Chamber’s mission for 120 years

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Last night we celebrated an important occasion in the history of local commerce, the 120th Anniversary of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. It was great to be able to share it with some of our members.

I can think of no better place to have had the event than in Norwich Castle, which has stood, in the heart of the city and the county, as a bastion of local pride, resolve and achievement, for centuries.

Our Chamber is a little younger than the castle, but nevertheless, for 120 years we too have stood for Norfolk, championing its commerce, celebrating its achievements and creating a network of like-minded people who, by sharing their knowledge and experience have created one of the most outstanding business networks in the country.

Our mission has always been to look to the future of business, but I think you’ll agree that reaching the significant milestone of 120 years is a legitimate reason to, for once, take a look at the past.

In fact we commissioned some research to do just that. The Chamber has been instrumental in the formation of the University of East Anglia, and so it was with enormous pleasure that we worked with them to explore our archives. Our celebratory website and 120th brochure, will give you a glimpse of what we discovered.

120 years have seen enormous change. When we started, in 1896, Queen Victoria was on the throne. The British Empire was still in place. The A11 was a single carriageway!

Throughout those 120 years the names of our presidents and individual, as well as corporate, members reads like a litany of achievement in Norfolk. Barclays, Colmans, Gurney, Mackintosh, Aviva, formally Norwich Union …….to name just a few.

Through good times and bad, in war and peace, under governments of every hue, the Chamber has been a voice for business, and a voice for Norfolk. Here for our members, because we are our members.

For over a century that membership has, with our support, seized on the newest of innovations whilst retaining the best of business practice.

Technology alone has altered the world of business - and yet face to face contact is still vital. We deliver that through many events every year.

Technology constantly changes, speeding up our communications - and the Chamber embraces it with our website and social media feeds.

Apparently in the 1920s Chamber members were concerned about telephones. People were starting to use them all the time, interrupting face to face conversations. It was seen as a bit of a nuisance and a vulgar interruption to daily life.  Things don’t seem to have changed much!

120 years have seen changing Presidents, an evolving membership and new ways of working.

I’m reminded of that legendary broom in Only Fools and Horses - the one that’s been in constant use for decades - but it’s had three new heads and five new handles.

The point is that it is still the same broom.

As you know supporting young people is one of our passions and members gave generously last night towards our Chamber Community Fund so we can support Norfolk’s vulnerable young people. We would like you to support us too if you can

Over 120 years we’ve had countless new members, and new leaders, but we are the same Chamber, consistently here for, and committed to, local business.


120 years of commitment to local business from the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. Here’s to another 120 years!

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