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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

John Jarrold

John Jarrold 1773 - 1852

Jarrold & Sons Ltd are known nowadays as the sole, old established family business in Norwich. Though there may be many families, which have a longer pedigree of living in Norwich, none now has the distinction of having employed people since 1823 and still have members of the direct line working in the business.

John Jarrold was the fifth child and only son of John Jarrold, a draper in Woodbridge. John (1) was the third son of Samuel Jarrold of Manningtree in Essex, although the family had previously lived in Colchester for several generations and a Jarrold of the direct line was mayor of Colchester in 1723. John (1) was apprenticed to a Mr Bridgeman in Woodbridge - his eldest brother having married Bridgeman's daughter. During his apprenticeship John Jarrold(1) had kept a 'common place book' which is now in the Archive Centre in Norwich. He was taken on wool buying excursions up the east coast of England, as Woodbridge was a port.

In 1766 he reached the age of 21, and coming out of his apprenticeship he received his share of his father's will - £1000 (now worth about £80,000) with which he purchased a site in the Market Place in Woodbridge, next door to The Bull Inn (now Hotel). He also married Elizabeth Cranwell Coates of Gainsborough, whom he had met on wool-buying expeditions as an apprentice. Here, he and Elizabeth had four daughters before 1773 when a son, also named John was born. Early in 1775 John Jarrold (1) wrote out his will, almost in premonition, as a few months later that year he died of a 'raging fever'. Everything went to Elizabeth Jarrold, and she kept the business going, as well as bringing up her five children for about two years. Then she let the business to a friend from the Congregational Chapel (that she and her late husband had attended) and left the area, taking just her son with her - he being four at the time and all the daughters older. The daughters were left with friends and governesses to be brought up and so the family was split up.

Mrs Jarrold moved to St Mary Coslany parish in Norwich where she had relations and John was tutored privately at home, where it appeared he became adept especially in mathematics. She died quite suddenly, just before Christmas in 1785, leaving John, an orphan aged 12. He was taken in by John Bidwell, a linen draper in St George's Street, who was one of the two executors, the other being Charles Cooper, an attorney at law and at one time in partnership with Fosters who are still active in the City of Norwich today. It was through Cooper that the family money, in excess of £13,000 was to be invested in Government stock. Bidwell arranged for John to go to a Mr Silcock to be apprenticed to be a grocer in Stalham when he reached the age of 14.

Silcock soon gained a high regard for his apprentice and with the small amount of money at John's own disposal encouraged him to go into a partnership with Bidwell and to do the accounts. Thus it was that John had a part share - while still an apprentice in a sack making business and later in a shawl making business. John wrote copious letters to his sisters most of whom were still in Suffolk, but one had consumption and went to Bath to take the waters. Many of these letters were kept and are in the Archive Centre. His sister Ann was closest to him and asked that her letters were destroyed, but seeing it may have been months before he replied, he obviously kept them. However, there were problems with the family inheritance. As all his sisters were older than he, they expected to receive their share of the inheritance on reaching their maturity, so that they could attract eligible husbands. The money was not forthcoming and it turned out that Cooper had embezzled the lot!

When this became apparent, Silcock arranged a meeting between himself, John and a solicitor from Halesworth called John Cuffaude. At the meeting it was agreed that John would work out the capital owing by calculating the interest, incoming and outgoings on a daily basis - interest reckoned to be at four per cent per annum. This naturally took some time and the accounts are in the Archive Centre.

Cooper proved to be very elusive and Cufaude had eventually to employ a bailiff to arrest him, which he did on a stormy night in November 1796 as Cooper made his way home in his chaise as he crossed Bishopbridge on his way to Oby - a tiny village north of Acle. He was arrested and had to come up with sureties for his good name. Cufaude employed a local Norwich solicitor to investigate his sureties and it was some time before any of them were accepted. Of one man named, the informant said that 'he was not to be trusted, kept women.' Cooper was forced into a repayment scheme, which he tried to wriggle out of by writing direct to John and asking for easier terms - Cufaude advised against it and Cooper was forced to pay.

In the middle of this John came out of his apprenticeship but worked for a short while for Silcock before going to Scarborough where he arranged to sell a house that had come into his ownership from his mother's side of the family. Then he returned to Woodbridge in 1797 and took back his late father's shop, sold off the contents and set up afresh as a grocer. With money coming in from Cooper, John was in the fortunate position of having ready cash at a time that most people were struggling because of the Napoleonic war. John was able to send cash with order to the wholesalers who strove to outdo each other in favourable terms to this man who they nick named 'ready money Jack'. Especially when he bought books was he able to sell at rates that others could not even buy at. However, without fixed prices on goods even John found life tough as a retailer. He was squeezed by the primary producers and by his haggling customers. John married Hannah Hill of Bungay, who may have been a relation of Silcock's. They were married in the parish church in Bungay in 1800 and John took Hannah back to Woodbridge to live above the shop, where their first son, John James, was born in 1803.

