The parent company of Norvic Shoe Company Limited was Howlett & White, which started out as a leather currier. Warnes Howlett invested ten thousand pounds in Robert Tillyard’s leather currying business in around 1846. The extra money allowed him to move to Princes Street, into a larger premises. In 1856 George White agreed to join the Howlett company as a junior clerk, eventually working his way to the top. In 1876, when George White was general manager, he became co-partner with John Godfrey Howlett. George White had a factory built to avoid workers manufacturing at home, which he thought was wasteful of time.
One of the company’s achievements was the use of machines to cater for its sports users. One machine was used for inserting running spikes into shoes, whilst another was a corrugating machine for tennis shoes. Additionally, the Norvic solid rubber heel was believed to be the only solid heel in existence at that time.
Throughout the 19th century, the firm concentrated on making women’s shoes. They also supplied shoes globally to the British Empire, including Australia, New Zealand and America. Because of competition at home, the firm bought smaller firms to make men’s and children’s shoes. The company merged with Kiltie (S. L. Wilton Ltd.) around 1926 to produce children’s shoes. And in 1922 Howlett & White formed an association with Oakeshott & Finnemore to produce men’s shoes.
Just before 1913, Sir Ernest White and Cecil Colman persuaded the board to begin national advertising, using the name Norvic. This early experiment in national advertising was very successful. Consequently, Howlett and White became ‘Norvic’.
During both World Wars, Norvic produced shoes for the Allies, which included boots for the Armies of England, France and Russia and fur-lined boots for the air force.
During 1959 the firm recognised the teenage market made up only 9.7% of the population but spent 18.8% of the nation’s total expenditure on shoes. Consequently the firm employed a board of 7 teenage girls to provide advice on marketing to teenagers.
Unfortunately, Norvic closed in 1981.
Further information can be found at the Norfolk Record Office blog