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There can be few companies in the world with such a proud tradition and heritage as Colman’s of Norwich. Our history dates back to 1814, a time when George III was on the throne and Wellington was preparing to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo.
It was in the year that Jeremiah Colman, a flour miller of ten years experience took over a mustard manufacturing business based on the river Tas, four miles south of Norwich. In 1823 Jeremiah took his adopted nephew, James, into partnership in the new firm J & J Colman. The partnership prospered and in 1836, a London branch was established.
Following the deaths of his great uncle Jeremiah (1851) and his father James just three years later, young Jeremiah James Colman found himself head of a firm which now employed 200 people and was in the process of moving its present location at Carrow. The transfer took some time and was finally completed in 1862.
In 1866 the firm received the ultimate accolade. Queen Victoria granted a special Warrant as Manufacturers to Her Majesty. This Royal Warrant is still carried on all Colman’s products today.
Jeremiah James Colman was something of a visionary with ideas on employment years ahead of his time. He realised a healthy and happy workforce would be more productive and took steps to achieve this. In 1864, almost twenty years before parliament made any form of education compulsory, he built a subsidised school for his employee’s children.
A kitchen was set up in 1868 to provide hot meals at affordable prices and in 1878 Philippa Flowerday, one of the very first industrial nurses, was appointed to assist the company doctor in the dispensary and visit sick employees in their own homes.
In 1903 Colman’s bought out rival mustard manufacturer, Keen Robinson & Company, originally Keen & Son, who were founded in 1742. The company had been successful in making their product a household name, hence the phrase “as keen as mustard.”
The Colman’s expansion continued with the acquisition of two smaller mustard manufacturers and in 1938 the company merged with Reckitt & Sons. The new company Reckitt & Colman had a diverse Range of products and grew to become one of the UK’s most successful businesses.
In 1973 the company celebrated 150 years of business since the partnership, J & J Colman and to commemorate opened the Mustard Shop which has become one of Norwich’s most popular tourist attractions.
1995 saw the most recent chapter in our company’s long and proud history with Unilever purchasing the Colman’s brand.