Female Suffrage in Norwich

Tags

, ,

Three years ago I wrote about the Norwich artist Catherine Maude Nichols [1] and was surprised to find that she was one of only three women who, like 360 of the city’s male worthies and businessmen, presumably paid to have their potted biography and photograph featured in a Norwich trade book published in 1910 [2]. This book – Citizens of No Mean City – was evidently opaque to the political mood for this was around the time that Margaret Jewson set up the Women’s Freedom League in the city (1909) [3] and Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) opened an office in London Street for the suffragette movement (1912). All of the featured men in the book would probably have been able to vote; admittedly, not all males could vote but women with the franchise were fewer still. They were not to gain parity with men until 1928.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is suffragette-jpg.jpg
The Suffragette, the weekly newspaper of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU)

The figure of Joan of Arc was a suitably militant emblem for an organisation that believed in action not words. She was brought to life on several occasions by the leading suffragette, Elsie Howey, riding a white charger.

CATHERINE MAUDE NICHOLS (Read her biography in [1])

While Henry Cadman felt able to proudly declare his membership of the Gas-workers’ and General Labourers’ Union in his biography, Catherine Maude Nichols made no mention of her political affiliation. She was, however, known to have been active in the local branch of the National Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUMSS) set up in 1909 [3] and the name of ‘Miss Nichols’ (surely our Miss Nichols) appears in the first annual report of the WSPU in 1907, which records a contribution of £11 16s Od.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png
Catherine Maude Nichols [from 2]

MARGARET PILLOW

The second of the Norwich women to have an entry in ‘Citizens of No Mean City’ [2] was Margaret Eleanor Pillow, a friend of Miss Nichols who had studied at Cambridge but at that time was not allowed to take her degree. She listed an impressive string of credentials, including the diploma she was allowed to take from the Royal Sanitary Institute that led to her becoming the first female sanitary inspector in the country. Margaret was a pioneer in a man’s world and there are clues to her political stance. As a founding member of the Pioneer Club and the Lyceum Club she would have been in an environment where women’s rights were fervently discussed. Members seem to have been non-militant suffragists, rather than suffragettes who believed in direct action (‘Deeds not Words’), but her sympathies for the more militant wing can be inferred from the fact that her wedding reception was held at the home of Mrs Pankhurst – luminary of the suffragette movement [3].

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1.png
Margaret Pillow [From 2]
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5306.jpg
Margaret Pillow’s tea rooms [from 2]. The framed script on the right reads’ Words from John Ruskin’

MIRIAM PRATT

In 1912 the WSPU, spearheaded by Emmeline Pankhurst, opened its Norwich office at 52 London Street. The keys were held by Miriam Pratt who sold The Suffragette from the corner of Gentleman’s Walk and London Street. Miriam (1890-1975) had moved from Surrey, aged eight, to live in Norwich with her aunt Harriet and her husband Police Sergeant William Ward. This was in Grove Avenue, not far off the junction between Ipswich Road and Newmarket Road [3]. The name of  Miriam A. Pratt , age 12, appears on the list of pupils at Duke Street Elementary, the former board school in the city centre. By spring 1913 Miriam had become a teacher at St Paul’s School and was living at Turner Road on the other side of the city, off Dereham Road. She was a member of the St Peter Mancroft Dramatic Society and there are several mentions in local papers of appearances, including a piano duet at a temperance meeting with Miss Stribling [4] and a part in ‘Three Irish Plays’ in Mr Orams’ garden, where the enjoyment of a ‘scanty’ audience was marred by a cold wind [5].

Miriam Pratt 1913

From 1912 to 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst’s daughter Christabel orchestrated a nationwide bombing and arson campaign [6]. Miriam became one of her unmarried ‘Young Hotbloods’ and in 1913 attempted to set fire to a house under construction on Storey’s Way on the outskirts of Cambridge, together with the Balfour Laboratory of Genetics in the centre of Cambridge. She and her companions left behind an unfortunately melodramatic trail of clues: suffragette leaflets were found at both sites; the prints of a woman’s boot had been left on a newly cemented floor at Storey’s Way; blood was detected on broken glass; and a woman’s gold watch was found beneath a broken window. Having read about the fire in a Norwich newspaper, Miriam’s uncle, the policeman, questioned Miriam who admitted the watch was hers – in fact, it was one he had given her – and that she had cut her finger when trying to remove putty with a pair of scissors. She was arrested within days and on the morning of 22nd May was taken into custody. Later that day she was bailed on a £200 surety by Dorothy Jewson and her brother. Dorothy was to become the first female MP in East Anglia [3].

Suffragette meeting in Norwich Market. The statue of the Duke of Wellington (behind the speakers) is now in the Cathedral Close and the site of Bonser’s Stores occupied by Lloyds Bank. Credit:  www.picture.norfolkgov.uk

On bail, Miriam was unable to return to teaching but was employed on a temporary basis in the office of the Norwich Education Committee [7]. On the 18th of July, she attended a meeting of over 2,000 people in Norwich marketplace demonstrating against the so-called `Cat and Mouse Act’ of 1913 in which prisoners weakened by force-feeding were temporarily discharged until they were strong enough to be returned to prison to be force-fed once more[3].

Miriam Pratt 1913. With permission of Archant Library/Eastern Daily Press. Accessed via the Local Recall Project (localrecall.co.uk).

She was tried at Cambridge Assizes on Friday 14th October 1913. The Diss Express reported that Miriam was ’a pleasant looking young woman, who was attired in a violet-coloured costume with hat to match, and wearing a large bunch of violets at her waist’ – a reference to the suffragette colours of Green, White and Violet: Give Women Votes.  Miriam’s solicitor claimed the cut on her finger could not have been caused by broken glass. He asked her to approach the magistrates’ bench and, according to the Manchester Daily Citizen, ’the young girl laughed merrily … and showed each of them the wound.’ Despite her eloquent defence her uncle’s evidence – which he read ’under the stress of considerable emotion’ – proved damning and she was sentenced to 18 months’ hard labour. The policeman, torn between duty and love for his niece, was later to become Honorary Secretary of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement [3].

The attack on the  Balfour Biological Laboratory for Women seems like an own goal for, at a time when barriers were erected to women attending lectures and practicals, and few actually sat the Tripos exams, the laboratory had been set up specifically for young women by the Vice-Principal of Newnham, Eleanor Sidgwick and staffed by women who were, perforce, not members of university departments [8]. The rationale for the arson appears to have been that the suffragettes were drawing attention to the futility of women studying for degrees they would not be allowed to receive.

The former Balfour laboratory in Cambridge, named for Eleanor Sidgwick’s brother Francis who had recently been killed when climbing Mont Blanc. Courtesy of Brittanica.com. Credit Mena Schmid

One of the assistants in the Balfour Laboratory was Anna Bateson whose brother William (1861-1926) coined the word ’genetics’ to describe the study of inheritance. The groundwork had been laid by the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) who cross-pollinated different varieties of purebred pea plants and carefully recorded how characteristics like height or the wrinkling of pea seed were inherited (or not) by the offspring. Mendel’s work lay dormant until 1900 when it was rediscovered by three European scientists. William Bateson brought the discipline into the twentieth century with experiments in genetics pursued in a Cambridge laboratory staffed by his wife, sister and female students from Newnham. In 1910 Bateson was made the first director of the John Innes Horticultural Institution in Merton Park, Surrey. The John Innes moved to Bayfordbury in Hertfordshire in 1950 then moved again in 1967 to its present site on the outskirts of Norwich where it adds lustre to the Norwich Science Park.

In Holloway, Miriam went on hunger strike and was force-fed. Some time that week she was captured by a surveillance camera secreted by Scotland Yard in a van parked in the exercise yard, her photograph intended to identify her at demonstrations.

Miriam Pratt surveillance photograph commissioned by Scotland Yard. Holloway Prison 1913
© Museum of London

Miriam’s treatment seems to have weakened her heart; it left her in a critical condition and she was released under the terms of the Cat and Mouse Act against which she had demonstrated. She did not return to prison.

On the 24th October 1913 the nation’s local newspapers reported the ’disgraceful behaviour’ of suffragettes who, the previous Sunday, had interrupted services in London, Birmingham and Norwich. In Norwich Cathedral they are reported to have started a ‘chant’ but, as explained in The Suffragette, the intervention was more subtle than unruly. The group of suffragettes were sitting behind the canopied stall containing Mr Justice Bray who had handed down the harsh sentence to Miriam. Their ‘outrage’ consisted of an amendment to the daily prayer: ’O God, the Creator and Preserver of all Mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts of conditions of men …’. When the cleric reached the words ’for all conditions of men’, where the names of those deserving of prayer could be inserted, the suffragettes stood up and sang in chorus, ’Lord, save Miriam Pratt and all who are tortured in prison for conscience’s sake.’ They stayed quiet for the remainder of the service and were not removed. 

‘Read The Suffragette’. Suffragettes marching on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich. Could the tall woman in white be Miriam Pratt (5ft 7½ inches)? Credit: www.picture.norfolkgov.uk

GRACE MARCON

Grace Marcon (b.1899) was the daughter of Canon Walter Hubert Marcon of Edgefield, North Norfolk. She raised funds for The  Suffragette and attended WSPU meetings in Tombland – the ancient Anglo-Scandinavian marketplace outside Norwich Cathedral [9]. In 1913 and 1914 she was arrested three times for her direct action in London. On the third occasion she was sentenced to six months in Holloway for damaging five paintings in the National Gallery, including one by each of the brothers Gentile and Giovanni Bellini.

The Agony in the Garden c.1460 by Giovanni Bellini. National Gallery, London. Attacked by Grace Marcon

In targeting a famous painting, Grace Marcon was in the company of suffragettes who, between March and July 1918, emulated Mary Raleigh Richardson’s famous attack on the Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery by attacking 14 others. She produced a meat cleaver and before she could be stopped by the guards managed to slash the nude with, in her words, ’several lovely shots’. In consequence some museums would only allow entry to women who had a letter from, or were accompanied by, a gentleman who would vouch for them [10].

The ‘Rokeby’ Venus by Velasquez, damaged in the National Gallery by Mary Richardson, 1914. Credit: Wikipedia

During her hunger strike Grace became delirious and felt that her hair was like red hot wires in her head; the surveillance photograph captures her before she cut off her hair.

Surveillance photograph of Grace Marcon aka Frieda Graham 1913-14. Credit: Wikipedia

The first time she was arrested she was bound over, not jailed. For her third arrest she used the nom de guerre, Frieda Graham, with the possible intention of saving her family embarrassment [11].

A street in Edgefield NR24 2RX is named after Grace’s father who was the local rector for over 60 years. He is commemorated in his church of Saints Peter and Paul, Edgefield, by John Hayward’s stained glass depicting him as a cycling parson [12].

1980s stained glass by John Howard. Courtesy of Simon Knott [12]

VIOLET AITKEN

Violet Aitken, who lived to be 101 (1886-1987), was the daughter of William Aitken who became Canon of Norwich Cathedral in 1900 [13]. The WSPU’s campaign of window-breaking started on the first of March 1912 when hundreds of suffragettes launched themselves on London’s West End carrying concealed hammers and bags of stones [3]. Three days later there was another wave of attacks in which Violet was arrested for causing £100 of damage to the windows of Jay’s clothing shop (by appointment to Queen Alexandra) in Regent Street. Initially imprisoned in Holloway she was transferred to Winson Green, Birmingham, where she was force-fed after going on hunger strike.

Violet Aitken © Museum of London

Being fed by a nasal tube caused Violet to vomit continuously and she was released on medical grounds. She became editor of The Suffragette but thought of giving this up to make a living as a writer. She continued in post, however, following the funeral of Emily Davison (force-fed 49 times) who ran in front of King George V’s horse at the 1913 Derby. On Saturday June 14, 1913, Violet’s father entered these words in his red Asprey’s diary: ‘… very disappointing news from Violet that she is determined to go on with this wretched paper as she feels it would be like deserting the cause to leave them now.’ [14]

A year earlier, Canon Aitken had already confided his distress about Violet’s activities to his diary.

Canon Aitken’s diary for Tuesday March 5th 1912 [13]. Credit: Norfolk Record Office.

He wrote, ‘Violet … had again been arrested and this time for breaking plate glass windows. I am overwhelmed with shame and distress to think that a daughter of mine shd do anything so wicked and I can only throw the whole matter on Him who is the great burden bearer of His people. But my poor wife! It’s heartbreaking to think of her being exposed in her old age to this horror.’ [15]

Norwich did not avoid the wave of window smashing. In May 1913 the Dundee Evening Telegraph (Oh the randomness of newspaper searches) reported damage to a large new plate glass window belonging to Buntings the drapers in Rampant Horse Street, now the site of Marks and Spencer. Using a diamond, ‘Votes for Women’ had been scratched in the window together with three broad arrows relating to the imprisonment of WSPU activists. The window was smashed [3], its replacement estimated at £1000.

Buntings in 1909. Credit:  www.picture.norfolkgov.uk

Ten days later the Diss Express reported that the glass slashers had gone on the rampage through Norwich, using a diamond(s) to make shapeless marks on what appears to have been most of the shop windows in the city centre. The main shopping parade along Haymarket and Gentleman’s Walk was affected; ‘even the bye-streets’ didn’t escape, including Prince of Wales Road, St Giles Street and ‘practically every shop in Dove Street’. Castle Street was also targeted including, rather curiously, Prince’s Tea and Luncheon Rooms belonging to suffragist Margaret Pillow.

CAPRINA FAHEY

Caprina Fahey came to local attention when Museum Trainee Andrew Bowen of the Norfolk Museums Service put out a call for further information about this suffragette who had died in 1959 in Hainford, a village just north of Norwich [16, 21]. One of her middle names gives the clue to her birthplace for she was born (1883) Charlotte Emily Caprina Gilbert on the island of Capri, the daughter of Alice Jane Gilbert and Alfred Gilbert – first cousins who married the day they eloped to Paris in 1876 [17].

Caprina’s father studied under the sculptor Sir Joseph Boehm and from the late 1880s to the mid-1890s achieved fame with major commissions such as the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus. Towards the end of this golden period Gilbert (now Sir Albert) overstretched himself, failed to complete work, fell out with the royal family and declared himself bankrupt [18].

Sir Joseph Boehm, who instructed Alfred Gilbert, sculpted ‘Charity’ for the Boileau family of Ketteringham Hall, south-west of Norwich. Now in the gardens of the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital on St Stephens Road.

As a young woman, Caprina trained as a masseuse before becoming a nurse and, later, a midwife. Her first husband was Alfred Fahey who was her father’s assistant and, according to the 1901 census, lived with them as a visitor with the occupation of ‘Artist (Painter Student)’. They married but he abandoned her with a child; she divorced Fahey, suing him for adultery and desertion and, unusually, winning custody of baby Dennis.

Caprina joined the WSPU in 1908, and in 1909 was imprisoned for a month for being part of a 27-strong deputation to the Houses of Parliament from the Women’s Parliament Meeting held in Caxton Hall. A year later she took part in the infamous Black Friday (18th November 1910). The WSPU supported the inadequate Conciliation Bill that offered the vote, not to all women but to about a million property-owners. But Prime Minister Asquith – no supporter of female emancipation – effectively blocked the bill when he decided to hold another election. In response to this betrayal, three hundred suffragettes marched from Caxton Hall to the Houses of Parliament where they were treated brutally. Police were redeployed from rougher areas like Whitechapel and there were reports that women were sexually molested. Caprina was sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment for stone throwing.

Black Friday. The Daily Mirror 19th November 1910. Public Domain via Wikipedia

Evidently, Caprina was an active campaigner for women’s suffrage and in 1910 was the WSPU organiser for the Middlesex Parliamentary Division [19]. A recently discovered copy of the programme for Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral confirms that Caprina was one the 11 group captains marshalling the various sections of the funeral procession [20]. Elsie Howey was part of the cortège, appearing as Joan of Arc mounted on her white horse.

Back page of programme for Emily Davison’s funeral showing ‘Mrs Fahey’ as one of the Group Captains. Credit: Elizabeth Crawford [ref 20]

During both terms in jail Caprina went on hunger strike for which the WSPU awarded her the Suffragette Medal with two bars ‘For Valour’. Despite her bravery Caprina’s father cut her out of his will, saying that Cappie was ‘a banner waver in a rotten Cause!!!!’ [17].

Caprina Fahey’s medal for valour, 1914. Norfolk Museums Service, courtesy of Andy Bowen [21]

During the First World War, Caprina married Edward J J Knight. Sometime during the Second World War they moved to Rose Cottage in Hainford where she died on 26th October 1959. That same year, her husband presented Caprina’s suffragette medal to the Norwich Castle Museum [21].

The Colman family

The activities of the WSPU suffragettes drew most attention but others in Norwich – who either did not support direct action and/or wished to maintain contact with the Labour Party – also worked for the emancipation of women. These included: the Women’s Freedom League set up by Margaret Jewson in 1909; the Church League for Women’s Suffrage; the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement (of which Miriam Pratt’s uncle was the Hon Sec); and the Norwich branch of the National Women’s Suffrage Societies(NUWSS) [3].

Daughters of the Colman’s mustard dynasty, the Colman sisters, Ethel, Helen and Laura, were all active in Norwich politics. All three supported the call for female suffrage; they were not, however, members of the WSPU although they sent letters of support [3]. Following a meeting held in the Agricultural Hall in December 1909, when it was decided to set up the NUWSS, Ethel and Helen became Vice Presidents under Laura’s Presidency. And when Ethel became the Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1923 – the first female Lord Mayor in the country – she chose her sister Helen as official consort.

Ethel Colman in her mayoral robes, 1923. Public Domain via Wikipedia

In January 1910 Helen L Willis – a prime mover in setting up the NUWSS – placed an advert in the Eastern Evening News to announce that the society was active in Norwich and that their office was open at 7 Brigg Street, near Rampant Horse Street. Her name also appears on headed paper of the Norwich Women’s Suffrage Society.

Letterhead of the Norwich Women’s Suffrage Society, President Mrs Laura Stuart (née Colman), Vice Presidents Miss Colman and Miss Helen C Colman, and Honorary Secretary Miss Edith L Willis (whose mother was a Colman). From a letter thanking the Electrical Workers’ Union for their unanimous support of the Suffrage Resolution. Credit: Norfolk Record Office SO 248/2/2/4

Edith’s home was in Southwell Lodge (now demolished), at the corner of Ipswich and Cecil Roads, where she lived with her parents. Her mother, Mary Esther Willis, was the sister of JJ Colman, manufacturer of English mustard, philanthropist and father of the three Colman sisters. Helen was therefore cousin of the three Colman suffragists who held the presidential posts in the local NUWSS while she was the Honorary Secretary [22].

Edith L Willis, Hon Sec of the Norwich branch of the NUWSS. Credit:  www.picture.norfolkgov.uk

In 1914, at the beginning of World War 1, the suffragette campaign was suspended and at the end of the war (1918) the vote was extended to women who were rate payers or who were married to one. Women and men were not able to vote under the same terms until 1928 but by this time women like Dorothy Jewson and Ethel Colman were playing a more active part in local and national politics.

Coda

While searching newspaper archives my eye was caught by an unexpected name ,’Senghenydd’, in the news clip following the one for Muriel Pratt’s sentencing in 1913.

Derry Journal 17/10/1913 ©British Library Board

I never met my paternal grandfather; I only know him by a handful of keywords of which Senghenydd is one. I recall relatives telling me that he led the mine rescue team from his own colliery to the mining village of Senghenydd in the neighbouring South Wales valley. In 1894, 290 men and boys had been killed in my grandfather’s pit but the number of fatalities in the Senghenydd explosion was far worse even than the 336 recorded by the Derry Journal for the death toll eventually reached 439.

My grandfather, front centre

©2022 Reggie Unthank

Thanks

I am grateful to Ruth Battersby Tooke, Andrew Bowen and Bethan Holdridge of the Norfolk Museums Service for information on Caprina Fahey. Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk, Rachel Ridealgh and Simon Knott helped me obtain photographs, as did Ben Craske of the Eastern Daily Press newspaper archives.

Sources

  1. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2019/05/15/catherine-maude-nichols/
  2. Citizens of No Mean City (1910). Pub: Jarrold, Norwich.
  3. Gill Blanchard (2020). Struggle and Suffrage in Norwich. Pub: Pen & Sword Military
  4. Eastern Daily Press Monday 28 November 1910
  5. Norfolk News Saturday 20 July 1907
  6. Article by John Simkin https://spartacus-educational.com/Miriam_Pratt.htm
  7. Gill Blanchard (2022). Miriam Pratt (1880-1975) – A Norwich Suffragette. In, ‘Aspects of Norwich’ Pub: The Norwich Society.
  8. https://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/system/files/documents/2-balfour-lab.pdf
  9. https://www.norfolkfhs.org.uk/files/ancestor%20magazine/pdfs/2018/Norfolk_Ancestor_Vol_15_Pt_3_Sep_2018_cwr.pdf
  10. Diane Atkinson (2015). The Suffragettes in Pictures. Pub: The History Press.
  11. https://www.norfolkfhs.org.uk/files/ancestor%20magazine/pdfs/2018/Norfolk_Ancestor_Vol_15_Pt_3_Sep_2018_cwr.pdf
  12. http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/edgefield/edgefield.htm
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_Aitken
  14. Norfolk Record Office MC 2165/1/23, 976×4.
  15. Norfolk Record Office MC 2165/1/24, 976×4.
  16. https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/news/2018/01/public-appeal-success-in-filling-in-the-missing-pieces-of-norfolk-suffragettes-life
  17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caprina_Fahey
  18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Gilbert
  19. https://www.edp24.co.uk/lifestyle/heritage/call-for-public-s-help-to-piece-together-life-of-1116878
  20. https://womanandhersphere.com/2012/10/04/collecting-suffrage-emily-wilding-davisons-funeral-programme/comment-page-1/#comment-278316
  21. https://norfolkthreads.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/in-search-of-caprina/
  22. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/category/norwich-streets/

Norfolk Rood Screens

Tags

,

In 1851, the Gothic Revivalist, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, observed that more rood screens were preserved in Norfolk’s churches than in any other county. One estimate puts the figure at 275, of which nearly 100 are painted [1]. Some, like the beautiful screen paintings at Barton Turf, are treasures of international importance.