By this time John had decided to sell up and become a primary producer himself and he asked Cufaude to find a suitable farm. Cufaude looked as far afield as North Walsham, but John settled on a farm in Dallinghoo, near Wickham Market in Suffolk. Grove Farm was bought in 1802 but John did not move there until late 1804 after he had spent a lot of time 'improving' the land, with night soil taken by cart from Woodbridge to the farm; there is a record of the number of cart-loads sent to the farm. His second son, Samuel was born just after they moved there, in 1805. It was a difficult time for Mrs Jarrold as Dallinghoo is four miles from Wickham Market and in the middle of nowhere, whereas assistance was at hand in Woodbridge. Her mother came over to assist in the birth and stayed for some while after, before returning to Bungay from where she wrote that six weeks was quite long enough for breast feeding and Samuel could be weaned by this time. Mrs Jarrold went on to have a further three sons and one daughter, of whom only two sons survived: William Pightling 1807 and Thomas 1812. There is a memorial to the other two children in the local church.

John did not know the first thing about farming and employed a bailiff to do it for him, a Mr Kirby. The copy of the contract exists. It was a mixed farm with cattle and arable. It was very profitable during the years of the Napoleonic war, but its profitability declined after the ending of the war. During the war years John was able to invest his money in a range of things both as investments and in his interests. He bought a part share in a brig called the 'Commerce', built at Woodbridge. There was a problem with the Congregational Church members in Wickham Market, where the vicar assisted by the local magistracy, permitted the local rabble to disturb the services of the Congregational Church and harass its individual members. Initially John had his house registered as a place of worship but then, together with the elders in his church put up the money to take the chief people involved in the disturbances to a King's Bench sitting in Bury St Edmunds. These people were now out of their comfort zone and they were bound over to keep the peace and fined £200, with costs. John gave the fine to the British and Foreign Bible Society and recovered his costs, too.

In 1812, John moved his sister in law's husband, Benjamin Smith, a printer from Bungay to a property he purchased for him in Woodbridge. Now John could show his political colours and became an author. It is interesting to note that though he wrote against the use of threshing machines, he had in fact bought one, then decided against using it - but instead of dismantling it and keeping it in store or disposing of it, he sold it to another farmer! In 1815 he became a partner with Smith and a number of books were printed and published under the imprint of Smith & Jarrold. However with the ending of the Napoleonic war, food started to come in from Europe again and his farm profits diminished. In 1821 he broke the partnership with Smith and because Smith wanted to return to a former career as printer's ink-maker, John Jarrold was left with all the printing equipment and stock of books, at such a knock down price, he could not refuse to take them. He moved all the equipment and stock to a barn at the farm and continued to print under the imprint of Jarrold & Son.

By 1823 John Cufaude told John that without taking Cooper to the High Court - at great expense, nothing more was to be got from him. They decided against further action and though the family lost about 30%, they had recovered about £1,300 each (about £54,200 in today's values). The effect on Cooper does not seem to have been dramatic, at his death he (and his wife) were buried in the west walk of the cloisters in Norwich Cathedral under substantial ledger slabs. Farm prices continued to fall and John looked around for a place he could move to which would not be affected by these changes. The only City he knew was Norwich.

In September 1823 John and his eldest son John James rode up to Norwich carrying £7,000 between them and deposited it in Gurney's Bank in Norwich. They then set about looking for suitable premises in which to set up as Stationers and Booksellers.

They found a property three doors from the Market place in what is now London Street - the opposite side from where they are now. John had intended that John James, his eldest son and his wife would move to this shop, while Samuel would remain on the farm as it had already become apparent that he and his father did not get along.  The younger two sons would be apprenticed when they had finished their schooling. In fact, Samuel did not like being left on the farm and within a short space of time came up to Norwich, where he helped in the shop. William Pightling, the third son was apprenticed to Caley's as a draper - though the business was not involved in this line of business, and at the end of his term he also joined the business. Thomas after a short session training with Benjamin Smith in London, came to Norwich and joined the business about 1830. Jarrold & Son was the name of the business  - John Jarrold had a very poor opinion of his younger three sons and only communicated with them through his eldest son, John James, who for his part, appears to have represented the views of his brothers very well and in general the majority view was put into practice. The younger sons had considered asking their father for their share of the business and moving to Liverpool to set up in business there. When John James was consulted on this he was horrified and spoke in favour of them remaining in Norwich and said that 'the good ship Jarrold would carry them all'; they listened and were persuaded to stay.  About this time, 1830, John James persuaded his father to call the business Jarrold & Sons to recognise their assistance in the running of the business. John had kept the farm at Dallinghoo and not only went there for extended holidays with Mrs Jarrold but also expected produce of the farm to be forwarded to Norwich for the family.

By 1830 the family had acquired the corner unit on to the Market and also had a workshop, in which they installed the printing works, this was behind the two shops and had egress onto Gentleman's Walk through a narrow alley. Between 1828 and 1832 a new road was put through from the Market going north, this we now know of as Exchange Street, as there was a small Corn Exchange built there in 1830, side on to Bedford Street, this was subsequently rebuilt in a far larger form in 1868. In 1837 and 1838 at two auctions John was able to purchase a number of properties on the London Street and Exchange Street frontages. It took time for the existing tenants to leave and then the properties had to be converted to provide the living quarters for two, now elderly parents and their four sons. They moved across the road in 1840, at about the same time at which Mrs Jarrold suffered a stroke, which left her paralysed on her right side - after this her letters become far more difficult to decipher. She died later that year.

