Made in Norwich: The Story of Laurence & Scott

This week we have a guest blog from Collections Development Assistant Wayne Kett who shines a light on Norwich manufacturers Laurence and Scott and a HUGE motor that we recently moved into the Norfolk Collections Centre

By Wayne Kett

100 years ago going to work in Norwich for the vast majority of people meant making something. Perhaps you worked in Colman’s mustard factory or brewed beer in one of the big breweries, perhaps you made shoes, wove silk or worked in the printing or engineering industries. Now in the 21st century the percentage of Norwich workers employed in manufacturing is just 8%.

Images of Norwich in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century contain a feature of the landscape long since extinguished from the skyline….. chimneys, evidence of the cities industrial past.

Jarrolds printing factory in 1951, notice how many chimneys there are in the background.

Jarrolds printing factory in 1951, notice how many chimneys there are in the background.

The subject of this blog is one of the companies that still manufacture in Norwich. This is the story of Laurence & Scott.

Why Laurence and Scott? Well a few weeks ago we were tasked with moving a large motor originally manufactured by Laurence and Scott and now part of our accessible collections stored here at Norfolk Collections Centre.

Our DC motor made by Laurence & Scott in 1910, it was used at the Daily Telegraph's Dartford Mill.

Our DC motor made by Laurence & Scott in 1910, it was used at the Daily Telegraph’s Dartford Mill.

It is incredibly heavy, thankfully moving it was eased after we managed to hoist it onto one of our re-enforced plastic pallets. Then with the aid of a pallet truck and some elbow grease we were able to manoeuvre it into place.

Laurence and Scott plaque attached to the motor.

Laurence and Scott plaque attached to the motor.

After all that effort I decided to find out why we have chosen to keep such a large and cumbersome object. To answer this I had to consider, why Laurence and Scott are so important to the story of industrial Norwich?

This story sparks into life in 1883 with another of Norwich’s great industrial innovators, Jeremiah Colman. Impressed with the new technical innovation of electricity, Colman decided he wanted lighting at his mustard factory. To complete the work he commissioned the Hammond Electric Light and Power Supply Company of Nottingham.

One of the engineers the company sent was William Harding Scott, he was obviously quite taken with our fine city as he decided to stay after the work was complete. With the help of Colman he set up his own business.

Scott had the brains, but he lacked capital, this is where Reginald Laurence joins the story. Educated at Harrow and the son of a stock broker he was saw the potential of Scott’s business and invested £6,000. From this point on they became known as Laurence and Scott.

Scott is his office (date unknown).

Scott is his office (date unknown).

Initially the company focused on electrical supply laying distribution mains and providing power. Their generating station set up in 1889 provided the city with its first electrical lighting and was situated in Stamp Office Yard next to St Andrews Street and provided electricity via overhead cables. The city council paid for lighting for the library, the local asylum and St Andrews Hall.

The company soon moved away from electrical distribution and decided to concentrate on building the electrical motors for which they would become famous. These were manufactured at the Gothic Works on Hardy Road which was opened in 1896 and is still in operation today.

Laurence & Scott, foundry, Gothic works, 1920s

Laurence & Scott, foundry, Gothic works, 1920s

When the Gothic works opened it had 7,500 square meters of work space and by 1937 there were over 3,000 employees. The company helped Norwich develop a highly skilled workforce by offering apprenticeships to school leavers, by the late 40’s they were offering 20-30 five year apprenticeships to school leavers every year.

Laurence and Scott's Gothic Works, Pattern shop, 1920s

Laurence and Scott’s Gothic Works, Pattern shop, 1920s

Scott died in 1938 just one month after the death of his youngest son. Since then there have been numerous mergers and takeovers, but Laurence and Scott are still manufacturing electric motors in Norwich operating as ATB Laurence and Scott.

