As the name suggests, the Norfolk Grey was created in Norfolk by Mr Fred Myhill of Wymondham sometime between 1910-1912. The breed was initially called Black Marias, but the spelling was later changed to Marea (Myhill said that the name he gave his new breed originated from the First World War name of German shells which were often called ‘Black Marias’ in the early days). Myhill’s vision was to develop a dual purpose breed that would be hardy and a robust producer of both eggs and meat.
It isn’t entirely clear which breeds were used to develop the Norfolk Grey, but there is certainly some Game influence and it is likely that the Leghorn played a part. Following Myhill’s return from fighting in the First World War in 1918, he faced the prospect of having to start his breeding project virtually from scratch because his birds had been allowed to breed indiscriminately during his four-year absence fighting in France. This he did and he re-established a breeding flock and he went public with the breed.
The initial name and the variant did not appeal to the public and around 1924, Myhill decided that a re-think of the name of necessary and he came up with the more appealing ‘Norfolk Grey’.
The Norfolk Grey was subsequently registered with the PCGB in 1925.
Without wanting to dwell on the history of the breed too much, the status of the breed today might have been better if the early publicity of the breed had been better; Thomas Leyson a longtime supporter of the breed in the 1920s until 1932 warned breeders in his final piece for the 1931 Feathered World Yearbook “This variety had a splendid chance of taking its place as a good all round British general purpose fowl. Unfortunately, breeders neglected the advertising side, which in any breed old or new is quickly fatal”.
The name change did for a time increase the breeds popularity, but gradually their numbers decreased and by the 1960’s they were thought to be extinct. In 1973, the Reverend Andrew Bowden and his wife found a trio of these birds at a farm they were visiting near Banbury and the breed was saved. Unfortunately by the 1980’s Norfolk Greys were seldom seen until Mr Roland Axman from Norfolk saw a trio at the Malpas poultry show in Staffordshire. This trio of birds had been bred by the Reverend Bowden and their current owner sold them to Mr Axman, who still shows them today.
Today the Norfolk Grey is registered as a rare breed and monitored by