Barton Turf

Although there are earlier examples, the large, carved wooden screens (rarely stone) that we see today, across the chancel arch, were built around the mid-fifteenth century. These partitions would have been topped by a rood (Saxon for cross), with a crucified Christ flanked by his mother and St John the Evangelist.

Courtesy of Lucy Wrapson

As we will see, the upper parts of this complex and by no means standardised superstructure were to disappear during the Reformation and the Commonwealth purges that followed. Despite its erratic history (limewashed, put up for sale, placed in the west end [2]), the screen at Attleborough, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is now restored to its rightful place at the east end and provides a sense of what used to be. ‘There is not another church in East Anglia that can match this screen for size and completeness’; from wall to wall the screen is 52 feet wide. Above and behind the rare rood loft are painted figures in the typanum once covered by whitewash. Like the majority of its counterparts throughout the country this screen is in Perpendicular style – the style that dominated church building from the latter part of the fourteenth century until the Reformation, when the evolution of ecclesiastical architecture stalled.

The great rood screen at Attleborough. The mural was painted ca. 1500 [2].

To see a more complete tympanum painting we have to exit the county for neighbouring Suffolk and St Peter, Wenhaston. In 1892 this wooden structure was taken down and, famously, left out in the rain, revealing the painting beneath the whitewash. This ‘doom’ painting illustrates the Day Of Judgement when God decides which soul goes to heaven and which to hell. On the Wenhaston Doom the unpainted silhouettes show where Jesus, Mary and John were once attached

The Wenhaston Doom

Back in Norfolk, at Ludham St Catherine, is a tympanum painting that had lain in the unused rood stair until it was discovered during an Archaeological Society outing of 1879 [3]. The arrows show the doorways at the bottom and top of the stairs that led to the rood loft. It is possible that the painting may have been hastily installed during the brief reign of the Catholic Mary Tudor who worked to reverse the iconoclasm begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII [3].

In her Royal Order of 1561, the Protestant Elizabeth I directed that, although rood figures in the loft should be taken down, ‘a comely partition between the chancel and the church‘ should remain (or a new one erected), topped with a suitable crest or the Royal Arms [2]. Elizabeth’s arms can be seen on the reverse of the Ludham typanum, although they now face the altar. The retention of a partition may explain why England has so many screens. And Norfolk may have so many painted dado screens because, during the Civil War, ‘Smasher’ Dowsing applied his iconoclasm to Suffolk and Cambridge.

The 12 painted panels make up ‘one of the best screens remaining in the county.‘ [3]

St Mary Magdalene, St Stephen, St Edmund, King Henry VI, St Augustine, St Ambrose// St Gregory, St Jerome, St Edward the Confessor, St Walstan, St Lawrence, St Apollonia. (Panels 7-10 are by a different hand ) [4]

The screen had served to isolate the mysteries around the altar from the congregation in the nave – a permeable barrier to remind lay people of the distinction between this life and life hereafter. But by 1638, the Bishop of Norwich, Richard Montague, could communicate a more prosaic view of the function of the screen:

Is your chancel divided from the nave or body of your church … is there a decent strong door to open and shut … with lock and key, to keep out boys, girls or irreverent men and women? and are dogs kept from coming to besoil or profane the Lord’s table? [2].

None of the rood screen painters left their name but attempts have been made over the years to group their works stylistically. The mirror to which all other paintings are held is the screen at St Helen’s Ranworth, probably the best known rood-screen in the country.

The late C15 screen at Ranworth containing paintings of the 12 apostles. On the adjoining parclose screens, arrows point to two highly mannered and exceptional paintings, of St George and St Michael.
St Michael slaying the seven-headed dragon of the apocalypse; St George and the dragon.

St Michael has been described as ‘debonair’ [3] [and detached [15] but despite the associated languor he has warmed to his task and already separated the dragon from two of its seven heads. These paintings, over twice the width of those on the rood screen, provide greater room for arm-waving than allowed the 12 constricted saints on the rood screen panels. Stylistically, it has been said that the demi-figures (below) painted above saints in the reredos panels are typical of the elegant feather-suited angels of the fifteenth century Norwich School of Glass Painting whose output can be found throughout the county [5] (see my earlier posts on Angels’ Bonnets [6], Angels in Tights [7] and Norfolk’s Stained Glass Angels [8]).

Circled and enlarged in the tracery above St Barbara, is a sorrowful angel with the same blond corkscrew locks as St Michael. St Barbara holds her martyr’s palm leaf and the tower in which she was kept from the world. Ranworth. Note the rich brocade gown.

One further comparison with glass painting: in his key book on the Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century, Christopher Woodforde pointed out that ermine ‘tippets’ (short shoulder capes), of the kind worn by the demi-figures of angels at Ranworth, were also worn by angels in fifteenth century Norwich School painted glass, suggesting a common inspiration [9].

Left, a Ranworth demi-figure compared with (right) a painted-glass angel from St Peter’s, Ringland. Three general similarities: their tight blond curls (common in Norwich School painted glass); the way of handling the vertical wing feathers; and (circled) the tadpole-like black tails on the ermine.

The ‘Ranworth style’ exemplified by the flamboyant saints, George and Michael, are a late and refined version of Northern Italian ‘International Gothic’ [15, 10, 11] characterised, wrote John Mitchell [11], by the ‘melodiously flowing’ garments that fall away from the body almost independently of the underlying limbs. The style may have lingered in Norfolk but Norwich was not an insular place for it had grown rich from trading woollen cloth with its neighbours across the North Sea. The artist who took over John Wighton’s C15 glass-painting workshop, John Mundeford, was a Dutchman and it is reasonable to suppose that the city’s other artists – working on screens, walls, glass and brass – would have been exposed to continental art that was increasingly influencing English religious art in general [10-12].

For example, St George on the Ranworth screen (above) strikes a similar pose to the superb equestrian painting on the wall of St Gregory’s Norwich (below) [10]. In turn, the mural could well be influenced by prints of paintings by artists such as the well-known Netherlandish Rogier van der Weyden (c1400-1464), whose works had been in circulation for over half a century.  

St George and the Dragon. Left, St Gregory’s Norwich, late C15; right, by Rogier van der Weyden ca. 1432-5. National Gallery of Art, Washington.

And as noted by Audrey Baker, the upright white lilies and red roses in the headdress of the Virgin Mary, from Jan van Eyck’s (d 1441) Ghent altarpiece, are mirrored in the garland worn by St Cecilia from the rood screen at North Elmham [15].

THE RANWORTH GROUP

The concept of a Ranworth Group has evolved over the years [11, 13, 15]. Originally five, there now appears to be a nucleus of seven: Ranworth, North Elmham, Old Hunstanton, Thornham, the apostle paintings at Southwold, Filby and paintings from St James, Pockthorpe Norwich removed to St Mary Magdalene Norwich. John Mitchell considers an unfinished panel of St Apollonia from St Augustine’s Norwich, now in St Peter Hungate and restored by Lucy Wrapson, to be a probable eighth, ‘Within the close orbit of the [Ranworth] shop’  [14]. To this eight Lucy Wrapson adds North Walsham as well as the panels lost in 1891 to fire at Great Plumstead, known only from Victorian illustrations. See if you can spot similarities amongst the core seven.

Ranworth, St Helen
Hunstanton, St Andrew. Four of the 12 apostles, St Andrew is far right
Thornham, All Saints
Filby, All Saints
Southwold, St Edmund’s. One of a pair of central Apostles panels. Dated c1500, possibly the last surviving example of the Ranworth Group.
In poor condition, one of the great Late Medieval treasures of East Anglia seems in urgent need of attention. North Elmham, St Mary
Norwich, ex St James Pockthorpe now at St Mary Magdalene. Bought by JJ Colman from a Norwich market in the 1880s. Restored and heavily overpainted. Removed to StMM when StJP was converted to Norwich Puppet Theatre in 1982. Tree ring analysis shows the panels were made from Norfolk wood [15].

In a magnificent book on East Anglian rood screen painting, based on her thesis of 1937 [15], Audrey Baker observed two details found in the Ranworth Group (with the possible exception of North Walsham). The first was the inclusion of animal or bird motifs in the rich brocades – based on Italian designs – worn by the apostles and virgins. On the basis of these rich fabric patterns the Ranworth Group has been called the ‘damask workshop’ [13].

The rich fabric with animal motifs worn by St Paul at Ranworth

The second motif identified by Audrey Baker was the ‘counterchanged’ tiles on which the figures stand. In all seven, the saints’ feet have been painted against a background of tiles represented as a two-dimensional vertical pattern [15]. This gives the effect of a skirting board instead of the tiles receding into the painting as they would have done in Flemish paintings of the time; there is no landscape here and there is a strong impression that the artists were working from ‘old-fashioned prototypes’. The tiles are usually set diagonally with a central inset in which two colours are reversed. Here, I have cut vertical strips from rood screens representative of the core seven churches. All contain the characteristic floor tiles but they also illustrate another feature that unites the group: the floral pattern in the background, usually stencilled in gold leaf.

Found on all seven screens, the tiles at bottom and the stencilling above. Ranworth, Old Hunstanton, Thornham, Filby, Southwold (apostle screens), North Elmham, St James Pockthorpe Norwich. (The stencilling around the Southwold apostles is pushed up into the tracery by the gold gesso background; the patterns at Filby are all but faded).

Baker identified two stencilled patterns at Ranworth: one of a bunch of loosely-tied flowers, the other a pomegranate [15].

Two adjacent ‘saints’ panels from Ranworth illustrating the two stencils: the posies of flowers above St Paul (left) and pomegranates above St John the Evangelist (right)

Ranworth, Old Hunstanton, Filby, Thornham and North Elmham share the same stencil tool [13]. St James Pockthorpe, Norwich shares a virtually identical pattern while North Walsham is ‘very similar’ (although there are no tiles at the feet of the figures at North Walsham [13]).

North Walsham, St Nicholas, with stencil pattern enlarged in the circle

A ninth set of screen paintings in the larger group recognised by Lucy Wrapson is now lost. In 1891, the rood screen at Great Plumstead was destroyed by fire but we are fortunate that artist Cornelius Jansson Walter Winter had made copies in 1859 [16].

CJW Winter’s painting of saints Martin and Giles from the Great Plumstead screen. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Collections NWHCM: 1951.235.B492

As we see, the tiles and stencilled background were also present at Great Plumstead. The facial features of St Martin – the narrow face and that ski-jump nose – is a stereotype found in some, but by no means all, of the Ranworth group. Bear in mind that details may have been lost or exaggerated during restoration; the Pockthorpe figures, in particular, have been heavily overpainted.

The Ranworth Nose. Top: demi-angel, Ranworth (flipped [f] right-left for easier comparison); St Cecilia North Elmham [f]; St Martin Great Plumstead [f]; St Margaret Filby [f]. Bottom: St Cecilia Filby; St John Old Hunstanton; St Helena Pockthorpe (now at St Mary Magdalene Norwich); St Barbara Filby [f].

The similarities between these and other satellites of the Ranworth Group suggest that a workshop, of painters used studio cartoons as is known to be the case for Norfolk stained glass painters [8]. The use of stock figures is particularly obvious at North Elmham where all the female saints are painted from the same model – some reversed – and only differentiated by the attributes they carry (e.g., St Barbara with her castle).

A Norwich School of Painters?

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Norwich was a regional centre for glass painting [9]. Around 1500, Alderman William Heyward’s workshop was preeminent and there is good evidence that it produced inscribed monumental brasses as well as painted glass, probably south of the river around what is now the redundant church of St Peter Parmentergate. When Heyward had been apprenticed to Thomas Goldbeater as a glazier, Richard Steere was apprenticed as a painter, again suggesting that drawing skills were used in more than one medium [9]. Indeed, David King [17, see also 13] has argued that Heyward ran a multi-media workshop that may also have been involved in painting rood screens and walls – perhaps even the mural of St George and the Dragon in St Gregory’s Norwich [17].

Please note, I shall be taking a short break from the blog in order to write another book based on these posts.

© 2022 Reggie Unthank

Sources

  1. Lucy Wrapson (2013). East Anglian Medieval Church Screens: A Brief Guide to their Physical History. Hamilton Kerr Institute, Bulletin number 4, pp33-47
  2. DP Mortlock and CV Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches No 3, West and South-West Norfolk. Pub: Acorn Editions, Cambridge.
  3. DP Mortlock and CV Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches No 1, North-East Norfolk.
  4. https://hungate.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/rood-screen-trail-6-1.pdf. Do read the excellent Hungate Rood Screen Trail booklets. For PDFs press link.
  5. Tom Muckley (2005). Rood Screens in East Anglia. In: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norfolkroods.htm
  6. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2020/06/15/the-angels-bonnet/
  7. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/08/18/angels-in-tights/
  8. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2015/12/19/norfolks-stained-glass-angels/
  9. Christopher Woodford (1950). The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century. Pub: Oxford University Press.
  10. David King (2013). Medieval Art in Norfolk and the Continent: An Overview. In, East Anglia and its North Sea World in the Middle Ages pp. 82-119.
  11. John Mitchell (2000). Painting in East Anglia around 1500: The Continental Connection. In, England and the Continent in the Middle Ages. pp368-373.
  12. Lucy Wrapson (2015). A Medieval Context for the Artistic Production of Painted Surfaces in England Evidence from East Anglia c.1400–1540. In T. Cooper, A. Burnstock, M. Howard and E. Town, Painting in Britain 1500–1630, Production, Influences and Patronage, London, 2015, pp.166-175.
  13. Lucy Wrapson (2015). Ranworth and its Associated Paintings: A Norwich Workshop. In, Medieval and Early Modern Art, Architecture and Archaeology in Norwich. Pub: Maney.
  14. John Mitchell, personal communication March 2022.
  15. Audrey Baker (2011). English Panel Paintings 1400-1558: A Survey of Figure Paintings on East Anglian Rood Screens. Pub: Archetype Pubs Ltd.
  16. Allan Barton. https://medievalart.co.uk/2018/11/01/neglect-apathy-and-fire-a-lost-norfolk-screen/
  17. David King (2011). ‘The Indent of John Aylward – Glass and Brass at East Harling’, Monumental Brass Society, Transactions, XVIII (3) pp. 251-267. 

Thanks: I am grateful to Lucy Wrapson, David King and John Mitchell for their generosity in sending me reprints and answering my questions; Bea Leal and Sophie Cabot, Trustees of St Peter Hungate, kindly opened the church for me; Reverend Selwyn Tillett and caretaker Mike Preston arranged for me to see the rood screens at St Mary Magdalen, Norwich.

Norwich Guides: Ancient and Modern

Tags

,

When browsing in the City Bookshop in Davey Place I came across Official Guides to Norwich for 1929 and 1935, in the reign of King George V. The contrast between ancient and modern was striking for while Ralph Hale Mottram was taking a backward look at the city’s rich history in the introductory section to the 1935 guide, businesses in the advertising section were gamely boosting their progressive credentials.

Cover of The Official Guide to the City of Norwich 1935 by John H Archer of Norwich. Published by the Norwich Publicity Association, with offices in the Bridewell

The rolling boundary between old and new is relentless and any marker of modernity quickly gets left behind as we see, not in an advert for Norwich, but in a puff for its distinguished neighbour, King’s Lynn. In the ‘Port for 1000 years‘ a passenger biplane is set against Henry Bell’s seventeenth century Customs House and the mid-twelfth century church of St Margaret.

Ancient and modern. Credit: The Official Guide to the City of Norwich 1935

Norwich had several firms making planes, such as Boulton and Paul at their Rose Lane Works where they manufactured more Sopwith Camels during World War I than any other company. B&P’s best known plane of World War II was the Defiant, with a rotating gun turret operated by the gunner seated behind the pilot. But in 1935, unconscious of the imminent descent into further conflict that would cause their factory to be bombed, they were advertising health-giving rotating ‘Sunshine Rooms’.

Credit: The Official Guide to the City of Norwich 1935

Mottram’s perspective on events from living memory is fascinating. About St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, he wrote: ‘The massive tower can be seen in any old picture of the marketplace to have had a much more homely appearance before the addition of the ornaments which … have been the object of some controversy.’ Controversy?

View of St Peter Mancroft, unknown artist. The hot air balloon suggests the work was made in the age of ‘balloon mania ‘ – late C18 to early C19. Norfolk Museums Collections NWHCM: 1894.76.1087

The sturdy tower overlooking the marketplace seems to have been designed to support a far more significant lantern stage for which the small spike was evidently judged to be a poor substitute. In the 1880s the Streets (father and son) were engaged to add a parapet with a stone pepperpot in each corner and in 1895 the son, AE Street, replaced the old spike with a lead-covered structure supported by crocketed flying buttresses. Not everyone liked it. Mortlock & Roberts [1] thought the old plain top and spike ‘infinitely preferable’, taking objection to the new model’s ‘cake icing effect’, while Pevsner & Wilson judged it ‘too playful to make a stand on this tower‘ [2].

The spirelet erected on St Peter Mancroft by the Streets in 1895 (left), thought to have been modelled on the fifteenth century structure topping SS Peter and Paul, East Harling, S Norfolk (right).

Born in the 1880s, Ralph Hale Mottram was a small boy when the Streets were at work so his opinions about the Mancroft controversy are likely to have been borrowed from the ‘members of the last generation‘ – the witnesses who could ‘remember desperate faction fights here at election times, with a great chain drawn across the centre (of the marketplace) to separate the combatants, who used to kick up the old kidney-shaped cobbles for missiles, and frequently had to be driven from the field by force.’ Violence had long been a feature of Norwich political life [3]; at election time the marketplace was set out like a tournament field with the Blue and White (Whig) tent occupying one side and the Orange and Purple (Tory) tent the other.

The Political Drama c1830. ‘The freedom of an English election or the drunken dragoons shooting old women and children at Wolverhampton by way of keeping their hand in.’ Norfolk Museums Collections THEHM: DS.384.91

As we saw in the post on Revolutionary Norwich [4], political meetings in eighteenth century Norwich were corrupt, drunken and highly adversarial. This continued well into the late nineteenth century. When Mottram was three, a 500-strong meeting attended by the unemployed turned violent. After shops were sacked and a ham stolen the rampage was remembered as the Battle of Ham Run [3].

Mottram said of the marketplace that ‘the roadway is pure twentieth century, public service and private vehicles driven by the internal combustion engine pass in a continuous stream.’ The air quotes shimmering around ‘internal combustion engine‘ betray someone born in the age of the horse-drawn carriage.

Credit: The Official Norwich Guide 1935

This photograph might be older than 1935 since the buildings at the back of the market were described as being ‘in course of demolition to make way for the New Town Hall’. The red arrow points to the tin hut that doubled as police offices and drill hall. Both the hut and the municipal offices on St Peter Street (top right) would be pulled down as part of the new City Hall project. In turn, these had replaced the old ‘butchery, spicery, Soper Lane, Worstead Row, herb market and Pudding Lane’ by which the medieval authorities had segregated the various trades. By May 1938 the old municipal buildings had been demolished to make way for the area to the back of the market containing the Garden of Remembrance, with the newly completed City Hall behind.

The Market 1938. Construction of the terrace at rear of Market Place on site of old Fish Market ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

Mottram also wrote about another landmark that is no longer with us. In a brief section on Mousehold Heath (‘”Mussel” in local dialect’) he mentions George Borrow’s poem The Wind on the Heath – the high ground above the city where local hero Robert Kett was defeated and where John Crome painted his windmill (‘and only recently burned down’). At one time the painting was titled ‘A Windmill on Mousehold Heath, near Norwich No. 926′ although, as we will see, the location was brought into question.

A Windmill near Norwich c.1816 John Crome 1768-1821 N00926 ©tate.org.uk (The vertical line is a gap between the boards)

Could ‘Old’ Crome’s windmill be one of the two depicted in Braun and Hogenberg’s (1581) prospect of Norwich?

Braun and Hogenberg’s prospect. Two windmills arrowed top left

The excellent Norfolk Mills website lists two mills for Mousehold Heath, one of which is the Sprowston postmill, sometimes thought to have been Crome’s windmill [5]. In 1933, two days before the mill was due to be handed over to the Norfolk Archaeological Society for preservation, sparks from a gorse fire set the sails alight and the windmill burned down.

Except, a paper in Norfolk Archaeology 1966 [6] turned this idea – and the map – on its head with a convincing argument that ‘Old Crome’s Mill’ was not situated on Mousehold Heath to the north of the city but in Trowse to the south.

Faden’s map of Norfolk 1797. The Mousehold/Sprowston mills are labelled in yellow, Trowse mill is circled in red, near Crown Point owned by ‘Money Esq’. Credit: http://www.historic-maps.norfolk.gov.uk

The fingerpost in Crome’s painting seems to carry no inscription but Miklos Rajnai [6] explained that the fingerpost on a very similar drawing of a mill by Norwich School artist George Vincent contains the words, ‘To Crown Point’. The clincher – revealed for the first time in Rajnai’s article of 1966 – was that an old label on the back of Crome’s painting stated: ‘Trowse Mill/near Norwich/painted by/Old Crome’. The windmill at Trowse (see map) is near Crown Point, then owned by intrepid balloonist Major John Money (1752-1817) and subsequently re-built by the banker Sir Robert Harvey.

