A taste of Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 08:05 05 May 2014

Colmans, May, EDP Norfolk

Colmans, May, EDP Norfolk


Exactly 200 years ago Jeremiah Colman rented a watermill near Norwich and began mixing ground mustard seed, vinegar and spices into yellow powders and pastes.

The taste sensation that became Colman’s Mustard was born!

Jeremiah had been a flour miller and took over the mill at Stoke Holy Cross, to grind mustard seeds and create his own condiment. The spicy concoction, coupled with some savvy marketing, was a huge hit and Colman’s Mustard was soon an essential part of meals, enjoyed by everyone from labourers to royalty.

When Jeremiah took on his adopted nephew, James, the business became J&J Colman, making flour, starch, laundry dye – and mustard. Within a generation, Jeremiah’s heir was official mustard-maker to Queen Victoria.

Colman’s mustard is still made in Norfolk and sold around the world. This year, 200 years of mustard-making is being celebrated with cookery competitions, a costumed murder-mystery evening and an antiques roadshow focussing on items with a Colman’s link.

James’ son, Jeremiah James, moved the company to Carrow, just outside the old city walls of Norwich, and was a model employer, providing schools for workers’ children, a canteen, and some of the first industrial healthcare in the world.

The visionary employer was also a marketing whizz kid, introducing the famous bull’s head logo and the yellow and red labels soon familiar around the world. Advertising posters and a “mustard club” were hugely successful. Notes asking “Has Father Joined the Mustard Club?” encouraged half a million people to join in a decade, to collect mustard-themed newsletters, badges, fancy dress outfits and card games.

The intertwined history of Colman’s and Norwich is celebrated in the shop and museum which opened in Norwich in 1973 and is now run in the Royal Arcade by Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART)

Colman’s is also built into the city of Norwich and the county of Norfolk with a street, school, hospital and library named for the company, and the Colman family still active in local life.

The current head of the family is Sir Timothy Colman. He and his wife, Lady Mary, a cousin of the Queen, have five children, and he is a previous holder of a world sailing record and was Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk.

The Colman’s factory was bought by Unilever in 1995 but, 200 years on from Jeremiah’s first foray into mustard production, all Colman’s mustard products are still made in Norfolk.


Celebrate the taste

Many events are planned to mark the Colman’s bicentenary, including:

<blob>The first 200 customers making a purchase of more than £10 on Thursday, May 1 will be given a free tin of classic Colman’s mustard powder.

<blob>Heart will stage a Colman’s-themed memorabilia roadshow at Norwich Guildhall on Saturday, June 7 from 10am to 2pm. Items will be photographed and recorded on the day, to help preserve the history, and organisers would love to see anyone able to share their own memories. Experts will be on hand to value Colman’s artefacts brought along, and to tell owners about the history of their treasures.

<blob>A competition for new recipes featuring Colman’s mustard will be launched during the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival this autumn.

<blob>A costumed murder mystery night, inspired by Colman’s 1920s “Mustard Club” advertising campaign, will be held in the Norwich Guildhall in October.




Ice cold, mustard hot

Colman’s mustard, flour and cornflour were among the provisions taken to Antarctica by Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their doomed expeditions to the South Pole.

Scott, immortalised as Scott of the Antarctic, was a friend of Jeremiah Colman, and went sailing on the Broads with him. Boxes and tins of Colman’s products remain, more than a century later, in storage huts still standing on the ice cap.

Latest from the EDP Norfolk Magazine