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The face is the most important part of one’s identity. It conveys a visible expression of  personality and can used in art to evoke a range of emotions. But at a time when faces were not universally recognised other symbols could be used to underline identity.

“The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.” (Cicero)

I was reminded of this by the painted rood screen from St Mary’s North Elmham. Despite having their faces scratched in the reign (probably) of Edward VI the rather mournful saints, Barbara, Cecilia and Dorothy (Babs, Cissy and Dot) can still be recognised to be portraits of the same woman. But likeness to long-departed saints is hardly the point here; instead, beauteous Barbara is identified by the tower in which she was hidden from the world, Cecilia’s virginity is signified by her wreath of lilies, and Dorothy (patron of gardeners, amongst others) holds a bunch of flowers. The face is incidental to the virtue signified.


Rood screen, St Mary’s North Elmham, Norfolk (ca 1474) saved from destruction by being used as floorboards. SS Barbara, Cecilia and Dorothy

In the late medieval period Norwich was a major centre for glass painting and the often stereotypical faces of saints and angel can be recognised throughout East Anglia [2, 3]. The same faces appear in various guises suggesting they were drawn from the same cartoon. For example, the angel from the Toppes-sponsored windows in St Peter Mancroft can be overlaid pretty faithfully upon the saint from the ‘Toppes’ window in Norwich Guildhall. Both were painted ca 1450 by the workshop of John Wighton, in which his wife and son also worked [4].

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Left, St Peter Mancroft; right, Guildhall; centre, overlay

A wonderful sequence of images from the late C15 is to be found in the chantry chapel of St Helen’s in the Great Hospital, Norwich. These roof bosses may have escaped desecration because Henry VIII’s zealously Protestant and iconoclastic son, Edward VI, handed over control of the chapel to the mayor, sheriff and citizens of Norwich [1].


Two faces are reputed to be of Queen Anne of Bohemia and her husband King Richard II, but the evidence is slender. The woman does wear a hard-to-see crown: the man does not, but then he was usurped [1].


Reputedly, Queen Anne of Bohemia and King Richard II

Queen Anne and her husband visited Norwich in 1383 but by the time Bishop Goldwell (rebus, a golden well) …


… had this vaulted ceiling built (ca 1472-1499) the couple had been dead a century. In the glorious Wilton Diptych, Richard II kneels clean-shaven before the Virgin. So if the boss of the hirsute man is meant to represent Richard then it may not be a likeness but a representation of deposed majesty, wearing a headband instead of a crown.


The Wilton Diptych 1395-9. National Gallery

Norwich Cathedral has over 1000 bosses carved into the keystones of its roof vaults – more than any other religious building in the world. In the cloisters are several of the Green Man – a pagan figure representing, perhaps, the rebirth of nature. However … just as the term ‘ploughman’s lunch’ seems to have been a fiction concocted by The Cheese Bureau (surely a Philadelphia soul group?) as recently as the 1950s, so – it is claimed – the term  ‘Green Man’ as applied to church roof bosses can only be traced back to an article by Lady Raglan in 1939 [quoted in 5]. Can this be right? Anyway, the faces can be classified as: a ‘leaf mask’ made from a single leaf; a ‘foliate face’ made from several leaves; ‘disgorgers’, with leaves or vines exiting mouth, ears, nose; this one seems to be a ‘peeper’ or ‘watcher’.


A face peeps out behind the leaves in the cloisters of Norwich Cathedral (1316-19)

Roof bosses also decorate the vaulting inside St Ethelbert’s Gate to the Cathedral. The present gate was built ca 1316 (restored in 1815 and 1964), incorporating the remains of the Norman gate burnt in the riots of 1272 [6]. The conflict centred on a jousting target (quintain) in Tombland at which two priory men were detained. The prior replied by bringing in armed men from Yarmouth who went on the rampage; the citizens, in turn, attacked the priory, set fire to St Ethelbert’s Gate and parts of the cathedral itself were set ablaze. Thirteen of the prior’s men were killed but King Henry III, who came from Bury St Edmunds to restore order, put 35 citizens to death: by dragging some behind a cart; by hanging, drawing and quartering others; and by burning alive a woman who set fire to the gate. To compensate the priory the citizens were required to fund the rebuilding of the gate. The naturalistic head on the boss looks down with distaste.


The Despenser Retable survived the Reformation by being inverted as a table top. Now, this altarpiece can be seen in St Luke’s Chapel in Norwich Cathedral. One intriguing hypothesis is that this late medieval treasure was commissioned by Henry le Despenser, the ‘Fighting Bishop’ (1370-1406), to mark the suppression of the Peasant’s Revolt by Richard II and perhaps his own part in the East Anglian skirmishes [7]. Incidentally, the rich red colour in the painting was known as ‘Norwich Red’ and was later used in the city’s famous C18 shawls [7].


The Despenser Retable, Norwich Cathedral

The first panel depicts the Scourging of Jesus. Pilate’s representative handles Jesus’ hair while the face of the man holding the scourge is “contorted with the effort” [7] of delivering the punishment (out of shot, both his feet spring off the ground).


On Agricultural Hall Plain, between the Hall (‘Anglia TV’) and Shirehall, is George Wade’s memorial. Unveiled in 1904, ‘Peace’ records the 300 Norfolk men who served in the Boer War. The mood, subdued rather than victorious, is conveyed by the angel’s neutral expression as she sheathes her sword [8].


‘Peace’, George Wade’s Boer War memorial on Agricultural Hall Plain (1904)

In St Martin-at-Palace Plain, next to the Wig and Pen pub, is Cotman House. One of the city’s favourite sons, the painter John Sell Cotman, lived here from 1823 to 1834. If he had been born in London rather than the provinces an artist of Cotman’s stature would surely have been commemorated in Westminster Abbey.


JS Cotman by Hubert Miller 1914 [8]

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Cotman House, where John Sell Cotman opened his ‘School for Drawing and Painting in Water-colours’ [9]


Magdalen Street and nearby Colegate have a good number of late medieval and Georgian doorways [see 10, 11]. Pevsner and Wilson judged No. 44 to be the climax of Magdalen Street, with “one of the most ornate Georgian façades in Norwich.” [12]. George Plunkett wondered if the doorway might have been constructed to designs by Thomas Ivory, architect of The Assembly Rooms and the Octagon Chapel [13]. The keystone on the arch is decorated with a classically-influenced head.


The closed eyes of the head suggest a death mask: the ostrich feathers in the figure’s hair  signify a woman of fashion [14].


At the beginning of the C20, Norwich architect George Skipper played with a variety of influences, including Art Nouveau [15], but for the city’s banks and insurance companies he used a Neo-Classical Palladian style, adding seriousness with borrowed classical motifs. Above the door of the London and Provincial Bank in London Street (shortly to be vacated by GAP) is a female head [8]. The mild erosion makes it difficult to confirm whether she wears a garland, synonymous with Flora the Roman goddess of flowers and Spring. However, the swags of fruit at the putti’s feet convey the required air of prosperity.


The same year (1906), Skipper commissioned similar stone sculpture for the Norwich and London Accident Assurance in St Giles Street (currently St Giles Hotel). Once more, a sense of prosperity is conveyed by the swags of fruit and flowers.


Although the androgynous head bears a laurel wreath, rather than flowers, the festoons of fruit and flowers again are indicative of Flora.StGiles2.jpgFor the later (1928-30) Lloyds Bank on Gentleman’s Walk by HM Cautley, a similar head was used, decorated with a mini-swag of finely carved flowers. Richard Cocke suggests this is a direct tribute to Skipper’s London and Provincial Bank around the corner [8].



Nearby, on Red Lion Street is another Skipper building, Commercial Chambers built in 1903 [15]. The facade is almost riotously decorated in buff terracotta (probably Doulton). The first floor cornice is supported by two boys and a girl, almost certainly sculpted from life, making a change from the usual putti.

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Crowning the building is a cowled figure making entries into a ledger with a quill. This might reasonably be thought to represent the owner, the accountant Charles Larking; but as we saw previously it is clearly modelled on the architect himself [15].


At about the time that Skipper was designing these buildings, his pupil J. Owen Bond – who was responsible for some of the few Modernist buildings in the city – designed the Burlington Buildings in Orford Place (1904). Instead of female heads, the building was decorated with three pairs of full-length, reclining women: one of each pair reading a book, the other holding a cornucopia.


‘Burlington Buildings’ was built for offices rather than for a bank or insurance company. Unfortunately, this fine Renaissance-style building is hard to appreciate, being rather hemmed in at the back of Debenhams.

The Horn of Plenty is not especially associated with Flora and could just as well refer to Concordia (goddess of Peace and Harmony), Abundantia (Abundance personified) and Fortuna (Luck and Fortune). In architecture it seems that the symbolism of plenty may be more important than adherence to any particular goddess.

This can be seen on the bases that James Woodford sculpted for the flagpoles in the memorial gardens outside the City Hall [16]. Each base shows an Assyrian-influenced priestess holding an overflowing basket. Woodford’s references to the two-dimensional  paintings and reliefs from the Assyrian and Ancient Egyptian empires are entirely fitting outside a City Hall that shunned Gothic and Classical motifs in favour of Modernism. As in Egyptian art, the figure presents a combination of frontal and profile views. With the head in profile it is difficult to express emotion; it is the associated animals and plants that bear the symbolic load, celebrating the region’s agricultural abundance.


A celebration of Agriculture by James Woodford (1938), who also sculpted the 18 roundels celebrating Industry on the City Hall’s bronze doors [8].

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©2018 Reggie Unthank



  1. Rose, Martial. (2006). A Crowning Glory: the vaulted bosses in the chantry of St Helen’s, the Great Hospital, Norwich. Pub: Lark’s Press, Dereham.
  2. Woodforde, C. (1950) The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century. Pub, Oxford University Press
  3. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2015/12/19/norfolks-stained-glass-angels/
  4. King, D. J. (2006) The Stained Glass of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, CVMA (GB), V, Oxford.
  5. https://thecompanyofthegreenman.wordpress.com
  6. Meeres, Frank (2011). The Story of Norwich. Pub: Phillimore and Co Ltd. (A highly readable account of the city’s history).
  7. McFadyen, Phillip (2015). Norwich Cathedral Despenser Retable. Pub: Medieval Media, Cromer.
  8. Cocke, Richard (with photography by Sarah Cocke) (2013). Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk. Pub; Liverpool University Press. (An essential source for anyone interested in East Anglian sculpture).
  9. Kent, Arnold and Stephenson, Andrew (1949). Norwich Inheritance. Pub: Jarrold and Sons Ltd
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/06/16/entrances-and-exits-doors-ii/
  11. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/05/26/early-doors-tudor-to-georgian/
  12. Pevsner, Nikloaus and Wilson, Bill (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I, Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  13. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/mag.htm
  14. https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/regency-fashion-how-a-lady-accommodated-her-head-feathers-at-the-end-of-the-18th-century/
  15. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/02/15/the-flamboyant-mr-skipper/
  16. http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib2_1208277486

Thanks. Chris Walton writes the very informative Company of the Green Man website [5] and I am grateful to him for information on foliate faces. I thank Revd Dr Peter Doll, Canon Librarian of Norwich Cathedral for permission to photograph the Despenser Retable and Dr Roland Harris, Cathedral Archaeologist for information on the cathedral bosses and the Ethelbert Gate.

Bonus track


Nelson with his favourite alpenhorn

Unfortunately, the surface on this statue of Admiral Lord Nelson by Thomas Milnes (1852) – which is situated in the Upper Cathedral Close – is now quite worn and has lost much of its detail [8].  This, combined with its north-facing aspect, doesn’t favour photography but I couldn’t omit Norfolk’s most famous son, albeit ‘below the line’.

The Norwich coat of arms


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Coats of arms designed to identify groups of soldiers in the heat of battle were also used  by towns and cities to identify themselves and the source of their authority.

Both symbols on the Norwich coat of arms are martial and point to a long relationship with the crown that conferred certain privileges upon the city. This civic coat of arms is described as: Gules, a castle triple-towered and domed argent; in base a lion passant guardant Or”. Simply put: red shield, silver castle, gold lion. There are, however, many stylistic variations: as often as not the triple-towered castle isn’t domed.


Undomed or domed. The Norwich City coat of arm in the City Hall (1938). Left, on the Bethel Street door to the Treasurer’s Department and right, inside the ‘Rates Hall’

The castle, of course, is Norman but it was about a century after the Conquest that the city’s lion appeared during the reign of the Plantagenets. The association between the lion and the English crown seems to have begun during the reign of King John but it was John’s older brother, Richard the Lionheart, who is particularly associated with the lion passant guardant  [1]; that is, walking with forepaw raised (passant) and head turned to the left, full face (guardant). This is the version of the animal that figures on all of the city’s heraldic devices. Except … guarding the entrance to the City Hall, Alfred Hardiman’s Assyrian-influenced bronze lions are two of our finest civic sculptures but they are at odds with other Norwich lions in not looking left. This may be because the architects saw a lion exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition of 1936 before they commissioned its twin [2].


Staring straight ahead, one of Alfred Hardiman’s lions (1938) outside the City Hall [3]

The connection with Richard I relates to the charter of 1194 in which he allowed citizens to elect their own Reeve – equivalent to the ‘president’ of the borough [4]. The foundation of self-government is usually dated to Richard’s charter even though there may have been a degree of municipal independence before this [5].

The Guildhall, which is the largest medieval civic building outside London, was built 1407-1412 in order to administer the self-governing powers conferred upon the city by Henry IV. The king’s charter of 1404 granted county status to the city and, like London, allowed the citizens to elect a mayor [6]. Documents issued by the council were authenticated with the city’s coat of arms in the form of a wax seal applied either directly or pendent.

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Left and right: early C15 wax seals from Colman’s Collection Norfolk Record Office COL5/1. Centre: “The Common, or City Seal, now in use” Blomefield 1806 [6]

The city’s proud status as ‘civitas‘, a form of city state, is acknowledged in Cuningham’s 1558 map of Norwich, which is probably the earliest surviving printed map of any English town or city.

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Map of Norwich by citizen William Cuningham, ‘Doctor in Physicke’ 1558 (British Library)

In the top right corner we can see the castle and lion augmented by two supporters who, as we will see, appear in various guises through the city’s history.

Map of Norwich Small.jpgA century prior to this, around 1450, the alderman John Wighton – whose stained glass workshop made the great east window of St Peter Mancroft – glazed the window of the council chamber in the Guildhall. He did this for the mayor and wealthy wool merchant Robert Toppes who ran his business from Dragon Hall in King Street [see 7 for a fuller account of the Norwich School painted glass].

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Between the two angels is Toppes’ own coat of arms, dwarfing the city coat of arms beneath each angel.

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City coat of arms mid C15, from the Toppes window in the Guildhall

Opposite the rear entrance to Cinema City, the city arms can be seen amongst a series of 13 shields carved at the east end of St Andrew’s church and dated to the rebuilding of the church 1500-1506.


Norwich arms on St Andrew’ Church ca 1505. Note the simplified castle, the contrary lion and its severed tail

A fine C16 example of the city coat of arms can be seen in Surrey House, the early C20 building designed for Norwich Union by George Skipper. The stained glass is a relic from the Earl of Surrey’s house that previously stood on this site in what is now Surrey Street.