Trowse Windmill 1818 by George Vincent. Before having to reduce resolution for publication, the lettering on the fingerpost could be discerned as ‘To Crown Point’ (circled). Wikimedia Commons

In a suggested tour of the city, Mottram describes walking towards St Andrews Hall down ‘the new street made for the trams which here descend the hill‘. By the time Mottram wrote his article the ‘new’ street was 35 years old. The tramway had cut a swath through mainly Tudor buildings: the City Arms was demolished and another Tudor building, purportedly made from timbers salvaged from the Spanish Armada, was neatly bisected. (Read Frances and Michael Holmes’ recent book for a fascinating account of the Norwich trams [7]).

Looking eastwards along St Andrews Street in 1897. Around the corner (arrow) is St Andrew’s Hall and Plain; directly ahead is the City Arms, which would be demolished in order for the electric trams of 1900 to descend the hill more easily. The star marks the C16 Armada/Garsett House, the obscured right-hand side of which was demolished to accommodate the tramway. © Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

Across the road from Armada House was another Tudor building, now exposed to the new street – the home of 1572 mayor Robert Suckling whose kneeler monument is next door, in St Andrew’s church [8].

Sir Robert Suckling (1520-1589) with his third wife and 10 children. St Andrew’s Church.

Ralph Mottram wrote that Suckling House ‘was lately purchased by the Misses Colman who opened it as a public Assembly Hall.’

The restored hall-house, Suckling House, the right-hand part of which was refronted in the Georgian period. St Andrew’s Church is off to the right. Photographed by George Plunkett in the year that Ralph Mottram wrote his guide (1935). © georgeplunkett.co.uk

Ethel and Helen Colman, of the Colman’s Mustard family, bought this merchant hall-house in 1923, the year that Ethel became Mayor of Norwich and the first female mayor in the country. The philanthropic sisters had the building restored by their brother-in-law E.T. Boardman (son of architect Edward Boardman) and presented it to the city in 1925 as a place for public assembly. The complex is now Cinema City, housing an arts cinema and restaurant.

Ethel Colman, the country’s first female mayor. Credit: Public domain via Wikipedia

To the left of Suckling House (not in frame in the photo above) is the Boardman-designed Stuart Hall, named after the husband of Ethel and Helen’s sister, Laura Elizabeth Stuart. I hope to write about James Stuart in greater depth but he deserves a brief mention here. A fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, Stuart had been a Liberal MP concerned about the lot of ordinary people. He championed education for all and as a director of Colmans promoted their pension scheme for workers. After James Stuart’s death in 1913, his wife and her family commemorated his name with the almshouse-style Stuart Court apartments (1914). He is also remembered by Stuart Garden in Recorder Road, opposite the Court, but this wasn’t officially opened until after the war, making this year (2022) the centenary of the garden’s opening [9].

IMG_1945.jpeg
One hundred years old. The James Stuart Garden (1922) in Recorder Road, off the bottom of Prince of Wales Road.

In another excursion, Mottram went to Norwich-over-the-Water and – foreshadowing the psychogeographers – took what he called a ‘wander’ off Oak Street, down Jenkin(s) Lane. Only 26 inches wide, the narrowness of this passageway was acknowledged in the rueful local alternative, Chafe Lug Alley [10]. Although he wrote that this led to the first Quaker meeting house in Norwich, the first such place of worship was built in Goat Lane in the city centre in 1676, replaced in 1826 by the chapel that stands there today [11]. The Goat Lane site of a quarter of an acre left no room for the Quakers to bury their dead, for which purpose they used an acre of land across the river (where Amelia Opie and the Gurneys were interred). It was here in 1700 that the Society of Friends built their second meeting house.

Jenkins Lane (arrowed) off Oak Street led to the Friends’ Meeting House (circled). The dotted line approximates the path of the C20 inner ring road. 1907 OS map courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Because Quaker Lane (underlined red) was too narrow for funeral processions, land was rented so that the cortege could travel from St Martin Lane (now inside the ring road) up to a turning circle adjacent to the burial ground [10].

The Second Quaker Meeting House, built in 1700, destroyed by enemy action in 1942. Credit: The Official Guide to the City of Norwich 1935

The advertisements are as fascinating as anything. In an older trade book (1910), the hatters and capmakers, T Wells & Son (estd. 1849) were enhancing their pedigree with an armorial plate. The hatmakers adopted three wells and a rising sun as their rebus, echoing the golden well used by the fifteenth century Bishop of Norwich, James Goldwell.

Accompanying this were photographs of the white-bearded father, Thomas Wells (b 1841) and the son, Herbert Rumsey Wells (b 1877). In Rumsey’s portrait, he sports a waxed moustache and that little patch of hair beneath his lower lip that might have once been called an imperial (in the fashion of Napoleon III) but now seems to be called a soul patch, demonstrating that even though you may change the name there is nothing new under the (rising) sun.

Herbert Rumsey Wells ca 1910. Credit: [12]

A quarter of a century later, in the Official Norwich Guide of 1935, Rumsey Wells was sporting the full goatee, flamboyantly advertising himself as ‘The most expensive Capmaker in the World’.

Credit: Norwich Publicity Association 1937

Famed for his ‘Doggie’ cap (modelled above in the ‘Watton’ shape), Rumsey Wells made headgear, like ‘The Brundall’ for men and the ‘Rumishanter’ for women. He died in 1937 but his shop – leased from the brewers Lacons – is now home to the Rumsey Wells pub in St Andrews Street.

Finally, I had occasionally wondered about the origin of the street name ‘Westlegate’ and Mottram provided the answer. 

Westlegate 1890 copy.jpg
Westlegate in 1890, decades before the street was widened and most of the buildings demolished. Photo: courtesy of David Vincent

The name of the city street ‘Westlegate’ remains although, of its ancient fabric, only All Saints church and the adjacent thatched building still stand. In this Viking town we are familiar with ‘gate’ being derived from the Old Norse ‘gata’ for street or road, as in Fishergate, Colegate etc. According to Mottram the ‘westle’ bit derives from the fine wastel bread that used to be made there.

Wastel bread has its verbal root, guastel, from old French which is now gateau meaning cake, so it seems to have been a cake-like bread made from fine white flour [13]. Jacob Grimm of the German Brothers Grimm knew the word Gastel for ‘a finer kind of bread‘ which was also known as Wastel in Upper Germany i.e. Bavaria and Austria. In Italy, the guastella (guastedda in Sicily) has survived the times in different shapes, mostly flat, always white, and often sweet.

© Reggie Unthank 2022

Sources

  1. DP Mortlock and CV Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches. No 2 Norwich, Central and South Norfolk. Pub: Acorn Editions.
  2. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  3. Mark Knights (2004). Politics, 1660-1835. In, Norwich since 1550 (eds Carole Rawcliffe and Richard Wilson). Pub: Hambledon and London.
  4. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/03/15/revolutionary-norwich/
  5. http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/WindmillsN/thorpe-mousehold-postmill.html
  6. Miklos Rajnai (1966). John Crome’s Windmill’ Norfolk Archaeology https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-3749-1/dissemination/pdf/vol_34/NorfolkArchaeology34_P86_P87.pdf
  7. Frances and Michael Holmes (2021). The Days of the Norwich Trams. Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects.
  8. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/08/15/sculptured-monuments/
  9. https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/history-of-james-stuart-norwich-8627120
  10. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/oak.htm#Oakst
  11. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/08/15/post-medieval-norwich-churches/
  12. ‘Citizens of No Mean City’ (1910), a trade book published by Jarrold & Sons
  13. http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/wastelbread.htm

Thanks

I am grateful to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk for permissions.

Chapel in the Fields

Tags

,

Over the years Norwich’s largest public green space has been known as Chapel-in-the-Fields, Chapel Fields, Chapple/Chapply/Chaply/Chapley Field, and now Chapelfield Gardens [1]; my daughters call it Chappy. We saw the area last when genteel Georgians promenaded around its triangular walk [2] but this only occupied a thin slice of time for the name goes back a further half millennium to when John le Brun founded the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Fields (1250). This evolved into the College of St Mary in the Fields, part of which was to be incorporated into the Georgian Assembly House (1745-6).

Braun and Hogenberg’s prospect of Norwich 1581. The inset focuses on Chapel Fields, from St Stephen’s Gate (far right) to St Giles’ Gate (lower left). Courtesy of Norfolk County Council.

Braun and Hogenberg’s prospect of 1581 is based on Cuningham’s map of 1558 so provides a glimpse of Chapel Field around the time of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1569 the ownership of Chapel Field was transferred to the city. The map shows this sector dominated by two areas of open ground: the land behind Chapel Field House and a triangular meadow grazed by cows and occupied by figures with bows and arrows. This was at a time when it was still compulsory for men between the ages of 15 and 60 to prepare for war and we see them practicing archery under the walls. But warfare was changing and by the latter part of the century the field became the mustering ground for the city’s trained artillerymen.

By the time of King’s plan of 1766 the two parts were still largely open ground. Only minor inroads were made by the bowling green, theatre and Assembly House, which provided entertainment for leisured Georgians. On the triangular field we see the double row of elms that lessee Thomas Churchman’s planted for his promenade [2]. This latter portion would survive as present-day Chapelfield Gardens.

The two portions of Chapel Fields: Assembly House (blue star) and Churchman’s triangular promenade (note the ‘Water House’, circled).Samuel King’s plan 1766. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council

A generation later, Chapel Fields still embodied a sense of bucolic openness as conveyed in the etching by John Crome (1768-1821). The city had always allowed Chapelfield to be used as a public space and in 1656 resisted Lady Hobart’s attempt to prevent citizens passing through [3]. Infilling with shanty housing was the norm in the rest of the city but the only signs of encroachment on rustic Chapelfield are the post-and-rail fencing and the high wall to the left (possibly part of the city wall) .

View in Chapel-Field’ by John Crome (etching). Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Collections NWHCM: 1954.138.Todd 7. Mancroft 118

From the beginning of the eighteenth century the fields were fenced in [3]. In 1867 the council erected iron railings [4], which would be removed in World War Two, purportedly to make guns. This would have been the ‘massive palisade’ supplied by W S Boulton (later of Boulton & Paul) who, ‘produces every kind of railing … also mincing and sausage machines’ [5].

Chapel Fields lies in the crook of the protective arm provided by the city walls, built about 1300. Some 500 years later the gates at its southern and western extremities were demolished to ease the flow of horse-drawn traffic: St Giles’ Gate in 1792 and St Stephen’s Gate a year later. The walls were disappearing too, signifying a loosening of the hold of the medieval past and allowing – if only notionally – the escape of noxious air. In the 1860s, some of the wall around Chapelfield was used as hardcore for the new Prince of Wales Road that connected the markets with the newly arrived railway [6]. Some of the ‘Chapelfield’ wall had been breached by houses built against them.

From inside Chapelfield Gardens. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

In 1969, these houses were demolished to make way for the ring road [7].

The City Wall outside Chapelfield Gardens following demolition of attached houses in 1969. ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

King’s map of 1766 shows a water house within Churchman’s triangular walk, part of the corporation’s scheme to supply water to the city. Water pumped from the river at New Mills (near Westwick Street, upstream of the built-up area) supplied Chapelfield and Tombland. The Tombland works were described in 1698 by Celia Fiennes as ‘a great well house with a wheele to wind up the water … a large pond walled up with brick a mans height … (and) a water house to supply the town by pipes’ [quoted in 8]. This is commemorated by John Henry Gurney’s obelisk and fountain of 1850.

JH Gurney’s fountain and obelisk commemorate a previous water cistern. This memorial was relocated in the recent (2021) transformation of Tombland.

Supply of unfiltered water was therefore restricted to a few parts of the city – and then only to those who would pay for the connection. In 1792, supply was taken over by the Norwich Waterworks Company who built the water tower and reservoir in Chapel Field that appear on Millard and Manning’s map of 1830 [9].

The Chapelfield reservoir on Millard and Manning’s map 1830. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council.

The presence of waterworks in Chapelfield had disturbed the illusion of a bosky retreat where the gentility could associate and by 1840 the park had become ‘the resort of loose and idle boys’ and washerwomen [9]. One idea had been to dignify the site by placing a statue of Nelson on an island in the middle of the reservoir [3]. This never happened and the statue was located, instead, in the cathedral’s Upper Close.

Print by JW Papworth of Thomas Milnes’ statue of Nelson, intended to be placed upon a fountain pedestal in Chapel Field. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service NWHCM: 1954.138.Todd7.Mancroft168

In 1852 the Waterworks Company agreed to hand the land over to the corporation provided they laid it out as a public garden, which they did. By designating Chapelfield Gardens a public park the site was protected from the terraced housing being built just the other side of the city wall.

In 1866 the corporation offered the north-west corner of Chapelfield Gardens to the militia for building a drill hall [5]. This castellated Neo-Gothic building, designed by the City Surveyor, Ernest Benest, incorporated part of a tower from the old city wall. The triangular shape of Chapelfield Gardens would be lost when this corner, and the Drill Hall, were flattened beneath the inner ring road of the C20.

Postcard depicting the Old Drill Hall on the site of the present-day roundabout, with Chapelfield Gardens to the left. The tower incorporated from the city wall is marked with a dotted line. Courtesy of Wikipedia

From within this lost north-west corner of Chapelfield Garden we see the back of the Drill Hall and beyond this the Catholic Cathedral, only just completed in 1910. And those must be Mr Boulton’s sturdy iron railings, removed in World War II.

The lost corner’. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

The Drill Hall was demolished in 1963 but the position of the old city-wall tower incorporated into its structure is commemorated by a semi-circle of cobbles on the Grapes Hill roundabout, constructed as part of the 1968-1975 Inner Link Road.

Grapes Hill roundabout from the Catholic cathedral tower, with semi-circle of cobbles (inset) marking the ‘Drill Hall’ tower. The dotted line follows the medieval wall. ©norwich.gov.uk [10].

To connect the roundabout with incoming traffic from Earlham Road – which had previously gone straight across to St Giles Street – an awkward fiddler’s elbow (yellow) was created when vehicles were diverted a little way up Unthank Road. Traffic was reconnected with St Giles Street via a spur off the roundabout, creating Cleveland Road (green) in the process. It probably made sense at the time.

Left: contemporary map courtesy of OrangeSmile.com. Right: 1908 OS map courtesy of National Library of Scotland. Blue, drill hall. Green, Cleveland Street. Yellow, Earlham Road traffic re-routed up Unthank Road.

George Plunkett’s invaluable archive of twentieth century photographs shows us the Earlham Road/St Giles Street intersection before the map was redrawn in the late 1960s. Here we look down the narrow street that appears as St Giles Hill on the 1884 OS map and as Grapes Hill in 1908. This was some 60 years before the houses were demolished in readiness for the dual carriageway and the pedestrian flyover built over it. To the far left, at No 1 Earlham Road, is the eponymous Grapes Hotel. It was the only building on the hill to survive the ring road but it was to give way to retirement homes built around 2000. I can recall being able to touch the upper floor of the former Grapes Hotel from the gangway up to the footbridge.

St Giles Hill. View north from St Giles Gates, 1964′. © georgeplunkett.co.uk.

Inside the gardens, one of its most exotic inhabitants was the iron pavilion designed by Thomas Jeckyll. Made by Barnard Bishop and Barnards, and with much of the bas-relief work being forged by Aquila Eke (George Plunkett’s great uncle) it won a gold medal at the Philadelphia exhibition of 1876. Four years later it was bought by the Norwich corporation for £500 and installed in Chapelfield Gardens. I’ve written at length about Aesthetic Jeckyll and his designs for Barnards’ Norfolk Iron Works [e.g., 11], so I won’t run on, but this was the famous ‘Pagoda’, enclosed by railings in the form of uber-fashionable sunflowers – an icon of the Japanese-influenced Aesthetic Movement, here in provincial Norwich. Yet, despite it being a triumph of Norwich craftsmanship, the modernists who wrote the City of Norwich Plan for 1945 judged the Pagoda to be dispensable and so it was demolished in 1949. As Gavin Stamp wrote in Lost Victorian Britain, ‘Victorian, quite simply, was a term of abuse’ during the post-war period.

Norwich’s lost treasure, The ‘Pagoda’. Sunflower railings, arrowed. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

Designed by Jeckyll, the fabric hangings that once decorated the Pagoda are conserved in the Norwich Castle Study Centre.

Courtesy of Norfolk County Council

Another occupant of Chapelfield Gardens was a thatched teahouse, known as King Prempeh’s Bungalow, built about the time of the Ashanti campaign in West Africa. Prempeh the First (1870-1931), who had tried to negotiate peace with the British, was captured by an expeditionary force led by Robert (‘Scouting for Boys’) Baden-Powell and sent into exile. In 1902, the Ashanti Kingdom became part of the Gold Coast colony. When Prempeh – once ruler of all he surveyed – was eventually released he found himself Chief Scout of what was now a British protectorate [12].

The thatched teahouse in 1931. In 1938, this was replaced by the present building that for many years housed Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

Surrounding Chapelfield Gardens

From about 1815 the New City arose outside the walls on the south-west side of Chapelfield Road. This signalled the start of the expansion of working-class housing away from the insanitary muddle of the old city. A piece of land once used as a market garden became Crook’s Place and along with Union Place and Julian Place these terraces of small houses were built to accommodate an influx of workers from the countryside [13]. Mostly back-to-back, these modest dwellings with shared privies and water pumps proved to be insanitary and were demolished during rounds of twentieth century slum clearance. A generation later, terraced housing on the Steward and Unthank estates was built to higher standards and continued the city’s westward expansion well beyond the pull of the medieval walls [13].

Chapelfield Gardens (yellow). Julian, Union and Crook’s Place(s) (red). The Crescent (green), Gothic House (blue star). 1886 OS map. National Library of Scotland CC-BY-NC-SA

Built better for polite society, the V-shaped Crescent (1821-1827) survives into the twenty-first century. Nearby, the distinctive Gothic House was demolished as part of the Vauxhall demolition scheme of the 1960s. The Gothic Revival, mostly encountered on Victorian non-conformist chapels around Norwich, hardly touched the city’s domestic housing; the Gothic House is a rare example of this style, here applied as a facade to an older building [14].

No 47 Chapelfield Road. The Gothic House in 1939, built 1857. ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

The street bounding the gardens to the north, Chapelfield North, is architecturally rich; it hasn’t altered significantly during my 40 years in the city although the ebb and flow of traffic seems to have changed according to various schemes. One bystander that has overseen a more dramatic change in transport fashion is The Garage, now a centre for performing arts.

The Garage, Chapelfield North. The building immediately to the left is St Mary’s Croft built 1881 in exuberant Tudorbethan style.

Originally, The Garage was built as the new motor works for Howes & Sons Ltd.

Photo: howesfamilies.com

In this photograph Howes were announcing themselves as ‘coachbuilders’ at a time when coachwork had come to mean the body of a motor vehicle. But this was just a breath away from a world when Howes built horse-drawn carriages.

Howes & Sons Ltd, coachbuilders, established 1784 (from Bayne’s Comprehensive History of Norwich, 1869 [5]).

A twentieth century addition to Chapelfield North is the Norwich Spiritualist Church. Built by RG Carter in 1936, this single-storey building was part-funded by proceedings from a post-WWI spiritualist meeting addressed by the faith’s most famous adherent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The third of the triangle of streets around Chapelfield Gardens is Chapelfield East, which divides the gardens from the larger block that once housed Caley’s chocolate factory (later, Rowntree Mackintosh then Nestlé). Demolished to make way for the Chapelfield Shopping Centre (2005) this complex was – with a nod to its ecclesiastical heritage – recently renamed as Chantry Place.

On this street Chapelfield East Congregational Church once stood, a prominent landmark with twin 80-foot towers. As George Plunkett noted [15], a stranger could have been excused for thinking it was this chapel that gave name to the neighbouring public garden. Of course, it was far too young, arising in 1859 to be demolished in 1972.

Chapelfield East Congregational Church seen in 1939 ©georgeplunkett.co.uk
On St Mary’s Croft in Chapelfield North, a reminder of the chapel of St Mary in the Fields,

© 2022 Reggie Unthank

Sources

  1. Francis Blomefield (1806). ‘History of the County of Norfolk’ 4, part 2 Chapter 42 City of Norwich. Online at: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-hist-norfolk/vol4/pp145-184#h2-0003
  2. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/11/16/georgian-norwich/
  3. Frank Meeres (2011). The Story of Norwich. Pub: Phillimore & Co. Ltd.
  4. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001645
  5. A.D. Bayne (1869). A Comprehensive History of Norwich https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44568/44568-h/44568-h.htm
  6. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  7. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/cat.htm#Chafe
  8. Margaret Pelling (2004). Health and Sanitation to 1750. In, Norwich since 1550. Eds: Carol Rawcliffe and Richard Wilson. Pub: Hambledon and London.
  9. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001645
  10. https://www.norwich.gov.uk/site/custom_scripts/citywalls/21/report.php
  11. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/01/06/jeckyll-and-the-sunflower-motif/
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Ashanti_wars
  13. Rosemary O’Donoghue (2014). ‘Norwich, an Expanding City: 1801-1900.’ Pub: Larks Press.
  14. Noël Spencer (1978). Norwich Drawings. Pub: Noël Spencer and Martlet Studio.
  15. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/cat.htm#Chafr

Thanks: I am grateful to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk and to the George Plunkett collection for permission to use photographs.

