Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Victorian gentlemen

Famous men in Norwich
At Old Buckenham WI’s meeting in late July the speaker was Barbara Miller from Norwich. The subject of her talk was "Three Victorian Gentleman and one other". The three gentlemen in question were Thomas Bignold, Jacob Henry Tillett and Jeremiah James Colman.
James Bignold, the founder of Norwich Union, ran an insurance business from a back room in a house in the Haymarket before moving on to premises in Surrey Street. He was Mayor of the City from 1843 to 1848 and was knighted in 1854.
Jacob Henry Tillett (1818-1892) was born into a non-conformist Norwich family. He became a solicitor in 1839 and was a Liberal Party politician. In 1845 he was one of the founder members of Norfolk News. When the paper was first published it consisted of four pages of local news. It came out on a Saturday and the concern was that people might read it on a Sunday! (The paper subsequently became the EDP as we know it today).
Jeremiah James Colman was of course the founder of the Colman Mustard empire. He was also a Mayor of Norwich and a Liberal MP. He was a great benefactor to the City of Norwich, giving money for the restoration of St Peter Mancroft and for the west front of Norwich Cathedral.
The fourth Victoria gentleman was William Houghton Clabburn. He was a major industrialist of Norwich, being a partner in the company, Clabburn Son & Crisp, which manufactured the famous Norwich shawls. This gentleman was the most generous patron of Frederick Sandys, a pre-Raphelite painter (also born in Norwich). Clabburn and Sandys were friends as well as patron and artist. Clabburn owned 23 paintings, many of which were portraits of the three Victorian gentlemen described earlier.
After the break for refreshments, members were pleased to welcome a member from Diss WI who had represented them at the National Annual General Meeting held in Liverpool in June. She reported back that 21,000 new members had joined the WI during the last 12 months. Plans are well under way for the WI Centenary Year (1915) including a 15,000-member capacity at the O2 Arena in London. Speakers at the Liverpool meeting included Erwin James (Guardian columnist and former prison inmate), Dr Rita Gardner, the first woman Director of the Royal Geographical Society and Sir Steven Redgrave, who talked about his worldwide charity work as Fairtrade Ambassador. He applauded the WI for its role as one of the founders of the fairtrade movement in the UK. The meeting ended with the appearance of the national WI singing group, The Harmonies, who performed a medley of hits from their album.

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