From the Earl of Surrey’s C16 house in Surrey Street, Norwich

The Earl of Surrey, Henry Howard, son of the Duke of Norfolk, was called “the most foolish proud boy that is in England” and it was pride that led to his downfall. Surrey was brought up in Windsor Castle with Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy. The king came to believe that Surrey – a staunch anti-Protestant – was planning to usurp Henry VIII’s legitimate son, Edward VI, when he inherited the crown. The trigger, though, appeared to be when Surrey flaunted his descent from English royalty by attaching (quartering) the arms of Edward the Confessor to his own. He was executed for treason in his thirtieth year but his father, who was to have shared that fate, was saved when Henry VIII died the day before the planned execution [8].

Against this background of excessive pride associated with coats of arms, the other armorial glass in the Ante Room of Surrey House [9] takes on an extra layer of meaning.

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Around 1900, three marble mosaics of the city arms were installed in the entrances to civic buildings: the Guildhall, Norwich Castle and the Technical Institute (now Norwich University of the Arts). But I can find no record of the Italian craftsmen living around Ber Street who were reported to have made them.

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On the south side of the Guildhall is the Bassingham Gateway, originally from the London Street house of John Bassingham, a goldsmith in the reign of Henry VIII. When London Street was widened in 1855-7 the gateway was bought by William Wilde for £10 and inserted in the Magistrate’s Entrance of the Guildhall [10].


By comparing this with George Plunkett’s 1934 photograph of the doorway [10], the crisp carving would appear to be part of a postwar renovation. The lion is now decidedly oriental.


Although there are minor variations in the way they are depicted, the castle and the lion are constants in the city’s arms. More variable are the supporters – the flanking figures that appear on some versions of the arms. In Cuningham’s map of 1558 (above) they appeared as cherubs.

In 1511 the roof of the mayor’s chamber in the Guildhall collapsed and in the rebuilding of 1535-7 the chequerboard of the eastern façade received coats of arms; the city arms of castle and lion were protected by armed angels and an indeterminate shape hovering over the shield [3].

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The city arms; one of three coats of arms on the east end of the Guildhall. (The central arms [not shown] were those of Henry VIII but are no longer legible)

Above this coat of arms on the east wall is a clock turret dated 1850, dedicated to mayor Henry Woodcock.  Flanking the clock face are two unarmed angels, each clasping the city arms.


Curiously, the gilded inscription at the lower edge of the clock gives the motto of the Dukes of Norfolk (Sola Virtus Invicta, Only Virtue is Invincible) who, for a long time, had had no connection with the city or county [3]

An illustration in Blomefield’s authoritative book on the history of Norwich [6] also has two angels as supporters, this time armed, but the object above the shield is difficult to read in this form.

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The Arms of the City of Norwich. From Blomefield [7] 1806

Hudson and Tingey’s 1906 book on Norwich history [4] also shows the shield flanked by two guardian angels and in this case the object above the arms resolves as a hat. One source describes this as a warden yeoman’s hat (yeoman warder’s?) [2], another as a fur cap [12]. (After posting this article, former Sheriff Beryl Blower told me this may be the mayor’s ceremonial Cap of Maintenance).

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The Norwich City Arms embossed on the cover of Hudson and Tingey, 1906 [4] 

The hat also appears on the blue lamp on the police station, which is attached to the west side of the City Hall, but no guardian angels.

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Police Station, Bethel Street 1938

The City Hall itself is Coat-of-Arms Central; there were even plans for the tower to be topped with an angel before it was cut for reasons of cost [3]. The city arms appears above the entrance to the City Treasurer’s Department in Bethel Street with all its accoutrements: the hat and Art Deco angels flanking a traditional coat of arms.

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By Eric Aumonier who also designed Art Deco sculpture for the London Underground

Examples of the ‘full set’ can also be seen on the engraved glass window above the stairs leading up from the ground floor of the City Hall…


Designed by Eric Clarke and painted by James Michie [13]

… above the mayor’s chair in the council chamber…


… and on Lutyens’ war memorial, facing the City Hall on St Peter’s Street.


The additional elements (hat and angels) that appeared  some time after the original granting of the lion-and-castle arms do complicate what was once a simple and effective design. The College of Arms does not recognise the the flanking angels; by dispensing with the supporters the cartoon-like arms on these two mid-C20 projects marked a return to simplicity (although the question of whether or not to dome the castle is still not solved).

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Domed or undomed. Left, Hewitt School; right, Alderson Place, Finkelgate. These two civic projects were supervised by City Architect David Percival ca 1958

© 2018 Reggie Unthank

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_(heraldry)
  2. Nobbs, G. Norwich City Hall (a booklet from the City Hall, private imprint and undated but published for the 50th anniversary of the 1938 opening).
  3. Cocke, R. (2013). Public Sculpture of Norfolk and Suffolk (photography by Sarah Cocke). Pub: Liverpool University Press.
  4. Hudson, W. and Tingey, J.C. (1906). The Records of the City of Norwich vol 1. Pub: Jarrolds.
  5. Meeres, F. (2011). The Story of Norwich. Pub: Phillimore & Co Ltd.
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwich_Guildhall
  7. Blomefield, F. (1806). An essay towards a topographical history of the County of Norfolk. Vol III Containing the History of Norwich. Pub: W Miller, London.
  8. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2015/12/19/norfolks-stained-glass-angels/
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Howard,_Earl_of_Surrey
  10. http://www.norfolkstainedglass.co.uk/Norwich_Union/ante_room.shtm
  11. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/guildhall.htm
  12. http://www.ngw.nl/heraldrywiki/index.php?title=Norwich
  13. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1210484

Thanks to Clive Cheesman, Richmond Herald of the College of Arms for information about the Norwich coat of arms. 



New book: Colonel Unthank and the Golden Triangle


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Running through  a triangular district of Norwich’s Victorian terraced housing is Unthank Road; it took its name from the family who owned a large estate there in the nineteenth century. When I moved to the road I was intrigued by the urban myth that a nearby stretch of very tall wall was the last remnant of the Unthank estate. In researching this story (and finding an unexpected answer) I uncovered more about the history of the Golden Triangle. This book describes how the Triangle developed and how many of the street names originated. Newly discovered photographs of the Unthanks bring to life the founding fathers of this neighbourhood. Published December 15th 2017. 56 pages £10.


City Books, Davey Place Norwich.  PRESS HERE to Order online

Jarrold’s book department, Exchange Street, Norwich  https://www.jarrold.co.uk/departments/books

The Pastons in Norwich

The story starts with Clement Paston (d1419), from the village of Paston about 20 miles north-east of Norwich. He was “a good, plain husband” whose lowly station in life was illustrated by the fact that he had to ride, “to mill on the bare horseback with his corn under him” [1]. Clement’s humble origins, probably as a bondman not entitled under feudal law to own land, were to be used against his descendants as they rose to prominence.

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Courtesy BL Harley 3244

We know much about the rise of Norfolk’s Paston family from the cache of letters left in the C18 by the last of the line, William Paston 2nd Duke of Yarmouth. This correspondence gives unique insight into one family’s life (1422 to 1509), illustrating how – in the long period following the halving of the population by the Black Death – the descendants of a feudal serf could become elevated to the aristocracy. But it was probably the weakness of this foundation that led to the later Pastons being assailed by the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk who disputed their title to land.

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In the C18 the Norfolk antiquarian Francis Blomefield acquired part of the Paston Letters from the estate of William Paston 2nd Duke of Yarmouth

With the assistance of his brother-in-law, Clement was able to provide a grammar school education for his son William who then studied law in London and eventually became a Judge of Common Pleas [1, 2]. In addition to purchasing land in the village of Paston,  William bought his favourite manor Oxnead in 1419 and Gresham Castle in 1427 [1, 3]. Eventually, the successors of a man troubled by transporting his own corn would be able to build one of the largest barns in the county.


The 70m long Paston Barn in the village of Paston, Norfolk

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“The Bildg of this Bearn 1581 Sir W Pasto(n) Knighte”

William married Agnes Barry and they had four sons and a daughter. The first was John Paston I (1421-1466), another lawyer, who married the redoubtable Margaret Mautby. They named two of their sons John: John II (1442-1479) and John III (1444-1504), not just to flummox future antiquarians but probably in honour of Margaret’s father, John, and possibly of a relative of hers who would play an unwitting part in the Paston’s troubled history – Sir John Fastolf.

Although much of the story revealed in the Paston Letters was set in the county, the Pastons had a significant presence in the city of Norwich. A green plaque announces that John Paston lived in a house on King Street after 1478 (presumably, therefore, John III). This was in what is now the oldest dwelling house in the city – Jurnet’s House, named after the Jewish trader who arrived here in the C12th [4]. It was rare at the time for being built of stone.


Jurnet’s House or Music House, King Street, where John  Paston lived in the C15. Now it is Wensum Lodge Adult Education Centre

John I and Margaret had a house on Elm Hill where some of the Paston Letters were probably written.

“There is not a single house in Elm Hill which could be disturbing” [5]

However, this house was destroyed in 1507 by a fire that raged in the street for four days [6]. The present house on the site, the Strangers Club, was built after the fire by Sheriff of Norwich and three-times mayor, Augustine Steward. [For a fuller account of Elm Hill read the excellent Norwich Trails PDF].

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Paston House, now the Strangers’ Club on Elm Hill

The beam above the alleyway into Crown Court Yard (to the left, above) has crisp carvings at either end relating to the cloth merchant (mercer) Steward.

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Left: the Mercers’ Maiden, the mark of the Mercers’ Company [7]; centre: Augustine Steward’s personal insignia; right: Steward’s mark on modern tablet in nearby Tombland Alley, on the side of Augustine Steward’s House

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Augustine Steward’s House (1549) from Tombland Alley, a short distance from his re-built ‘Paston House’ in Elm Hill. The Erpingham Gate to the cathedral can be glimpsed through the entry.

Adjacent to Steward’s House, facing Tombland, is Samson and Hercules House. The eponymous heroes holding up the porch are now thankfully painted white after their years of humiliation while painted red to advertise a lobster restaurant. This house, with four Norwich lucams, was built in 1656 on the site of a house owned by the Pastons’ relative, Sir John Fastolf. In yet another of those coincidences so frequent in this densely historic city, Fastolf could have looked across the road to the effigy of another soldier mentioned in Shakespeare, Sir Thomas Erpingham, as he knelt in his niche above the cathedral’s Erpingham Gate (see previous post [8]). Erpingham’s posture at prayer might have been to counter the claim that he was a Lollard (pre-Reformation objector to practices of the Catholic Church) – a claim also levelled at Sir John Fastolf [9].

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The Erpingham family contributed large sums of money to the lengthy restoration of the Blackfriars’ church in nearby St Andrew’s Plain, which was damaged by fire in 1413 [10]. John and Margaret Paston’s Norwich house was closer to the damaged church and they paid for the roof beams and for the hammer beams in St Andrews Hall. The nave of the old friary church is now known as St Andrew’s Hall and the chancel, Blackfriar’s Hall. During the Reformation Augustine Steward purchased the buildings on behalf of the city, “to make the church a fayer and large hall” [6]; ‘The Halls’ are still used as public spaces.

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St Andrew’s Hall under the green roof with Blackfriars’ Hall beyond

A permanent reminder of the Pastons’ generosity can be seen in the form of the Paston and Mautby coats of arms on the C15 doors they installed, to the south side of St Andrew’s Hall.

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On the doors of St Andrew’s Hall, a shield bearing the Paston arms impaled with Mautby. The hammer beam roof funded by the family can be seen in the background.

John and Margaret Paston also funded the rebuilding of the nave and transepts of St Peter Hungate between 1458-60 [6]. This small church is at the top of Elm Hill at the junction with Princes Street, formerly known as ‘Hungate’. (I fondly recall Saturday mornings at the Hungate Bookshop where my children would sit and read).

Hungate. ‘Gate’, which means street or opening, derives from the Old English ‘geat’ or the Old Norse ‘gat’. ‘Hun’ may refer to the place where the bishop kept his hounds [11].

St Peter Hungate.jpg

St Peter Hungate with Briton’s Arms on Elm Hill to the left and Princes Street/Hungate to the right. The cathedral spire just tips over the tower to St George Tombland

Two decorative corbels in the corners of the south transept record the Pastons’ generosity.

Paston Duo.jpg

John and Margaret Paston ca 1460

In addition to their house on Elm Hill, The Pastons had a property on Princes Street that may have provided overspill accommodation. Coincidentally, opposite Paston’s House in King Street (now Wensum Lodge), a beam bearing the name ‘Princes In’ survives on what was – until the 1970s – the old Ship Inn. This lintel is thought to have been transferred from the inn on Princes Street, which was first mentioned in 1391 [12].

Princes In Duo.jpg

168 King Street, entrance to Ship Yard with ‘Princes In’ (enlarged) on the lintel

This has been an intentionally Norwich-centric look at the Pastons but the great dramas surrounding this family were played out in the county, against a broader backdrop of national instability during the Wars of the Roses. The Pastons were to be besieged in three of their houses. First, in 1448 Lord Moleyns laid claim to Gresham Castle, which William Paston had bought from Thomas, the son of poet Geoffrey Chaucer. With the support of the powerful Duke of Suffolk, Moleyns sent 1000 armed [13] men to expel Margaret who famously wrote to her husband in London to send crossbows and poleaxes. In the event, Moleyns’ men mined the walls of Margaret’s  chamber, she was plukkyd out of here howse” then her mansion destroyed.

The greatest upturn in the Pastons’ fortunes came at the death of their kinsman, the fabulously wealthy soldier Sir John Fastolf, to whom John had become legal adviser. John claimed that two days before he died (1459) the old soldier had made a verbal will agreeing to sell him all his Suffolk and Norfolk lands for the bargain price of 4000 marks provided that John oversaw the foundation of a chantry at Caister to pray for Fastolf’s soul. It was perhaps inevitable that disinherited heirs and local noblemen would contest a deathbed will dictated in the presence of  the main beneficiary. In 1461 [2], a month after the coronation of the new king (Edward IV), the Duke of Norfolk felt able to take direct action by besieging Caister Castle with 3,000 men [14]. There were further altercations but the castle was not to be returned to John Paston II until after the restoration of Henry VI in 1470.

caister castle.jpg

Fastolf’s Caister Castle, reduced by the Duke of Norfolk’s guns; between Mautby (birthplace of Margaret Paston) and the east Norfolk coast

The Pastons also inherited Fastolf’s manors in Hellesdon and Drayton but in 1466 the powerful Duke of Suffolk seized Drayton, just across the Wensum from his own stronghold in Costessey. He then attacked their manor at Hellesdon, not only destroying what had been Margaret’s home for the last six years, but ransacking their tenant’s houses and even the church. Suffolk evidently felt that as the king’s brother-in-law, and with the Mayor of Norwich in his pocket [13], he could act with impunity.

Drayton Lodge.jpg

Drayton Old Lodge. It was once a manor house owned by Sir John Fastolf, built as a ‘plaisance’ overlooking the Wensum valley.