Laurence and Scott were responsible for many innovations and made significant contributions including:

  • Development of electrical motors that could be used in extreme conditions.
  • Scott developed…..accumulator switches, automatic cut-outs, starting switches and a patent automatic fuse.
  • It was a Laurence and Scott motor that drove the tunnelling machine that dug out the UK side of the channel tunnel.
  • Not only did they supply the navy with electrical motors during World War One, but they also converted part of their operation to manufacture shells. By the cessation of hostilities it was estimated Laurence and Scott had produced £1 million worth of shells for the war effort, producing approx 250 shells a day.
  • During World War Two they developed switchgear for submarines, controllers for tank landing craft and continued to supply the Navy with electric motors.
  • After the war Laurence and Scott begun supplying power plants up and down the country. They continued to supply the Navy, including the supply of electric propulsion motors for the Trident submarines that carry our nuclear arsenal.
  • Scott ever the innovator invented a two-phase traffic signal unit which was then manufactured by Laurence and Scott. This was an example of one of the very first traffic light systems ever used.
This traffic signal unit manufactured by Laurence and Scott forms part of the Museum of Norwich's collection. It was first installed at the Unthank Road and Colman Road junction.

This traffic signal unit manufactured by Laurence and Scott forms part of the Museum of Norwich’s collection. It was first installed at the Unthank Road and Colman Road junction.

An advert for the Laurence and Scott traffic control equipment, among its boasts are that it does not interfere with wireless reception.

An advert for the Laurence and Scott traffic control equipment, among its boasts are that it does not interfere with wireless reception.

To find out more about Laurence and Scott and the rest of Norwich’s industrial story why not visit the Museum of Norwich.

Posted in Museum of Norwich | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unlocking hidden gems: A trunk fit for a queen

By Sophie Towne

We have had another marvellous discovery at the Norfolk Collections Centre in the form of an ornately studded leather trunk.

royal chest 004

For several months we (the Shine a Light team) had passed this chest on the roller racking. We were mostly preoccupied with re-packing fireplaces and fire screens and constructing early 20th century wardrobes. Nevertheless we noted that this trunk must be something special but it had to wait in line for its turn to be audited like everything else! All objects are equal here at the Norfolk Collections Centre whether you’re a toilet or an aeroplane wing! Finally it came to the trunk’s day of reckoning. The accession number was jotted down and checked on MODES (our collections database). So imagine our surprise to find out from the object records that the chest in question dated from the 17th century and once belonged to Queen Catherine of Braganza shown in the portrait below, wife to King Charles II.



Catherine of Braganza was born on 25th November 1638 and became Queen of England (Queen Consort) in 1662 upon her marriage to Charles II. Norfolk Museums Service has a cushion cover commemorating the union. Catherine came from the noble House of Braganza which became the Royal House of Portugal when her father was crowned King of Portugal in 1640 following a rebellion over Spanish rule in Portugal.


Catherine had some difficult times during her life in England. She was a devout Roman Catholic in a Protestant country and came under considerable pressures because of her religion. She was subjected to attack by the inventors of the ‘Popish Plot’. Accused of ordering her servants to murder Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (what a fabulous name!) and wrongly accused of conspiring to poison the King. She was forced to stand trial in June 1679 but she was protected by the King who was steadfast in his loyalty to his wife (despite his philandering). Charles II was a notorious womaniser yet he stayed devoted to his wife despite her apparent inability to produce an heir and calls for him to divorce.



Certainly Queen Catherine had a most fascinating, yet little known and researched, life. She lived through the plague of London and the Great Fire of London in 1666. She has also been credited with popularising the custom of tea drinking in Britain. Imagine what might have been stored in this trunk in the 17th century or what it might have witnessed in Catherine of Braganza’s rooms.

royal chest 003

royal chest 010

The hinged trunk is made from wood with a leather facing adorned by a brass-studded design covering its entirety in a swirled pattern. The lid of the chest is initialled with ‘K.R.’ with a crown above. It is an ornate chest with detail even on the pull handles of the drawers. It has a large central lock opened with an amazing embellished key which reveals a plush red lining inside. It is surely a trunk fit for a Queen.

royal chest 015

royal chest 016

So did Catherine of Braganza have any Norfolk connections which might explain her trunk ending up here? Well, she did visit Norfolk in 1671 when Robert Paston hosted Charles II and Catherine at Oxnead Hall. The trunk itself was donated to the museum in 1992 from the then owners of Hautbois Hall in Norfolk. I’m sure the trunk looked right at home in the Tudor manor house!

After Charles II’s death in 1685, Catherine spent many years attempting to live quietly at Somerset House, London. She finally returned to Portugal in 1699 where until her death she took over the care and education of the young Prince John of Braganza who was to become King John V of Portugal. Evidently she left her exquisite trunk behind in Norfolk.