Noël Spencer’s Norwich

Tags

, ,

We’ve already encountered the artist Noël Spencer, most recently when his book on Sculptured Monuments provided inspiration for two posts [1, 2]. He came to Norwich in 1946 as Headmaster of the Art School (then still a department of City College) and retired in 1964 as Principal after the Art School had become a separate institution [3]. Arriving from Huddersfield, Spencer was able to see his adopted home with a stranger’s eye. He seemed more interested in buildings than landscape, making pencil drawings on the spot, recording things that would soon be lost in the post-war period. His name cropped up again when I was introduced to Margaret Pearce who went to the Art School as a 16-year-old student in 1943. She was befriended by Spencer and his wife Vera who lived in Upton Close, Eaton, and who, for many years, sent Christmas cards based on Noël’s drawings of Norwich buildings. Margaret generously passed on these records of lost Norwich, which form the basis of this post.

Plaster casts of antique statues in the School of Art. By Margaret Pearce, mid 1940s

Margaret’s painting of antique figures was made in the School of Art in the ‘new’ (1899) Technical Institute site on St George’s Street. Her work is reminiscent of young Alfred Munnings’ painting made in the last years of the old School of Art when it occupied the top floor of the Free Library at the corner of St Andrew’s and Duke Streets. For much of their occupancy of the Free Library, students drew figures, not from life but from plaster casts. Note the illumination from above; we’ll see this again.

munnings class.jpg
The Painting Room at the Norwich School of Art, by Alfred Munnings (1897). Courtesy of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery NWHCM: L2001.4.1

This ink drawing on one of Noël Spencer’s greeting cards is labelled ‘The Norwich Technical Institute. Now the City College and Art School, built beside the Wensum in 1899. Sir John Soane’s Blackfriars Bridge in the foreground.’ Soane built the bridge of Portland stone in 1783-4.

© Estate of Noël Spencer

This was the building that replaced the overcrowded Art School housed on the top floor of the Free Library [4]. But before leaving the Free Library we should acknowledge its place in the history of public libraries. The Libraries Act of 1850 revolutionised access to books, allowing ordinary citizens to borrow items without paying for a subscription. The Norwich Free Library (below) was the first in the country to be constructed under the Act, recovering costs by adding up to a halfpenny to the rates.

The Norwich Free Library at the corner of St Andrew’s Street and Duke Street. Demolished for road widening and replaced by a telephone exchange. © Estate of Noël Spencer

Accommodation for the School of Art on the smaller upper floor proved unsatisfactory from the start. Students were warned not to move about unnecessarily because the floor had dropped away so much that adjacent rooms could seen beneath the partition walls. Cracks in the chimney let the rain in, water closets were condemned, foul air pervaded the building but the problems with the WCs weren’t helped by students flushing modelling clay down the pan [3]. Access to the School of Art on the upper floor was awkward, leading to a demand for a separate entrance and staircase to the top floor [3]. This appears to have been granted for Noël Spencer drew a gate that led up to the School of Art [5].

Newspaper clipping of linocut print by Noël Spencer of the gate leading to the old School. Courtesy of Norwich University of the Arts NUAAR00034

On the Christmas card below, based on a drawing dated 6th of February 1966, we glimpse the western end of the old Free Library/Art School with its roof lantern illuminating the Antique Room. Number 11 St Andrew’s Street was constructed in the 1830s as the Norfolk and Norwich Literary Institute but later housed a variety of municipal offices. Spencer labels it ‘The Old Baths’, the municipal ‘slipper baths’ so named because the towel draped across the bath for modesty made it look, well, like a slipper. The sign on the gable end wall refers to the Deaf Welfare Centre while the building also contained the Guardians of the Poor (later the Public Assistance Department). Other signs on the gable end point to Clarke’s Billiard Club at the rear in what had been the Catholic chapel – the last vestige of the Duke of Norfolk’s Palace. All of this was to be swept away in the 1960s to accommodate the new telephone exchange and the entranceway to the St Andrew’s Street car park [4].

© Estate of Noël Spencer

In 1938 the City Council announced they would be building a new library on compulsorily purchased land centred around St Peter’s Wesleyan Chapel on Lady Lane, not far from St Peter Mancroft. But war intervened and it wasn’t until 1962 that much of what we see on the 1884 OS map was demolished to make way for David Percival’s modernist library, which would be destroyed by fire in 1994. Now, the site is occupied by The Forum, which houses the Millennium Library. What had been Lady Lane became Esperanto Way and is now called Will Kemp Way, which lies behind The Forum.

The building site for the new Central Library was situated between Bethel Street and Theatre Street. St Peter’s Wesleyan Chapel (blue star). Lady Lane (yellow line). St Peter Mancroft (red star). 1884 OS map, courtesy of norwich-heritage.co.uk

In 1960 Noël Spencer recorded the Lady Lane Chapel with his pen as George Plunkett had done with his camera in 1949. This chapel had been designed by John T Patience in 1824 in the same period that he designed the Friends’ Meeting House in Upper Goat Lane (1824) and the Roman Catholic Chapel in Willow Lane (1828) [6].

St Peter’s Chapel, Lady Lane (demolished). Left, Noël Spencer © Estate of Noël Spencer; right, © georgeplunkett.co.uk

Tumblers clicked when I realised that St Peter’s Chapel at the junction of Park Lane and Avenue Road was built as the direct successor to St Peter’s Chapel in Lady Lane. In 1939, as the latter was being marked for destruction, Boardman & Son were supervising its replacement in the Golden Triangle [7]. Currently, the ‘new’ St Peter’s is being converted to apartments. It was built adjacent to a smaller Wesleyan Methodist chapel of 1894 that was evidently stripped of its neo-Gothic identifiers when it was encased in brick and repurposed as the church hall. About two years ago those bricks were removed, revealing a Neo-Gothic window.

Top, St Peter’s Park Lane and its church hall to the right, 2017. Lower left, the church hall being stripped of its brick casing in 2019. Lower right, the original Wesleyan chapel of 1894 before its conversion to a church hall.

In 1954 George Plunkett photographed Plowright’s antique shop at the corner of Tombland and Queen Street. The dilapidated state of the adjacent building is explained by Plunkett’s description of an enemy raid in May 1943 when incendiary bombs gutted Bell’s the estate agents and ‘Plowright’s the antique dealers’ premises next door suffer(ed) severely from blast which scattered and smashed a quantity of valuable silver and glassware.’ [6]

Tombland 1 and Queen Street 1954; note the damage to roof and windows of the building abutting the antiques shop. georgeplunkett.co.uk

By 1956 these buildings had been demolished and Noël Spencer drew, instead, a construction site. Demolition temporarily exposed the ‘hidden church’, St Mary-the-Less, once used by the Walloon strangers as their cloth hall and where French-speaking immigrants worshipped from the sixteenth century until the nineteenth.

Noël Spencer’s greeting card shows RG Carter to be the main contractor for a new branch of the Woolwich Building Society. © Estate of Noël Spencer

Spencer viewed the scene from across the road, from the first floor offices of local architect Ernest Hugh Buckingham (1874-1962). This would have been in a three-storey, round-cornered early C19 building on the site of the ancient Popinjay Inn, roughly where the devastating fire of 1507 started [6]. That building is no longer with us for the corner was presumably demolished as part of the post-war programme of street-widening. The site is now occupied by the bar/restaurant, All-Bar-One. I asked if I could go upstairs to photograph the former building site from Spencer’s vantage point but was told this wasn’t possible. All-Bar-Me then.

Arising on this site was a branch of the Woolwich Equitable Building Society that would obscure the church once more. It is now occupied by Haart the estate agents.

The top of the church tower remains visible; the easily overlooked south entrance is arrowed.
Three cast sculptures from 1957 decorate the former Woolwich building. The martial theme refers to the Woolwich Arsenal in south-east London, which supplied munitions to the British forces.

Another of Spencer’s drawings records a bomb site being levelled in 1949. Trevor Page’s Norfolk Furnishing Establishment had made and upholstered furniture here until it was bombed during a Baedeker raid in August 1942; its loss allowed St John Maddermarket to be seen from Exchange Street [6]. To the far right of the illustration, beneath the tree, we see the stippled wall of the churchyard. This boundary wall was rebuilt in 1578 after land had been borrowed from the crowded graveyard to widen the lane so that Queen Elizabeth I could be conveyed from the Guildhall to the Duke of Norfolk’s palace on the riverside.

Demolition of the furniture shop allowed the Curvilinear east window of St John the Baptist, Maddermarket, to be seen from Exchange Street. The crane bears the name of Edward Edwards whose firm was used on other occasions for groundworks by George Skipper. © Estate of Noël Spencer

1951 was the year of the Festival of Britain, a ‘beacon of change’ for a country recovering from a debilitating war. It was also the year in which the 11-year-old twin King brothers dedicated the forward-looking Norfolk House on this bomb site. Impressed by Halmstad City Hall in Sweden, their father, Raymond King, was determined to introduce a similar note of modernity to Norwich [8]. In spirit, if not in detail, this new building also bears comparison with Norwich’s own City Hall of 1939, which was influenced by Stockholm’s neo-Classical City Hall and Concert Hall. When completed, Norfolk House obscured all but the tip of St John’s tower from Exchange Street.

Right: Norfolk House, currently the home of City College, 1951 (georgeplunkett.co.uk). Left: only the tip of the church tower can be seen from Exchange Street (blue arrow).

Breaking the roofline of the Halmstad City Hall is a sculpture of a man o’ war surmounting a clock (not shown). On Norfolk House this theme is transmuted into the shield of the kingdom of East Anglia topped by a Norfolk wherry.

The designer of this sculpture was James Fletcher-Watson, architect, famous water-colourist and nephew of architect Cecil Upcher, who was the subject of October’s post [10]. In one of those little coincidences in a city bristling with artists, Fletcher-Watson and Spencer portrayed the same lost building on Cow Hill.

Left: Noël Spencer. ‘House on the east side of Cow Hill now demolished’ © Estate of Noël Spencer. Right: James Fletcher-Watson. ‘Junk Shop Cow Hill, Norwich’. Courtesy of Mandell’s Gallery

Another of Spencer’s greeting cards depicts the Golden Ball public house and provides an image missing from a short article I’d written for my recent book [9]. The excellent Norfolk Pubs site locates the Golden Ball pub of 1900 at the corner of Cattlemarket Street and Rising Sun Lane on Castle Hill [11]. The Golden Ball around which my article turned can be seen here, suspended over the junction of the two roads.

An inscription on the inside cover of the card states, ‘”The Golden Ball”, demolished about 1962/Rouen Road passes across the site.’ The words ‘Cattlemarket Street’ and ‘To Spelman’s Horse Sale’ underline the importance of the livestock markets around the castle to the county’s thriving agricultural trade. © Estate of Noël Spencer

The OS map of 1884 shows the Golden Ball pub at the top of Cattlemarket Street at the three-way junction with Golden Ball Street and Rising Sun Lane.

Golden Ball Inn (gold circle); Golden Ball Street (gold line); present-day Prospect House (red star). The blue arrow points to the castle, one map-width away. 1884 OS map.

At the right-hand edge of the map is Prospect Place Works that manufactured agricultural machinery for Holmes & Sons’ beautiful cast-iron-and-glass Victorian showroom (now the Crystal House) on the hill at Cattlemarket Street. This area was to be reconfigured, first by German bombs then by the bulldozers of postwar renewal. In 1962, the Golden Ball pub was compulsorily purchased and, along with Rising Sun Lane, flattened to form a wider, realigned route (Rouen Road) that bypassed narrow King Street. The name ‘prospect’, which must refer to the view across the valley to the Thorpe side, lives on in Prospect House, built in 1970 as the headquarters of Eastern Counties Newspapers. Golden Ball Street remains and the golden globe that once hung over the corner of that street is reimagined in the sculpture by Henry Moore’s assistant, Bernard Meadows, outside the ECN building. Norwich boy Meadows – who would have known the old street and the pub – resurrected the golden ball, now playfully prodded by the apprentice whose master’s works were famously holey and bumpy.

‘Public Sculpture’ by Bernard Meadows at the entrance to the ECN building at the junction of Golden Ball Street and Rouen Road.

In the postwar period, Spencer drew one of only six thatched houses in the city – the sole timber-framed house on Westlegate to survive the twentieth century transformation. The house to the left was demolished to make way for Westlegate Tower.

Left, © Estate of Noël Spencer

The thatched building was once a public house known, in Norfolk dialect, as the Barking Dicky. A comment on the back of the card in Margaret’s hand explains the term.

The Barking Dicky – named after a rather poorly painted sign board of a rampant horse. Norfolk humour for the braying donkey. Norfolk old rhyme – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John/Hold you the dicky bor while I gets on.

Below is one of Spencer’s cards showing two carved figures that puzzled me for a while. The illustration on the greeting card was untitled but an online search turned up a larger version of the drawing labelled, ‘The Fair Tombland, Norwich 1949’.

Tombland Fair © Estate of Noël Spencer

Mention ‘carved figures’ and ‘Tombland’ to Norwich residents and they will automatically think of Samson and Hercules – the pillars holding up the porch of the C17 building in what had been the Anglo-Scandinavian marketplace. Over the years, these famous Norwich strongmen have guarded a war-time dance hall, Ritzy’s night club and a seafood restaurant (when S&H were painted an ignominious shade of lobster red).

Except … except Spencer’s drawings are usually faithful representations and these half figures don’t look anything like the full-length Norwich strongmen. Margaret recognised the jarring note and wrote on the back of the card, ‘Where can this have been, and when?’

Samson and Hercules House, Tombland.

Despite the inconvenient shuttering around a former jewellers we can see that Tombland curves away to the right and not to the left as in Spencer’s drawing.

By tweaking the signage on the stall, to the left of the figures on Spencer’s drawing, it is possible to make out the name ‘Castle Books’.

This is the Castle Book Stall that once stood on Agricultural Hall Plain, several hundred yards to the south of Tombland. The Shirehall – glimpsed below – is to the right, making the large monolithic block to the left in Spencer’s drawing, the Agricultural Hall (now Anglia Television).

Norwich, Castle Book Stall on Agricultural Hall Plain in the 1950s. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

Look closely and you can see these supporting figures to have been lit by strings of light bulbs, showing them to have been a fairground attraction. Until the seventeenth century the annual Tombland Fair was held on the Thursday before Easter but for most of the twentieth century ‘Tombland Fair’ was held at Christmas and Easter on the spaces around the Castle mound (e.g., Cattlemarket Street, Castle Meadow, Market Avenue) [12]. The classical portico (circled) down the road belongs to the old Crown Bank (later the Post Office) next to the Agricultural Hall, meaning that the fairground ride was located at the southern border of Agricultural Hall Plain, adjacent to the hall itself.

From right to left, at the junction of Agricultural Hall Plain and present-day Market Avenue, is a fairground attraction; behind the Castle Book Stall is the looming shape of Agricultural Hall, behind which is the portico with Ionic columns (magnified, inset) belonging to the failed Crown Bank at the top of Prince of Wales Road. © Estate of Noël Spencer
The fairground ride (red star), Agricultural Hall (yellow dot) and Crown Bank/Post Office (blue dot) are aligned along the edge of Agricultural Hall Plain. Tombland is marked by the red oblong. Ordnance Survey 1884 .

In response to a request for information, Adam Brown, chair of The Fairground Heritage Trust [13], seems to have identified the actual fairground ride sketched by Noël Spencer. John Thurston and Sons brought their travelling fair to Norwich and to other venues, such as the Cambridge Midsummer Fair and the Mop Fair in Northampton. It was at the Mop Fair where the photograph below was taken in 1949, the year that Spencer made his drawing. The photograph is of an Ark – a ride consisting of cars or gondolas that moved around undulating ‘hills’. Later, this ride would be converted to a more exciting waltzer in which the cars spun around their axes as they moved around the track. The figures adorning the entrance represent Atlas who, with arms bent above his head, bears the weight of the heavens upon his shoulders. These Atlases (or Atlantes, plural of Atlas) were surely the half figures that Noël Spencer drew in 1949.

John Thurston and Sons’ fairground ride at the Northampton Mop Fair, 1949. Reproduced with permission of the University of Sheffield.

Thanks: I am indebted to Margaret Pearce, one-time student of the Norwich School of Art, for her kindness and generosity in providing the Christmas cards sent over the years by Noël and Vera Spencer, and I am grateful to Sarah Scott for making the introduction. Thanks also to Professor Simon Willmoth of Norwich University of the Arts, for providing images from the NUA Collection & Archives, to Clare Everitt of the indispensable Picture Norfolk site, and to Jonathan Plunkett for making his father’s photographs available to all (georgeplunkett.co.uk). Alan Theobald put me on the track of Thurston’s fairground attractions; Adam Brown, Chair of The Fairground Heritage Trust, identified what was probably Spencer’s fairground attraction; and I thank Jo Pike for discussions on Norwich fairs.

And thanks to you, dear reader, for following these posts and for the comments that illuminate our shared fascination with the history of this fine city: I wish you a Happy Christmas.

This post is respectfully dedicated to Noël Spencer who evidently loved Norwich and recorded this city at a time of great change. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holder of Noël Spencer’s images. I will be pleased to give credit and can be reached via the Contact link at the top of the page.

© Reggie Unthank 2021

Christmas present?

‘A Sideways Look at the City’ (£14.99) and the recently reprinted ‘Colonel Unthank and the Golden Triangle’ (£10) are available from Jarrolds’ Book Department, City Bookshop in Davey Place, and The Bookhive – all in Norwich. ‘Sideways’ can also be purchased from Waterstones, Norwich; The Holt Bookshop; and Kett’s Books, Wymondham.

Sources

  1. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/08/15/sculptured-monuments/
  2. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/09/15/sculptured-monuments-2/
  3. Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton and John Stevens (1982). A Happy Eye: A School of Art in Norwich 1845-1982. Pub: Jarrold & Sons Ltd., Norwich.
  4. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2018/06/15/norwich-knowledge-libraries/
  5. Noël Spencer (1978). Norwich Drawings. Pub: Noël Spencer and Martlet Studio. (A beautiful book, worth seeking online).
  6. www.georgeplunkett.co.uk
  7. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/08/15/post-medieval-norwich-churches/
  8. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=46
  9. Clive Lloyd (2021). Colonel Unthank’s Norwich: A Sideways Look at the City. See: https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/new-book-2021/
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/10/15/cecil-upcher-soldier-and-architect/
  11. https://norfolkpubs.co.uk/norwich/gnorwich/nchgb.htm
  12. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/fair.htm
  13. https://www.fairground-heritage.org.uk/collections/

Georgian Norwich

Tags

,

In 1505 and 1507 great fires swept away the majority of Norwich’s early medieval buildings and a new city – still largely timber-framed – arose on the old street plan [1]. Two centuries later, as historian Marc Girouard noted of the country in general, Georgian buildings were raised, ‘on medieval plots and incorporated a medieval, or at least Tudor, structure behind their new facades‘ [2]. Grafting new faces onto old frames was therefore not peculiar to Norwich; however, the lack of stone, in what was still the nation’s second city, meant that new classically-influenced buildings based on proportion and balance would be of red brick or plasterwork masquerading as stone. The straitjacket of a medieval street-plan, encircled for much of the Georgian period by city walls, meant that no new squares and crescents would be laid out, as in London, Bath, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Bristol. There would be no Georgian new town in Norwich.

Numbers 22, 24 and 26 Princes Street in 1936. © georgeplunkett.co.uk

There was a good example of Georgianification in last month’s post [3]. Where Norwich architect Cecil Upcher had restored the centre house above (No 24) by stripping it back to its Elizabethan bones, the house next door (No 26) had already been modernised by the Georgians who had inserted sash windows (although the timber-framed construction is betrayed by the jettied [jutting] first floor). That other trademark of the Georgian makeover – the Classical door surround – is out of shot but a stroll around old Norwich produces numerous examples of Georgian doorways – many retrofitted to older buildings [4,5].

Not long before the first George acceded to the throne in 1714, Celia Fiennes visited the city on her travels by side-saddle. She commented on the lack of brick buildings in the city centre, noting that what few she saw belonged to rich merchants in Norwich-over-the-Water.

‘… but all their buildings are of an old form, mostly in deep poynts and much tileing as has been observ’d before, and they playster on Laths wch they strike out into squares like broad free stone on ye outside, wch makes their fronts Look pretty well; and some they build high and Contract ye roofes resembling the London houses, but none of brick Except some few beyond the river wch are built of some of ye Rich factors like ye London buildings’ [6].

… they playster on Laths wch they strike out into squares like broad free stone.’ At the corner of Elm Hill and Princes Street

This house, with rusticated plaster-work designed to look like stone, was built about 1619 [7] and appears on James Cobridge’s ‘Mapp of the City of Norwich’ (1727). Subscribers who wanted their house to be depicted in the margins were asked to pay seven shillings down and three on delivery. Mr James Reeve should regard this as ten bob well spent since his house at the corner of Elm Hill and Princes Street is the only one that can still be recognised (although most churches remain) [8].

Note the number of grand houses with courtyards. Reeve’s house is outlined in red. Cobridge’s plan 1727. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council.
Captain John Reeve’s house in St Peter Hungate by James Corbridge 1727. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk.

Paradoxically, Mr Reeve’s house is the least grandiose of the illustrated buildings and we can only mourn the number of large C17-18 houses that we have lost. During the eighteenth century, most of the houses in Norwich-over-the-Water  were remodelled or rebuilt [7], no doubt on profits from a thriving textile industry. An example of contemporary remodelling is provided by 27-29 Colegate, ‘ … a seventeenth century timber-framed house raised a storey in the C18’ [7].

27-29 Colegate (with the six lucams or dormers) in Norwich-over-the-water.