In 1466 John Paston died in London and over six days his body was conveyed back to Norfolk, accompanied by a priest and twelve torchbearers. The cost of the funeral exceeded £250, more than a year’s income from the Paston estates [13]. The extravagance and extraordinary pomp surrounding the occasion were perhaps a final riposte to those who had dragged his family through years of turbulence. The hearse cost more than £30; cloth for the mourners, £20; alms and doles to be distributed to the poor, more than £60. John Paston’s body rested for one night at St Peter Hungate before completing the journey to Bromholm Priory, near Bacton, where his father had been buried.


John Paston’s hearse would have passed through this gatehouse to Bromholm Priory

Bromholm Priory near Bacton had become a major site of medieval pilgrimage after a large piece of the true cross – brought from Constantinople – was incorporated into its Holy Rood. Twenty two pounds worth of candles illuminated the hearse and such was the stench of burning tallow that a glazier had to be paid 20 pence to remove two panes of glass ‘to late out the reke of the torches’. The mourners at John Paston’s funeral feasted on 49 pigs, 49 calves, 10 cows, 34 lambs and 22 sheep that had taken two men more than three days to flay [13].

Margaret Paston died in 1484 and is buried in her home church of Mautby, not far from Caister.

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SS Peter and Paul, Mautby. Following the demolition of an aisle during the Reformation, Margaret Paston’s grave is now on the outside of the south wall. 

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A modern reminder of Margaret Paston, steadfast and brave. NR3 2LH

Margaret and John’s descendants  – like the second Earl of Yarmouth – lived in less turbulent times, but when he died in 1732 his titles died with him. Amongst his possessions was the Paston Treasure, a painting of the Paston collections once held at Oxnead Hall. Painted around the middle of the C17, in the manner of Dutch vanity paintings [15], it depicts some of the objects amassed by William Paston (1610-62) and his son Robert (1631-83), both of whom had travelled through Europe to the Middle East. Robert was a founding member of the Royal Society and so the collection might be thought to come from his cabinet of curiosities. However, there are so many symbols of the transience and futility of life (hourglass, watch, guttering candle, lute with broken string, the falling flagon) that it is more vanitas painting than a curiositas [15]. The most heart-breaking counterbalance to all these vanities is the image of a pretty young girl; whether Mary Paston or her older sister Margaret she holds roses in full bloom, a poignant reminder that all things must pass. Exciting new research on the Paston Treasure, by Norwich Castle Museum and the Yale Center for British Art, will be revealed in an exhibition opening at the Castle Museum in summer 2018.

The Paston Treasure1.jpg

The Paston Treasure, Dutch School (approx 1650) at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Collections. NWHCM:1947.170

©2017 Reggie Unthank  

Thanks to Mathew White, Events Manager of St Andrews Hall for opening doors and to Dr Francesca Vanke, Keeper of Art & Curator of Decorative Art at the Castle Museum for information on the Paston Treasure.


  1. Gairdner, James (1904). The Paston Letters vol 1. Pub: Chatto and Windus, London. (Available online at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43348/43348-h/43348-h.htm).
  2. Richmond, Colin (1990). The Paston family in the fifteenth century. The first phase. Pub: Cambridge University Press.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paston_Letters
  4. http://www.edp24.co.uk/17-jurnet-s-house-1-214362
  5. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill (1997). The Buildings of England I. Norfolk, Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  6. http://friendsofelmhill.cromegallery.co.uk/pageID_7964924.html
  7. http://www.mercers.co.uk/mercers-maiden-london
  8. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/10/15/gildencroft-and-psychogeography/
  9. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Fastolf,_John_(DNB00)
  10. http://www.norwichblackfriars.co.uk/history/background-information/
  11. History, Gazetteer & Directory of Norfolk (1883). Pub: William White. See online at: https://archive.org/stream/historygazetteer00whit/historygazetteer00whit_djvu.txt
  12. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/kin.htm (King St 168 Ship Inn).
  13. Castor, Helen (2004). Blood and Roses.  Pub: Faber and Faber. For a readable account of the fascinating Paston story, look no further.
  14. Rye, Walter (1885). A History of Norfolk. Available online at:  https://archive.org/stream/historyofnorfolk00ryewrich/historyofnorfolk00ryewrich_djvu.txt
  15. Schneider, Norbert (1994). Still Life Pub: Taschen, Cologne


Reggie through the underpass


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Previously [1] …  I spent so much time exploring Norwich’s medieval St Augustine’s that I never made it to the marketplace. Unless you fancy playing chicken on the inner ring road there is only one way to continue directly to the city centre and that is to walk beneath the flyover as it struggles to clear poor old Magdalen Street. So I escape to the former industrial area via St Crispin’s underpass.


On the other side everything is sweetness and light. We are still in Norwich-over-the-Water but at least we are away from the lowering presence of the Anglia Square development, modern buildings are in scale, the old street pattern has largely survived and there is a better class of graffiti.


The more sympathetic renovation of the former industrial quarter may be part of what Pevsner and Wilson [2] have called the  “welcome softening of approach since the late 1980s“. Around the corner on St Georges Street is a pair of houses that were renovated rather than demolished – the one on the right bearing a plaque dating it to “1670 renewed in 1986“. The larger building used to be the King’s Head pub and gained two dormers/lucams in the restoration [3]. The postmodern office block forming a backcloth is Cavell House.


C17 house with Cavell House in the background. Note its different window styles

As a postmodern building Cavell House kicks against the uniformity of modernism by including a variety of references, some of them playful. For instance, the horizontal run of windows on the upper floor resembles the long ‘throughlight’ windows once common in the heart of the Norwich weaving industry.

Calvert St 3 to 5 west side 1936.jpg

Nos 3-5 Calvert Street 1936, destroyed by enemy firebombs in 1942. Note the weaver’s window in the upper floor. Courtesy http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

The brick arches above the lower windows in Cavell House are borrowed from the next building along St Georges Street, Sherwyn House.

Two windows1.jpg

Window arches on Cavell House (above) and Sherwyn House (below)

The style of Sherwyn House is reminiscent of Edward Boardman’s 1876 shoe factory for Haldinstein’s in Queen Street and his design for Howlett & White’s ‘Norvic’ shoe factory a few hundred metres away in Colegate [4]. However, the 1885 map of Norwich clearly shows a ‘brush manufactory’ on this site, not a shoe factory [5] and Kelly’s Directory for 1883 confirms the owner to have been Henry Mullett.

St George St 61a 1983-07-12.jpg

St Georges St, derelict brush factory 1983 built 1867. Courtesy http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

By 1983 the brush factory was derelict and became part of the 1992 Calvergate development by Feilden and Mawson [6].


Sherwyn House, St George’s Street, now retirement apartments

Just beyond Sherwyn House, a U-turn up Cross Lane then a right into Golden Dog Lane brought me to a building I had previously seen from the other side of the flyover.


The defiant Tudor-style chimneys and crow-step gable belong to Doughty’s Hospital, an alms house founded in 1687 by William Doughty for 24 poor men and eight poor women. By the mid C19 only a sparse outline of the original building remained and it was rebuilt in 1869 [7]. Now it provides 57 sheltered flats for the elderly.


On a wall are two parish plates. In the Georgian era, in the absence of detailed maps, such plates were the way of defining the boundaries of the parish and its social and legal responsibilities [8]. The letters S stand for C14/15 Saint Saviour’s Magdalen Street – the church with the truncated tower now literally overshadowed by the flyover. The insignia between these letters represents the stone cross that stood at the former junction of Magdalen and St Botolph’s Streets [9].


Retracing my steps into Cross Lane I looked down Calvert Street towards Colegate and the castle beyond. On the left side are two fine rows of red brick Victorian houses: one recording ‘GH 1896′ in Guntons’ tiles, the other with a stone inscribed ‘Thompson’s Buildings 1859’. A resident told me these were once council houses, sold under the Right-to-Buy scheme.


Across the cobbled street is a grander prospect – a reminder of the area’s former prosperity.

Calvert 2 B.jpg

20 and 22 Calvert Street. Above the doorway to No20 a plaque reads ‘Snaylgate House 1802’

The street was named for a former Sheriff of Norwich John Calvert (1741) who owned a house here. Before Calvert the street was Snaylgate and before that Snackegate [10]. The linguist Peter Trudgill says that ‘snek’ is an old Dutch dialect word for snail [11], underlining the historical connection between this weaving city and the immigrants from the Low Countries. ‘Gate’ comes from the old Danish word for street and is encountered in towns, like York and Norwich, once part of the Danelaw. This link is celebrated in a ‘Viking Norwich’ wall plaque stating that the street runs along an Anglo-Scandinavian defensive bank and ditch.

Retracing my steps down Cross Lane I enter Muspole Street via Alms Lane. It is from here that I see the St George’s Works building site with Howlett and White’s Norvic-Kiltie shoe factory (1926) in the background. This was an adjunct to their huge Norvic shoe factory on St Georges Street and whose roof can just be glimpsed to the left. In 1909 the firm employed 1200 workers [12].


To the right, there is an interesting parade of resurrected industrial buildings along Muspole Street; I am particularly taken with a building faced with mathematical tiles. The Crittall windows on the jettied first floor, with eyebrows made from ridge and pantiles, suggest the house was renovated between the wars.


Walking straight over Duke Street I enter one of the city’s 15 open spaces – St Mary’s Plain. Where other cities have squares Norwich has plains [13]. ‘Plein’ is another borrowing from the C16 Dutch and Flemish Protestant refugees who, fleeing Spanish Catholic persecution, settled here and reinvigorated our weaving trade. Next to Zoar Strict and Particular Baptist Chapel, is the former home of Thomas Pykerell, cloth merchant, sheriff and three times Mayor of Norwich in the C15. Pykerell’s House is one of only a handful of thatched buildings in the city. It was gutted by incendiary bombs in the 1940s and we are fortunate to have it in its restored state.


The square is dominated by another former shoe factory, now being redeveloped as part of St Mary’s Works. The name of Sexton Son and Everard Ltd, which is over-painted, sits on top of the building – the blacked-out lettering an unwitting reminder of the damage inflicted in the Blitz. The business that started in 1876 folded in 1976.


This aerial photo of the factory in 1946 gives an idea of the extent to which  Norwich-over-the-Water was dominated by industry.


Now for Duke Street, widened in 1972 to become the main feeder for the inner ring road. Duke St is named for the Duke of Norfolk’s C16 palace that once stood roughly on the site of present-day St Andrews Street car park [14]. I have previously mentioned the 1888 Norwich Board School on Duke St that is now part of the Norwich University of the Arts [4] but I can’t pass it without showing one of my favourite architectural folderols: this roof lantern with its lead cockade.


I exit Norwich-over-the-Water via the Duke Street bridge. The original Duke’s Palace Bridge of 1822, made entirely out of cast iron, was moved as part of the 1972 road widening scheme and re-erected over the entrance to the Castle Mall car park [2].


A riverside gangway to the left of the present bridge provides a vantage point over the river, across to the site of Howlett and White’s factory on St George’s Plain and the last remaining chimney stack in an area that once bristled with them.

IMG_6744 2.JPG

To the right of the bridge the mostly derelict complex, between river and Charing Cross, was once devoted to the generation of electricity.


In 1892 Boardman and Son designed the conversion of the old Duke’s Palace Ironworks for the Norwich Electric Light Company who supplied the city’s street lamps. But by the 1920s this was superseded by the power station at Thorpe and the Duke Street site was converted to offices [4].


The city coat of arms on the former offices of the Norwich Electric Light Company, Duke Street [4].

Left into St Andrews Street then right into one of the very few post-medieval streets in the city: Exchange Street. Originally called Museum Street then Post Office Street it was renamed once more after the opening of the Corn Exchange (1828). In 1832 Exchange Street finally connected through to St Andrews Street, allowing traffic to flow over the recently opened Duke Street Bridge then to points north via St Augustine’s Gate [2, 15].

In 1861 the original corn exchange was replaced by a larger one that functioned well into the C20.

norwich corn exchange.jpg

The ‘new’ Corn Exchange in 1960. © Copyright Historic England Archive ref: AA98/12867

But a century later (1963) this larger corn exchange (seen below) was in turn demolished to make way for the extension to Jarrolds Department Store at the corner of Exchange and Bedford Streets.

Exchange St Corn Exchange west side [2513] 1938-06-26.jpg

The 1861 Corn Exchange seen in 1938 from the market end. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

At last, the marketplace. The Anglo-Saxon market was based in Tombland but the entire axis of the city changed when the Normans built the castle in the late C11 and installed a market in its present position, outside the motte in the Mancroft district [16]. Over recent years there had been too many unoccupied stalls in the 900+ year–old market but there seems to be a revival of its fortunes due the city council’s introduction of a ‘Global Market’ – pop-ups selling street food from around the world. Hybrid vigour comes to the rescue, as it has done throughout the long history of this city [17].



New Walk.jpg


©2017 Reggie Unthank

Thanks to Frances Holmes, Martin Shaw and John Fuller for their assistance. I am also grateful to the www.georgeplunkett.co.uk website run by Jonathan Plunkett.


  1.  https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/10/15/gildencroft-and-psychogeography/ ‎
  2. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (2002). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I, Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  3. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/stc.htm#Stgeo
  4. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/07/28/norwichs-pre-loved-buildings/ ‎
  5. http://www.norwich-yards.co.uk/norwich_map_1885/norwich_map_15600.asp?ID=2210
  6. http://www.mbp-uk.com/projects/fscalvergate.html
  7. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1187193
  8. David A Berwick (2007). Beating the Bounds in Georgian Norwich. Pub: davidaberwick@gmail.com
  9. http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/record-details?MNF597-St-Saviour%27s-Church-Magdalen-Street-Norwich&Index=593&RecordCount=56542&SessionID=6df6bab1-16b0-4b3f-9ba9-746ca0e3740d
  10. www.georgeplunkett.co.uk Calvert St 20 to 22 [2676] 1938-08-03
  11. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/how-snailgate-became-calvert-street-1-4805457
  12. Frances and Michael Holmes (2013). The Story of the Norwich Boot and Shoe Trade. Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects (www.norwich-heritage.co.uk).
  13. Richard Lane (1999). The Plains of Norwich. Pub: The Larks Press.
  14. http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/politics/dig-could-reveal-secrets-of-norwich-s-lost-16th-century-palace-1-4015633
  15. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=915
  16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwich_Market
  17. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/street-food-and-pop-up-stalls-give-norwich-market-remarkable-boost-1-5166418


Gildencroft and Psychogeography


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On the map it was meant to be a straight enough radial walk from a city gate into the city centre but I’m easily distracted. I got lost around Gildencroft where – as the psychogeographers among you will know – an historic area clings on among the after effects of postwar modernisation.


Henry Ninham’s 1861 engraving, based on John Kirkpatrick’s 1720 drawing. Norfolk Museums Service. NWHCM : 1953.31.FAP33

There was a time you were free to imagine yourself a nineteenth century flâneur like Baudelaire, strolling along the boulevards without a care [1]. But midcentury psychogeographers like Guy Debord, with their socio-political ideas about the effects of environment on the pedestrian’s psyche, put a stop to that, making a new wave of urban explorers more conscious about the impact of urban development [2]. In Psychogeography [3], Will Self wrote about walking to Manhattan from his house in south London (not over the watery bit, obvs) in order to regain “the Empty Quarters“: the hinterlands around airports.