Posted in Strangers' Hall | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sleigh bells ring… Are you listening?

By Sophie Towne

Something a little festive for you. Have you ever wondered what real jingle bells sound like on Santa’s sleigh? Of course you have! And if you haven’t I bet you’re wondering right now! Well today you have the answer. Click on the link below to hear what sleigh bells from the 1800s sound like:

The bells in the video are known as a triple sleigh bell set which were donated to the Museum of Norwich in 1931. The bells date from approximately 1800. They would have attached to the harness of a horse (or reindeer) pulling a carriage (or sleigh) and would alert people and animals that there was a horse coming.

royal chest 022

These kinds of bells are also known as conestoga or hame bells. Hame bells relate to the hame or harness of a horse where the bells would be attached. Conestoga refers to the type of horse which would pull a particular type of wagon while wearing bells. In the 1800s horses wearing these triple bells would probably have been those nearest the wagon, while horses in the middle wore four bells and those at the front wore five. So it looks unlikely that Rudolph would wear these since he’s in the lead, perhaps more like Dancer or Vixen.

royal chest 031

royal chest 037

These kind of sleigh bells may also be the reason we have the saying ‘I’ll be there with bells on’. During the 1800s if a wagon got stuck and was freed by another passing team the liberators could be rewarded with a set of bells from the wagon they had rescued. Therefore it became an issue of pride for horsemen to arrive ‘with bells on’ to show they had completed a successful journey. Who knew these little jingle bells had such a broad history.

royal chest 038

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from the Norfolk Collections Centre!

Posted in Museum of Norwich | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rehoming a Lion-Horse

By Sophie Towne

Some time ago at The Norfolk Museums Collection Centre we unearthed a carved bracket in the shape of a horse. At first we were unsure of his species and a popular Twitter and Facebook guessing game commenced where you gave suggestions as to whether he was a lion, a horse, a dog, a lamb or a mythical hybrid. He’s a rather sweet little thing with a curly mane and fringe as well as a long swishy tail and furry legs.

Picture 024

Picture 013

We updated his records and found out that he was indeed a horse and what is more we managed to track down his original location. So the detective work began again…

From a bit of research, and some help from our Curatorial Consultant, Helen Renton, we found out that he once graced the top of a staircase at Strangers’ Hall in Norwich. We have actual proof of this from a postcard showing the inside of Strangers’ Hall in the 1930s. Our Lion-Horse, as he affectionately became known at the Norfolk Museums Collection Centre, can just be made out almost in the middle of the postcard near the bottom of the large stairs.


We mentioned this fact to Cathy Terry, the curator at Strangers’ Hall, and it was decided that our Lion-Horse should no longer live at The Norfolk Museums Collection Centre but return home to Strangers’ Hall. So a few weeks ago his travel papers (object removal forms) were completed. He was wrapped in acid free tissue and waved goodbye to the Collections Centre where he had slept for so long and began his journey to Norwich to return to his rightful place. Perhaps when you visit Strangers’ Hall in the future you’ll be able to see the Lion-Horse once more gracing the bottom of the staircase where he belongs, welcoming visitors to the museum.

Picture 021

Posted in Strangers' Hall | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mystery of Colin the Dragon

We recently had half-term activities happening around the site at Gressenhall. It was also a first for us here at the Norfolk Collections Centre, we had activities in store!

This was an exciting new opportunity for us to open the store to a new audience of families and children and get our visitors to experience the collections in a different way.

But for those who didn’t manage to come along here is an online trail…


This is Colin our Collections Centre Snap Dragon

Colin’s mum and dad are being looked after by our conservation team. Colin is trying to find a way to get them home. What can you find to help him?

One of Colin’s parents in our conservation lab

We are going for a tour around the Norfolk Collections Centre, looking at some of our objects

Choose which object you think will help Colin…

You walk into our store and there is an object on your left, what is it?

fire ladder

Not sure that Colin thinks this would help, but it might be useful if the dragons start breathing fire. What object is next as we go around the store? You turn right past the fire ladder and towards the racking. The first object you see on the floor…….


Colin’s parents are being cleaned in our conservation lab, they don’t need this sweeper. The object above the sweeper and on the racking looks more like something you can travel in….

model boat edit

Remember we have to fit two snap dragons in and not just Colin, what’s on the left further along the racking, this looks a lot bigger….