St Giles Street is one of the most imposing Georgian streets, full of houses either built in the Georgian period or brought up to date with a new facade (usually involving an increase in height) [7].

The south side of St Giles Street, with the City Hall clocktower in the distance

Focussing on newly-built brick houses of the 1700s, Pevsner and Wilson [7] noted that none retained the old courtyard plan. Abandoned by the rich then filled with the shanties of the poor, numerous ‘courts’ or ‘yards’ were to become insanitary slums that lasted well into the twentieth century. Meanwhile, the wealthy either retreated to their country houses surrounding the city or lived in their brick-built townhouses (stone being famously scarce in these parts). The wealthy master-weaver Thomas Harvey did both. He built a mansion just north of the city, Catton House, while maintaining a town house in the heart of the weaving district. This was number 18 Colegate, built in the early eighteenth century [9]. Thomas Harvey was the man whose collection of Dutch paintings influenced the co-founder of the Norwich Society of Artists, John Crome, who lived off Colegate [10].

No 18 Colegate. The threat of flooding from the nearby river accounts for the high steps up from the street.

Pevsner and Wilson considered 18 Colegate to be ‘(one) of the best early C18 houses in Norwich’ and awarded a similar accolade to Churchman’s House on St Giles Plain – ‘one of the finest houses in Norwich’ [7]. The imposing front we see today was added in 1751 by Sir Thomas Churchman in the course of remodelling his father’s house. Both this and Harvey’s house are seven-bayed but the pediment above the central three bays of Churchman’s House adds a more elegant top note.

In 1746, Churchman Jr planted a triangular walk of elms on nearby Chapel Field that he leased from the council [11].

The walk around a triangular avenue of elms in Chapelfield, just inside the city wall. The star marks the position of Churchman House. Note the proximity of the bowling green, theatre and assembly house. From King’s Plan of Norwich 1766, courtesy of Norfolk County Council.

This was the age of the promenade in which polite society paraded itself in the evening, or the afternoon in winter. In the provinces, polite society was mainly composed of the rising middling sort who looked ‘to register a cultural claim to gentility rather than one solely based on pedigree.’ Promenaders would take the air in their finery but, in this Second City passeggiata, as elsewhere around Europe, this could be read as a display of tribal affiliation in which a warm greeting or a curt nod betrayed your position in the social order [12].

In 1777, Parson Woodforde [13, 14], whose diary tells us so much about Georgian Norwich …

‘… went and drank tea this evening … with Mrs. Davy in St. Stephen’s Parish, with her, Mrs. Roupe, her mother-in-law and a very pretty young Lady from the boarding School. We took a walk afterwards in Chapel Field etc.’

In addition to drinking tea or coffee with friends, the leisured class could visit one of the several coffee houses around the marketplace [12,15]. There, they could read newspapers, gossip and – as unwitting participants in the English Enlightenment – discuss ideas that might have been considered seditious in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An Act of Parliament that restricted printing to London, Oxford and Cambridge had been allowed to lapse in 1695 [12] and Norwich was first to publish a truly provincial newspaper. By 1707, when only about six newspapers had established themselves in the provinces, Norwich had three of them. This was accompanied by a surge in the number of booksellers, which rose to 17 by the end of the Regency (1820) [12].

The Norwich Post, founded in 1701. On Norwich University of the Art’s Francis House in Redwell Street.

The east side of the marketplace was where the fashionable came to gaze into the specialist stores along Gentleman’s Walk – an early shopping parade. This print is a little later than the Georgian period but the discernible names give a sense of the shops along the Walk: Lammas Bros (tea dealers); Potter & Co (furrier); Sidney & Ladyman (also tea dealers); W Ringer (Berlin [wool embroidery] and fancy repository). Other shops from this period on the Walk include: confectioners; glove makers; coffee roasters; china dealers; mercers specialising in lace; hatters, and booksellers.

Shops along Gentleman’s Walk from a print by J Newman 1850. NWHCM: 1929.90.5.

From 1724, advertisements in the local newspaper invited Members and ‘Clubbers’ to listen to professional musicians at the Musick Night in Mr Freemoult’s Long Room [16].

Mr Freemo(u)lt’s House, which appears on Cobridge’s map above (five down, far right). Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

There was also music and dancing at assemblies, especially during Assize Week in early August, when county society came to town. The genteel could visit pleasure gardens, country cousins of London’s Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens (read [17] for the fascinating story of Norwich’s pleasure gardens). At Quantrell’s pleasure garden, for instance, the interval at concerts could be filled with humorous dialogues and songs, the evening completed with a celebration of military victories animated with illuminations, transparencies, capped off with spectacular fireworks.

But the days needed filling too. Visiting lecturers would expound on a range of advances in the natural sciences for this was the Age of Reason and the enlightened were hungry for Knowledge as well as Diversion. In one day in 1785 Parson Woodforde explored the two poles: he attended a lecture at the Assembly House on astronomy aided by a large mechanical orrery but in the afternoon he ‘went and saw the learned Pigg at the rampant Horse in St Stephens’ [18]. It was claimed this animal could spell, using letters and numbers placed before him. Could the paperweight I bought a few years ago be a souvenir of the Learned Pig?

I was prompted, in part, to write this post by a book on ‘Georgian Norwich: Its Builders’ by local architect, Stanley Wearing [19]. Before focussing on ‘the genius of Thomas Ivory’ he says a few words about the Norwich-born Brettingham brothers, Matthew (d.1769) and Robert (d.1768). During the building of Holkham Hall in north Norfolk, Matthew was assistant to William Kent – the man who introduced Palladian architecture to England – and managed the project for some years after Kent’s death.

Holkham Hall. Building commenced 1734, seen here in 1964 by ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

There is a small piece of Cow Hill, Norwich, that is forever Holkham Hall: this is Holkham House, built in the mid-eighteenth century. A green plaque states it was designed by Matthew for his brother Robert but Pevsner and Wilson are unsure which brother designed it [7].

Holkham House, 15-17 Cow Hill, Norwich, seen in 1935. ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

Provided they pledged an oath of allegiance, nonconformists were extended the freedom of worship by the Act of Toleration (1689). In the following century a new nonconformist chapel arose on Colegate – a manifestation of the strong current of dissent that ran through the city. Initially, Robert Brettingham was engaged as architect and surveyor but seems to have been discharged by a select committee. Thomas Ivory (1709-1799) then competed with a Mr Lee for the contract but it appears that Ivory’s ‘Moddle’ for an octangular building swung it for him [19]. Commissioned by the Presbyterians, Ivory’s new chapel of 1754 was said by John Wesley to be the most beautiful meeting house in Europe.

In 1751, six years after purchasing his freedom as a carpenter, 42-year-old Thomas Ivory was appointed to do ‘all the carpenter work’ in the medieval Great Hospital on Bishopgate. Ivory leased land from the hospital in order to build his own house, where he lived from 1756 until his death.

In the grounds of the Great Hospital in Bishopgate, St Helen’s House, built by Thomas Ivory, later expanded by his son William. ©georgeplunkett.co.uk

Ivory imported and exported timber from his business premises on Bishopgate; it was on this street that he also built what was probably his first major project in the city – the Methodist Meeting House or Tabernacle. His client was the Reverend James Wheatley, an Independent Methodist who had been expelled by Wesley from the Methodist movement for immoral conduct. Wheatley saved the money for his church, partly one feels, for his own protection; as an itinerant preacher he had been assaulted for his views [20].

The Tabernacle, Bishopgate, 1936, demolished in 1953. ©georgeplunkett.co.uk.

Wheatley’s Tabernacle was diagonally opposite the Adam and Eve pub, the oldest in Norwich.

The Tabernacle (red star), Adam and Eve PH (blue star). Is that Ivory’s timber yard on the right?1884 OS map

The three high points of Thomas Ivory’s building career are illustrated in the border of Samuel King’s plan of the city.

The Octagon Chapel, The Assembly Rooms and the Theatre, all by Ivory. King’s Plan of Norwich 1776. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council

Ivory’s two buildings dedicated to entertainment were on the Chapel Field Estate, perhaps the closest in Norwich to a Georgian enclave. Ranging from local aristocracy to merchants and manufacturers there were about two dozen proprietors of the estate, their aim being to create ‘a superior neighbourhood for leisure in the mid eighteenth century’ [12]. Along with a new bowling green, the remodelled assembly rooms were opened in 1755, adjacent to Churchman’s triangular walk [12]. The Assembly House was built on the vestiges of the ancient College of St Mary-in-the-Fields and Sir Henry Hobart’s mansion, already used for occasional assemblies. This was the town house of Hobart of Blickling Hall, who had been Steward of Norwich in 1595 and went on to become Attorney General. An anonymous tourist in 1741 had pronounced, ‘the buildings which have anything of grandeur in them are all Gothic’ but the Assembly House is a Georgian building of which Norwich could be proud, for – with the exception of Bath – no other city of its size could match it [7]. Due to lack of funds Ivory was unable to remodel the attached wings but this didn’t prevent the connecting doors from being thrown open so that dancers could form a line 143 feet long.

The Assembly House, designed by Thomas Ivory and Sir James Burrough.

The sculpture in the centre of the fountain is of a female putto made in the late 1930s by sculptor James Woodford, the man who designed the roundels on the great bronze doors of the City Hall (1938) and is thought to have made the two flagpole bases in the Memorial Garden outside City Hall [21].

Left: Putto outside the Assembly House. Centre: Robert Kett (who fought for the rights of the common people) from a roundel on the City Hall doors. Right: Assyrian-influenced figure, base of the flagpole, Memorial Garden. All attributed to James Woodford, late 1930s.

In 1757, on an adjacent plot, Thomas Ivory built the 1000-seat Theatre Royal, purportedly based on the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. As proprietor, he engaged the Norwich Company of Comedians to perform plays. To get around the inconvenient fact that only London theatres could be licensed to perform plays, he renamed his enterprise The Grand Concert Hall and presented free plays in the interval between the paid-for concert [22]. Norwich became the second provincial theatre to receive royal assent after an Act of 1767 allowed the licensing of theatres outside the capital.

Thomas Ivory’s original New Theatre in Chapelfield, 1758. Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norfolk Museums Service NWHCM : 1954.138.Todd7.Mancroft.44

The theatre was modified by William Wilkins in 1801 and rebuilt by in 1826 by William Wilkins Jr., better known as architect of the National Gallery. Wilkins’ theatre burned down in 1934.

Wilkins’ theatre of 1826 by James Sillett, 1828. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk.

In the 1760s, Thomas Ivory built a four-storey terrace in Surrey Street. Numbers 35/33 and 31/29 were completed in 1761 while 27/25 were built around ten years later, with the possible involvement of Ivory’s son William. Outside number 29 is a plaque recording that this was once home to Sir James Edward Smith, son of a wealthy Norwich textile merchant, who founded the Linnean Society and brought the Linnean collection to this city. The collection was comprised of Carl Linnaeus’s own ‘type specimens’ – the standards for each species. This was at the height of the world-wide collecting and gathering of plants and animals whose classification into groups paved the way for Darwinism. Smith also had what must have been a fascinating garden and, as a former plant scientist, I twitch each time I read that the garden was bought in the 1930s by the Eastern Counties Bus Company to build the new bus station [23].

Numbers 35/33 and 31/29 Surrey Street (with double porches) were built by Thomas Ivory. During a Baedeker raid of 1940 a bomb fell in the bus station behind numbers 27/25, and another fell directly outside, perhaps explaining why that end of the terrace was rebuilt in the 1960s.

In 1939, another red brick, four-storey building was raised on St Andrews Street, giving us the opportunity to look at the Georgian legacy in the twentieth century. This was the nine-bay Telephone Exchange built in the ‘Post Office Georgian’ style favoured by His Majesty’s Office of Works between the two world wars. The Georgian references are minimal (only three of the windows are encased in a stone architrave with a triangular pediment – and these aren’t real sash windows) but they are sufficient to disguise a high-tech building in comfortable traditional garb when it could (perhaps, should) have been clothed in a more challenging modernist style.

Telephone exchange in St Andrews Street, begun in 1939 but not completed until 1942 because of the war.

Around the corner from the Ivory terrace on Surrey Street, Thomas built a house for himself at the west end of All Saints Green, but immediately let it out in 1772 at £60 per annum to a Miles Branthwayte. From 1860, the house was to become the Norfolk Militia Artillery Barracks with sufficient land to provide for a parade ground and stables.

Ivory House, No13 All Saints Green, now apartments

In 1779, Thomas Ivory died of heart disease and is buried in Norwich Cathedral. Echoing Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St Paul’s Cathedral (If you seek his monument, look around), the Norwich Mercury wrote, Let his works speak for him [19].

Thomas Ivory’s wall memorial in Norwich Cathedral, carved by his nephew John Ivory ©Roland Harris

And if we seek a secular memorial there is St Catherine’s House. Thomas Ivory designed this building on All Saints Green but died during its construction. His son William completed it the following year [7].

St Catherine’s Close (1780) on All Saints Green; its ‘very pretty curved Adamish porch’, is a plaster replica after the original was damaged. The blank semicircular tympana above the ground floor windows are ‘an up-to-date London feature’ [7]. Now offices for Clapham & Collinge Solicitors.

©Reggie Unthank 2021

For your Christmas stocking. Published this year, my latest book is a collection of short, richly illustrated articles on the history of Norwich, including Mrs Opie’s medallion, angels’ ears, random walks, a half-size Pantheon and golden balls. Click here for a look inside.

Derek James of the Eastern Daily Press generously wrote, ‘It must rank as one of the finest books in recent times on the Fine City.’

The book is available in Jarrolds Norwich and City Bookshop Norwich. Click the underlined links to go straight to their mail order pages. It can also be bought in: The Bookhive, Norwich; Waterstones, Castle Street, Norwich; the Holt Bookshop; Ketts Bookshop, Wymondham, and ‘Bear’ on Avenue Road, Norwich.

Sources

  1. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2019/12/15/norwich-shaped-by-fire/
  2. Marc Girouard (1990). The English Town. Pub: Yale University Press.
  3. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/10/15/cecil-upcher-soldier-and-architect/
  4. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/05/26/early-doors-tudor-to-georgian/
  5. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/06/16/entrances-and-exits-doors-ii/
  6. Celia Fiennes (1698). Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary, Being the Diary of Celia Fiennes. London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press, 1888. Available online: https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/fiennes/saddle/saddle.html
  7. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (2002). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  8. Raymond Frostick (2002). The Printed Plans of Norwich, 1558-1840. Pub: Raymond Frostick, Norwich, England.
  9. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2020/02/15/the-norwich-banking-circle/
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/tag/norwich-society-of-artists/
  11. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/parksandgardens.htm
  12. Angela Dain (2004). An Enlightened and Polite Society. In, ‘Norwich Since 1550’ (eds. Carole Rawcliffe and Richard Wilson). Pub: Hambledon and London.
  13. https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.227134/2015.227134.The-Diary_djvu.txt
  14. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2020/11/15/parson-woodforde-goes-to-market/
  15. William Chase (1783). The Norwich Directory. Online at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/62333/62333-h/62333-h.htm
  16. Trevor Fawcett (1979). Music in Eighteenth Century Norfolk and Norwich. Pub: Centre for East Anglian Studies, UEA.
  17. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2019/01/15/pleasure-gardens/
  18. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/02/15/parson-woodforde-and-the-learned-pig/
  19. Stanley J Wearing (1926). Georgian Norwich: Its Builders. Pub: Jarrolds, Norwich.
  20. http://www.methodistheritage.org.uk/norfolk.htm
  21. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp
  22. https://www.norwich360.com/theatreroyal.html
  23. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/01/15/when-norwich-was-the-centre-of-the-world/

Thanks. I am grateful to Roland Harris, Norwich Cathedral Archaeologist, and Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk.

Cecil Upcher: soldier and architect

Tags

, , ,

Norwich was slow to find its way into the industrial world. Before the slum clearances, the city still had a timber frame: largely Tudor in appearance with Georgian contributions. Around 1900 the architect Edward Boardman introduced a glimpse of modernity with factories and offices built around steel frames with concrete floors, while George Skipper’s more exuberant projects added sparkle. The contributions of these two Norwich titans survived well, helping to define the city’s present-day character, but much of the fine texture from a century ago was built up by numerous smaller practitioners like Cecil Upcher.

Upcher was born in 1884 in Barnham Broom, Norfolk, where his father, the Reverend Arthur Charles Wodehouse Upcher B.A., was the rector.

Cecil Upcher’s father was rector of Barnham Broom or ‘Ryskys’ (which refers to the profusion of rushes on the riverbank [1]). The name ‘Wodehouse’ was introduced into the family by Cecil’s grandmother. Photo: Barbara Worland.

White’s Directory described Reverend Upcher’s home as ‘a spacious residence with pleasant grounds near the church’ [2]. The 1911 census records that the Upchers lived in the rectory with a cook, a parlour maid, a house maid, a kitchen maid and a nurse. They lived well, in a manner appropriate to the descendants of Abbot Upcher, the man who commissioned the Reptons to design Sheringham Hall and Park.

Abbot Upcher (1784-1819) by George Harlow ©National Trust

Having mentioned Abbot (his given name, not title) Upcher it would be wrong to cast him aside so soon for in some quarters he is the better known Upcher. The name Upcher may be a corruption of Upshire in Essex yet census returns find it most frequently – although still scantly – in Norfolk [3]. In 1812, Abbot and Charlotte Upcher bought their estate near Upper Sheringham on the north-east Norfolk coast. They engaged John Adey Repton as architect and Repton’s father Humphry to reconfigure the landscape.

Sheringham Park and Hall from Humphry Repton’s Red Book © National Trust

Humphry Repton (b1752), the foremost landscape designer of the late Georgian period, died in March 1818, seven years after being badly injured in a carriage accident. In less than a year Abbot Upcher, would also die, aged 35, never to live in the hall he had commissioned.

Abbot’s great grandson Cecil therefore came from Norfolk stock and it was as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment that he served in the Great War.

Second Lieutenant Cecil Upcher. Photo © Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

Writing to his fiancée, Hilda Ward, he describes the conscripts as “a top hole lot of men all true Norfolk men” [4]. In his letters Upcher describes several of his billets; some he sketched.

© Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

Since 1906, Upcher had been in practice in Norwich as an architect, specialising in church restoration. His professional training emerges in the sketch below in which he measured the accommodation provided by a dugout: beneath a ceiling four feet high were two beds, six feet long and two feet wide, separated by an 18 inch gap. His temporary refuges were drawn with precision but revealed nothing about the awfulness on the other side of the tin roof.

© Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

Upcher’s letters convey the sense of the ironic, understated tone of the officer class – especially when wounded.

‘Monday September 27th 10am [1915]. In the train. Here I am on my way to England I believe. I got a bullet through the fleshy part of my left thigh. No damage and as fit as a fiddle. Feeling a bit of a humbug to be leaving it all, but walking is rather a job at present. We had to take a Bosch position at 7am yesterday Sunday morning and I got bowled over with a lot of others I fear [4].’

The voice will be familiar to readers of PG Wodehouse (and the name, Wodehouse, introduced into the family line by Upcher’s grandmother is inescapable here). When asked if he had taken part in the First World War, Bertie Wooster’s manservant Jeeves replied, ‘I dabbled in it to a certain extent, m’lord.’ (Ring for Jeeves, 1953).

By mid-1916 Upcher was suffering from deep depression and was invalided out with shell shock [5]. When he married Hilda the same year we see him holding a cane that seems too large for a swagger stick, suggesting he was still carrying an injury. Nevertheless, he returned to active service until the end of the war.

Cecil Upcher and Hilda Ward on their wedding day, Epsom, October 1916. © Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum

Upcher had been educated at Haileybury College, Herts before training at the Liverpool School of Architecture. Before the war, he was in partnership with Arthur John Lacey at number 6 Upper King Street Norwich. They specialised in church renovation and one of their last projects before the outbreak of war was the restoration of the ruinous St Martin, Overstrand.

St Martin Overstrand restored by Lacey and Upcher 1914. Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Stavros1

After the war, in the church in Upper Sheringham that housed the Upcher mausoleum, Cecil Upcher acknowledged men of the village killed in the war, by designing the oak pulpit and the foliate reredos above the altar.

And as a memorial to the men of the Norfolk Regiment who died in the Great War, Upcher designed a crescent of 12 alms houses in Norwich for disabled soldiers.

Memorial cottages on Mousehold Lane. Built 1920-1923.
In memory of the 6000 officers and men of the Norfolk Regiment who died in the Great War

The medallion of Britannia at the top of this memorial is signed by HA Miller who collaborated with Upcher on a memorial in the cathedral [6]. Herbert Miller (1880-1952), who trained at the Norwich School of Art, seems to have specialised in memorial plaques with portrait roundels, including: Amelia Opie on Opie House in Castle Meadow; John Sell Cotman on Cotman House in St Martin-at-Palace Plain; George Borrow outside George Borrow House in Willow Lane; and the Baptist preacher Joseph Kinghorn on a house in Pottergate near the Grapes Hill underpass [7].

After the Second World War Upcher was to design, for an adjacent plot, a range of six cottages for the wounded, funded by the public via The Home Guard. Distinguished by their Dutch gables, these cottages seem to belong to an earlier age; they appear less generous than the two-storey accommodation provided by the Great War cottages but were designed for the disabled as single-storey bungalows in order to avoid difficulties with stairs.

In July 1951, the Lord Lieutenant, Colonel Sir Edmund Bacon, dedicated the six new Memorial Cottages to the memory of the 2025 officers and men of the Royal Norfolk Regiment who died in WW2. Photo: EDP/Archant

Documents in the Norfolk Record Office confirm that Upcher’s practice was involved in all aspects of restoration in churches around Norfolk. They were not, however, restricted to ecclesiastical work; for example, Number 24 Princes Street is a Tudor building restored in 1932 by Upcher. Stripping the plaster from the front revealed the herringbone brick infill we see today. According to George Plunkett, the wooden lintel above the door came from a house in Fyebridge Street, once home to Edmund Wood who was Sheriff in 1536 and Mayor in 1548 [8].