Psychogeography ©Will Self (words) and Ralph Steadman (artist). Bloomsbury Publishing 2007

And in his ‘alternative cartography’ around the M25 London Orbital, Iain Sinclair famously wrote about walking through urban no-man’s land. Other twenty-first century urban walkers (the new psychogeographers) suggest taking a playful approach to the exploration of the built environment, employing a variety of tricks to nudge the pedestrian off the beaten path to make them more aware of the urban landscape. Rob Macfarlane recommends following the path drawn on a map by an upturned tumbler; others throw dice at each intersection or perform ‘ambulant signmaking’ by following a letter traced on a map; and one urban runner even used the GPS in his running shoe to geotrack the shape of his privy member on the map. Hmm. This may be why Lauren Elkin (“walking is mapping with your feet”) [4] writes about the need for female flâneuses to reclaim the streets. There’s a lot of hoo-ha around psychogeography but, at heart, it’s about the way that urban development affects our lives.

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The Gildencroft area of St Augustine’s parish is over the A147 inner ring road. St Augustine’s Gate (lost in the C18) is marked very approximately with the blue bar. ©OpenStreetMapcontributors

I started my walk, not at the old city gate, but by taking a closer look at a building I’d glimpsed from my car. So at the outset I travelled contrariwise. This was on Starling Road, just off Magpie Road (red star), which runs parallel to the old city wall. The building is a relic of the once thriving Norwich shoe industry that, like much of the city’s trade, took place here in Norwich-over-the-water (Ultra Aquam). The concrete lettering on the parapet reads: The British United Shoe Machinery Co Ltd 1925 [5].


Once, this Leicester firm made equipment for the Norwich shoemakers but collapsed in 2000. Now the building is occupied by Gallpen who – in a nice example of nominative determinism – are printers (ink used to be made by adding iron salts to tannic acid extracted from oak galls). In a 1910 trade book the founder, Charles Gaunt Gallpen (b 1859), advertised himself as a printer with the unintentionally ominous slogan: “Call on me or I will call on you” [6].


From [6]

Crossing busy Magpie Road, I passed a segment of the city wall and part of a tower revealed by the demolition of Magpie Printers in 2013.


The medieval city wall would have continued beyond the houses to the right, passing across St Augustine’s Street to emerge ona tract of land between Bakers Road to the right and St Martin’s at Oak Wall Lane to the left.


What we are looking at is the external ditch and on the inner side of the wall was a tract of land once known as the Jousting Acre [7]. Here, men-at-arms practiced jousting with lances and – as was compulsory in the medieval period – young men would have performed their archery practice with bows or crossbows. The antiquary Francis Blomefield mentions that King Edward III came to a tournament that local historian Stuart McLaren suggests is likely to have been held at this Jousting Acre [7].

In the 15th year of his reign, the King appointed a turnament to be held at Norwich … this exercise was much in use in ancient times, and is otherwise called jousting or tilting; the knights that used this martial sport were armed, and so encountered one another on horseback, with spears or lances, by which they made themselves fit for war, according to the manner of that age, which made use of such weapons … this turnament began in February 1340, and the King … was at Norwich on Wednesday February 14, being St. Valentine’s day.  (Francis Blomefield 1806 [8])

Sussex Street is one of the most attractive streets in this part of the city, containing rows of Georgian terraced housing dated mainly to 1821-1824 [9].


14 & 16 Sussex Street (south side)

These were probably houses for the respectable working/lower middle class; Number 22 (below) is more genteel.


22 Sussex Street. Doorway with Greek Doric columns and segmental arch with fanlight

There is a similar doorcase on No 21  on the opposite side of the street. This house forms part of a terrace of three-storeyed houses. To the left can just be seen part of the 1971 conversion to flats by Edward Skipper and Associates. As we know, George Skipper [10] built the architectural fireworks of late Victorian Norwich and laid out much of the Golden Triangle in the early C20. The family name lives on in St Augustines.


Behind, and to the left, is the modern development, Quintain Mews – the name commemorating medieval jousting.


The quintain was a revolving target that would, when struck with lance or sword, swing around to sandbag the combatant.


Wikimedia Commons

On the opposite side of Sussex Street is the entry to 42 modern, split-level dwellings – The Lathes – owned by Broadland Housing Association. This development was built in 1976 by the architects Teather and Walls, described as ‘Associate for Edward Skipper and Associates” [11].


The word ‘lathes’ is dialect for a grain barn [7], commemorating the farm that once stood in this area. According to Blomefield [8] the farm belonged at various times to Sir John Paston, and two Shakespearean heroes: Sir John Fastolff of Caister (Falstaff is mentioned in five plays) and “brave Sir Thomas Erpingham” (Henry V) whose statue is above the Erpingham Gate of Norwich Cathedral. One suggestion is that Erpingham installed this pious statue to assert his religious orthodoxy at a time when the Lollards were asserting themselves [12]


Sir Thomas kneels in a niche above the Erpingham Gate 

Historically and architecturally St Augustine’s is a fascinating street but the temptation to flit from one side of the road to the other is inhibited by the volume of traffic flowing out of the city.  Still, this hasn’t put off the young artists who are adopting the street.

On the west side of the street a ghost sign was recently uncovered when No. 22 became Easton Pottery [13]. I can pick out ‘Easton’, ‘Florists’ and perhaps ‘Newsagents’. Trade directories show that from the 1930s to the 1960s a Miss E Easton ran a florist’s shop here. Before that she, and her father before her, ran a greengrocer’s. But the current owner, the potter Rachel Kurdynowska, found that T Easton traded here in 1873 as an earthenware dealer and it is in honour of this serendipitous connection that Rachel named her business.


Ghost sign for the Easton family businesses, now Easton Pottery #22 St Augustine’s Street

The oversized roof gables known locally as lucams are a prominent feature of the east side of the street. ‘Lucam’ may be a corruption of ‘lucarne’, a French word for skylight donated by immigrant ‘Strangers’ – C16-17 Dutch and French-speaking Walloons who could have used the term for the windows at which they reinvigorated the city’s weaving trade [14]. The owner of No 33 (left), who is just coming into view, told me that he had recently repaired his lucam.


Lucams at 33 and 31 St Augustine’s Street


Nunn’s Yard, a fine range of five upper gables on 23-25 St Augustine’s Street

The recently renovated numbers 23 and 25 announce themselves as ‘Nunn’s Yard’, which is actually further up the road between numbers 31 and 33. Instead, Nunn’s Yard Gallery is now the name of an enterprise whose two other contemporary exhibition spaces are doing much to enliven this street: Yallop’s and Thirteen A [15].


Yallop’s and Thirteen a.

The entry to Hinde’s Yard can be seen to the left of Thirteen A and the cast-iron signs for other yards are encountered along the street.

Yard four.jpg

The influx of Strangers in the Elizabethan era created a demand for housing within the confines of the city walls; this was met by squeezing poorly-built, insanitary ‘yards’ or ‘courts’ into the courtyards of larger properties fronting the streets [16]. Before WWII there were 70 houses in Rose Yard. The only source of water for 50 of them was the public pump in St Augustine’s churchyard. An 1851 report mentions, “at the bottom is a large pool of nightsoil 15 feet by 25 feet from about 40 houses”[16]. Most of the city’s several hundred yards were cleared as slums in the 1950s. All that remains of Rose Yard is the entrance and a few houses. (See Nick Stone’s brilliant rephotography of this area [17]).


Rose Yard #7 St Augustine’s Street

This entrance to Rose Yard can be seen (below) to the left of The Rose Inn as it was in 1938. An inn is known to have been on this site since the C14 when it refreshed those attending the jousting tournaments in Gildencroft.

Rose 1938.jpg

The Rose Inn in 1938, with the entrance to Rose Yard on the left  [www.georgeplunkett.co.uk]

Opposite Rose Yard is St Augustine’s Church whose parishioners are known as Red Steeplers on account of the only (late 1600s) red brick tower in the city [18].


St Augustine’s. In the background, a medieval terrace and a looming presence.

In the churchyard is the tomb of Thomas Clabburn (d.1858) who employed upwards of six hundred Norwich weavers [19].


The Clabburn family tomb. Inside the church is a tablet commemorating Thomas’s ‘many virtues as an employer and a kind, good man’

In the background (above) is Church Alley (1580), believed to be the longest row of Tudor houses in England [7]. It leads to the wonderfully named street, Gildencroft, which commemorates an area that once roughly overlapped St Augustine’s parish [20].


Gildencroft is also the name of a small park I circumnavigated as I tried to find the Quaker Burial Ground. I passed a small building, now a nursery, that was built by the Society of Friends at the end of the C17 then rebuilt after the original was destroyed in the 1942 Baedeker air raids. Nearby are the gates to the burial ground, which were open when I visited it this spring in search of Amelia Opie’s grave [20], but are now sadly locked. Reasons for closure include drink, drugs and dog poo (wasn’t that an album by The Pogues?).


The Quaker Burial Ground, Spring 2017

I completed my anticlockwise stroll around Gildencroft by walking through St Crispin’s Car Park and hopping up a bank to St Crispin’s Road (aka the ring road) with its busy roundabout. Due to the volume of traffic I had to trek back up Pitt Street (commemorating not Prime Minister Pitt but a rubbish pit [7]) to find a safe crossing. And it was here, now facing towards Sovereign House, that I was confronted by the source of my irritation – Anglia Square and all it stands for: postwar dereliction, the ring road, the Magadalen Street flyover, disregard of the pedestrian, insensitivity to the past …  [22].


The derelict Sovereign House (formerly Her Majesty’s Stationery Office), part of the 1960s/70s Anglia Square development

In the decades after the war it must have seemed a good thing to replace a bomb-damaged area of insanitary medieval housing with Brutalist modernity. But modernity barely survived 50 years in the case of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, and the shopping centre fails to thrive. This can’t be blamed on a dislike of Brutalism in the provinces: see how well concrete works in Lasdun’s greenfield site at UEA. More likely the problem stemmed from the imposition of an out-of-scale development on an historic site. Now, in a frightening example of history repeating itself, it is proposed to replace Anglia Square with a tower block 25 storeys high [23].

The isolation of St Augustine’s from the city centre by the river had already established its marginal identity but then, in the 1960s and 70s, the severing of old routes by the inner ring road released this area into an even more distant orbit: Norwich-over-the-ring-road (Ultra Via Anulum). [See 24 for a critical view of ‘The Norwich Magdalen Street Massacre’].

I tried to get back to the city centre by walking under the flyover that goes on to blight the next radial road – medieval Magdalen Street – but found my way blocked by a private trailer depot …


… so I doubled back and left via the only route available to pedestrians going up or down Duke Street – an underpass. Flâneurs and flâneuses wanting to enter an historic area are unlikely to find a less welcoming entrance but do it, explore St Augustine’s and help reconnect it to the city centre.



©2017 ReggieUnthank


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fl%C3%A2neur
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychogeography
  3. Will Self and Ralph Steadman (2007). Psychogeography Pub: Bloomsbury.
  4. Laura Elkin (2017). Flâneuse. Pub: Vintage
  5. Frances Holmes and Michael Holmes (2013). The Story of the Norwich Boot and Shoe Trade. Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects
  6. Citizens of no Mean City (1910). A trade book published by Jarrold and Sons.
  7. http://www.staugustinesnorwich.org.uk/history_-_the_gildencroft.html. Do read this excellent account of the history of this area By S J McLaren. The website (http://www.staugustinesnorwich.org.uk/index.html) describes a proud community working hard to maintain its identity.
  8. Francis Blomefield, ‘The City of Norwich, chapter 15: Of the city in Edward III’s time’, in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I (London, 1806), pp. 79-101. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-hist-norfolk/vol3/pp79-101#p27
  9. Nikolaus Pevsner and Bill Wilson (2002). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I, Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/02/15/the-flamboyant-mr-skipper/
  11. http://www.twa.co.uk/projects/the_lathes_norwich
  12. http://users.trytel.com/tristan/towns/florilegium/popdth04.html
  13. https://www.eastonpottery.com/about
  14. Peter Trudgill (2003). The Norfolk dialect. Pub: Poppyland, Cromer.
  15. http://www.nunnsyard.co.uk/exhibitions.html
  16. Frances Holmes and MichaelHolmes (2015). The Old Courts and Yards of Norwich. Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects. (The definitive book on the Norwich yards).
  17. http://www.invisibleworks.co.uk/lost-city-ghosts-st-augustines-the-rose-tavern/
  18. Mortlock, D.P. and Roberts, C.V. (1985). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches. No2 Norwich, Central and South Norfolk. Pub: Acorn Editions.
  19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Augustine%27s_Church,_Norwich
  20. Personal communication, Stuart McLaren
  21. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/03/15/three-norwich-women/
  22. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglia_Square_Shopping_Centre,_Norwich
  23. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/25-storey-tower-block-planned-in-new-anglia-square-development-for-up-to-1-350-homes-1-4929377
  24. http://nr23.net/govt/unfinished_mag_st.htm

Thanks. I am indebted to: local historian Stuart McLaren for sharing his deep knowledge of the area; to Rachel Kurdynowska for information about Easton Pottery; to The Bookhive (http://www.thebookhive.co.uk/) for suggesting Lauren Elkins’ Flâneuse; and Jonathan Plunkett for access to the website based on his father’s largely pre-war photographs (www.georgeplunkett.co.uk). I thank my daughter Susie for the many conversations about psychogeography and urban walking .

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visit: www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk


Bullards’ Brewery



In the previous post on churches [1] I mentioned the saying that Norwich had ‘a church for every Sunday‘, tactfully stopping short of saying, ‘and a pub for every day of the year‘. But, as we saw for churches, not every pub managed to stay open for they were subject to the same Darwinian struggle we see in the history of Bullards’ Brewery.


Bullards’ Fat Man logo by Alfred Munnings 1909

Calculating the number of Norwich’s pubs is not an exact science since the definition of a pub varies. In 1681 a Dean of Norwich Cathedral complained that “the town swarms with alehouses” at a time when there were about 250 [2]. By the early C19 there was indeed a pub for every day of the year, with about 378, plus 30 to 40 beer-houses that were licensed to brew beer. By 1878 Ratcliffe’s Drink Map listed 655 licensed houses (including refreshment houses and beer houses) but, with various licensing acts designed to curb drunkenness, the number continued to decline throughout the C20. The 1892 Drink Map by the Norwich and Norfolk Gospel Temperance Union gives an idea of the density of licensed premises at its peak.

Drink Map.jpg

1892 Drink Map of Norwich. Courtesy of Picture Norfolk (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)

Matching the decline in the number of pubs was the reduction in the number of breweries, from 27 in the early 1800s to just four in the 1920s: Stewart and Patteson; Bullards; Morgans; and Youngs Crawshay and Youngs [2].

4 breweries.jpg

In 1837 Richard Bullard and James Watt entered a short-lasting partnership to start the Anchor Brewery at St Miles Bridge in Coslany – forming a major part of industrial Norwich. It was just over the water from Barnard Bishop and Barnards’ Norfolk Iron Works.

coslany map.jpg

Bullards’ Brewery. OS 6 inch map 1888-1913. ©Ordnance Survey. Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland. maps.nls.uk


[Incidentally, this is the same lettering that Panks Engineering used on their Victorian cast-iron showroom in Rose Lane and now in Heigham Street].


