The Norfolk & Norwich Vegetarian Society

A Brief History 1969-2002

by Joyce Long (1910 Р2005)


When I moved up to Norfolk in September l969 I contacted my friend Lorna McTear. She told me that a Vegetarian Society was being formed and invited me to go on the Committee. Fresh from recent experiences on the Committee of the London Society (now amalgamated with the Manchester Society) I agreed and hoped I would be able to serve the Vegetarian cause in my neighbourhood.

I have since been involved as Vice-Chairman, Chairman and finally as Honorary Secretary. I am now President of the newly named Norfolk Vegetarian and Vegan Society.

We met at Lorna and Robert’s home in Bluebell Road Norwich and had committee meetings, socials and other meetings there. Ruth Hemsted was the Chairman and the late Shirley Watson-Farrar and Jennifer Smith were also, with others, on the Committee.

Then we also met at Ruth Hemsted’s lovely home in Mount Pleasant, Norwich, where we held Committee and other meetings and in Summertime visited the garden.

We had several lovely Christmas meetings at Itteringham Mill and also visited it on several occasions during the Summer.

Affiliation to the National Society

In the early days we discussed affiliation but needed at least five members of the Committee to be National Society members. We did not have enough Committee members to qualify but we had a visit from Maxwell Lee who was at that time dealing with affiliated groups.


Speakers came from London, Gloucester and Reading including Miss Alice Mouncer – former LCC Headmistress, Dr. Donald Morris of Gloucester, Dr. Gordon Latto (President of the National Society and The International Vegetarian Union), of London and Reading, Dr. Conrad Latto of Reading – all from the inspiration of The Order of the Cross Fellowship. Members of which are all Vegetarian or Vegan. Other speakers were Mr Maxwell Lee of the National Society and various others to whom we are deeply grateful for their support and inspiring talks.

Some Reflections on the Early Years

I recall a wonderful summer party in l970 or 71 at the lovely home of Margaret and John Forbes in Salhouse. My young nephew came with me and there were several other children present. The highlight of their day was rides in “the wheelbarrow” and the men folk took it in turns to keep the children happy. It was of course a lovely sunny day. The food we enjoyed was, I well remember, superb. We were very sorry when Margaret and John moved to Ipswich and we kept in touch for some years.

Mr Manthorpe of the Health Food Stores in Norwich gave much support over many years and celebrated his 92nd birthday in l977.

During these early years we were greatly helped by Ruth Eadle, John Ward and Bert Dwyer to name but a few. Mabel Buckingham and Daphne Ranson were also valuable members of the Committee and even after Mabel had had a leg amputated she still came to the meetings.

We had many happy gatherings at the St Alban’s Hall in Norwich.

Another stalwart of the early days was Mr Gould, a market gardener, from South Walsham, who was our Chairman for some time. In succession to Lorna McTear, Vi Stannard formerly of Sea Palling, where she ran a Vegetarian guesthouse, was our Secretary for some years, until her sudden death left us bereft. Later she was succeeded by Joyce Groves. Her husband Robert, from the U.E.A., became Treasurer and we are very grateful for the hard
work of both of them for some years. It was Joyce Groves who took us to our first stall at the Scouts Jumblie in St. Andrews Hall, where we sold apple juice. This was a start, followed by more elaborate stalls in other places. Several years we had a stall in the Flower tent at the Royal Norfolk Show, where we did very well.

We also used to visit the Doctors’ surgeries in Norfolk and we were invited to the James Paget Hospital.

George Bernard Shaw was a member of an earlier Society as we read from an old newspaper cutting.

The philosophy of the Society can be well summed up as shown in the Chairman’s Report of l984:-

Some fourteen years ago, through the initiative of some dedicated vegetarians, a group was formed to cover Norwich and the surrounding area.