Numbers 24 and 26 Princes Street, both restored by Upcher, in 1932 and 1956 respectively.

The repurposed spandrels of No 24’s door contain the merchants’ mark of the Worshipful Company of Grocers (top right, below). And around 400 years later, Cecil Upcher and builder Robert Carter left their names carved on the door jambs of the house in Princes Street.

The mark of the Mercers’ Company is also suggested to be represented somewhere [8] but the shield at top left contains a tangle of initials and not the maiden’s head that was, from 1530, the mercers’ mark, a fine example of which can be seen in nearby Elm Hill.

The Mercers’ Maiden, mark of the Mercers’ Company, on a beam above the alleyway by the side of the Strangers’ Club on Elm Hill. Post-1540.

Cley Windmill in North Norfolk also received Upcher’s attention.

Cley Windmill, converted to a holiday home for Mrs Wilson in 1921. Wikimedia CC BY 3.0 Stavros 1

In the last years of the nineteenth century, when the city was expanding beyond the city walls, the Trafford estate in the parish of Lakenham was developed on land owned by Edward Southwell Trafford. In 1919 his son, WJ Trafford, extended the estate around Eleanor and Trafford Roads and in the early 1930s Upcher designed a church for the new community. As one of the few churches built in Norwich between the wars St Albans was very much in keeping with the surrounding detached villas – comfortable yet somehow ’modern’.

St Albans on Grove Walk and Eleanor Road (1932-1938), taken in 1938 © georgeplunkett.co.uk

Pevsner and Wilson [9] called the style, ‘vaguely E.E.’, although the church’s rounded arches are clearly at odds with the lancets of Early English. By adopting a ’free’ Norman style, before the incursions of the architectural Goths, Upcher may have been differentiating his new church from the work of the Gothic revivalists of the previous generation. See, for example, the recent post on the campaign of Nonconformist church-building by Norwich architect AF Scott before the Great War [10]. Scott, incidentally, was still alive when St Albans was being built.

What the building is is vernacular. No imported stone here, its craftsmanship expressed in local materials drawn from Norfolk soil: unknapped flints with red-brick dressings. Pevsner and Wilson [8] described St Albans as being, ‘In the Maufe succession,’ suggesting a link with Sir Edward Brantwood Maufe (né Muff) whose first major commission was Kelling Hall in north Norfolk.

Kelling Hall 1913. Photo Wikipedia. Stavros1

Following Norfolk’s two other butterfly houses – Happisburgh Manor in 1900 (by Detmar Blow) and Voewood in 1903 (by ES Prior) – Kelling Hall was built in 1913 for the co-owner of the Shell Oil Company, Sir Henry Deterding. Like St Albans, Kelling Hall is clad in local flint pebbles and, in making the connection with St Albans, Pevsner and Wilson are placing Upcher’s church in the Arts & Crafts tradition.

Inside St Albans, the reinforced concrete ceiling in the chancel is a thing of beauty, predating the raw concrete of Brutalism by some 20 years – perhaps less a display of modernist leanings than an expression of the ‘truth to materials’ propagated by Pugin and Morris.

The woodwork in the chancel is reminiscent of the carving at Upper Sheringham.

At the east end of the chancel is a large painting of an epicene Christ in Majesty, floating over the view of Norwich from Mousehold Heath. It was painted in 1955 by Jeffery Camp RA in response to a competition by the Eastern Daily Press to provide a work of art above the altar.

Upcher also designed the vicarage next door.

Cecil Upcher is perhaps best known for his restoration of one of the city’s most photographed landmarks: Pulls Ferry on the eastern boundary of Cathedral Close. Norwich Cathedral is faced with Caen limestone, each piece of which was shipped across the Channel. The stone was transferred to low barges behind what was to become Old Barge Yard on King Street, allowing cargo to be delivered up the narrow canal connecting the Wensum with the stonemasons’ yard inside the cathedral precinct. In the fifteenth century a flat-arched Water Gate was built over the canal and the waterway itself was filled in ca.1780 [11].

PullsFerry3.jpg
The Water Gate, now known as Pull’s Ferry. The adjoining Ferry House (left in photo) was built in 1647 [8].

The crossing from the opposite bank of the Wensum was known for most of its life as Sandling’s Ferry [11]. This watercolour by Robert Ladbrooke, co-founder of the Norwich Society of Artists, shows us what the ferry looked like at the very beginning of the nineteenth century.

Sandling’s Ferry ca 1804-5 by Robert Ladbrooke, co-founder of the Norwich Society of Artists. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Collections NWHCM: 2005.596.2

Sandling was superseded by John Pull who operated a pub here (Pull’s Ferry Inn or Ferry House) from 1796 until his bankruptcy in 1841 [12]. Pull’s Ferry operated until 1943 although it was already in ruin when Cecil Upcher drew the watergate in 1928.

Pull’s Ferry by Cecil Upcher, August 1928. Norfolk Record Office MC2060/1/8/1.

The Norfolk Record Office holds a small collection of photographs, possibly taken by Upcher himself. Wisely, they are sealed in plastic covers (I mention this to excuse the reflections on some of the following photographs). Upcher restored the house and watergate 1948-9.

NRO MC2060/1/6/2. Undated but assumed to be 1948, before work started,
The project was carried out by Robert Carter’s firm who had worked before with Upcher. NRO MC 2060 1/13/1
The Water Gate, before and after. NRO 2060/1/15/2 and 1/16/1
The watergate became the headquarters of Norwich Girl Guides Association in 1949. The renovation was funded by a bequest and with money raised by the Guides. This appears to be the opening ceremony. NRO 2060/1/19/2

The restored Ferry House became offices for Upcher’s architectural practice but plans show that much of the space was dedicated to a two-storey flat – the only evidence of business being the small typist’s room on the ground floor and the office upstairs. The largest upstairs room, labelled ‘J.F.W.’, was allocated to Upcher’s nephew, James Fletcher-Watson. The largest room on the ground floor was C.U’s.

NRO MC 2060/1/44/2

The photograph below, labelled ‘C Upcher’s room and armchair’, underlines how much space was dedicated to living accommodation.

NRO MC 2060 13/24/1
Cecil Upcher (centre) and colleagues at the Ferry House ca 1949. Photo: NRO MC2060/1/42/1

Standing on the left of the photograph is James Fletcher-Watson (1913-2004), with whom Upcher shared the practice. Trained as an architect under Edwin Lutyens, Fletcher-Watson is better known as one of the finest watercolourists of his generation.

Junk Shop, Cow Hill, Norwich by James Fletcher-Watson. Courtesy of Mandell’s Gallery, Norwich

Cecil Upcher died age 88 and is buried in All Saints Upper Sheringham.

©2021 Reggie Unthank

Sources

  1. https://www.hiddenea.com/Survey%20A%20to%20B.htm
  2. https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/NFK/Barnham_Broom/White1883
  3. https://your-family-history.com/surname/u/upcher/?year=1881#map
  4. Cecil Upcher letters Aug 1915 – Oct 1916. Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.
  5. https://norfolkinworldwar1.wordpress.com/2015/09/
  6. Peter Bardwell’s Flickr page on Cecil Upcher: https://www.flickr.com/photos/132932913@N02/albums/72157682762647195
  7. Richard and Sarah Cocke (2013). Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk. Pub: Liverpool University Press.
  8. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/pri.htm#Prins
  9. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (2002). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I.Pub: Yale University Press.
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2021/05/15/af-scott-architectconservative-or-pioneer/
  11. Frank Meeres (2011). The Story of Norwich. Pub: Phillimore and Co Ltd, Andover.
  12. https://norfolkpubs.co.uk/norwich/pnorwich/ncppfi.htm

Thanks

I am grateful to Kate Thaxton, Curator, Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum for background on Upcher; to John Snape and Barbara Worland for Barnham Broom history; and to Gordon Blacklock at the Norfolk Record Office for guiding me through the Upcher archive.

Sculptured Monuments #2

Tags

, , ,

An unintended consequence of the puritanical whitewashing of brightly coloured Catholic imagery on church walls was that it liberated vast acres to be colonised by hanging monuments. We see this at Saints Peter and Paul, Heydon, where cleaning work in 1970 revealed sequences of fourteenth century wall paintings that had been unwittingly obscured by later stone memorials.

An early C20 wall monument placed on top of a medieval series of paintings based on the Three Living, Three Dead poem [1].

In the previous post we saw the ‘kneeler’ monuments as grand floor-standing memorials but by flattening the perspective this theme could be readily adapted to slimmer wall-hung memorials. St John Maddermarket, one of the most intriguing churches in the city, contains the memorial to Christopher Layer (1533-1600), wealthy grocer, sheriff, alderman and twice mayor. On this wall monument, rich in symbolism [2], we see unbiblical motifs. The two uppermost statuettes in the niches are Roman (Pax and Gloria). The task of the slave accompanying the conquering hero on his triumph through Rome was to whisper in his ear, ‘Memento mori’ (remember that you must die). A similar purpose is served in this monument by the skull that hovers between husband and wife, warning against seduction by the transient vanities of life. The putto holding a bubble (lower left) is another much used symbol of the kind seen in Dutch vanitas paintings of the period. The reward for treading the middle way is, as we see at the top of the painting, entry into heaven.

The Layer Monument in St John Maddermarket, Norwich. ©Norwich360

Kneeler monuments were still commissioned towards the end of the seventeenth century, as in this memorial to Sir Thomas Greene in St Nicholas’ Chapel, Kings Lynn. Another merchant made good, Greene (d. 1675) was three times mayor. The effigies of Greene and his wife Susannah Barker no longer look at one another across the prayer desk. The faces are fascinating; they are clearly portraits of citizens who have done well in the world but, with puritanical restraint, are shown as plain folk, warts-and-all. The vanitas element is still present in the skull that separates the five daughters and four sons below, although the humility is somewhat checked by the splendour of the coat of arms above.

Kneeling on cushions, Thomas and Susannah Greene. With the exception of his fur-trimmed mayoral robe they are in plain puritanical garb.

Pevsner and Wilson [3] attribute the Greene Monument to London mason, Thomas Cartwright the Elder, who worked with Sir Christopher Wren. Mortlock and Roberts [6], on the other hand, suggest local architect Henry Bell, providing me with an excuse to show his sublime Customs House on Kings Lynn Quayside.

Kings Lynn Customs House designed by Henry Bell, 1683

In the same period as Greene’s puritanical kneeler, a far more sumptuous structure was erected for Sir Thomas and Lady Adams in Sprowston – now a northern suburb of Norwich. The contrast between Roundhead and Cavalier, new money versus old, is stark. Sir Thomas had been an intimate friend of King Charles II and rose to be Lord Mayor of London. Husband and wife semi-recline on separate levels with her, unusually, occupying the upper berth where she strikes a pose described as ‘precious and unrestrained’ [3]. Poor Sir Thomas suffered from the stone, something common in Norfolk and was much operated upon by Dr Rigby when the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital opened a century later. After death, Sir Thomas’ kidney stone was found to weigh just over a pound and a half.

Sir Thomas and Lady Adams, 1667, attributed to the London mason Thomas Cartwright.

Below, this sculpture from the latter part of the seventeenth century shows the lingering influence of kneeler monuments. The angel flying across the black tablet carries away a chrysom child in its swaddling cloth, sowing confusion in the minds of those trying to read the inscription. You will search in vain for Sir William Heveningham’s name, it doesn’t appear here nor on his tomb slab in St Peter’s Ketteringham. Sir William was one of the judges at King Charles I’s trial. He didn’t sign the death warrant but, after the Restoration, was convicted of high treason and his lands seized by the Crown. His life was spared and through the exertions of his wife – Lady Mary Heveningham, daughter of the Earl of Dover – the estate was recovered. She erected this family monument but her husband’s name is absent [4].

The Heveningham memorial, 1678, Ketteringham. Described as ‘curiously old-fashioned [5].

Back to Stratton Strawless and the tomb of Henry Marsham (1692); a Classical backdrop, all Corinthian columns and scrolly pediments. The kneeling figures are Henry, son Henry and Anne Marsham (plus baby Margaret, upright in her swaddling sheet) but, in order for all of them to kneel in this narrow recess, they turn to face us, causing Spencer [5] to wonder what happened to their legs and feet.

In the 1700s, chest tombs ‘faded from the picture in favour of wall monuments and tablets more restrained than those of the C17’ [3]. Elements of Classicism, already established in the previous century, came to the fore. To put this period into local historical perspective, this was a time when Holkham Hall was built in the Palladian style – a purer version of Classical than the Baroque. The outstanding London sculptors of their age, Frenchman Louis François Roubiliac (1702-1762) and the Flemish emigré, Michael Rysbrack (1694-1770), were never commissioned to build tombs in Norfolk. Roubiliac did, however, sculpt the busts of Lord Leicester, Thomas Coke (d. 1759), and his wife on their monument in Tittleshall.

The Tittleshall monument itself is attributed to Charles Atkinson, responsible for carving most of the chimneypieces at Holkham [3].

To the right of this monument is the work of Joseph Nollekens, one of only two pieces by him in the county. Just sneaking into the next century (1805) is the bas relief to Jane Coke, wife of the great agriculturalist, ‘Coke of Norfolk’. The fashionable London sculptor Nollekens was to sculpture what Sir Joshua Reynolds was to portraiture [6].

The broken column on which Jane Coke rests symbolises her early death, aged 47.

Once apprenticed to Nollekens, the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers was best known for his sculpture of Shakespeare in Westminster Abbey. His studies of Baroque and Classical sculpture in Rome helped him influence the development of modern sculpture in England [7]. His only work in Norfolk is this large monument to Susannah Hare (d.1741) in Holy Trinity, Stow Bardolph [6]. The reclining figure is rare after this date [3].

© Simon Knott

The Hare Mausoleum, built in 1624 by John Hare on the north side of the chancel of Holy Trinity Stow Bardolph, houses perhaps the most curious memorial in the county. This is the wax effigy of Sarah Hare in her mahogany case, emerging from behind curtains. She died of blood poisoning after pricking her finger while embroidering and it was her wish to be remembered in her everyday clothes. The model is unflattering and the effect of her gaze is variously described as ‘shattering’ and ‘terrifying’ – an antidote to the saccharine (or, at that time, sugar-laden) memorials that try to dissemble the reality of death.

Sarah Hare d.1744. © Simon Knott.

Norwich mayors were elected annually. In life, their parish churches would have celebrated by adding their name plaque to ceremonial sword and mace rests (and Norwich probably has more of these than anywhere outside London [8]) while in death their achievement might be recognised by a wall tablet.

A mayoral sword rest on a pillar in St George Colegate, Norwich. John Hall (top) was mayor in 1701 and 1719. His name can also appears on the wall tablet behind

Very few eighteenth-century mayors had sufficient influence in death to command floor space in their place of worship but parish churches like St George Tombland began to fill with mayoral wall monuments. Norwich is said to have had more than a score of sculptors who could produce the increasingly popular wall tablets ‘equal in standard to the best London work’ [5]. From the pool of ‘Norwich School’ sculptors Spencer picked out Robert Page (1707-1778) [9] and Thomas Rawlins (1747-1781) [10]. He excluded Robert Singleton (1706-1740) [11] from the Norwich elite only on the grounds that he came from Bury St Edmunds. However, Singleton had a workshop adjacent to the Cathedral and was master to Page the apprentice and deserves to be in this group. Another member of this top tier of Norwich monumental masons was John Ivory, nephew to Thomas Ivory, the architect of Georgian Norwich (Octagon Chapel, Assembly House).

A simple but charming wall monument by Singleton is in St George Colegate. Almost in parody of the lolling pose a cherub rests on a skull while holding an hourglass.

Monument to Thomas Pindar Senior by Robert Singleton 1722

Robert Page has been described as the best sculptor that Norfolk has produced. As we can see from this wall monument in SS Mary and Margaret, Sprowston, his work is characterised by the use of colourful marble veneers and the appearance of ‘delightful’ cherubs [5].

Nathaniel Micklethwait 1757, sculpted by Robert Page. Sprowston, Norwich.

In St Andrew’s Norwich, Page’s tablet commemorating Thomas Crowe contains three cherub heads that so pleased Noël Spencer (‘the most delightful I have ever seen’) that he employed them on the frontispiece of his book [5]. In the absence of sculpted portraits, flocks of cherubs, seen in their hundreds on Georgian and Victorian memorials, satisfied the need for a figurative presence.

Memorial to Dr Thomas Crowe, a physician who had practiced in London, d.1751. Sculpted by Robert Page.

Page was also known for carving handsome sarcophagi [5]; a particularly fine example, with detailed lions’ feet, memorialises Edward Atkyns (d.1750), Lord of the Manor at Ketteringham. The end of a sarcophagus projects part way out of the wall, showing how the narrow end of a sarcophagus or casket came to provide the format – lozenge or rectangle – for less florid wall tablets.

The sarcophagus lies at the base of a larger wall tablet to the ancestors of Edward Atkyns who had presided in the Courts of Justice in Westminster Hall.

As spotted by church warden Mary Parker when viewing an interview with the Duchess of Cornwall on TV, a near identical inscription celebrating the Atkynses of Ketteringham can be seen in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey – this by Sir Henry Cheere, ‘carver’ to the abbey. Apart from the generic sarcophagus theme, this monument of 1746 is stylistically different from the one attributed to Page at Ketteringham.

Atkyns memorial in Westminster Abbey, by Sir Henry Cheere. 1746. © 2021 Dean and Chapter of Westminster.

Edward Atkyns (d.1794), a later lord of the manor at Ketteringham, scandalised the county by marrying an Irish actress, Charlotte Walpole, who performed at Drury Lane.

Miss Charlotte Walpole as ‘Nancy of the Dale’ in ‘The Camp’, Drury Lane Theatre, 1778. Frontispiece to [12]. Courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum.

Shunned by the local squirearchy, they moved to France where she became friends with Marie Antoinette and is said to have squandered the family’s money in plots to release the queen and her son, Louis XVII, from prison. In one account Charlotte – reprising her performance at Drury Lane – dressed as a soldier of the National Guard in order to free the unfortunate queen. The romantic story of her escapades in Paris appears in the book ‘Mrs Pimpernel Atkyns’ by EEP Tisdall [12].

Later, the Boileau family of Ketteringham Hall, Prince Frederick Duleep Singh and others installed this wall tablet in St Peter’s Ketteringham

Trained in London, Thomas Rawlins worked from 1743 to 1781 as a monumental mason in Norwich, based in Duke’s Palace Yard on the site of present-day St Andrews Car Park. Rawlins’ work was thought to be among the best, not just locally, but on the national stage [13]. This blowsy wall monument to the wonderfully named Hambleton Custance in St Andrew’s Norwich, shows the contemporary fascination with coloured marble and cherubs.

Hambleton Custance, Mayor and High Sheriff for Norfolk d.1757.

The Georgian wall monument by Rawlins in St George Colegate commemorates two-times mayor Timothy Balderston (d.1764). The mayor’s sword and mace lie behind the cherub who points to Balderston’s eulogy on the scroll.

John Ivory (1730-1805/6) – ranked by Pevsner below Page and Rawlins [3] – took over Page’s shop and yard at the corner of King Street and Tombland, just outside the cathedral’s Ethelbert Gate. Now the site of the All Bar One restaurant, this was roughly where the Popinjay Inn stood, the origin of the great fire of 1507 that burned 718 buildings [14]. Probably Ivory’s best monument (‘a very fine architectural tablet’ [3]) was made for Charles and Mary Mackerell in St Stephen’s Norwich.

To Charles (d.1727) and Mary (d. 1747) Mackerell, by John Ivory, in the dark recesses of St Stephen’s Norwich

After I had written this post I unexpectedly found St Giles Norwich open and snapped this wall tablet by Sir Henry Cheere with my ancient phone. It commemorates Sir Thomas Churchman (d 1747) who lived in ‘One of the finest houses in Norwich’ [3] – Churchman’s House on the opposite side of St Giles Plain. Both this and the Ivory monument above were made around 1747. They follow a very similar pattern, allowing the work of one of the city’s leading sculptors to be compared favourably with the output of Westminster Abbey’s carver.

At the very end of the eighteenth century, Ivory carved ‘a pretty memorial’, with vases straight out of the Wedgwood catalogue, to Mary Evans, daughter of the man who had Salle Park built in 1761.

The Classical influences that dominated the Regency period lingered until the time of Queen Victoria’s accession (1837) after which, according to Spencer [5], there was an aesthetic decline. He named three sculptors most representative of this period: John Bacon the Younger (1777-1859); Sir Richard Westmacott RA (1775-1856); and John Flaxman (1775-1826), most widely known as a modeller for Wedgwood.

The Apotheosis of Homer’ Vase 1790, designed by John Flaxman for Wedgwood. Wikimedia Commons, Photo Daderot

A favourite motif of Flaxman’s, a young woman carried heavenwards, appears on the elegant memorial for Harriot Peach (d.1825) at Ketteringham church. It is reminiscent of the Nollekens group that we saw at Tittleshall.

John Bacon Junior had been a child prodigy, sculpting monumental works from the age of 11 [13]. Here, he sculpts Lady Maria Micklethwait of Sprowston and her journey to heaven (1805). Compare this with the pared back simplicity of Flaxman’s similar theme, above.

John Bacon Jr also carved a fine monument in St George Colegate to Mayor John Herring (d.1810). A plain-speaking man, Herring twice declined to be knighted by the king, declaring himself unworthy of the honour.

