In the early 1800s, Jeremiah Colman began making mustard at a water mill near Norwich in the village of Bawburgh. To create a tangy flavour, he blended brown mustard (Brassica juncea) with white mustard (Sinapis alba).
Stoke Holy Cross Mill was the home of Colman's mustard from 1814 to 1862
Jeremiah founded Colman's of Norwich in 1814, at the Stoke Holy Cross mill on the River Tas, four miles south of Norwich. In 1823 he took his adopted nephew, James, into the business which became J. & J. Colman.
In 1851 J.J. Colman took over the business. By 1865 production had transferred to a large factory at Carrow Road on land at Thorpe Hamlet, bought from the Norfolk Railway to the south of Norwich, where the firm still operates today.
From 1855 the firm introduced its distinctive yellow packaging and bull's head logo, and in 1866 was granted the Royal Warrant as manufacturers of mustard to Queen Victoria. Her Majesty's household still uses Colman's today.
The Colman family's pioneering achievements in social welfare are part of Norwich's history. In 1857 a school was opened for the employees' children, while in 1864 the firm employed a nurse to help sick members of staff—a social revolution at the time.
From 1896 Sir Jeremiah Colman became chairman. In 1903, the firm took over rival mustard maker Keen Robinson & Company, through which it also acquired the Robinsons barley water and baby food business. The purpose of the acquisition was to reduce competition within the mustard business.
By 1909 the company employed 2,300 people.
Keen's production was moved from London to Norwich in 1925.
Together with Reckitt, the company acquired French's, the American mustard manufacturer, in 1926 for £750,000.
In 1938 it merged with Reckitts and Sons of Hull to form the Reckitt & Colman household products conglomerate.
From 1997 to 2001, Colman's were the main sponsors of Norwich City Football Club.
The Colman's part of the business was demerged in 1995 and Colman's became part of Unilever UK Ltd. As well as mustard, it applies its name to condiments, sauces and other foodstuffs. Reckitt and Colman engaged in aggressive cost-cutting as it prepared to sell the brand, getting rid of the agronomy department, which had looked after plant breeding and seed development.
Colman's maintains links with Norwich. The founding family are commemorated in street names such as Colman Road (part of the A140 inner ring road), on which is situated Colman's First and Middle Schools. In addition, the Colman House residence at the University of East Anglia is named after the company and Jeremiah Colman.