Bullards’ chimney, with its conspicuous lettering, was an inescapable feature of the city’s industrial landscape.

Bullards chimney lettering.jpg

Courtesy of Picture Norfolk http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk

The brewery was well-situated, drawing high quality water from a deep artesian well and receiving grain and hops by wherry along the River Wensum. The large fermentation hall survives as Anchor Quay apartments.

Coslany St Bullard's fermentation hall [5342] 1973-01-05.jpg

Bullards’ fermentation hall in 1973, at the junction of Westwick and Coslany Streets. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

However, proximity to the river meant that the brewery did not escape the 1912 floods.

Bullards floods.jpg

The Anchor Brewery in the 1912 floods. Courtesy of Picture Norfolk (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)

The company was to employ several hundred workers to supply the company’s ca 500 pubs [3]. The Unthank Arms in Bury Street, near the Heigham home of the Unthank family [4], was one of Bullards’ pubs …

Unthank Arms.jpg

The Unthank Arms. Courtesy of Picture Norfolk (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)

… as was The Barn Tavern at the foot of Grapes’Hill, built for Bullards’ by RG Carter [see 5 for Arts and Crafts pubs].

Barn Public House Barn Road 1950s.jpg

The Barn at St Benedict’s Gates, from a 1958 trade calendar by the builders RG Carter (Courtesy RG Carter Archive)

Barn ANchor1.jpg

Bullards’ tipsy anchor in the gable end of The Barn Tavern

I make no apologies for revisiting The Arcade Stores, which was originally a Bullards’ pub selling beer, wines and spirits [6]. It was at the left-hand entrance (castle end) of George Skipper’s Royal Arcade, with which it was integrated by WJ Neatby’s magnificent Doulton tiles. Art Nouveau buildings in this country are scarce: Nikolaus Pevsner only reckoned Norwich’s Royal Arcade and Edward Everard’s  printing works in Bristol. The Arcade is therefore of national importance so it is hard to comprehend why the ground floor of the pub, with its Doulton tiles, was allowed to be remodelled in the 1960s to make way for a plate-glass-fronted butcher’s shop.


Norwich’s lost art nouveau pub, from [7]


The Arcade Stores 1956 © RIBA

Red Lion Street – a fine post-1900 development with designs by Edward Boardman and George Skipper – contains the Anchor Building …



… which at one time contained Bullards’ Orford Arms, now occupied by Nando’s. Beneath the pub was the Orford Cellar where Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie played in the 1960s.

orford arms.jpg

“For Strength and Quality”. Bullards’ Orford Arms and Anchor Buildings ca 1960s, Red Lion Street, Norwich. Courtesy of Picture Norfolk (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)

Two of the pediments on Anchor Buildings contain the initials BS for Bullard and Sons; the central pediment contains the brewery’s tilting anchor emblem. This strangely prescient version of ‘anchor on the rocks’ was a variation of the Bullards’ emblem used from 1869 [8]. The later version from The Barn (above) is simpler, has no rocks and tilts in the opposite direction.

Bullards3 clipped.jpg

Although not far from the Anchor Brewery, the upright anchor below seems to have nothing to do with Bullards’. Instead, architect Edward Boardman appears to have placed this cartouche over Water Lane that passed through Howlett and White’s shoe factory (later Norvic) on Colegate, down to the River Wensum. The lane did, however, go down to a staithe opposite the Anchor Brewery.

upright anchor.jpg

Carved brick insignia above Water Lane, Colegate. Similar leaf-work was carved by James Minns for Guntons of Costessey [9]

After Richard Bullard died in 1864 the brewery was renamed Bullard and Sons, continuing under the management of Richard’s sons Harry, Charley and Fred. Harry was a well-known figure in the city; he was sheriff, justice of the peace, three times mayor and knighted by Queen Victoria in 1886 [10].


Sir Harry Bullard 1895. Courtesy Wikipedia [11]

The amalgamation of the remaining Norwich breweries began in the 1950s when Bullards took over Youngs Crawshay and Youngs in King Street. In 1961, competitors Morgans went into voluntary liquidation and the chairmen of Bullards and Steward & Pattesons – not wanting the brewery itself – reportedly drew cards to decide who would take which of the 400-plus tied houses [12]. Morgans’ Brewery was sold to Watney Mann on the understanding that Watney’s keg beers would be sold in Bullards’ and Steward & Patteson’s pubs. This was when the Bullards’ enterprise finally hit the rocks for Watney’s filtered, pasteurised and carbonated keg beers were soon outselling the traditional beers drawn on long-handled pumps [13].

red barrel.jpg

In 1982, Bullards’ chimney – so long a landmark of the city’s industrial quarter – was demolished.

Bullards chimney demolition.jpg

Courtesy of Picture Norfolk (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)

Postscript The name ‘Bullards’ is undergoing a revival, for cask beers bearing their name are being produced in collaboration with local brewers Redwell [14]. In addition, Bullards’ Gin, which is now being distilled in The Ten Bells on St Benedict’s Street, has been voted Best London Dry Gin in the World [15]. On your behalf I bought some and tasted it. It was good and, as promised by Kingsley Amis’ slogan, ‘Makes You Drunk’.


© 2017 Reggie Unthank 


  1. Young, John Riddington (1975). The Inns and Old Taverns of Old Norwich. Wensum Books (Norwich) Ltd.
  2. http://www.norridge.me.uk/pubs/beertalk/nos.htm
  3. http://www.bullardsbeers.co.uk/
  4. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/01/30/colonel-unthank-…-golden-triangle/ 
  5. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/12/22/arts-crafts-pubs-in-the-c20th/
  6. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/03/12/the-art-nouveau-…ers-royal-arcade/
  7. http://www.oldcity.org.uk/norwich/tours/arcade/arcade4.php
  8. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=121
  9. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/02/15/the-flamboyant-mr-skipper/
  10. http://www.norfolkpubs.co.uk/norwich/bnorwich/ncbulla.htm
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Bullard
  12. http://www.norfolkpubs.co.uk/norwich/mnorwich/ncmorg.htm
  13. http://www.norwich-pubs-breweries.co.uk/Bullards/Bullards.shtm
  14. http://www.bullardsbeers.co.uk/
  15. https://www.bullardsspirits.co.uk/

For a really fascinating account of Norwich pubs and breweries see Frances and Michael Holmes’ Norwich Pubs and Breweries: Past and Present (2011) http://www.norfolkpubs.co.uk/publications/books6.htm

Thanks to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk for permission to reproduce images from this wonderful archive. I am grateful to the archivist of RG Carter for her assistance.




Post-medieval Norwich churches


, , , ,

Once, the walled city of Norwich had 58 churches within its confines. After the break from Rome these Anglican churches were supplemented by new kinds of building to accommodate the varying shades of non-conformism.


The term nonconformist can be traced to the licensing of clergy who – during the reign of Elizabethan I – subscribed to the Act of Uniformity and were therefore ‘conformable’ to the rules of the established Protestant church [1]. But, as we know, Norwich citizens have always taken pride in their nonconformability [2] and this was expressed in the Dissenting or Nonconformist chapels built from the C17 onwards.

By 1580 nearly half of Norwich’s population were Protestant ‘Strangers’ from the Low Countries who had come seeking religious tolerance not granted by their Spanish overlords. These separatists from the Catholic church worshipped in ‘eglises libres‘ and The Old Meeting House off Colegate (1693) is an important architectural example of this Free Church Movement [3]. This square-plan building shows Classical rather than Gothic influences and we will see the four large brick pilasters capped by Corinthian capitals, used again. The sash windows are thought to be the first  in the city.

The invention of sash windows is uncertainly attributed to Robert Hooke who helped Christopher Wren survey and rebuild the City of London after the Great Fire (1666). The ability to set back sash windows helps prevent the spread of fire and they were specified in subsequent building acts.

old mtg house.JPG

The Old Meeting House Congregationalist Church

By the C19, Norwich was not a healthy place for the city’s poor living in the crowded and unsanitary ‘courts’ vacated by the wealthy merchant-class [4]. The rising population in the second half of the C19 created a demand for new, well-built, sanitary homes [5] that was met by the terraces built on land freed by the break-up of the Steward and Unthank estates in Heigham [6].

From 1801 to 1861 the population of Heigham had risen from 854 to 13,894 – too large to be served by the old parish church of St Bartholomew (bombed in WWII). Four new parishes were therefore formed: Holy Trinity in Trinity Street (built on one of the first blocks of land released by CW Unthank [5]); St Barnabas’ (at the junction of Heigham and Northumberland Streets); St Thomas’ Earlham Road (damaged in WWII and rebuilt in the 1950s and 60s) and St Philip’s (at the junction of Stafford Street and Heigham Road).

St Philip's 2.jpg

St Philip’s church 1962, looking up Stafford Street towards Heigham Road. ©www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

In late 1944 a US bomber, in difficulty and trying to find its way back to base, clipped a pinnacle on the tower of St Philip’s [7]. The pilot courageously steered the plane towards waste ground near the station but none of the crew survived the crash.

This increase in the number of churches continued into the C20. Pevsner notes that around a dozen churches were built in the new suburbs between 1900 and the start of WWI [8]. However, after WWII the next generation’s churchgoing declined and St Philip’s became redundant and was demolished in 1977. On a recent visit I was told that the stone basin in the garden of the adjacent care home had been the church’s font.


Suggested to be the font from St Philip’s Church

St Philip’s church rooms, at the rear of the site, survive as the Douro Place chapel.

Douro place chapel.jpg

Only the tower of the original parish church of Heigham – old St Bartholomew’s – survived WWII and so its congregation met instead in the disused Primitive Methodist church (1879) in Nelson Street.

Reflecting an era of public philanthropy, the Nelson Street church has a foundation stone laid by mustard manufacturer JP Colman with a commemorative stone dedicated to printer and Sunday school supporter Thomas Jarrold.

The church’s roofline does seem rather alien, more suited to New England than the flatlands of East Anglia. This can be attributed to the narrow spire that was added in 1956 when St Bartholomew’s North Heigham was adopted as the parish church [9]. It is now Gateway Vineyard Church.

nelson st.jpg

Built in Nelson Street as a Primitive Methodist in 1878-9, spire added by JP Chaplin in 1956. Now the evangelical Vineyard Centre

Nonconformist chapels like this sprang up across the expanding city during the latter part of the C19. While the Anglican Church (and perhaps the Wesleyan Methodists) tended to favour the Gothic other nonconformists built rectangular temples in Graeco-Roman form. In modernising his own Congregational Church in Princes Street (1869) Edward Boardman added a Classical facade with a triangular pediment, using white brick from Gunton’s Costessey brickworks (see previous post [10]). The ornate facade has four large Corinthian pilasters that Boardman may well have borrowed from the Old Meeting House across the river.

princes st.jpg

Below, Boardman repeated the use of giant Classical pilasters on the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Queen’s Road (1872).

Queens Rd.jpg

The Gothic Revival Baptist Chapel at the city end of Unthank Road was built (1874) during the city’s expansion southwards but – like other contemporaries – did not reach its century (1874-1954). Below, it is shown with the catholic church (now cathedral) of St John the Baptist in the background.

Unthank Rd Baptist church.jpg

Photographed in 1939, the original Baptist chapel on Unthank Road with St John the Baptist Catholic church to the right. ©www.georgeplunkett.co.uk

The original Unthank Road Baptist Chapel (above), designed by Edward Boardman in 1874, was demolished in 1954 to be superseded by a Presbyterian church – a replacement for the church in Theatre Street that was destroyed in the Blitz. The new Modernist church incorporates the original foundation stone from Theatre Street. In 1972 the Presbyterians and Congregationalists came together to form the United Reformed Church [11]. In 1956 a former member of the Boardman practice – Bernard Melchior Feilden –  designed what Pevsner thought the best postwar church in Norwich.


st peters.jpg

Trinity United Reformed Church, Unthank Road. Designed by Sir Bernard Feilden

On the eve of WWII (1939), the practice of Edward Boardman and Son replaced a Gothic-style Methodist chapel (1894) with the much larger St Peter’s Methodist that still stands – just about – at the junction of Park Lane and Avenue Road. It was a neighbour of mine for several years so it is sad to see it empty and in a state of disrepair.

st peters.jpg

Fewer churches were built between the wars [8]; the following come from the 1930s archives of local builder RG Carter.

This photograph taken by George Plunkett shows the Belvoir Street Wesleyan Methodist Church (1869) up for sale in 1989. It was demolished to make way for a block of flats but is survived by the adjoining twin-bayed Memorial Sunday School (seen on the far left) that Carters built in the 30s.

Belvoir St Wesleyan Reform Methodist church [6585] 1989-09-18.jpg

Courtesy RG Carter archive ©www.georgeplunkett.com

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 17.05.07.png

Blessing the foundations of the Belvoir St Sunday school in the 1930s. ©RG Carter Archive

The simplicity of the Norwich Christian Spiritualist Church, built in 1936 by Carter’s, contrasts with Gunton’s chimneys peeping out from the Victorian St Mary’s Croft further along Chapel Field North (see previous post [10]). This steel-framed one-storey building was funded in part by a large Spiritualist meeting held in Norwich after WWI, which was addressed by the faith’s most famous member, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

spiritual Ch.jpg

Incidentally, the Spiritualist Church was a temporary home for the city’s Jewish community after their synagogue was destroyed in the German Baedeker raids of 1942. The original building was in Synagogue Street – the only street of this name in the country. It was on the opposite side of the river to the Riverside complex alongside Thorpe Station.

1885 OS (query)_99.jpg

©Ordnance Survey 1885


Synagogue in Synagogue St Norwich 1848-1942 [12]

In 1948 the Jewish congregation moved to a prefabricated building on Earlham Road, opposite St John’s Catholic cathedral. The present synagogue below was built (though not by Carters) on the site in 1968/9 and is now on a 999 year lease [13].


Carters also built: the United Congregational School, Jessop Road (opened 1931); Dereham Road Baptist Sunday School in Goldsmiths Street; the Anglican shrine at Walsingham; and a garden house at the back of the Old Meeting House. The garden house was named for Reverend REF Peill who died in the pulpit on Easter Day 1930.

In Recorder Road, just off Prince of Wales Road, Carters built a Christian Scientist church (1934) to hold 300. It is now a Greek Orthodox church. The chequer of flint and brick on the boundary wall and the main north wall are reminiscent of the turret on The Gatehouse pub on Dereham Road, also built by Carters (see previous post [14]).

Greek church.jpg

Of Carters’ inter-war churches a personal favourite is St Alban’s Lakenham (1932-1937). It was designed by local architect Cecil Upcher who lived and worked in Pull’s Ferry [15]. The detailing is especially pleasing. Externally, the vernacular whole-flint walls are outlined in red brick and tile …

Grove Rd.jpg

… internally there are several attractive features including the painted concrete ceiling.

