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President of Norwich City Football Club

"Were it not for Geoffrey, this club may well not be in existence now" - Chairman Roger Munby

Norwich City Football Club

Some facts about Geoffrey Watling

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Born on 2nd April 1913

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Educated at the King Edward V1 School Norwich, finishing his education at Paston Grammar School at North Walsham

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Over his life time he had over 200 different businesses.

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Geoffrey married Pearl in September 1941 and their only child Carol was born in 1947.

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Elected Chairman of Norwich City Football Club 1957

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Resigned as Chairman and appointed Vice Chairman 1973

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Appointed President 1986, a position he held to his death in 2004


Geoffrey was born on 2nd April 1913 at Queens Road in Norwich to Charles Frederick and Martha Fenella Watling, his sister Elsie Fenella was born in 1905 and Brother Frank Alan in 1914. Geoffrey’s father was a Congregationalist and all the family had to walk three times every Sunday to the Old Meeting House Congregational Church in Colegate, from their home at 43 All Saints’ Green. Geoffrey was educated firstly at the King Edward School in Norwich, finishing his education at Paston Grammar School at North Walsham. He excelled in sports and joined the family Carriers business of ‘C Watling Ltd’, which in 1890 had a single horse and cart. One of Geoffrey’s earliest enterprises, while still at school, was rearing rabbits for meat – making use of the readily available supply of oats, intended for his father's horses.

A picture of Geoffrey Watling Parents Charles Watling and Fenella Watling

By the time he was 16, when his father was Sheriff of Norwich, he was running the business. His father later became Lord Mayor during which time
King George VI opened the New City Hall on October 29th 1938.

Geoffrey promoted motor transport to the family business, his father was a horse man. The family business was sold and British Road Services Parcels took over trading from the Surrey Street depot that now is Norfolk Tower.

Over his life time he had over 200 different businesses. By the end of the Second World War, he had bought several cafes, opened the Rainbow Ice Cream factory at Great Yarmouth and bought the Samson and Hercules Ballroom and banqueting suite on Tombland in Norwich. His love of big band music led to his acquiring the Kessingland Palais ballroom at Lowestoft, the Lido Ballroom on Aylsham Road in Norwich and having an interest in the Hammersmith Palais Ballroom in London and another ballroom in Luton. He was instrumental in bringing the big American bands,
including Stan Kenton, over from the States.

Geoffrey sold the Samson and Norwood Rooms to Mecca and branched out into different ventures. He bought Jarretts Removals, Shipdham Car Hire Services, Beeline Taxis, the transport side of Fitt Funeral Services – all demonstrated his continued interest in transport. The Beeline business was expanded to include a hire car service, including providing the Daimler for the Sheriff of Norwich and a driving school.

Photo of the Samson and Hercules Bar

He expanded his existing business at Hemsby and built a chalet park there. On a smaller scale he built a chalet park at Old Hunstanton. Further businesses followed including interests in Crown Cruises in Norwich, the local Bell Fruit gaming machine franchises and the industrial estate in
Charles Watling Way, Bowthorpe in Norwich.

By the time he was in his seventies, he said he was semi-retired having a mere 20 businesses left.

A photo of Count Baise and Geoffrey Watling shaking hands

Geoffrey had a love of fast cars, including a Buick, which became the queen bee in the Beeline fleet, an Aston Martin, and cars that differed from most; for nearly 40 years until his death he always had two white Jaguars – normally one saloon and one open sports car, registered GW 80 and GW 444.

Sport was always a great interest. After leaving school Geoffrey continued to play football with the Saint Lawrences’ team in the Business Homes League with mixed success. On their last game they lost 20 - nil, his brother being the goalkeeper. He continued playing tennis and reached the final of the Norfolk Amateur Tennis tournament when he was 40 in 1953.

He also owned three speed boats and raced at Oulton Broad in the fifties.
The boats were named ‘Melody’, ‘Symphony’, (both after his love of music) and ‘Miss Oulton’.

He was widely considered to have saved Norwich City Football Club in 1956, becoming chairman, a post he held for sixteen years, the longest serving chairman. After that he served the club as vice chairman for many years before becoming President, a position he held until his death. In 1996 he helped the Club through another financial crisis that prepared the way for Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones.

Geoffrey Watling sharing a celebratory drink with Norwich City captain

His father travelled to New York on the maiden trans-Atlantic voyage of the Queen Mary liner, Geoffrey followed him on the first post war voyage of the Queen Mary. Thereafter Geoffrey spent ever-increasing times travelling and seeing the world. For many years he spent almost half his time abroad until his health deteriorated which forced him to curtail his travels.

In 1963 Geoffrey bought Felthorpe Hall the home of Sir Basil and Lady Beryl Mayhew and lived there until his death. It was home with its magnificent grounds to which he was glad to return after his travels.

Felthorpe Hall home of Sir Basil and Lady Beryl Mayhew

Geoffrey married Pearl in September 1941 and their only child Carol was born in 1947. Carol following her father’s love of travel, spent many years at sea working for the P&O line. Sadly Carol died in 1992.

It was because of Carol’s death that Geoffrey felt that the best way he could be remembered was to set up a charity. This he did in 1993 with the appointment of four trustees, in addition to himself, with the aim to help local charities. With his death, in November 2004, the majority of his estate was bequeathed to the Charity which now continues the good work which he started.

The late Great geoffrey Watling holding championship cup