Jarrolds Stories

Celebrate 250 years of Jarrolds with 'Jarrolds Stories', the short story writing competition

To celebrate its 250th year of trading, and its deep history of printing, publishing and bookselling, Jarrolds has launched a short story writing competition. Enter now for your chance to have your work published in a special online anthology, alongside renowned authors.

Jarrolds of Norwich, the region’s much-loved, independent department store invites submissions for entry to their special short story writing competition as part of celebrations marking 250 years of business. The competition, called Jarrolds Stories, asks writers of all ages to contribute works of fiction or non-fiction, inspired by the theme of Jarrolds itself.

In its early days, the company’s roots were in printing, publishing and bookselling and a passion for the written word is still as important to the business today. Since 1823 Jarrolds has been a bookseller on London Street, Norwich and today has a thriving book department, regularly bringing readers together with authors at in-store events as well as championing local writers and publishers and being partners of the annual East Anglian Book Awards.

Jarrolds Stories is designed to celebrate this long association with authors and publishing, and is open to children and adults to enter pieces up to 1,500 words that are either fiction, factual, based on memories and/or experiences, poetry and might even be illustrated (see competition guidelines below for details).

Winners and runners up will receive Jarrolds store vouchers and will also have their work published in a special online anthology, alongside work from renowned authors.

For full competition details, click here.


For some inspiration, seven authors have agreed to write and share their own stories of Jarrolds. We kick things of with an entry from Norwich-based author, DJ Taylor (see below).


On going to Jarrolds, by DJ Taylor

When was I first introduced to Jarrolds? Aged three months, in a carrycot? (if this sounds far-fetched, then my father first took me to a Norwich City reserves game at six weeks). Aged two in a pushchair? Whatever the exact date, by the time I was ten the place was as fixed a part of the Norwich landscape as the cathedral, the castle keep, with its Anglo-Saxon skull chopped nearly in half by some Viking battle-axe, and the Carrow Road greensward where so many pre-teenage dreams came miserably to grief. To anyone who, as I did, spent large parts of their childhood passing through the city centre, Jarrolds was the Norwich shop, the Norfolk equivalent of Harrods, so much so that you almost expected Mr Jarrold himself to be standing there in Exchange Street in a Victorian top-hat abasing himself before the quality as they drew up in their carriages.

Naturally, the particular parts of the store you ended up haunting depended on your age. At five to nine you were simply chivvied around the place by your mother.  But by 10 to 13 you graduated to the toy department on the third floor, where rows of medieval knights were laid out in glass cabinets, all Action Man needed on his Nordic ski-trip was readily to hand, and boxes of Airfix kits and the tiny tins of paint required to decorate them rose from floor to ceiling. If, nearly half-a-century later, I can still identify a Dornier DO 17 light bomber or an Avro Lysander reconnaissance plane it is because I bought a model of one in Jarrolds some time in the early 1970s and spent long hours in the scullery patiently recreating it in miniature.

Action Men. Airfix kits. 00 scale Airfix Ancient Britons and Roman legionaries. Tempo plastic US Seventh Cavalry, Native American Indians and the forts, Wild West villages and tepees necessary to accommodate them. All this and more flowed out of the third floor and onto the shelves of my cramped back bedroom. A bit later, though – say 14 to 15 – Jarrolds took on another function. It was the place you dropped in on as you wandered back from school on some chilly November afternoon with your games bag slung over your shoulder to lay in a Mars Bar against the mile-and-a-half journey home to the Avenues or buy that week’s New Musical Express with its flaring headlines about ‘Genesis to Tour’ from the newsagent’s cubbyhole.

The ground floor, especially, was a kind of cornucopia for a teenage boy who wanted to get out of the cold and browse for a minute or two before heading back to the suburbs for tea and homework. Trying to picture the mid-70s lay-out in my head, I have an idea that, if marauding through the front entrance, then, as now, you first came upon the cosmetics concessions before arriving at the sweet shop and the displays of gift cards, newspapers and magazines. Beyond that was the book department, and behind that, by the second of the two Exchange Street doors – my brother, whom I consulted, is sure about this – a café where genteel old ladies in fur coats gossiped with their cronies.

Take a sharp right from the café and there, at the top of a small flight of stairs was the record department, with the week’s Top Forty singles laid out in racks and posters of, as it might be, if this were the mid-1970s, the Bay City Rollers and Status Quo, the former in tartan, the latter in identikit denim. As a  teenage record buyer, I was more of a Robins Records kind of a boy (Robins was a famous independent shop fifty yards away in Pottergate), or a purchaser of cheap, second albums at the Norwich Record Exchange in St Benedict’s, but I can vividly remember heading to Jarrolds in the summer of 1975 to shell out 60p for that fab new waxing – as the music papers used to say – ‘Get in the Swing’ by Sparks.

Come Sixth Form days – 16 to 17 – the shop’s role changed again. The main entrance was a rendezvous spot, where you met young ladies from the Norwich High School or the Notre Dame before proceeding to cups of coffee at, say, the Assembly House. And it was where you breezed in to buy such vital weapons in the school intellectual’s armoury as the Spectator and the Times Literary Supplement or hunt for paperback set texts. It was on one of these excursions, turning into the book department that I almost collided with the Carry On actor Kenneth Williams, sitting in solitude at a desk surrounded by copies of his latest, and not a little cast down by the absence of anybody to ask him to sign one.

I left Norwich in 1979 and, aside from university vacations and visits to my parents, didn’t come back until 2001. Yet in some strange, ineluctable way the place continued to exert its spell. One Saturday in October 1989, I was loitering in the women’s clothing department while Rachel tried on a coat. ‘Your husband likes it’ a motherly assistant remarked when I gave this no doubt highly superior garment the thumbs up. ‘Oh, we’re not married’ Rachel assured her. We got engaged 24 hours later. Thirty years on, the place’s role has changed again. The books are on the lower ground floor, but no less enticing for being down a flight of steps from the side door, and upstairs is an agreeable site for book launches. Jarrolds! ‘My park, my pleasaunce’, as Gerald Manley Hopkins used to say of Oxford. My Favourite Shop. Ever.



A paperback edition of D.J. Taylor’s Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature 1939-1951 will be published in September. His most recent novel is Rock and Roll is Life (2018), and he is currently working on a new biography of George Orwell. He lives in Norwich with his wife, the novelist Rachel Hore.