CALEY’S was the name of Norwich’s chocolate factory. In 1932 it had been taken over by Macintosh, the Yorkshire based chocolate manufactory, but for a time it retained the Caley brand name for its products. Rowntree merged with Mackintosh in 1969 and in 1988 the firm was taken over by Nestle. Six years later the Norwich factory was closed. The town block between Chapelfield East and St Stephen’s Road, that is now the Chapelfield Shopping Mall, was occupied by one large factory. This was called the Fleur-de-Lys Works when first established; it reached it greatest extent when rebuilt after the war in 1949, it having been destroyed by incendiary bombing in 1942.
A. J. Caley had started a chemist’s shop in Norwich’s London Street, having moved to the city in 1857. He started mineral water production in the basement six years later. The factory in Chapelfield opened in 1880 and it began by producing just mineral water, which was still the company’s claim to fame. Soda water, lemonade and ginger beer among other tonic beverages were a popular addition to the drinks available to the rapidly developing tastes of the population. Fizzy drinks were a new delight for the children of the nineteenth century. The manufacture of drinking chocolate followed in 1883 and chocolate bars in 1886. I am sure that Victoria Station (only a couple of hundred yards away) was much used to send the product to shops across the country, and during the First World War to supply Marching Chocolate to the troops. The milk from the Whitlingham herd of Red Poll cattle was used to produce high quality milk chocolate.
Another product which Caley’s introduced in the last years of the 19th century was the Christmas cracker. They made a useful winter alternative to the aerated mineral waters which were a summer trade. The first crackers were produced by Tom Smith in Clerkenwell, London, in 1847; this enterprising confectioner was searching for ideas for a way to make his sugared almond ‘bon bons’ more appealing to customers. He had already included a love motto in the tissue paper wrapping of his bon bons. He idly threw a log on the fire, and the cracking sound it made gave him the inspiration for the Christmas cracker. A seasonal trade was not ideal, and Tom Smith looked for all kinds of national celebrations to expand his trade; however Christmas crackers they remain to this day. In 1953 Tom Smith merged with Caley’s and the production of crackers moved to the outskirts of Norwich.
The advertising of Christmas crackers was crucial to their success, and the pre-eminent designer of the new coloured adverts (using chromo-lithography) was the young Alfred Munnings. He was taken abroad by a director of Caley’s, but this was no holiday; he was expected to produce posters to advertise Caley’s products at the Leipzig Trade Fair.
The production of Caley’s mineral water division was sold to a Norwich brewery after the second World War, but the demise of all the old breweries in Norfolk led to the end of that old established local industry. When Nestle closed the Chapelfield works, ending the large scale production of chocolate in the city, a group of local managers purchased some of the equipment and the Caley’s brand name and revived Caley’s Chocolate. This is still available as a niche market, but I think it will never rival such products as the Rolo, which was first produced in Norwich in the 1930s, and went on to conqueror the world.
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