Regular monthly meetings have since been held, mainly at the Assembly House, at which distinguished speakers have given addresses on various aspects of vegetarian, humanitarian and health subjects. The Committee formed at the outset has varied in personnel during the years, bringing fresh ideas and new ways of outcarrying them, including the Vegan approach.

People turn to the vegetarian way of life for varied reasons,
including religious ethical, asthetic, humanitarian, health, economic; some simply out of compassion for the creatures, or that they just dislike flesh-eating. Whatever their reasons, the Norfolk and Norwich Vegetarian Society seeks to cover all facets leading to a compassionate way of life. The programme has included cookery demonstrations and help with recipes. Some members, looking to the future, planted trees and shrubs in the Norfolk Animal Sanctuary at Felthorpe.

Links are maintained with groups such as the Soil Association, the Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming, Homeopathic group, Beauty without Cruelty, the Vegan group,
Veganic Garden Culture group, all of whom have contributed speakers during recent years.

We aim to help those who are seeking the vegetarian and compassionate way of life.

Some of us believe that World Peace can only be achieved when we are in right relationship with the creature kingdom, as stewards of their rights and not as their oppressors in destruction and cruelty and in inhumane experimentation. If humankind is to realise its full potential the creatures need to be seen as younger brethren and cared for accordingly in a compassionate way of living.



The Advice Centre

As our members advanced in years and it became more difficult to come out at night we considered at length the way forward. We needed a place in Norwich where we could meet people during the day and in l987 the newly opened Advice Centre in Guildhall Street seemed to provide the answer. There was one vacant desk on a Thursday morning. It was a quarterly Lease and so we thought we could give it a “try”. We were able to have the use of a small room, seating 7 or 8 people with the use of a Video and we were able to show Sarah Brown Cookery. We were also able to
get photocopying done at a reasonable price and Reception would deal with the giving-out of literature.

As the years went on we had more and more advantages. There was a “spot” on Broadland Radio frequently available
and we took full advantage of our options. In fact a number of people who heard the broadcasts followed it up and rang my number or came to the Advice Centre. We were gradually able to extend our activities to include storing and selling our books and literature. We were able to use the Advice Centre window, which gave us the opportunity to make a lovely Christmas display. Having a desk there brought us into touch with Norwich City Authorities and made some converts to Vegetarianism.

They moved us to a Tuesday and with the added difficulty of having to go up a flight of stairs, even though there was a lift available, it rather hindered our attempts to attract the public inside. It is amazing how many people do not like lifts even today. Personally I think we would have contacted far more people if we had been able to be on the Ground Floor, although we did continue to have literature available there. It became more expensive but we did have the help of the Homeopathic Group and the Soil Association for short times. When the numbers declined it became difficult to get volunteers to man the desk and so we felt we had to reconsider. We finally decided to give up and regretfully we left in December l992 after five very constructive years.

Our only option then was to continue with stalls at various functions and display information in shops etc.

The More Recent Years

We returned to supporting health and healing days in various parts of the County where we could manage transport.

We deeply mourned the sudden death of Joy Alden who had been such a pillar of strength as Assistant Secretary and was particularly supportive of Compassion in World Farming.

We also still remember the stalwart help given by Christine Vernon to the Society.

We celebrated our 30th birthday with a most enjoyable Garden Party at Mangreen and at the AGM 2000 we decided that in order to include Vegans more specifically we would change our name to “Norfolk Vegetarian & Vegan Society”.

Our special thanks go to Jennifer Smith who was a founder member and is still very active in the Society.

Over the years there have been many helpful and dedicated Vegetarians working for the Society who have brought their own ideas and enriched our communal approach to the City of Norwich and County of Norfolk. Indeed, the Vegetarian Movement and the creatures owe a great deal to all the dedicated work done during these thirty years and the Vegetarian message has reached many people.

We are now blessed with a fresh set of workers in the form of the new Committee and Officials. So may Love and Compassion continue to flourish here in the form of the new Group.

©Joyce Long 2002