Sir Richard Westmacott RA sculpted this monument to Edward Atkyns (d. 1794) and his son Wright Edward Atkyns (d. 1804) in one of Norfolk’s most fascinating churches – St Peter’s Ketteringham. The scene depicts a young woman mourning at the foot of a broken column crowned by weeping willow [3]. The martial symbols refer to the younger Atkyns’ career as Captain of Dragoons.

From its inception in the 1830s, the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement raised ideological objections to large and boastful monuments, creating the climate for a countrywide proliferation of wall tablets ‘but hardly anything bigger’ [3]. Classical design was considered pagan so religious buildings were to be in the Gothic style and certainly no later than Decorated. In Norwich, local tradition influenced the celebration of death (see The Norwich Way of Death [15]). Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the city’s population contained a high percentage of Dissenters. An Act of 1836 allowed Nonconformists to perform their own funeral services but it was not until 1880 that they were allowed to conduct burials in parish churches according to their own rites. However, in 1819, Thomas Drummond had established The Rosary Cemetery in the Norwich suburb of Thorpe Hamlet – the first in the country where anyone could be buried regardless of their religion. As a result, the monuments in The Rosary are gloriously various, some of them undoubtedly on the Oxford Movement’s proscribed list.

Jeremiah Cozens (d. 1849) has the only cast-iron sarcophagus at The Rosary …

… and the only mausoleum at The Rosary belongs to Emanuel Cooper, an eminent eye-surgeon (d. 1878). This is one of five C19 mausoleums in Norfolk [5].

Below is the memorial to John Barker, Steam Circus Proprietor (d 1897). The showman was crushed between two traction engines when setting up a ride at the old Norwich Cattlemarket (now Norwich Castle Gardens) [16]. He left 15 children.

In the municipal cemetery at Earlham a horse marks the grave of horse dealer John Abel and his wife Frances [17].

© Reggie Unthank 2021

Thanks: I am indebted to Dr Mary Parker, churchwarden, for sharing her extensive knowledge of St Peter Ketteringham. Simon Knott is thanked for kindly providing photographs.

My new book (click this link for preview) is available at £14.99 from Jarrolds of Norwich and the City Bookshop, both of which do mail order. It can also be found in The Book Hive Norwich, Waterstones Castle Street Norwich, Kett’s Books Wymondham and The Holt Bookshop.

Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Dead_Kings
  2. Kevin Faulkner (2013). The Layer Monument. Pub: Kevin Faulkner. Printed by Pride Press Ltd., Norwich.
  3. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I: Norwich and North-East and 2: North-West and South. Pub: Yale University Press.
  4. Joseph Hunter (1851). The History and Topography of Ketteringham in the County of Norfolk. Printed in Norwich by Charles Muskett.
  5. Noël Spencer (1977). Sculptured Monuments in Norfolk Churches. Pub: Norfolk Churches Trust.
  6. D.P. Mortlock and C.V. Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches. No 3 West and South-West Norfolk. Pub: Acorn Editions.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Scheemakers
  8. https://shinealightproject.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/sword-rests-mace-rests-and-civic-ceremony/
  9. http://www.norwich-heritage.co.uk/monuments/Robert%20Page/Robert%20Page.shtm
  10. http://www.norwich-heritage.co.uk/masons/Thomas%20Rawlins/Thomas%20Rawlins.shtm
  11. http://www.norwich-heritage.co.uk/masons/Robert%20Singleton/Robert%20Singleton.shtm
  12. E.E.P. Tisdall (1965). Mrs ‘Pimpernel’ Atkyns. Pub: Jarrolds, Norwich.
  13. Mortlock and C.V. Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches. No 2 Norwich, Central and South Norfolk.
  14. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2019/12/15/norwich-shaped-by-fire/
  15. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2018/10/15/the-norwich-way-of-death/
  16. https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2109744
  17. Judith Havens (2014). John Abel: Horse-dealer of Norwich. Pub: Judith Havens.

Sculptured Monuments

Carved monuments found in churches provide a remarkable public record of changes in fashion, politics and religion. A year ago I wrote about Norwich physician and author, Sir Thomas Browne (d.1682), and managed to track down the site of his garden house with the help of a drawing by former Head of the School of Art, Noël Spencer [1]. Spencer was an enthusiastic botherer of church sculpture and I searched for one of his out-of-print books, Sculptured Monuments in Norfolk Churches, published by the Norfolk Churches Trust [2]. Here, I followed in some of his footsteps and made a few of my own.

“But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing Nativities and Deaths with equal lustre …” (Sir Thomas Browne, from Urn Burial)

Until the 12th century, only clerics were allowed to be buried within the church [2]. After this, the highborn could be represented as three-dimensional figures lying upon their tomb chests. Here is Sir Roger de Kerdiston (1337) on his bed of rocks, legs crossed. Crossed-legged knights were in fashion between the mid C13 to the mid C14. Of around 350 remaining knight effigies, 200 exhibit the cross-legged pose [3].

Sir Roger (or could it be William, say Pevsner and Wilson) de Kerdiston on his bed of pebbles, with eight weepers below. SS Mary & Michael Reepham.

Sir Roger’s arms are also crossed. His right hand is stretched uncomfortably across his chest to grasp his sword, as if ready to battle with death. Over the years, crossed legs have been taken to mean that the knight went on a crusade with the number of expeditions signified by where the legs were crossed (ankle, knee or thigh). This may have been an invention of the sixteenth century [4].

At Ashwellthorpe, Sir Edmund de Thorp and his wife Joan lie at rest, their hands at prayer. Alabaster is easier to sculpt than marble, allowing fine details of contemporary fashion to be recorded. Here, on the Thorp tomb, Dame Joan wears her hair in a reticulated headdress in which the elaborate side nets have not quite evolved into the even more fanciful horns and hearts of the coming century. And, just visible at the top of the photograph, the knight wears around his helmet a decorative circlet or torse – a vestige of the rolled cloth that once provided a pad beneath the helm. You may recall the torse from an earlier post on angel’s bonnets [5].

Lady Joan and Sir Edmund de Thorp at Ashwellthorpe, Norfolk 1417. He died in Normandy fighting for Henry V. His head rests on a helmet while angels arrange the pillow beneath her head. Photo © Simon Knott.

A different kind of prestige monument, a one-off, was erected in St Andrew Hingham to Thomas, Lord Morley (d. 1435), Lord of Hingham and Lord Marshall of Ireland. Made of alien red sandstone it runs from floor to ceiling on the north wall of the chancel. Pevsner and Wilson thought it, ‘one of the most impressive wall monuments of the C15 in the whole of England … like no other.’ They suggested it was based on the Erpingham Gate to Norwich Cathedral, sponsored in 1420 by Sir Thomas Erpingham, captain of the archers at Agincourt.

The Morley Memorial compared with the Erpingham Gate; the four-tiered polygonal buttresses and the layered pointed arches show strong similarities.

In the early sixteenth century, church building and renovation were dominated by the final phases of Gothic architecture – the Perpendicular and Tudor. Although the impact of classically-influenced Renaissance architecture would not be fully felt in England until the reign of Elizabeth I, elements of Italian Renaissance style appeared during the reign of the Tudor kings. The most famous example is Henry Tudor’s tomb designed by Pietro Torrigiano and commissioned by his son, Henry VIII, for Westminster Abbey. Here, in a separate work, is Torrigiano’s terracotta bust of Henry Tudor, based on a death mask.

Photo by va_va_val, Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.5

Some of the finest early sixteenth century East Anglian tombs are in terracotta, a material made fashionable by visiting Italian craftsmen. According to Mortlock and Roberts [6] the two finest terracotta tombs of their type in England are to be found in St John Evangelist, Oxborough, in west Norfolk. These are in the Bedingfeld chapel that commemorates Lady Margaret Bedingfeld and her husband Sir Edmund, Marshal of Calais. The construction of the chapel, with its modish terracotta tombs, was willed by Margaret in 1513 but the date of its completion is uncertain. Instead of the pinnacles and pointed arches of the Gothic, the Bedingfeld tombs illustrate the revival of Greco-Roman architecture, represented here by the numerous pilasters, or flat applied columns.

Lady Margaret Bedingfeld’s tomb

The craftsmen responsible for the Bedingfeld monuments are also thought to have made the tomb chest in Norwich’s St George Colegate for Robert Jannys, mayor in 1517 and again in 1524 [7]. On the front of the tomb, baluster pilasters with Ionic capitals separate low relief decorative panels, the central one bearing the merchant’s mark for a man who made his money as a grocer. This is more easily deciphered from the photograph taken 44 years ago by Noël Spencer [2] for the fire-skin on the terracotta seems to have discoloured in the meantime.

The Jannys tomb in terracotta by Italian craftsmen. St George Tombland. Erected 1553/4.

Stylistically, Mayor Jannys’s tomb chest bears some resemblance to the later monument to the Third Duke of Norfolk (d 1554), premier Earl Marshal of England – the man who snatched the chain of office from around the neck of Thomas Cromwell. The Howards had absented themselves from Norwich and so the duke’s much grander tomb is not to be found in Norfolk but at St Michael’s Framlingham, Suffolk. (For the troubled relationship between the Dukes of Norfolk and the city of Norwich see [8]). Thomas Howard was not buried alongside his second wife, from whom he was estranged, but his first wife Anne Plantaganet, daughter of Edward IV.

Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk with his first wife, Anne Plantagenet, at Framlingham

Both tomb chests share arcaded panels with round-headed arches separated by Early Renaissance balusters but it is the presence, and the quality, of the figures that elevates the Duke of Norfolk’s tomb – the figures in the panels are ‘carved as beautifully as the best French work’ [9].

The tomb chest of the Third Duke of Norfolk and his wife, decorated with biblical figures sculpted by French craftsmen.

I never tire of visiting the many treasures of SS Peter & Paul at East Harling. Beneath the canopy lie the alabaster tomb effigies of Sir Thomas Lovell (d 1567) and Dame Alice, his wife. The Renaissance influence can be seen in the strapwork pilasters that frame the inscriptions and the three Corinthian columns bearing the canopy. The tomb-chest itself is dense with shields but in contrast to the chivalric ostentation, the two figures are dressed in plain black. Each has a crest at their feet: he has peacock’s feathers, she has a gruesome saracen’s head held aloft. The canopy, or baldacchino, over the tomb may derive from the tented catafalque on which the dead were carried to church along with their armorial bearings [2].

The tomb of Thomas and Alice Lovell. Note the red squirrels on the Lovell crest © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The red squirrel seen on the Lovell shield above is also secreted amongst the magnificent collection of C15 Norwich School glass in the east window. It was probably this that led glass expert David King to suggest that the unknown woman in one of Hans Holbein’s paintings could be Anne Lovell, wife of Sir Thomas Lovell who attended Henry VIII’s court. Known as A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, she holds a red squirrel while the starling at her shoulder is an obvious pun on East Harling.

A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Hans Holbein ca 1526-8. National Gallery, London

For 150 years before the Coke family built Holkham Hall, they buried their dead in the mausoleum outside the church in Tittleshall St Mary – a small village in the west of the county. Following the break with Rome, and the consequent changes in religious practice, the rood screen no longer marked a hard border between nave and chancel and the monuments of the titled and wealthy crept into that part of the church once reserved for the clerics. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Tittleshall St Mary where the richness – even the colour – of the chancel contrasts with the severity of the nave. Reputedly the finest monument in Norfolk was raised to Sir Edward Coke’s first wife Bridget, a Paston. Sir Edward has a separate tomb and Bridget occupies the niche alone, with her children at prayer below, all facing east.

Bridget Coke d 1598

Founder of the family’s fortune, Sir Edward Coke, was the Lord Chancellor who prosecuted the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. When he was made the first Lord Chief Justice it was hoped that this independently-minded man – a staunch supporter of parliament and the common law – would bend to the will of King James I but he refused and was dismissed in 1616 [10].

The attitudes of the figures on the monument illustrate the conventions for depicting life and death. The effigy on the tomb chest shows the man at rest, recumbent, hands held in prayer as he awaits resurrection. By contrast, the Four Virtues on the broken pediment – sitting in poses described [6] as lolling (or as my mother would say, lounging about) – show signs of drowsy activity. The seventeenth century was a period of great experimentation, not only in the attitudes of figures for the same applied to the tomb surrounds. As shown by the Coke monument, there was a general, if erratic, progression from the strapwork, skulls, hourglasses, scythes etc of the Jacobean period towards a purer Classical style [2].

The recumbent effigy of Sir Edward Coke, who died in Stoke Poges in 1634 and was interred with his first wife in Tittleshall. The tomb is by Nicholas Stone while the effigy itself is thought to be by Stone’s assistant John Hargrave [2].
Nicholas Stone, father and son by Thomas Chambers. Stone Sr, the foremost sculptor of the Baroque period.

A pupil of Stone’s, Edward Marshall, sculpted the Peck tomb in St Peter, Spixworth, not far from Norwich International Airport. Despite lacking the dignity of the Coke tomb, Noël Spencer thought that it the more exciting [2]. Unusually, the effigies of William and Alice Peck show both in their shrouds, rather than their finery. There is no pretence that they are as they were in life. As Pevsner and Wilson [7] wrote, they are ‘represented naturalistically as dead’.

William Peck (d. 1635) and his wife Alice. Spencer and other sources give the sculptor as Edward Marshall (who was to succeed Nicholas Stone as Master Mason to the Crown) although Pevsner mentions Thomas Stanton.

At about the same time, Sir Austin and Lady Elizabeth Palgrave were memorialised in North Barningham, not in unflinching death, but as busts that portray them in their living pomp. ‘He is bearded and faintly quizzical; she will brook no nonsense’ [12]

Sir Austin and Lady Elizabeth Palgrave 1639.

The Pastons illustrate the rise of the common man in the late medieval period, from someone so poor that he rode to the mill sitting on top of his corn, to the end of the line who died as Second Earl of Yarmouth (d. 1732). (To read about the Paston family in Norwich see [11]). On his tomb-chest in North Walsham, Sir William Paston (d.1608) lolls with head in hand. This ‘not dead, just resting’ pose was mocked by Bosola in Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi when he said, ‘Princes’ images on their tombs do not lie … seeming to pray up to heaven; but with their hands under their cheek, as if they died of the tooth-ache.’

Sir William Paston, at St Nicholas North Walsham

And in Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare wrote that, ‘If a man do not erect in this age his own tomb ere he dies, he shall no longer live in monument than the bell rings and the widow weeps.’ Sir William arranged for his majestic tomb to be built by London sculptors Key and Wright at a cost of £200 [2]. Flanking the armorial tablet are obelisks (an Egyptian motif) and flaming urns, both signifying eternal life.

The monument to Sir William Paston, founder of Paston School. The elaborate armorial tablet was important for a family whose origins and title to land were often questioned.

Sir William’s grandson and widow are commemorated in St Margaret’s church in the village of Paston. Dame Katherine Paston (d. 1629) was the daughter of Sir Thomas Knyvett who had discovered Guy Fawkes’ trail of gunpowder in 1604. Her tomb by Nicholas Stone cost an astounding £340 [12].

Dame Katherine Paston’s monument in black, white and pink alabasters.
Katherine Paston, ‘awaiting a joyful resurrection’ 1629

Below, Thomas Marsham (d.1638) lounges on a cushion, much as Dame Katherine Paston had done since 1629, yet it is Marsham’s later tomb that Noël Spencer describes as the first in Norfolk to represent the Resurrection theme [2]. This description echoes Pevsner’s [7], who writes: ‘Effigy comfortably semi-reclining, though in his shroud, as if attempting a resurrection – an early case of this attitude in England and certainly the first in Norfolk’. In terms of implied exertion there is little to separate the two effigies but the dress provides important clues. Dame Katherine is represented as a living figure clothed in her finery, a matron reclining at a Roman feast. Marsham, on the other hand, is dressed in his burial shroud and we are to assume that he is – eyes open – awakening to the trumpet call of the angels announcing Resurrection Day.

Thomas Marsham’s monument in St Margaret Stratton Strawless, some miles north of Norwich

The majority of men of this period are portrayed as bearded but Marsham appears to have been retrospectively given facial hair, perhaps to prevent him looking too effeminate [13]. The graffiti is as crude as a moustache on the Mona Lisa. The monument is also notable for the realistic bones of the charnel house carved into the base of the alabaster tomb.

A more convincing depiction of resurrection appears in All Saints, East Barsham. By comparison with Marsham’s torpor, Mary Calthorpe is a positive jack-in-the-box. Married at 16 and dead aged 33 she responds to the trumpeting angel, the words on the side of her coffin exhorting, ‘Come Lord Jesu, come quickly’.

Emerging from the grave, Mary Calthorpe d. 1640. Signed by John and Mathias Christmas, sons of Gerard Christmas of East London. The Christmas family are described as, ‘Sculptors, Woodcarvers and Pageant Artificers’.

‘Kneeler’ monuments, of the kind we saw for Bridget Coke, flourished from approximately the middle of the sixteenth century through the first half of the next. During the sixteenth century it became increasingly common to find monuments in which a kneeling husband and wife face each other across a prayer desk with their children ranged behind them. On early kneelers the clear message was that prayers were being sought to speed the passage of the deceased through Purgatory [14]. But after the rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory, the iconography is suggested to emphasise status, lineage, and continuity of the family. Wilson and Pevsner describe the kneeling monument as ‘a Renaissance newcomer from France via The Netherlands’ [7].

Norwich, home to many immigrants from the Low Countries, has some wonderful examples of kneeler monuments. At a time when families were large, rules of proportion and perspective had to be relaxed in order to accommodate all the children on the monument. St Andrew’s Norwich contains the tomb of Sir Robert Suckling (1520-1589); the son of a baker he became a rich mercer, alderman, sheriff, mayor and twice MP for Norwich. Here he is with his third wife and five daughters and five sons from his first marriage. Suckling’s town house survives as part of Cinema City.

The monument to Sir Robert Suckling, with his third wife and ten children. The skulls and fruit are thumping metaphors for the transience of life. In the spandrels above him a young putto, playing with ball and cup, faces Father Time with his scythe and hourglass.

Another tomb in St Andrews bears effigies of Sir John and Lady Suckling (d 1613), the son and daughter-in-law of Sir Robert. Sir John was James I’s treasurer and the richness of his monument is in keeping with his high office. His four daughters kneel in prayer on the front of the chest. The tomb itself is open, with the lid supported on four skulls, demonstrating that chest tombs are ‘merely empty boxes designed to raise the memorial up to eye level’ [2]. To the right of the inscription is a bird escaping its cage, signifying the release of the soul [2]. ‘Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken and we are escaped‘ (Psalm 124:7).

Norwich and its freemen had long enjoyed a greater than usual degree of civic independence granted by the Crown. This, together with a general shift in the balance of power brought about by the Protestant Reformation, ensured that monuments to the rich and powerful mercantile elite – and not just those who were high-born or gained national prominence – started to appear in greater numbers in the city’s churches.

Here, in St George Tombland, is the memorial to alderman, speaker of the council and mayor Thomas Anguish (1538-1617) at whose mayoral inauguration 33 people were crushed to death after the crowd tried to escape exploding fireworks [15]. His monument is by Nicholas Stone who celebrates neither royalty nor aristocracy but a grocer in his red mayoral robe. Note the nine sons and three daughters. Only the five sons not holding skulls survived the parents while two of the sons are swaddled chrysoms, who died soon after birth.

The Anguish Monument in alabaster by Nicholas Stone, sculptor of the memorial to John Donne in St Paul’s Cathedral [14]. Rather than conveying Stone’s advanced style, the old-fashioned design is consistent with the Jacobean work used in other of the city’s mayoral monuments [16]. Stone was paid £20, compared to the £340 he charged for Dame Katherine Paston’s tomb.

The Anguish memorial is also notable for being a hanging monument; it occupies no floor space, with the sad corollary that it is now hardly visible, squashed behind the organ. Wall monuments proliferated after the Reformation as we will see in the next post.

To be continued …

© Reggie Unthank 2021

Sources

  1. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2020/07/15/thomas-brownes-world/
  2. Noël Spencer (1977). Sculptured Monuments in Norfolk Churches. Pub: Norfolk Churches Trust.
  3. Rachel Dressler (2000). Cross-legged knights and signification in English medieval tomb sculpture. Studies in Iconography vol 21: 91-121.
  4. http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com/2016/02/cross-your-legs-and-hope-to-die-what.html
  5. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2020/06/15/the-angels-bonnet/
  6. D.P. Mortlock and C.V. Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches. No 3 West and South-West Norfolk. Pub: Acorn Editions.
  7. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I: Norwich and North-East and 2: North-West and South. Pub: Yale University Press.
  8. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2018/12/15/the-absent-dukes-of-norfolk/
  9. James Bettley and Nicolaus Pevsner (2015). The Buildings of England. Suffolk: East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  10. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-Coke
  11. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/12/15/the-pastons-in-norwich/
  12. D.P. Mortlock and C.V. Roberts (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches No 1 North-East Norfolk.
  13. http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/strattonstrawless/strattonstrawless.htm
  14. Sally Badham (2015). Kneeling in prayer: English commemorative art 1330–1670. British Art Journal vol 16: 58-72.
  15. http://www.norwich-heritage.co.uk/monuments/Thomas%20Anguish/Thomas%20Anguish.shtm

Thanks

I thank Simon Knott for supplying the de Thorp photograph. I am also grateful to John Bayliss, Christopher Howse and Anne Oatley for comments, and to The Rector of St Andrews for opening the church.

