John Youngs was founded in 1851 by James Young. He took advantage of the great age of speculative building in Norwich in the 1850s and established his joinery company.
Having worked as a bricklayer, building railway bridges for Eastern Counties Railway, he set up as a carpenter and joiner in Chapelfield Road, Norwich.
During the first few years Young’s built more than 1000 city houses in Heigham Street, West Wymer Street and Trory Street. Young’s expanded to include timber sheds, a mason’s shop, a machine room and paint stores, together with plumbers’, carpenters’ and joiners’ shops and an ironmongery store.
Mr Young’s son, John, joined the family firm in 1870. He later spent many years as a councillor for Nelson Ward and died in 1929.
Youngs gradually took on bigger contracts. Its first big block of factories was built for Howlett and White when John Young was just 21 years old.
The company also renovated Thorpe Station – “the cheerless dismal, heterogeneous collection of shanties” – at a cost of £60,000. The official opening was on May 3 1886.
In 1899 the old Royal Hotel, in the Market Place, was pulled down and the site turned into the Royal Arcade. Built in the ‘Art Nouveau’ style, the facade of the hotel was retained above the entrance from Gentleman’s Walk.
The Royal Hotel, in Bank Plain, was completed in 15 months, costing £23,905. John Youngs went on to refurbish this building in 2000, some 103 years after they originally built it.
After the First World War, Youngs built the 300,000-gallon reinforced concrete water tower for Norwich Corporation. Work on the tower was temporarily hindered by a disastrous fire at the Chapelfield works, which led to a move to City Road, where the business remains today.
During the Second World War Youngs was heavily bombed, but business continued from wooden sheds on the bombed site. A new building was put up on an enlarged site in 1947.
After the Second World War, John Youngs won many of the contracts to reconstruct bomb-wrecked Norwich, including those for housing and industrial buildings. John Youngs rebuilt Mackintosh’s chocolate factory, Bonds Department Store and much of St Stephens. Subsequent contracts included the head Post Office, the Sorting Office, The Baptist Chapel in Duke Street and Lakenham Schools.
In 1967, John Youngs became part of the R G Carter Group and continued to add to its impressive construction record. In the late 1960s the company built Prospect House, home of Eastern Counties Newspapers, a new landmark for the city on the site of the old Golden Ball Public House.
Youngs built a new diagnostic and treatment ward at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and continued work on the site for many years constructing numerous buildings and altering others whilst steadily expanding its client base throughout East Anglia.