Grove Road 2.jpg

In 1955, in response to a competition by the Eastern Daily Press to provide a work of art above the altar, Geoffrey Camp  painted a reredos of an androgynous Christ in Majesty above Norwich. Camp is a founding member of the Norwich Twenty group of artists and a Royal Academician.

christ in majesty.jpg

The cityscape at the bottom of the reredos shares the same viewpoint – St James’ Hill – that John Moray-Smith used for The Norwich Panorama (ca. 1947), recently restored by the Norwich Society [16].

panorama final.jpg

1, Caley’s chocolate factory; 2, Norwich Castle; 3, St Peter Mancroft; 4, City Hall; 5, Norwich Cathedral; 6, St John’s Catholic Cathedral.

A thread that runs throughout this post is that the city’s churches have been reused and adapted over a very long time. But despite Norwich being famed for its medieval churches (‘one church for every week of the year’) many of these older buildings are empty and still to find a new purpose. With such cultural treasure it should be possible to find imaginative uses to attract those who come to cities for something other than shopping.

An important start is being made by the Norwich Churches Project [17] who are looking into the relationship between the city, community and architecture. Its downloadable churches trail and guide is available HERE [18]. I can also recommend their free exhibition in the Archive Centre behind Norfolk County Hall, Norwich: ‘Drawing in the Archive: the Visual Record of Norwich’s Medieval Churches 1700-2017‘. Monday 21 August – Friday 17 November 2017.

©2017 Reggie Unthank. Archived by the British Library’s UK Web Archive

Thanks: I am grateful to the RG Carter Archives, whose list of Carter’s 1930 buildings prompted this post. I am grateful to Jonathan Plunkett for permission to reproduce images from the essential and fascinating archive of Norwich buildings photographed by his father George (www.georgeplunkett.co.uk). Thank you Shea Fiddes for the information on Synagogue Street.


  1. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/churches-and-creeds/noncomformity-in-norwich.htm
  2. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/03/15/three-norwich-women/
  3. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/churches-and-creeds/the-old-meeting-house.htm
  4. Holmes, Frances and Holmes, Michael (2015). The Old Courts and Yards of Norwich: A Story of People, Poverty and Pride. Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects.
  5. O’Donoghue, Rosemary (2014). Norwich, an Expanding City 1801-1990. Pub: The Larks Press.
  6. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/07/15/the-end-of-the-unthank-mystery/
  7. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Website/raids.htm
  8. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill (2002). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Pub: Yale University Press.
  9. http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/mid.htm#Nelso
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/05/05/fancy-bricks/
  11. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1392268
  12. http://jscn.org.uk/small-communities/norwich-hebrew-congregation-synagogue/
  13. http://www.norwichsynagogue.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/11th-12thcenteryjews.pdf
  14. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/12/22/arts-crafts-pubs-in-the-c20th/
  15. http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norwichalban/norwichalban.htm
  16. Burrall, Paul (2017). John Moray-Smith, a booklet published by the Norwich Society http://www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk/moray-smith-panorama (exceptional value at just £3!).
  17. https://norwichmedievalchurches.org/
  18. https://mediafiles.thedms.co.uk/Publication/ee-nor/cms/pdf/OTW_WEBChurchesWalkingTrail.pdf

The end of the Unthank mystery?

Regular readers will know that I have been chipping away at the urban myth that claims a piece of tall wall at the Unthank Road/Clarendon Road junction to be the last remnant of the Unthank’s Heigham estate. Days after my last post on this topic I was still unable to confirm or deny the story … but then I stumbled across new evidence.

The Wall 1.jpg

The double-height wall said to be the last vestige of the Unthanks’ Heigham estate

The story seems to have originated with Reverend Alfred Jonathan Nixseaman (1886-1977), vicar at Intwood Church, a field away from Intwood Hall on the southern outskirts of Norwich.

Intwood church.jpg

Intwood Hall from the churchyard

William Unthank’s son and heir, Clement William, moved to the Hall when his wife took possession of her family home in 1855.  William Unthank (1760 – 1837) was buried in St Bartholomew’s church Heigham but his descendants are buried at Intwood church. Reverend Nixseaman was the incumbent there when the last of the Norwich Unthanks (Miss Margaret Beatrice Unthank d.1995) lived in the Hall.

Unthank montage 1.jpg

Memorials in Intwood church to the Unthanks of Intwood Hall. Clement William moved from Heigham to his wife’s Intwood estate when their son, CWJ  Unthank, was a young boy.

Unthank window.jpg

The Unthank memorial window in Intwood church

Nixseaman’s familiarity with the details of the Unthanks’ lives, and deaths, lends an air of authority to his self-published book, The Intwood Story (1972) [1]. He described in quite some detail the newly-built house to which William Unthank moved in 1793; its sylvan setting in the “highest part of Heigham”; a house with 70 acres of grass and woods.

“This Heigham House became the home of the Unthanks for about 100 years, from 1793 to 1891. It stood in its own Park grounds not far from St Giles’ Gates (at the top of Upper St Giles Street). Later when the estate was sold up piece-meal a terrace of houses was built on the site … All that now remains of the premises is some walling which formed part of the stables, seen at the corner of Ampthill Street, opposite Clarendon Road.” Later, “This old wall now shelters the surgery and residence of Dr A.G.Day (38 Unthank Road) from the roadway.”

This is where the myth of The Wall began According to Reverend Nixseaman, William Unthank’s Heigham House was unambiguously situated at the corner of modern-day Clarendon Road and Unthank Road. But even if we ignore the slight niggle that Ampthill Street is not opposite Clarendon Road there are enough other inconsistencies to have sent me on a wild-goose chase around various other Heigham Houses, Halls and Lodges of Victorian Norwich, as my previous blogpost on the topic demonstrates [2]. For instance: Clement William and his wife, Mary Anne Muskett, did not live in this particular Heigham House from 1835 to 1855 for according to the 1842 tithe map they lived 1000 yards away on their estate near modern-day Onley Street; Clarendon Road, Grosvenor Road, Neville Street and Bathhurst Road were eventually built on this site, not “a terrace of houses”; and other evidence indicates that brewer Timothy Steward was living in Heigham Lodge from 1836 onwards.

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‘Steward’s House’ at the corner of Clarendon and Unthank Roads

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The S in the S&P Limited refers to Timothy Steward, brewer. From the Eaton Cottage public house at the junction of Unthank Road and Mount Pleasant

In that previous blogpost on the Unthanks, when I was still contorting myself to accommodate Nixseaman’s plausible-sounding testimony, I speculated that William and Clement William might have had separate houses and that William sold his to Timothy Steward towards the end of his life. I therefore looked at the Land/Window Tax records for the parish of Heigham to check whether Steward ever lived in Unthank’s house. In every annual entry from 1790 to 1832, when the NRO’s records unfortunately stop, William Unthank is recorded as Proprietor and Occupier of House and Land. Unfortunately, the number and name of the house was never specified in these records. In 1832, Timothy Steward also makes an appearance but his entry (Proprietor and Occupier of House and Land) is the same as Unthank’s indicating that both were owner-occupiers, implicitly of separate houses.

Puzzlement about the exact site of the Unthanks’ house is not a new thing for on the 25th of May 1934 a correspondent to the Eastern Daily Press wrote:

“In reply to S.B. about 60 years ago Colonel Unthank’s House was near Mount Pleasant and, if my memory is correct, was in the space now occupied by Gloucester, Bury and Onley Streets. His grounds were enclosed by a brick wall and the house was  some distance from the road (i.e., in contrast to Timothy Steward’s House whose carriage drive was close to the road). The Unthank Arms, at the top of Newmarket Street, at one time bore, as a sign, the elaborate armorial bearings of the Unthanks, so we may, I think, assume with some confidence that the family existed in the neighbourhood. Yours faithfully, W,B.”

In the same edition, a letter from William Unthank’s grandson, Clement William John Unthank (b 1847), should have settled the argument but appears not to have been seen by Nixseaman:

“My grandfather bought Heigham House and 70 acres of land between what is now Trinity Street and Mount Pleasant about 1793.”

This location for Heigham House is consistent with Rye’s History of the Parish of Heigham [3] that states:  “Unthank’s house was on the other side of the road (to Timothy Steward’s), and was in well-wooded grounds.” It now looks as if Reverend Nixseaman, writing 100 years after the Unthanks left the parish, chose the wrong Heigham House on which to pin his imaginative account of their home.

The Unthank Estate. This estate on the east side of Unthank Road was extensive, as the 1842 tithe map shows. By 1843, six years after his father’s death, Clement William Unthank was living outside the city at Intwood Hall. Now he started selling off his father’s estate and was applying to be excused land rent charges, “since the lands have been divided into numerous building plots.” First he sold Unthank’s House and two adjacent plots, then in 1850 he sold 46 acres 2 rods and 26 perches of surrounding land, followed in 1878 by another Certificate of Redemption of Rent Charge relating to the sale of his former garden, ‘The Lawn’ and ‘The Plantation’. This all goes to show that the Unthanks’ Heigham House was on this ‘Onley Street’ estate, outlined in red below, and not on land for which they held no title further down Unthank Road. The terraces subsequently built on Unthank land account for much of the Victorian housing on the east side of Unthank Road: from Essex Street to Bury Street.

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Plots sold by CW Unthank 1843-1878. The octagonal gaol (top right) – now the site of the Catholic Cathedral – is at the city end of Unthank Road marked yellow. The Unthanks’ Heigham House is marked with a red star; Timothy Steward’s Heigham House with a purple star. The green line marks the future Essex Street and parallel to this were built Trinity, Cambridge, York, Gloucester, Onley and Bury Streets. Redrawn from the 1842 tithe map of Heigham (NRO BR276/1/0051). Courtesy of the Norfolk Record Office.

So who did own The Wall opposite Timothy Steward’s version of Heigham House further up Unthank Road? Again, the 1842 tithe map comes to our aid. The accompanying apportionment record gives the ownership of the numbered properties on the map. It shows that The Wall is on a strip of land belonging not to the Unthanks, nor to Steward, but leased to others by the Norwich Boys’ Hospital. This charity, founded by the C17 mayor Thomas Anguish, supported boys’ and girls’ hospitals by leasing their land around Norfolk.


The upper pink house is Steward’s, the lower is the Boys’ Hospital (occupied house in pink, outbuildings in grey). The arrowed red line marks the tall wall. From the 1842 Heigham tithe map. NRO BR2671/0051 Courtesy of the Norfolk Record Office

Account ledgers for the Trustees of the Norwich Boys’ Hospital, covering the years 1834-1897, are held in the Norfolk Record Office.

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NRO N/CCH84. Courtesy of the Norfolk Record Office

The only entry for the parish of Heigham records that a house and garden of one acre, known as Peddars Acre, had been leased to Leonard Harmer for 60 years from Michaelmas 1822. This period is from 15 years before William Unthank died to 25 years after Clement William moved to Intwood. The land and its ‘messuage’ (buildings) were not, therefore, part of the Unthank estate and the absence of Clement William’s name from the ledgers rules out the remote possibility that he rented the stables from them after his father’s death.

” (Where) every prospect pleases and only man is vile”. As to the unusual height of The Wall, Rosemary O’Donoghue [4], in her book on the C19 expansion of Norwich, mentions the steps that owners took to protect their privacy when breaking up their Heigham estates. Below, the 1842 tithe map of Heigham shows that Timothy Steward (whose house and grounds are outlined in red) owned another large plot of land,  known as Home Close (black) on the other side of Unthank Road. This plot of arable land adjoined Peddars Acre (green) on one side and plot 466, which also belonged to Steward, on the other. Steward’s plots 453, 568 and 466 were almost as big as the Unthanks’ estate.

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Steward’s house and grounds in red; Peddars Acre in green. He also owned plot 568 (black) and the adjacent plot 466. (Unthank’s House is #460 lower left). Redrawn from NRO PD522/44. Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office

The Victorian terraces of Trory, Woburn, Oxford and Kimberley Streets were to be built on Steward’s Home Close, plot #568. A purchase agreement dated 12th December 1853 (NRO N/TC/D1/277, 335 x2) refers to part of this land that William Trory (a tavern owner) had recently bought from Timothy Steward. The purchaser was required to:

“… build a good and substantial nine-inch brick wall, with 14-inch piers of the height of six feet … along the whole boundary of the said piece of land adjoining the garden ground of the said William Trory...”. [Trory leased Peddars Acre from 1837 to 1864]. The covenant continues, “And that no windows or other apertures shall be made in the said houses or buildings, or any of them (including those next to Unthank’s road) on the north-east side thereof, or so as to front or overlook the garden of the said William Trory.”

But in the original sale agreement with William Trory, Timothy Steward and his wife Lucy had gone to even greater lengths to limit what could be seen from their bedroom windows.

“… that before any offices or back premises of any description … shall be built on any part of the said land … a dwelling house facing towards Unthank Road and in a line to conceal such offices [an outmoded term for lavatory] or back-premises from being seen from the windows on the first-floor or first story (sic) of the residence of the said Timothy Steward“.

That is, the Stewards made sure that even if William Trory re-sold the land, as he did, the purchaser’s first legal duty would be to build an entire house facing the Steward residence so that their gaze should not alight on lavatories or other outhouses on the other side of the road. As a consequence, Trory Street is a cul-de-sac, blocked from opening directly onto Unthank Road.

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Opposite Steward’s house

Furthermore, the Stewards had specified that nothing unsavoury should be seen, not just from their garden, but from their bedroom windows! A six-foot wall of the kind that Trory had demanded around his own garden could not have met this stringent condition but the Stewards’ sensitivities provide an explanation for the twelve-foot wall that separates the building on Peddars Acre from Unthank Road.

©2017 Reggie Unthank


  1. Nixseaman, A.J. (1972). The Intwood Story.ISBN 0950274208, Norwich. (Available from the Heritage Centre, Norwich Library)
  2. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/04/15/colonel-unthank-rides-again/
  3. Rye, Walter (1917) History of the Parish of Heigham in the City of Norwich. A digitised version is on  http://welbank.net/norwich/hist.html#hhall
  4. O’Donoghue, Rosemary. (2014). Norwich, an Expanding City 1801-1900. Pub, Larks Press ISBN 9781904006718.

See also the first blogpost on the Unthanks in: https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/01/30/colonel-unthank-…-golden-triangle/

and the second in: https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2017/04/15/colonel-unthank-rides-again/


Thanks. I am enormously grateful to the staff of the Norfolk Record Office for their help and advice in searching the records and for giving permission to reproduce images.






Barnard Bishop and Barnards


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There is little now to suggest that Norwich had an industrial past but the parish of Coslany, around the River Wensum, was once home to iron works, shoe factories, an electricity generating works and a brewery – all providing employment after the slow decline of the city’s wool-weaving trade.

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From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, Barnard Bishop and Barnards’ Norfolk Iron Works was a major part of the industrial landscape of Norwich-over-the-water.

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Barnard, Bishop and Barnards’ Norfolk Iron Works. Courtesy Picture Norfolk (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)

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Ordnance Survey 1908. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (maps.nls.uk/index.html)

The son of a farmer, Charles Barnard (1804-1871) started making domestic and agricultural ironwork in Pottergate in 1842 [1]. Having lived on the land, Barnard was aware of the damage that wild animals could wreak on crops and began to experiment on a machine for weaving wire netting. Initially the netting was made on the machine below but later it was produced by a powered loom. Netting was to be remain a core activity well into the C20.


