thorpe Station on a day in February 1952 when film star Richard arrived on the much-loved old locomotive The Norfolkman.

He was in the city to attend the Norfolk and Norwich Press Ball at the Samson and Hercules along with cartoonist Giles who designed the menu card.

This picture belongs to Jenny Perry whose mum, Trixi Bussey, is standing to the left of the man in the white coat.

She sent it to Michael and Frances Holmes who are now writing a book telling the extraordinary story of the Norwich shoe trade. A way of life for tens of thousands of men and women over the decades.

They wanted to know when and why Richard was in the city.

Historian and author Philip Yaxley knew the answer and, as a member of The Regal Experience at Wymondham, he and others met Richard a few years before his death in 2009 at his Lincolnshire home.

During the second world war Richard was one of the first British soldiers to parachute into France on D-Day.

A modest and charming man he always played down his role in the war although he served with distinction in the army and in the Parachute Regiment. A brave soldier, a fine actor – and a real gentleman.

In 1952 he spent the day in Norwich visited both the Bally and the Mackintosh-Caley factories and had lunch at the Maids Head, tea at the Regent Cafe and a meal at the S&H – not a bad day out! Richard recalled visiting Norwich during the war when he was stationed at nearby Didlington, the main purpose of the visits was to get a bath at a hotel.

He made a string of wonderful films, including perhaps his most famous, The Dam Busters in 1955 in which he played Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

Langham airfield was used during the shooting of the movie and some scenes were shot over the North Norfolk coast.

“Richard told us that while appearing at Norwich Theatre Royal he had visited St Peter Mancroft, The Actors church, to see the grave of Sophia Ann Goddard,” said Philip.

“She died in 1801 and had been an acclaimed actress of the day who trod the boards at the Drury Lane Theatre as well as Norwich,” he added.

If you have any pictures or memories of film stars or pop singers visiting the shoe factories then authors Frances and Michael Holmes would like to hear from you.

Perhaps you also have memories or photographs of life in the shoe factories over the decades. Pictures of works outings would be good.

And remember, this book will tell a remarkable story of the rise – and fall – of the once booming Norwich shoe trade.

“We would to thank everybody who has been in touch following your story earlier in the year and if anyone else has any shoe memories or photographs to share then we would love to hear from them,” said Frances.

You can call them on Norwich (01603) 455798 or email frances@cringleford.com

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