Canoe 1

Don’t think dragons are happy travelling by water, what is that behind you?


That tricycle looks a bit too difficult to ride, especially for two dragons. Turn to your right and move further along the store, past our printing presses and towards our brewery section …

platform truck

Not sure that dragons and beer go well together. Turn around and walk past our Bullards Brewery sign, turn right and you are looking down the other side of the racking, past the piano and you are now looking at …

Canoe 2

Another water based jaunt is not what we are looking for. Go around to the left and at the far end of the store up against the wall, what can you see?



What will you use to help Colin get his parents back into the store?

We hope you enjoyed this little virtual walk around the collections and we hope to be open again soon

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Conference Capers

Here’s Shine a Light Project’s Gressenhall colleague Charlotte talking about the amazing Museums Association Conference that the Shine a Light team also attended. Charlotte sums up the inspirational event.

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

This year’s Museum Association Conference took place in the spectacular Cardiff Millennium Centre and was a whirlwind of talks, workshops, performance, lively discussion and hands on activity that  would be impossible to summarise here. Instead I’m going to share with you a few key moments that really resonated with me.

The theme was Museums Change Lives, a topic close to my heart as it’s a statement I really believe in and the reason I’m pursuing a career in this sector so doggedly: I want to work within a world that makes a positive difference.

When you hear the word ‘conference’, it probably conjures up images of sombre, suited delegates in serious discussion, but the MA offered something quite different. The passion of everyone for their sector shone throughout the event and the unique local character was embodied by a rousing poem written and performed at conference especially for us by…

View original post 249 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s in the box?

This week’s blog comes from Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse: Museum of Norfolk Life.  Megan Dennis, the curator, enlightens us on a Gressenhall object housed at the Norfolk Collections Centre and the detective work required to find out its history.

Today I have been working in the Norfolk Collections Centre – trying to find out “what’s in the box”? This large green wooden box was discovered during the Shine A Light project, sitting on the social history racking. Unnumbered and unidentified it was feeling pretty unloved.

Fortunately there were several clues to unravel the story of this object. The box, to some extent, “does what it says on the tin”.


There are a number of large white plastic letters screwed onto the box reading “JOHN H BUSH, THE WOODGATE HERD, OF, PEDIGREE LARGE BLACK PIGS”.

Large black pigs are a traditional East Anglian breed. We have some here on the farm at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, including an incredibly cute runt you can read all about on our Skills for the Future blog:


So what was the box used for? Putting pigs in?! Well the box is big – but possibly not big enough for the extremely large black pig breed. Although the breed is very well behaved I am not sure the box would be strong enough to contain them.

And anyway the handles didn’t really seem large or sturdy enough to enable anything but the smallest piglet to be lifted in it:


The insides of the box didn’t seem to offer many clues: no stains or straw bedding.


We did remove quite a lot of gravel from the box – not sure if this could help us work out what it had been used for? The hinged section on the left hand side of the photo also seemed important, but remained a mystery – we just couldn’t get our heads around it.

Luckily enough we have a friendly ex-curator – Bridget Yates – who remembered the box! Hooray! Bridget bought the box for 50p from a fund raising event at Bradenham Cricket Club in the late 1970s. She then donated it to the museum.

She explained that the box was used to carry all the pedigree pig beautifying tools required at an agricultural show or competition. This might include: washing supplies, brushes, bucket, hose, boots, sprinkle can, hog hurdles, rags, feed pans, decorations (I would love to see a pig “decoration”), change of clothing, show tools, feed and bedding. The box also made a useful seat for a tired farmer at the end of a long showing day.

It seems that any discerning pig man needs to carry an awful lot of stuff to help him and his pig enjoy all the fun of the fair. No wonder they needed a large box. Having solved the mystery of the unidentified box we are now adding it to the collections here at Gressenhall. It is the only example we have of a pig accoutrements box. After all we all need a box of magic tricks to make our swine shine!

Mystery isn’t completely solved however – we still don’t know who John H Bush is, or where the Woodgate Herd of Pedigree Large Black Pigs was raised. If you think you can help us please do get in touch and let us know.


Megan Dennis

Curator, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse

Posted in Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse: Museum of Norfolk life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment