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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

Harry Bullard

Sir Harry Bullard 1841 - 1903    Brewer, Sheriff, Mayor and Member of Parliament

Sir Harry Bullard - Photo Courtesy of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service
Sir Harry Bullard, Mayor of Norwich

It was only yesterday when Norwich was a centre of the brewing industry with four considerable breweries based in the city, each with their network of tied public houses spreading across Norfolk and beyond.  One of these was Bullards (the others Morgans, Steward & Pattesons, and Youngs, Crawshays & Youngs), and from the family controlling the Anchor Brewery was to come one of the most colourful, and probably the best-loved, figures in the public life of the city.

It was Harry's father, Richard Bullard, who established the Anchor Brewery in 1837 in partnership with James Watts but Watts soon disappeared from the scene and, on the Coslany site, the brewery grew rapidly and the Bullard family prospered greatly.  Richard had been born in the parish of St.John, Maddermarket in 1808 and in1828 married Miss Jane Yallop of the parish of St. Peter, Hungate.  There were ten children of the marriage and Harry was the fifth child and second son of his parents.  Harry was born at the brewery in 1841, and educated first at the Greyfriars' Priory School and later at a well-respected school in Church Street, East Dereham.

On leaving school he went to London to work for a wine merchant. As part of his introduction to the art of making and blending wine the young Harry traveled around Spain and Portugal visiting vineyards. He entered the family business upon his return to Norwich, working with his brother Charley and others. By 1895 the business known as Bullard and Sons, with Harry as chairman, covered 7 acres at the Anchor Brewery and included offices and sample rooms together with painting and joiners shops and stables.

Norwich beer reportedly owed its flavour to the quality of the water used in brewing. Bullards had its own supply drawn form an artesian well within the Anchor brewery site.

In 1867 Harry married Sarah Jane Ringer of Rougham, who was to be a great support to him throughout his eventful life.  They lived at East Carleton Lodge and later at Hellesdon House.  Harry soon began to take an interest in the affairs of his city and was elected to the Town Council (as it was known in the 19th century) and in 1877 he became Sheriff for the City and County of Norwich. During his year, he opened the first Show of the Norfolk Fat Cattle Association at the Chapelfield Drill Hall and then assisted in the unveiling of the Soldiers Memorial at the Norwich Cemetery.  The Mayoralty followed and it was during this his actions endeared him to the people of the city.   In November 1878, a great flood occurred with low-lying parts of the city, such as Heigham, becoming inundated.   Heigham was thickly populated, "...a poor area where thousands of families lived in the humble yards and courts".   Two men were drowned and many made homeless.  Harry Bullard took immediate action and announced,  "The Governor's House at the late City Gaol will be warmed and made available to homeless people during the night".  The Mayor found food and shelter for the people and set up a relief fund with his own money.  Not surprisingly, the people loved him for his actions.  

In 1879 he became Mayor for the second year in succession.   Then in November, 1885, he was elected to Parliament as a member for Norwich.  He represented the Unionist Party and beat James Jeremiah Colman, standing as Liberal, into second place, Norwich being a two member constituency.

It was not to be all plain sailing, politics in Norwich could be a lively and bruising experience.  Bullard's opponents alleged that an election had been affected by corrupt practice and, although the petitioners had little evidence except for vague allegations of money changing hands, Harry Bullard was disqualified from sitting in Parliament for seven years.   He went abroad but when he did return to the city, he was treated as a hero.   Bands and banners greeted him at Thorpe Station and 20,000 people gathered at Gentleman's Walk to hear him speak.   In the fullness of time he was re-elected to Parliament.

1886 was a busy year for the city of Norwich, Blackfriars Hall was handed back to the city, brought about by the good offices of Mr. Frederick Oddin Taylor, there was an official reception to welcome the 19th Hussars  on their return from Egypt, and the Royal Agricultural Show was held at Whitlingham, visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales.  In this year Harry Bullard, became Mayor of the city for the third time which meant he was in office for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.  It was also the year when Harry Bullard was to receive a Knighthood at the hands of the Queen, Norwich being one of ten cities whose chief citizens were so honoured. He died in 1903 and was buried in the churchyard at Hellesdon close to the west end of the church, marked by an impressive monument surrounded by railings. His wife, who died three years later, lies beside him.

Following his death the family business continued to prosper, becoming one of the four major firms that dominated brewing in the Norwich area. However, this was not to last and competition from the large national brewers proved too much for Bullards which was taken over by Watneys in 1963 and the Anchor brewery closed in 1966. The site is now occupied by housing - some of which occupies converted brewery buildings.

Norwich was a developing city in these Victorian years and Harry Bullard was at the heart of its public life for a long time. His record of service was exceptional, Sheriff, three times Mayor and representing the city at Westminster for three terms.  At the same time, Harry Bullard did not neglect the brewery that bore his name and, during the time he lived at Hellesdon House, the parish Church benefited from his interest.    He was undoubtedly a skilled politician but his heart was always in the right place.    In the history of 19th century Norwich he holds an honoured place.


  • H.H. Bullard, "Sir Harry Bullard, M.P.",  Norwich, 1902.
  • Joyce Gurney-Read, Trades & Industries of Norwich, Gliddon Books, 1988

A.P. Anderson

October 2007


Image courtesy of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (NMAS).