Did one of your ancestors work for Colman’s 100 years ago? Do you have an interesting story to tell about someone who was called up to fight in the First World War that worked at the factory? Norwich Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust (HEART) is looking for stories about Colman’s in the First World War for its community research project Colman’s Connections.
Norwich HEART has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to develop its Colman’s Connections project. It focuses on the history of Norwich’s mustard workers during the First World War and will reveal real-life stories about the firm’s employees and how their lives were changed by the conflict.
The intergenerational community research project has seen city residents turn into Colman’s Detectives and Heritage Heroes from Lakenham School researching the First World War history of workers at the Colman’s factory. Both groups have been researching the workers’ roles on the front line, the impact of the war on women, families and workers on the Home Front, and the part Colman’s played in the war effort. The Detectives will help research and curate a ‘pop-up’ exhibition, create an interactive digital timeline and produce a booklet about the stories they discover, all due to be launched in the autumn.
Colman’s has an extraordinary story, and has played a significant role in the history of Norwich and its citizens. The company still employs many people and holds a special place in the culture and identity of the city. During the First World War, many soldiers wrote home describing their experiences. One such correspondent was Harold Ernest Philpott, who was a clerk at Carrow Works, before serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps during the war. His letters, published in the Carrow Works Magazine, describe his journey to Gallipoli, where during a stopover at Alexandria, he saw a Colman’s advert on a tram. Once at Gallipoli, he writes that he was ‘welcomed’ by shrapnel and describes his treatment in hospital.
The Colman’s Detectives have also uncovered details of the women who manned the Works Canteen during the War. For example Miss Maud Harris, who became Lady Superintendent of the canteen, and reported annually on the Carrow Works Magazine on the amount of tea, coffee, pies and shortcakes consumed by the factory workers!
Madeleine Coupe, Projects Development Officer for HEART, said: “We’re delighted to have received Heritage Lottery Fund support for this exciting community project. We now need the help of local residents to share their stories with us, so that we may celebrate and share all of this unique local history.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said, “ We are pleased to support this intergenerational community project and look forward to hearing the stories told about the impact of the First World War on workers at the Colman’s factory.”
The Colman’s Connections project is a year-long project and is also supported by Norfolk Record Office, Norfolk Library and Information Service, The Forum and Unilever Archives.