John had a wide range of interests and hardly a week passed when he did not go out, nominally on selling expeditions to other parts of the County. He also entertained at the shop a number of national figures including Thomas Clarkson in the anti-slavery league. John once admitted that he supposed that he gave away over £200 a year (nowadays about £9,000) at a time when he paid each of his sons £150 a year (£6,500). He purchased a share which cost £100 in the Norwich Yarn Company in 1834 and another share for the same price in the Norwich Steam Power Company in 1844 - now better known as St James' Mill, with it's adjacent Weaving Sheds. He purchased residential properties all over Norwich and in his very extensive will, these were left to William Pightling with strict instructions that all the woodwork was to be repainted every three years in good quality oil paint. Unsurprisingly, William Pightling sold these by auction as soon as they were made over to him.

In 1843 John James Jarrold died at the age of 40, as is recorded in the Cash Book that John, his father, kept. With the death of Mrs Jarrold and now John James' the buffer between the John and his younger sons was gone and John started to renege on agreements that that the family had previously agreed on. He started to act as if the whole business was his own and not shared with Samuel and his brothers. The two generations started to avoid each other and only corresponded in writing. In one instance that is recorded, John ordered the carpenter to put in a partition and Samuel came across the man doing the work, ordered by his father. He then ascertained that his father had not had an agreement for the work agreed by either of his other brothers and ordered the man to stop the work and put it back the way it was. John returned to find nothing done and berated the man, who referred him to Mr Samuel - as everyone referred to all of them by their Christian names. John's dislike was greatest for his second son Samuel, who was probably the man most like himself: Samuel was self-opinionated and forceful, he carried the quiet William Pightling and the younger Thomas with his ideas. John gave an example of Samuel's lack of judgement as he said that 'Samuel had squandered and gambled his money' in shares in the Wymondham to Dereham Railway, whereas he himself had 'invested in shares' in the Norwich to Yarmouth Railway!

Thomas suggested in the spring of 1846 that the business could not continue to run efficiently with the two parties at continual loggerheads and that a mutually respected friend - who was a solicitor, should be asked to adjudicate between them. Thus it was that Mr Tillett was asked to sort out the family problems and set a date for the beginning of the partnership. The sons each wrote letters putting their side of the case and also wrote to people respected by their father, for references to be made to support their case before Mr Tillett. Benjamin Smith, who had written several times in the past to John requesting that he treat his younger sons better, also wrote two fulsome letters to John. John on his part wrote to Tillett stating that the business was all his and always had been, that his younger sons were useless and would overstock the business leading to bankruptcy. He wrote that John James had been good at his job simply because he, John, had overseen everything he did. Having stated his case, John went on an extended holiday to the farm at Dallinghoo leaving his 'useless sons' to run the business in his absence. As soon as John was out of the way, the sons took all the account books that John made sure that they never saw to Tillett, for him to assess. The books were still out with Tillett when John returned and he was furious with his sons for allowing this material to go out to another party outside the family. He wrote another lengthy letter to Tillett, re-iterating much of what he had already stated.

In the summer of 1846 Tillett sent copies of his 'adjudication' to all four parties: it stated that in his opinion there had been a partnership since 1830 and that John owed his sons £4,000 but if he took his eldest son's share this was reduced to just over £3,200. John wrote furiously to Tillett denying his adjudication as Thomas was not even 21 by 1830. He seems to have totally forgotten the responsibility thrown onto himself before the age of 21, by his family circumstances.

The sons were jubilant and forced John into retirement - though they must have offered him a generous pension to go. Some years previously he had purchased a house, The Grove, in Coltishall and it was this house that he retired to. Here he continued his good works, visiting the poor and sick in the area and employing a man to help with this work. There are two small volumes of his reports in the Archive Centre. He also attended the local Chapel where the minister used a wire-and-cup system so that he could shout a few words to the now deaf John Jarrold. He also liked the company of ladies of about his age and got along particularly well with a Mrs Butcher who, not only 'knew her place' but also was an interesting conversationalist and 'made a good cup of tea'. When coming to Norwich to spend more than just the day, he would ask one of his sons to put him up while finding a suitable hotel where Mrs Butcher could stay. John died at The Grove in 1852. He is buried in the Family plot that he had purchased in The Rosary, a square short obelisk, just north of the Chapel of Rest, it was surrounded by metal posts, but is now just on a mound.

His sons saw him as the Founder of Jarrold & Sons; it was a later generation that gave the company an earlier establishment date. He was a true entrepreneur, moving in and out of businesses as the economic circumstances dictated. He moved into printing and publishing simply because the price offered was simply too good not to accept. He also found it useful to be able to print and publish his own ideas on political and economic subjects. Essentially the businesses that he set up served the subsequent four generations very well, but now economic circumstances have changed again and the current generation has moved into another phase of Jarrold development - property. John Jarrold(2) would nod and smile slightly, as his ethics continue. 

Peter Salt

September 2010