Barnard’s loom for weaving wire netting at The Museum of Norwich

In 1846 Barnard went into partnership with John Bishop, then in 1859 Barnard’s sons Charles and Godfrey joined the business, becoming Barnard, Bishop and Barnards.

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Barnard Bishop and Barnards’ ‘four Bs’ trade sign – the two smaller bees representing Charles Barnard’s sons. Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich

This ‘four Bs’ rebus marks the firm’s attachment to puns: their designer Thomas Jeckyll used his own two-butterfly signature from the time of his early collaborations with Barnard and Bishop. Jeckyll, incidentally, was a friend of Frederick Sandys who drew the portrait of Charles Barnard above: both inserted a rogue ‘y’ into their surname.

I have already written at length about Jeckyll [2-5] but it’s not possible to omit him entirely since it was his designs that brought Barnards national attention, elevating some pieces to high art. Two examples: first, the intricate wrought and cast-iron ‘Norwich’ gates that won the firm ecstatic praise at the 1862 International Exhibition;

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The Norwich gates, given to the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1863 as a wedding present by the citizens of Norwich and Norfolk. Now at Sandringham House, Norfolk. Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich

second, Jeckyll’s associations with a group of London artists – notably James Abbott McNeill Whistler – made him a key figure in the Anglo-Japanese Aesthetic Movement. Jeckyll used japonaise designs for Barnards’ fireplaces while his cast iron sunflower (to be seen on the gates of Heigham Park and Chapelfield Gardens) came to symbolise the Aesthetic Movement.


Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich

In 1871, Barnards moved their iron works to Calvert Street in the parish of St Michael-at-Coslany.

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St Miles Works from the river. Courtesy The Museum of Norwich

The business contained a large foundry at one end while a new building housed the netting mill, for which steam was used to power the looms [1]. The factory was also known as St Michael’s Works; Miles is a diminutive of Michael and both are also applied to one of the city’s most beautiful churches, the elegant St Michael Coslany.


Barnard Bishop and Barnards St Miles Works 1951. The works had several tall chimneys but the one shown here may belong to Bullard’s Anchor Quay Brewery on the other side of the river. ©2017 RIBApix

At the St Miles site the workforce of ca 400 produced an eclectic range of utilitarian objects. The drawing below lists: “a coke barrow, a garden arbour, trellis, wire netting, a garden seat, a chair, a pheasant feeder, a swing water barrow, a hose reel, a fire dog, a grate, a table, a roller & a sheep trough. ‘All made on the spot’“.

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Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich



Still desirable. Garden chairs from Barnard Bishop and Barnards 1884 catalogue for their London showroom. Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich

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Barnards celebratory brochure  1844-1925. Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich

The railways arrived in Norwich in the mid-C19 and Barnards provided much of the metal work for at least two of the city’s three stations. These ornate barriers at Norwich Thorpe station were made by Barnards and were designed by W. Neville Ashbee, the company architect for the Great Eastern Railway.

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The wrought iron platform barriers at Norwich Thorpe station. Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich.

The barriers have gone but the cast-iron canopy supports with the elegant spandrels can still be seen along the platforms.

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The station forecourt is still enclosed by fine examples of Victorian ironwork.


Barnards also cast the columns and spandrels  for Norwich City station. This station, near the St Crispin’s roundabout, was the terminus of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway whose hub was at Melton Constable. It closed to passengers in 1959.

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 Norwich City station. Courtesy of The Museum of Norwich NWHCM 118.959.51

In 1882, a river bridge was built to provide access to the new City Station. St Crispin’s Bridge – manufactured by Barnards – became part of the ring road in 1970 taking traffic in clockwise direction.  A new bridge built parallel to it takes traffic in the opposite direction.

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Charles Barnard died in 1871 but the firm lived on as Barnards Limited (from 1907).

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Mr and Mrs Charles Barnard in later life. Image courtesy of Norfolk Record Office via http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk 

The managing director James Bower played a direct part in the running of the company, rebuilding and re-designing the wire netting machines. In 1921 they purchased part of the old Mousehold Aerodrome where, in the Second World War, they manufactured gun shells and parts for the Hurricane fighter. This attracted the attention of the Luftwaffe who bombed the site in July 1942, killing two people [6].

The Norwich engineering firm, Boulton and Paul, made aircraft (including the Overstrand and Sidestrand) but who knew that Barnards helped make planes? Barnards also made buses …

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Bus made by Barnards Ltd in Cathedral Close.  Image courtesy of Norfolk Record Office via http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk

 … and at their factory in Salhouse Road they produced steam traction engines.

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Image courtesy of Norfolk Record Office via http://www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk

 Barnards Ltd ceased trading in 1991. The Coslany site is now occupied by social housing – Barnards’ Yard.


Barnards’ Ironworks now Barnards’ Yard social housing

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©2017 Reggie Unthank


  1. Williams, Nick (2013). Norwich, City of Industries (an excellent book on industrial Norwich).
  2. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2015/12/26/two-bs-or-not-tw…s-thomas-jeckyll/
  3. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/04/15/thomas-jeckyll-the-boileau-family/
  4. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/01/06/jeckyll-and-the-sunflower-motif/
  5. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/11/10/jeckyll-and-the-japanese-wave/
  6. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/industrial-innovation/barnards.htm

Thanks to Hannah Henderson of The Museum of Norwich for kindly showing me the Barnards collection, and I also thank David Holgate-Carruthers for his help. Do visit the Museum of Norwich, which has a section devoted to Barnards and Jeckyll and gives a fascinating glimpse into Norwich as it once was. I am grateful to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk for allowing me to reproduce photographs. Clare manages (https://norfolk.spydus.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/PICNOR/HOME), which contains a searchable collection of 20,000 images of Norfolk life.

Public art, private meanings



Once, I took part in an alternative sculpture-trail, visiting unexpected art in public spaces: pieces hidden in full view, works that had outlived their original purpose and unseen eroticism in a monument to a national heroine.


Edith Cavell monument by Henry Pegram 1918 [1]. Originally sited in the road outside the Maid’s Head Hotel (left) it is now placed beside the Erpingham Gate of the cathedral (right).

This was in May 1999 and the sculpture trail was led by Krzysztof Fijalkowski, a young lecturer from the Norwich School of Art [2]. Here, I retrace some of his steps and add a few of my own.

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Edith Cavell, born in nearby Swardeston, was a nurse during WW1. In 1915 she was shot by a German firing squad in Belgium for assisting the escape of Allied prisoners and – according to former head of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington – for espionage [3]. Notes on the guided tour (price 20p) gave a Freudian interpretation of the Cavell Memorial, mentioning the wreaths that mark Cavell’s breasts and the soldier’s erect rifle “pointing straight to her sex”. Works of art can hold many meanings although not everyone agrees with them, as Tony Hall’s cartoon shows.

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Eastern Daily Press May 20 1999 ©Tony Hall

Not far away we visited a curved mural, tucked away from passers-by at the top of London Street. Betfred.jpg

Boldly commissioned in 1974 by the Abbey National Building Society, Tadeusz Zielinski’s ‘Symbol of Norwich’ depicts a modern family, sheltered under the Society’s roof, against the background of the walled city with its cathedral (three panels up from the right). The modernist treatment is reminiscent of the Festival of Britain style of the early 1950s [4] but any obscurity of meaning will only have been increased by Betfred’s logo that – drilled and screwed into the artwork – now blocks the first row of panels. Aaaagh!

Who, when buying half a pound of six inch nails in Thorns the ironmongers in Exchange Street, has failed to notice the wall paintings on the first floor? On a recent visit, an assistant moved some ladders for me to see the paintings behind the protective screen. Emily Duke, a member of the Paston family – partners of the founder RE Thorn – told me that before the business was opened in the early C19th the building had been a hotel in which an artist painted the rooms in return for accommodation. The remaining figures seem to represent People of All Nations.

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Courtesy of Emily Duke at Thorns, Exchange Street, Norwich [5]

The redundant church of St Laurence is one of five along St Benedict’s Street. It has one of the most prominent towers in the city yet it and the west doorway are easy to miss as you concentrate on the steep steps down St Laurence’ s Passage [6]. In the spandrels above the door are two gruesome deaths: the roasting of the eponymous saint on a gridiron and St Edmund riddled with Viking arrows. His head was thrown into a forest but rescuers were guided to it by a Latin-speaking wolf (bottom right) crying hic, hic, hic.

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High above Orford Hill stands a stag with moulting antlers – a 1984 fibreglass replica of the statue placed there about 100 years earlier.


Its original meaning is likely to be obscure for the bold wooden sign ‘GUNMAKER’, which advertised the trade of occupants George Jeffries then Darlows, has disappeared in recent years [7].

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No8 Orford Hill in 1938. Edwards’ saddlery and Darlow & Co gunmaker. Courtesy georgeplunkett.co.uk

Another stop on the trail was to see one of the first purchases by the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society in 1978. At the time this work by Peter Hide, a former lecturer at the School of Art, was situated on a piece of wasteland behind the Duke Street carpark. Hide may have intended this as a formal exercise in ‘horizontality’ and balance but in its original location – a stone’s throw from Barnard, Bishop and Barnards’ Victorian ironworks – the girders provided an incidental link with the city’s industrial past.


Some time over the intervening years the sculpture has been re-sited next to the busy St Crispin’s roundabout near Halford’s store, gaining a further – less welcome – layer of meaning. The Girder Structure is now near the site of Norwich’s City Station, which was bombed in the 1942 Baedeker raids and eventually closed in 1959. This does add a further resonance to The Girder Structure in its new position but the industrial-strength attachment of the M&GN logo (presumably by the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway Preservation Society?) overrides the artist’s original intentions.

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The following examples of public art come from my own travels. At the corner of St Stephens and Surrey Streets, opposite Marks and Spencer, is a postwar block decorated with identical stone carvings hidden beneath the keystones of the three curved window arches.


Even if you can discern them without the aid of a telephoto lens (I couldn’t) it is not obvious that these animals commemorate the previous building on the site – the Boar’s Head public house, destroyed by a Baedeker raid in April 1942. The surname of the C19 licensee, Richard Norgate of Cawston, can just be made out on the pub sign below [8].

Old Boar Inn.jpg

A basket-maker’s shop on nearby Ber Street was also destroyed in the 1942 air raids. The reconstructed building is now occupied by Gerald Giles’ home-electricals store but the wooden carving on the tympanum above the door recalls a different post-war life. The panel by Joseph Lloyd Royal depicts dockers unloading ships, suggesting that the building was once a warehouse for storing goods from Norwich docks [9].

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The Wensum was still navigable by quite large vessels until the 1980s.


Coasters at the Port of Norwich ca 1936 broadlandmemories.co.uk

The Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall (now occupied by Anglia TV), at the top of Prince of Wales Road, is built from alien Cumberland sandstone [10]. The Prince of Wales feathers relate to the prince’s involvement and to the road itself; however, there is no record of the identity of the worthies whose terracotta heads decorate the keystones of the ground floor windows. The bull’s head could simply be symbolic of agricultural trade but once you recognise the name of local philanthropist JJ Colman on the foundation stone it is impossible not to see the beast as an allusion to his family’s mustard business.

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Around the year 2000, the City Council commissioned a sculpture of the Three Wise Monkeys to go on top of the pavilion at Waterloo Park. As well as seeing, hearing and speaking no evil, the monkeys have – with the passage of time – come to illustrate the speed with which technology becomes dated. Now, a monkey with an iPhone could do all three jobs.

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Alex Johannsen ca 2000 [11]

Palimpsests – traces of past use – can be seen all around the city. Some of my favourites are the mosaics advertising what once were household names. The initials, FH&W, were used as a symbol to advertise national shoe chain Freeman Hardy and Willis in the 1960s but by the 1990s the chain had disappeared. The Maypole dairy chain was known, paradoxically, for promoting non-dairy margarine. Their name was phased out in the 1970s.

FHW Maypole.jpg

Magdalen Street, Norwich

Norwich, fortunately, isn’t blighted by equestrian statues of Victorian luminaries …

There once was a very famous man
On his famous horse he’d ride through the land
The people used to see him everywhere
When he died they put a statue in the square

The Equestrian Statue, (click audio link) by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (composer Neil Innes) 

… but it does have a statue that commands an entire square – the statue of Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1689) on Hay Hill, near his house. Here he is contemplating a Roman burial urn found at Brampton, which was the subject of his book ‘Urne Burial’ (“man is pompous in the grave“).


Sir Thomas Browne by Henry Pegram 1905

At the foot of the Browne statue are several pieces of marble statuary comprising a work entitled, Homage to Thomas Browne. In his esoteric book, The Garden of Cyrus, Browne discusses the power of the quincunx – an interlocking figure where four points mark the corners of a diamond with the fifth point at the centre. The marble blocks do not, at first, appear to be arranged in a particular fashion but by phasing out the other blocks it can be discerned that the five high-backed seats are arranged in a quincunx [12].


Left, the Quincunx from The Garden of Cyrus 1658 (Wikipedia); right, one of five marble seats, part of the Homage to Thomas Browne by Anne and Patrick Poirier 2007  

In the 1980s, the smell of chocolate would float over the city – usually on Sundays – from the Nestlé/Rowntree chocolate factory next to Chapelfield Gardens. Originally this had been Caley’s Fleur de Lys chocolate factory; it was another victim of the 1942 bombing raids but the building was reconstructed in the early 1950s. The site is now occupied by the Chapelfield Shopping Mall and the lost chocolate factory is commemorated by two pairs of panels, one either side of the St Stephen’s Street entrance. These sculptures were initially made for the postwar building by local artist Edward Barker who celebrated the ingredients: cocoa, exotic fruits, maize and milk [13].


The layering of history can also be seen inside the shopping mall. Two sets of 18 panels, high up on the top floor of the arcade, are based on the 18 relief panels decorating the bronze doors to the City Hall (1938) [14]. Their designer, James Woodford, depicted trades that were then associated with a thriving industrial city but which, like chocolate-making, have gone the way of the city’s shoe and aeronautical industries shown below.


On the left,  in intuChapelfield Shopping Mall, are copies of James Woodford’s roundels (right) originally designed in the 1930s for the bronze doors of Norwich City Hall

©ReggieUnthank 2017. 


  1. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=289.
  2. Krzysztof Fijalkowski and Rachel Fijalkowski (1999) Open Secrets: Unexpected Art in Norwich (pamphlet produced as part of Norfolk Visual Arts Festival) see [4].
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11861398/Revealed-New-evidence-that-executed-wartime-nurse-Edith-Cavells-network-was-spying.html
  4. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=86
  5. http://www.thornsdiy.co.uk/pages/ourstory.html
  6. http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norwichlawrence/norwichlawrence.htm
  7. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=169
  8. http://www.norridge.me.uk/pubs/areasrch/centre/pubs83/indiv/boar.htm
  9. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=316
  10. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/07/28/norwichs-pre-loved-buildings/
  11. http://racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=283
  12. http://racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=591
  13. http://racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=363
  14. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/social-innovation/norwich-city-hall.htm

I have drawn heavily on the essential website for local sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk  www.racns.co.uk and thank Sarah Cocke for patiently answering my queries. Do visit this fascinating archive.