Madness

Tags

Madness was an all-enveloping term whose varieties can affect us all and for which we now have much kinder words. A jarring name, much used up to the eighteenth century, it was replaced by ‘insanity’ in the nineteenth century and ‘mental illness’ in the twentieth. I began this post during Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) when my thoughts turned to a family member who had Alzheimer’s disease. I was also reminded of some of the subjects we’d come across in this blog and wondered how they were cared for in less enlightened times.

The most distinguished of the Norwich School of Painters, John Sell Cotman (1728-1842) occupies prime position in the city’s pantheon yet ‘his compulsive and intermittently manic personality prevented his talent from flourishing in the national arena.’ [1]. Now recognised as bipolar disorder, these extremes of elation and depression also affected Cotman’s sons.

Cotman’s second son, John Joseph, by his friend Joseph Geldart 1835. Courtesy Leeds Art Galleries

Miles Edmund, who often finished his father’s paintings, was depressive; Alfred’s violent behaviour [2] led to his committal in an asylum; and John Joseph was known around the city, rather cruelly, as Crazy Cotman. His brilliantly colourful and energetic paintings are the antithesis of the calmness portrayed in the wherry school of painting.

Landscape-with-Sun-Set-Haystacks-and-Owl-Watercolour-36x52cm.jpg
John Joseph Cotman. Landscape with Sun Set, Haystacks and Owl. Courtesy of Mandell’s Gallery, Norwich

A little more is known about the troubled life of Thomas Jeckyll, born eight years after Alfred Cotman and subject of four posts. Wymondham-born Jeckyll became an important figure in the Aesthetic Movement based on the fashion for Japanese art, spearheaded by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Earlier in his career, Jeckyll had worked for his patron, Sir John Boileau of Ketteringham Hall, during which time his unreliability was noted. A later absence was to precipitate the infamous affair of the Peacock Room. Due to illness, Jeckyll had to absent himself from a project to design a room in the London house of wealthy collector Frederick Leyland, where he could display his oriental china. Whistler, who had been working elsewhere in the house, completed Jeckyll’s work but he went far beyond any ideas discussed with Leyland. The Peacock Room, in blue and gold, is a masterpiece achieved by painting over the surfaces of Jeckyll’s room and in the process airbrushing him from history. Only a pair of sunflower fire irons remain as a reminder of Jeckyll.

Thomas Jeckyll returned from London to the family home in Unthank Road, Norwich [4]. He had been experiencing pressure of work in the early 1870s and in 1873 underwent some kind of crisis. Then, in November 1876, having suffered his first manic episode, he was admitted to a private asylum, Heigham Hall, about half a mile outside Norwich city walls.

heigham hall asylum.jpg
Advert in the BMJ

A search for private asylums in Mason’s Directory of 1852 [5] comes up with ‘Asylum-lane’ in the parish of Heigham. This was to be renamed Park Lane and if you were to zig-zag northwards, through what must have been open countryside before the encroachment of terraced housing, you would have arrived at extensive wooded grounds labelled ‘Heigham Hall, Private Lunatic Asylum’. Jeckyll was incarcerated here in an asylum for ‘patients belonging to the upper and middle classes’ [4].

Heigham Hall at the junction of Old Palace Road and Heigham Road. 1884 OS map courtesy of National Library of Scotland.

On Bryant’s map of 1826, Heigham Hall appears as Marrowbone House or Hall – a sly dig at butcher John Lowden, a contractor to the army in the Napoleonic Wars, who renovated this medieval building.

Bryant’s map 1826, showing Marrowbone House/Hall. Courtesy Norfolk County Council

Although Thomas Jeckyll’s condition seems not to have improved, he was discharged from Marrowbone Hall the following year to his father’s home in Norwich [4]. However, George Jeckell (whose surname betrays his son’s fancified ‘y’), was himself exhibiting signs of mania and died in May 1878. A few months prior to this, Thomas had been incarcerated in the Bethel Hospital as a fee-paying patient and he was to stay here until his death in 1881. As we saw for the Cotmans, inheritance plays a strong part in bipolar disorder.

Jeckyll and father.jpg
Thomas Jeckyll with his father George in the 1860s © Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

Before looking at the pioneering Bethel Hospital in the city centre let’s return to Marrowbone Hall. The Hall, formerly The Grange, was partly renovated by butcher Lowden around 1810 ‘in modern style’. Then, in 1836, it opened as a private mental home, managed by Drs John Ferra Watson and William Peter Nichols (whose name crops up throughout the history of Norwich medicine in the early C19). Heigham Hall had set itself up in competition with an establishment near Park Lane known as Heigham Retreat – the word ‘retreat’ signifying its use as a private asylum [6]. We’ve encountered these two properties when searching for another Heigham House occupied by the Unthank family [7].

In 1852, the Reverend Edmund Holmes was found in bed with the 12-year-old daughter of Mrs Bunn, his housekeeper, who called the constable [6, 8]. Holmes was taken to a magistrate who referred him for committal to Heigham Hall. Just a few months later Holmes was discharged only to immediately become a boarder employed as the asylum’s chaplain. The public were incensed that the owners appeared to have offered a dubious diagnosis of insanity in order that a man from ‘a high county family’ could evade the law. A surprisingly partisan article in a medical journal of 1855 tried to boost Heigham Hall’s reputation, stating that others had thought Holmes was a lunatic and that the housekeeper’s husband had often held the minister on the floor as a protection from violence [8].

Heigham Hall. In 12 acres of ornamental grounds. Internally and externally, ‘like a gentleman’s mansion.’ Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office

The affair became a national cause célèbre when another doctor claimed that Dr Watson of Heigham Hall had offered him a bribe to sign Holmes’ lunacy certificate, saying it would be worth ‘hundreds a year in his pocket’ [9]. Following questions in Parliament, the Lunacy Act was amended so that no-one’s status as a patient could be switched to boarder without full investigation by the Commissioners in Lunacy. But the question remained: was this the ploy of a wealthy man to evade justice or was Holmes insane?

From 1904 until his death in 1949, Heigham Hall was owned by Dr John Gordon Gordon-Munn who, in 1914/15 was Lord Mayor of Norwich. As a trainee doctor he had written a short thesis on, ‘Some Observations Upon the Uterus and its Appendages in the Insane [10].’ That is, he examined the macro- and microscopic appearance of the sexual organs of insane women. In his brief introduction, he cites various sources to support his assertion that, ‘It has long been held that a decided relation does exist between pathological conditions of the sexual apparatus in women and insanity.’ This offers a disturbing insight into the prevailing (male) view of ‘women’s problems’ that persisted into the twentieth century. Women were thought to be liable to a periodic lunacy according to the lunar cycle – the waxing and waning of the moon. The Latin for moon, ‘lunaris’, gives rise to ‘loony while the Latin for womb, ‘hystericus,’ is evidently the base for ‘hysterical’. Indeed, there were claims that female hysteria could be cured by hysterectomy. In 1866 a physician wrote that clitoridectomy could cure certain kinds of insanity. Such barbaric treatment appears to be the product of sympathetic magic, not science.

The Heigham Retreat by Henry Ninham. Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office.

Competing with Heigham Hall for patients was the Heigham Retreat (above). This private mental asylum was approached from Park Lane along an avenue of trees that gave name to present-day Avenue Road, with which it partly coincided. In 1859, the proprietors of Heigham Hall bought out their competitors at Heigham Retreat and promptly closed it. Now, Avenue Junior School occupies the site. Heigham Hall itself lasted until 1960 when it was demolished to make way for Dolphin Grove social housing.

Dolphin Grove estate at the corner of Heigham Street and Old Palace Road. Former site of Heigham Hall.

Five miles west of the city, Costessey Hall was home to the Jerninghams on whose land George Gunton established the brickworks whose products helped define the face of Victorian Norwich [see previous post 11]. But Gunton’s Cossey Reds were used first to build the phantasmagorical Neo-Gothic hall, which was never completed.

Costessey Hall. Architect John Chessell Buckler. Courtesy Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk

The 10th Baron Stafford, Sir Augustus Frederick Fitzherbert Stafford Jerningham was probably the grandson of Mrs Fitzherbert and the Prince Regent (the future George IV).

Maria Fitzherbert by Joshua Reynolds ABC Gallery

Jerningham was certified insane by the Lunacy Commission. Whether or not his mental illness was inherited from the Hanovers is unclear but some hereditary component seemed to run in the family for Jerningham’s younger brother, Sir Fitzosbert Edward Stafford Jerningham, was thought of as eccentric. His valet reported that his lordship would throw out watches that failed to keep time. Fitzosbert rarely ventured outside, reasoning that his brother had left the park and never returned [12].

Ordinary individuals had no wealth to insulate them from physical or mental illness. The earliest public asylum in the country was Bethlehem Hospital, which moved from just outside London’s city walls to Moorfields in 1676. Although the Bethel Hospital in Norwich came later (1713) it had the distinction of being the country’s first purpose-built asylum [13]. This is where Thomas Jeckyll spent his last years.

The Bethel Hospital, renovated in Queen Anne style by Edward Boardman. The smaller, high-set windows on the ground floor emphasise the sense of imprisonment.

The austere external facade on Bethel Street is part of Edward Boardman’s remodelling of 1899. On the opposite side of the wall were gardens and a ladies’ croquet lawn. Some idea of this cloistered place can be glimpsed from Catherine Maude Nichols’ engraving and painting (see [14] for the story of this fascinating artist). Catherine’s father was one of four consulting surgeons at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital – then on St Stephens Street – where he specialised in removing bladder stones. This was the Dr Nichols who established Heigham Hall as a private asylum. He was also surgeon at The Bethel, which accounts for his daughter’s access to the private side of this hospital.

Bethel Duo.001.jpg
Dry point engraving and oil painting of the Bethel Hospital. Undated but after 1882. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Collections. NWHCM : 1940.75.19 and NWHCM : 1940.75.8

The original building was founded by Mary Chapman, daughter of John Mann, a wealthy worsted merchant who had been the city’s mayor and the county’s high sheriff. This was on the site of the Committee House that stored the county’s arms during the Civil War. In 1648, during a popular Royalist uprising against troopers of the New Model Army, citizens broke into the building and somehow ignited 98 barrels of gunpowder. The explosion or ‘Great Blow’ killed around 100 people and blew out the glass in the nearby churches of St Stephens and St Peter Mancroft. The churchwarden’s accounts for St Peter Mancroft record that in 1652 the ‘glasyer’ William Rutter was paid 13 pounds, four shillings and sixpence ‘for the glaseing of the sayd East windowe and other glasing work in the church’ [15]. Rutter’s east window would have been a collection of fifteenth century glass, painted in several Norwich workshops, and rescued from around the church.

East window of St Peter Mancroft, mainly C15 glass with minor later additions. Often called the Toppes window, the rich merchant and family can be seen praying in the donor panel, bottom right

Mary Chapman’s husband, John, was rector of the parish church of Thorpe to the east of the city. Both had mental illness in their families and John left money to found a charity for those deprived of their reason. Mary was to use her remaining 24 years to build The Bethel on the site of the old Committee Rooms and establish a hospital for the insane [16]. The patients’ relatives were expected to pay what they could and during Mary Chapman’s lifetime she herself paid for the maintenance of several inmates. Her will arranged for a trust to provide ‘not for natural born idiots or fools, but for the convenient reception and habitation of lunatics’ [13]. This provides a rough distinction between conditions apparent at birth and those that appeared later in life (although it is now known that the latter may have a genetic basis). Hogarth’s print has its own taxonomy of madness and is instructive for illustrating attitudes to, and classification of, mental disturbance in the mid-eighteenth century.

The Madhouse’. Plate VIII from The Rake’s Progress, by William Hogarth 1734-5.

Having led a dissolute life, the protagonist Tom Rakewell (front left), sits on the floor with a self-inflicted wound in his side and is being chained for his own protection. The man on the stairs (right), in love with a famous courtesan, is besotted, lovelorn, moonstruck. The tailor (centre mid-ground) measures an imaginary client with his tape. Two cells are occupied by delusional patients. These different species of madness, and the terms used to describe them, might not stand up to modern scrutiny but we should remember that science was yet to get into its stride. As a benchmark for where this stands in the history of science, the man at the back, part-hidden by the door, is trying to find a method for what seemed to be the intractable problem of determining longitude and, in case we didn’t grasp this, Hogarth has written the word on the wall. The man kneeling with a makeshift telescope to his eye is probably trying to solve the longitude problem by observing the stars [17]. Two years after Hogarth published his print, the Longitude Commissioners awarded John Harrison a prize for producing a chronometer accurate enough to measure the difference in local time – and hence longitude – between a ship at sea and Greenwich Mean Time.

The two fashionably-dressed young women have come to visit, one of them using her fan to block sight of a crowned man with a sceptre in one hand and said to be urinating with the other. While the visiting elite could claim to be motivated by higher ideals, and were expected to make a charitable contribution towards the upkeep of the insane, crowds of the lower sort would come to ‘Bedlam’ in search of amusement. Madness was a diversion.

‘Madness’ and ‘lunacy’ – terms offensive to modern ears – were everyday coin in the eighteenth century; in the nineteenth century they were largely replaced by ‘insanity’ and in the twentieth century by ‘mental illness’. Steven Cherry also makes the distinction between madness as a legal term and mental illness as a medical concept [18]. In a more religious age, madness could be perceived to be the consequences of ‘sinfulness and the loss of divine protection’ [18]. Another explanation, set out by the Ancient Greeks, suggested that temperament was regulated by an imbalance of the four bodily humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. An excess of black bile was thought to cause melancholia whereas a choleric and manic nature was attributed to an excess of yellow bile. The humoral theory held for two millennia but had little or no practical use in treating: hysteria, post-natal depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, the effects of syphilis on the brain, monomania (e.g., conversing with supernatural beings), congenital idiocy, delirium tremens caused by alcohol etc etc. For some time the Madness of King George the Third has been attributed to the blood disorder, porphyria, which may have been treated with arsenic, but a twenty-first century analysis of his handwriting suggests that the monarch could have been exhibiting acute mania [19].

Over the gates of London’s Bethlem Hospital were two figures carved by Caius Gabriel Cibber, one depicting ‘raving madness’, the other ‘melancholy madness’ – the two poles of manic depression.

Clearly, Hogarth’s depiction of Tom Rakewell (above) is based on Cibber’s chained figure.

The model provided by London’s Bethlem Hospital – or Bedlam, with its connotations of chaos – tapped into two contemporary views of insanity. This dichotomy appears on King’s 1766 map of Norwich: the road was named Bedlam Street while the hospital itself was called a more dignified (and biblical) Bethel.

Samuel King’s New Plan of Norwich 1766, with the Norman Upper Newport Street renamed as Bedlam Street, the site of Bethel Hospital. Courtesy Norwich Castle Museum NWHCM;1927.12:M

From a young age, Amelia Opie visited Bethel Hospital in Norwich [20]. She would throw a halfpenny over the wall for an inmate, Goodings, to buy snuff; she also spent most of her weekly allowance buying him pinks and other flowers after he had admired a nosegay she was wearing. Despite being petrified by his clanking chains she could still write, ‘Some of my happiest moments were those when I visited the gates of bedlam.’ As a romantic 16-year-old, Amelia went inside the Bethel with two male friends at a time when she ‘considered madness not as occasioned by some physical derangement, but as the result, in most cases, of moral causes.’ But Amelia saw no lovelorn patients rolling their eyes and ‘went away disappointed from having false ideas of the nature of the affliction which we had gone to contemplate.’

Amelia Opie by her husband John Opie RA. ©National Portrait Gallery, London

It may be surprising to read from Amelia Opie’s account that inmates of the Bethel, who were free to roam the grounds, might still be chained. Inmates were owed a sense of duty and humanity and ‘in obstinate resistances to be governed no blows or correction with any weapon.’ But records show that humane management still involved handcuffs, padlocks, a heavy chair with straps, and straight-waistcoats. Chains were intended to prevent escape and to minimise harm but were insufficient to stop a patient from killing the Master, James Bullard, with a scythe [16].

Surgeon doctors attended patients in the Bethel, some from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital founded in 1771 on St Stephens Road, just outside the city walls. The first physician to be appointed was Sir Benjamin Wrench who had promised Mary Chapman that he would remain physician to the Bethel for as long as he was able. He retired in 1747 aged 82 [16]. We previously brushed past Sir Benjamin – or at least, his house – in the post on the Norwich School of Painters [3]. The Norwich Society of Artists held their first exhibition in Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court, which was demolished in 1826 to make way for the new Corn Exchange on the corner of Exchange and Little Bedford Streets where the north end of Jarrold Department Store now stands. When the NHS was established in 1948 the Bethel itself became an annexe of the City Asylum at Hellesdon. It closed in 1995 after 282 years service.

Left: Sir Benjamin Wrench by anon. ca 1747-1750s. Right: his house and courtyard by David Hodgson 1838. ©Trustees of the British Museum

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Norwich had roughly 50 private asylums and a handful of private subscription asylums. The ‘lunatic poor’ went to the poor house or workhouse even though there was no special provision for them [18]. However, from 1828, they were to be housed on a site once occupied by a lazar (leper) hospital established by a Bishop of Norwich; this was just outside St Augustine’s Gates in a new building that had a ward for the sick. The new asylum, adjacent to the pre-existing workhouse infirmary, was known for the first two years of its existence as the Norwich Pauper Asylum [21]. Renamed the Norwich City Asylum, the institution was to remain here until 1880 when a new City Asylum opened in Hellesdon. The OS map of 1886 shows the Borough Lunatic Asylum as ‘disused’.

OS map 1886 courtesy of National Library of Scotland. The disused borough asylum was on Infirmary Road, which became Starling Road, off Magpie Road.

In 1880, the city’s accommodation for the mentally ill was transferred to new premises at Hellesdon, just beyond the Mile Cross.

Hellesdon Hospital, opened 1880. Ordnance Survey 1885.

The workhouse infirmary at St Augustine’s had already left the site in 1859 for Bowthorpe Road, forming the nucleus of what would be the West Norwich Hospital. It had a ward for lunatics [22].

The 1885 OS Map shows the workhouse and hospital on the north side of Workhouse Lane. By the time of the 1912 survey, the lane had become Bowthorpe Road. Note the Iron (or Isolation) Hospital on the south side of the road – all such institutions at the periphery of an expanding city. Ordnance Survey map courtesy of National Library of Scotland maps.

Although not in Norwich itself, we must acknowledge the presence of the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum at Thorpe St Andrews, two and half miles east of the city centre. As a result of an Act of 1808 this County Asylum, which was funded by the county rates, opened in 1814 specifically for pauper and criminal lunatics. [18]. It was only the third of its kind in the country. Here it is in an engraving of 1825 by John Berney Ladbrooke, son of co-founder of the Norwich Society of Artists, Robert Ladbrooke.

The County Lunatic Asylum at Thorpe St Andrews 1825. Drawn by John Berney Ladbrooke. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council at Picture Norfolk.

©Reggie Unthank 2021

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

New Book

Recently published, my latest book is an anthology of short, richly illustrated articles in which I take a sideways look at the history of Norwich. See my previous blog post for further details. The book is available in Jarrolds

Norwich and City Bookshop Norwich. Click the underlined links to go straight to the mail order pages. It can also be bought in: The Bookhive, Norwich; Waterstones, Castle Street, Norwich; the Holt Bookshop; Ketts Bookshop, Wymondham.

Sources

  1. Andrew Moore (2005). John Sell Cotman: The Calm and the Storm. In, John Sell Cotman: Master of Watercolour. Pub: Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service.
  2. https://cotmania.org/archives/sdk/1/3/1/4/65
  3. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2019/09/15/the-norwich-school-of-painters/
  4. Susan Weber Soros and Catherine Arbuthnott (2003). Thomas Jeckyll: Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. Pub: Yale University Press.
  5. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/62401/62401-h/62401-h.htm
  6. Walter Rye (1917). History of the Parish of Heigham. See: http://www.welbank.net/norwich/hist.html#hhall
  7. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/04/15/colonel-unthank-rides-again/
  8. Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology (1855) vol 8(29): pp168–170. Heigham Hall Lunatic Asylum, Norwich. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4961946/
  9. Sarah Wise (2015). https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/lunacy-and-mad-doctors/201505/did-the-victorian-asylum-allow-the-rich-evade-justice
  10. https://era.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/20539/GordonMunnJG_1896redux.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
  11. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/05/05/fancy-bricks/
  12. Ernest G. Gage (1991). Costessey Hall: A Retrospect of the Jernegans, Jerninghams and Stafford Jerninghams of Costessey Hall, Norfolk. Pub: Colin L. House, Costessey Hall, Old Costessey, Norwich.
  13. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (1997). The Buildings of England: Norfolk I. Pub: Yale University Press
  14. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2019/05/15/catherine-maude-nichols/
  15. Christopher Woodforde (1950). The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century. Pub: Oxford University Press.
  16. Mark Winston (1994). The Bethel at Norwich: an eighteenth century hospital for lunatics. Medical History vol 38, pp 27-51. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/3601231.pdf
  17. Joanna Tinworth (2021). Notes on Hogarth’s painting: http://collections.soane.org/object-p47
  18. Steven Cherry (2003). Mental Health Care in Modern England: The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum/St Andrew’s Hospital, 1810-1998. Pub: The Boydell Press.
  19. V. Rentoumi (2017). The acute mania of King George III: A computational linguistic analysis. PLOS ONE vol 12 (3). https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0171626
  20. Cecilia Lucy Brightwell (1865). Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie. Pub: Fletcher & Alexander. Norwich. See https://www.gutenberg.org/files/47595/47595-h/47595-h.htm
  21. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/hospitalrecords/details.asp?id=469&page=20
  22. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Norwich/

Thanks

I am grateful to Clare Everitt for permission to use images from the excellent Picture Norfolk website.