Norwich, like many UK cities, has for the most part lost its heritage of manufacturing industry. Back in the 1950s this was largely intact. In 2011 Norwich Union has gone, both the name and mutual organisation behind that name, although as Aviva it still maintains a substantial presence in the city. Other industrial concerns have not been so lucky. Shoe making used to a major sector, but no more; only one factory remains, that of Van Dal. Boulton and Paul was taken over by Jeld-Wen and disappeared from East Anglia. Laurence Scott survives in a sense, but Colman’s is now little more than a brand name. Macintosh’s (later Rowntree Mackintosh) has gone; when it took over Caley’s the name changed, but the ownership of Nestlé lasted only a few years before Norwich was abandoned. All the large brewers have been merged out of existence. Morgan’s, Young’s Crawshay and Young’s, Steward and Paterson’s and Bullard’s have all gone years ago, yet all these names seemed an immutable part of the city when I was growing up 60 years ago.
The sights of those days are to certain extent preserved in photographs and movies. The sounds are industry are not so well known; is there a recording of the “ten to eight” hooter that we heard every morning four miles away from Carrow, where it summonsed the Colman’s workers? I have never heard one, although its existence is possible. What has disappeared without hope of recall are the smells that were so much a part of Norwich life. These smells were definitely noticeable but by no means unpleasant. Perhaps least appealing was the smell of fish which pervaded Thorpe Station, especially the platforms to the left as you enter the train hall where the trains from Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft arrived. This aroma lingered for several years after fish ceased to be sent by train.
A much more pervasive smell was that of malted wort that emanated from the breweries in the King Street, Pockthorpe and Westwick Street areas of the City. Especially on a damp autumnal day the smell of hops and malt rose up from the river valley where the breweries were located. The most delicious smell of them all was the one that drifted across the city from Chapelfield where Mackintosh’s chocolate factory was. The heady fragrance of cocoa being processed for the various chocolate bars and Quality Street selections is something I will never smell again. Not in Norwich, anyway.
The agricultural industry had a big presence in the City in the decade and a half following the Second World War. Every Saturday was Market Day, when all the livestock was herded into the very centre to be auctioned under the walls of the castle. By then the motor driven cattle float was beginning to take over, but still a fair amount of cattle came by train to Trowse Station to be walked up Bracondale and Ber Street to the Market. There were railed enclosures along the route where pedestrians could shelter from the frisky bullocks and anxious cows. There was also cattle traffic into City Station. There the cattle were kept on the water meadows beside Hellesdon Station ready for Market Day. Miss Wicks’ pet shop was about where Rouen Road now comes onto Golden Ball Street; on Saturdays it had competition in the sale of rabbits from numerous market stalls, but for the rest of the week it reigned supreme. Certain articles or agricultural equipment were sold from shops around the market place, especially from the row of shops leading up to the entrance to the castle. Pigs would be driven to market in car trailers with a net over top, and I suppose there must have been a few sheep, but the principal livestock bought and sold was cattle.