Thanks: to Professor Krzysztof Fijalkowski for his blessing; to Tony Hall and the EDP for permission to use the cartoon; to Emily Duke for the Thorns photographs; Carol Gingell of Broadland Memories for the photograph of ships on the Wensum; and the georgeplunkett.co.uk website for the 1938 photo of the stag on Orford Hill.

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visitwww.thenorwichsociety.org.uk


Colonel Unthank rides again


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One man’s tireless search for his namesake.unthank2.jpg

The story so far … one year ago I wrote about the Unthank Road – the backbone of Norwich’s Golden Triangle of Victorian Housing – and about the family who gave name to it [1]. Of course, I am not an Unthank, I simply lived on the road for many years and became fascinated by an isolated piece of high wall said to have been the last remnant of William Unthank’s estate. He was not ‘Colonel Unthank’, unlike his grandson and great-grandson, but his business acumen propelled his descendants into the local gentry. What follows is an account of my further searches into Unthank’s house, full of dead ends and false leads but bear with me, I do reach a conclusion – sort of.

The father of William Unthank (b1760 d 1837), William Senior,  was a barber who made perukes or periwigs of the kind worn by William Wiggett, Norwich Mayor.


An example of tonsorial determinism: William Wiggett, Mayor of Norwich 1742 [2]

William Unthank Junior was an ‘Attorney’ in Foster and Unthank. Fosters Solicitors on Bank Plain is still one of the city’s major law firms.

William Unthank Fosters Solicitors1.jpg

William Unthank. Courtesy of Fosters Solicitors Norwich [1a]

William Unthank’s son Clement William was also to become a partner in the firm.

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Letter to CW Unthank, solicitor at Foster and Unthank’s offices, then at Queen St, Norwich 1835 [3]

William Jr accumulated 2416 acres of land, including the land between St Giles’ Gate (at the top of Upper St Giles Street) and Intwood/Cringleford on the city’s southern edges [4]. According to Reverend Nixseaman [4] Clement William – while courting the heiress of Intwood Hall – was able to ride across his father’s land along a back lane that became known as ‘Unthank’s Road’ [4]. Later, after he moved into his wife’s home, Intwood Hall, Clement William started to sell off blocks of land to create the Unthank estate of terraced housing [see previous post, 1].

Reverend Alfred Jonathan Nixseaman, the vicar of Intwood [4], described in some detail where William Unthank Jr lived. He said it was within sight of St Giles’ Gate and where Norwich Gaol – now the site of St John’s Catholic Cathedral – was built against the entrance to Unthank’s own parkland. This clearly places Heigham House at the extreme city end of Unthank Road. Nixseaman seems to be the originator of the story that the stretch of high wall, on the opposite side of Unthank Road, formed part of the Unthank stables.

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The Wall, reputedly opposite Wm Unthank’s Heigham House

However, several of Nixseaman’s facts do not check out. He wrote that the Unthank family lived for over 100 years at Heigham House (approx 1790 to 1890) but another source says that CW, his wife and four children lived in Heigham from their marriage in 1835 until 1855 when they moved into Intwood Hall [5]. And, as we shall see, CW can be placed in a house further down Unthank Road at a time when Timothy Steward (of Norwich’s Steward and Patteson Brewery) was occupying Heigham Lodge as Heigham House was sometimes called (and as these maps show) [6].

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Heigham Lodge on the 1883 1:2500 OS map: Heigham House on 1887 OS 6″ map [7]. Courtesy of OrdnanceSurvey and Norwich Heritage Centre.

These maps were made about 50 years after William Unthank died (1837) but the Norfolk Record Office holds an early undated map of the house  and grounds (below) well before Edward Boardman surveyed the Heigham Lodge Estate (1887) and laid out Grosvenor, Clarendon, Bathhurst Roads and Neville Street [8].

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Stewards House on ‘Unthanks Road’. The junction at left is with extant Oxford Street. Note the estate doesn’t include land on the opposite side of the road where ‘the wall’ stands. Courtesy Norfolk Record Office

There is good evidence from poll and census records that William Unthank’s son Clement William lived several hundred yards down Unthank Road.

The Unthanks 7.jpg

Map by City Surveyor AW Morant 1873. The ‘Wm Unthank/T Steward ‘estate is outlined in red. The green star marks CW Unthank’s estate (The Unthanks) further south on ‘Unthanks Road’. Octagonal City Gaol top right. Courtesy Norfolk County Council.

The 1842 tithe map of the parish of Heigham (Norfolk Record Office) records CW Unthank as the owner of ‘The Unthanks’, comprised of  house and gardens, lodge, lawn and a plantation. The 1851 census indicates he was living there with wife, two daughters, two sons and eight servants. Nixseaman makes no mention of this. By overlaying the circa 1840 tithe map onto a modern map, using Norfolk County Council’s invaluable Map Explorer [9], it can be seen that ‘The Unthanks’ stretched from Bury Street to the south to beyond Cambridge Street to the north. Clement William and his family moved to Intwood Hall in 1855 but as late as 1880-1884 the Ordnance Survey still records this as Unthanks House when the terraces had only encroached as far south as York Street.

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© Norfolk County Council ©Crown copyright and database rights 2011 Ordnance Survey

Could one of three other large houses known as Heigham Hall/House/Lodge have been William Unthank’s House?

1. Heigham Hall was situated at the junction of Old Palace Road and Heigham Street.

Old Palace Road refers to the home of Bishop Holl who moved there after the Puritans had sacked the Cathedral and turned him out of the Bishop’s Palace. Heigham Street was once known as Hangman’s Lane. A letter refers to suicides being buried at the crossways at the bottom of the road where a stake was driven through the body [10].

This medieval hall was partly rebuilt by a butcher, John Lowden, who had been a contractor in the Napoleonic Wars. On Bryant’s map of 1826 Heigham Hall first appears as Marrowbone House but was also known as Marrowbone Hall [11].

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Bryant’s map of Norwich 1826.  Marrowbone House/Hall underlined in red. Courtesy Norfolk County Council

This Heigham Hall has the virtue of being very close to St Bartholomew’s church where William Unthank worshipped. In the early C19 it was the parish church of rural Heigham before the boom in terraced house building – triggered by the sale of Unthank land –necessitated the construction of other churches (e.g., Holy Trinity in Trinity Street). St Bartholomews was bombed in the war; the Saxon tower survived but the parish records didn’t nor, presumably, the family vault in which William Unthank was buried [4].

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St Bartholomew Heigham, Norwich. Destroyed by enemy bombs 1942.

There is no evidence that William Unthank lived in this particular Heigham Hall but it provides a fascinating diversion. In 1836, Drs WP Nichols and JW Watson bought Heigham Hall and opened it as a ‘Private Lunatic Asylum’. (A letter from Dr Nichols’ granddaughter indicates Heigham Hall was first referred to as Heigham House [12]).

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From, ‘Photographic Views of Heigham Hall’, Courtesy Norfolk Record Office. MC279/15

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2. Heigham House – another private mental hospital just off present-day Avenue Road – was in competition with Heigham Hall [13, 14] . The Retreat, as ‘private madhouses’ were often called, was opened in 1829 by a Mr Jollye of Loddon who sold it to three doctors.

The Retreat.jpg

Etching of Heigham Retreat by Henry Ninham ©Norfolk Record Office MC279/6

In 1852, Heigham Retreat was involved in a notorious scandal. To avoid being charged with the attempted rape of a minor a magistrate declared Reverend Edmund Holmes insane. Holmes was admitted to The Retreat but promptly regained his sanity and remained as the hospital’s chaplain. Local outrage led to a change in the law but the incident speaks of a time when being of ‘a good county family’ was sufficient qualification for the avoidance of justice [15]. In 1859 The Retreat was bought out by Heigham Hall who closed it down. Heigham Hall itself was demolished to make way for social housing in the early 1960s.

The outline of the Heigham Retreat estate is commemorated in the layout of the Victorian terraces that followed [16]. Part of the tree-lined avenue to The Retreat survives as Avenue Road as it branches off Park Lane (once known as Asylum Lane). Two of the boundaries align with Pembroke and Denbigh Roads while Cardiff, Swansea and (the top of) Caernarvon Roads run vertically down the map.

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Left, map of the parish of Heigham 1842 © Norfolk County Council. Right, overlaid with 2011 Ordnance Survey map using Norfolk Map Explorer [9] © Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey 

3. Heigham House existed on a plot of just over an acre at the junction between Heigham Road and West Pottergate Street [17]. It was adjacent to St Philip’s Church, demolished in 1977. There is, however, nothing to connect the Unthanks to this house.

Until two weeks before I made this post the most economical explanation seemed to be that William Unthank lived in the Heigham House/Lodge at the city end of Unthank Road while his son Clement William lived in Unthanks House/The Unthanks near Onley Street. William Unthank’s death certificate stated that he died (1837), not at home, but at his son-in-law’s house in Eaton, Norwich after “severe suffering for several years, in patient resignation to his affliction” [18]. Timothy Steward, recorded as living at Heigham Lodge in 1836 [6], could therefore have been merely renting the sick man’s house.

Then I came across two C20th letters promising authoritative recollections from the Unthank family. The first, dated 1983, is from Margaret Unthank, William Unthank’s great-great granddaughter, who refers to a newspaper article about ‘the wall’.

‘The wall on the left of your picture is, I am told, all that remains of the stables of Heigham House, which was demolished in 1891. I enclose for your information a photograph of a picture I have of the house and park.” M. Unthank, Intwood Hall [19].

This favours the ‘city end’ location of the wall but the second letter, dated 1934, from William Unthank’s grandson (Clement William John, b 1847) contradicts that.

“My grandfather bought Heigham House and 70 acres of land between what is now Trinity Street and Mount Pleasant about 1793 … Heigham House was pulled down about forty years ago …” CWJ Unthank, Intwood Hall [20].

Clement William John was about eight when his family moved out to Intwood Hall in 1855 and was surely old enough to have remembered the name and location of his first home, which he recalls as Heigham House near modern day Onley Street. Margaret Unthank, however, was writing 128 years after the move out of Heigham, qualifying her history with a hesitant, “I am told“. The photograph of the wall to which she referred is actually a series of low front-garden walls; one of them appears to belong to a house I once lived in. Miss Unthank was the owner of Intwood Hall when the Reverend Nixseaman was vicar of Intwood Church. The picture she gave to the newspaper of ‘Heigham House’ is the same that Nixseaman used as the frontispiece to his book and one wonders if it is his uncertain understanding of the location of the Unthank’s house that is being relayed here. Rather tellingly there is nothing in his book to say that the Unthanks spent any time at all in the ‘Onley Street house’ yet Clement William is placed there with some certainty by a tithe roll and two censuses. Also consistent with the ‘Onley Street’ option is an undated sale map of ‘garden ground’ – where the parade of shops on Unthank Road currently stands – stating that William Unthank owned the estate opposite, marked on other maps as ‘The Unthanks’ or ‘Unthank’s House’.

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The triangular plot on the west side of Unthank Road ends just below the junction with Park Lane. Wm Unthank owns the land opposite. Norfolk Record Office NRS4150

We still don’t have smoking-gun evidence that William Unthank lived on the estate near present day Onley Street but it is the explanation I currently favour, even if it does orphan the wall at the other end of the road.


©ReggieUnthank 2017. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License   Creative Commons License

Thanks: We are fortunate in Norfolk to have the Norfolk Record Office and The Heritage Centre in Norwich Millennium Library – tremendous resources for historical research. The staff are unfailingly helpful and I couldn’t have written this article without them. I thank Eunice and Ron Shanahan for access to the CW Unthank letter and Fosters Solicitors for the portrait of William Unthank.

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visitwww.thenorwichsociety.org.uk



  1. See my previous post on the Unthanks: http://wp.me/p71GjT-zh Ref 1a: http://www.fosters-solicitors.co.uk/downloads/fosters-history.pdf
  2. Portrait of William Wiggett, Mayor of Norwich 1742, by John Theodore Heins Snr (1697-1756). Norwich Civic Portrait Collection  https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/search/collection:norwich-civic-portrait-collection-931/page/4
  3. http://www.earsathome.com/letters/Previctorian/unthank.html
  4. Nixseaman, A.J. (1972) The Intwood Story. Pub: R Robertson, Norwich.
  5. A History of Intwood and Keswick by the Cringleford Historical Society (1998).
  6. The 1832 Norfolk Poll Book (The Heritage Centre, Norwich Library) lists William Unthank of Unthank’s Road as a Freeman while Timothy Steward is an ‘Occupier’ on Unthank’s Road. White’s Gazetteer (1836) page 172, places the brewer Timothy Steward in Heigham Lodge.
  7. Ordnance Survey maps Sheet LXIII and LXIII.15.1 in The Heritage Centre, Norwich Millennium Library .
  8. https://www.norwich.gov.uk/downloads/file/3010/heigham_grove_conservation_area_appraisal
  9. Using Norfolk County Council’s excellent interactive map explorer:  http://www.historic-maps.norfolk.gov.uk/mapexplorer/
  10. Letter by CC Lanchester to the Eastern Daily Press 20.9.1960.
  11. Walter Rye’s History of the Parish of Heigham in the City of Norwich (1917).  http://welbank.net/norwich/hist.html#hhall
  12. Norfolk Record Office MC 279/6. Letter by Miss M. Nichols of Dawlish.
  13. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/social-innovation/heigham-hall.htm
  14. Mackie, Charles (1901). Norfolk Annals vol 1, 1801-1850. [Feb 14 1829, the opening of Mr Jollye’s Heigham House, aka Retreat].
  15. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/lunacy-and-mad-doctors/201505/did-the-victorian-asylum-allow-the-rich-evade-justice. The Heigham Hall referred to here is actually Heigham Retreat.
  16. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/social-innovation/heigham-retreat.htm
  17. Sale catalogue of Heigham House 1934. NRO BR241/4/1067.
  18. Death notice in Bell’s Weekly Messenger Sunday 19 Nov 1837.
  19. Letter in the Norfolk Advertiser 30th June 1983
  20. Letter in the Eastern Daily Press 25th May 1934

Three Norwich Women

Decades before female emancipation, Elizabeth Fry, Amelia Opie and Harriet Martineau – all born into a city with a long history of dissent – managed to bring their ideas to national attention.

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Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note – legal tender only until May 5th 2017

Between the early C12th and the early C15th a succession of charters gave Norwich an uncommon degree of self-government, allowing the city to appoint its own mayor and for civic matters to be conducted in a general assembly [1]. In a fine example of Norfolk’s resentment of external interference (county motto ‘Do different’), Robert Kett led 16,000 men in a rebellion against the enclosure of land and laid siege to royalist forces in the city [2]. Later, during the Civil War, the city was far from loyal to the monarchy, famously contributing  the ‘Maiden Troop’ of Ironsides to Cromwell’s New Model Army [3]. In the centuries that followed, this sense of independence and political radicalism was accompanied by a rise in dissent against the established church. Indeed, by the early C18th 20% of the population were Protestant dissenters [4]. It was into this free-thinking climate that Fry, Opie and Martineau emerged.

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Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was born in Gurney’s Court off Magadalen Street.

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Gurney’s Court, off Magdalen Street, Norwich


Plaque in a gated alleyway leading to Gurney House (above)

Elizabeth’s childhood home was not, however, in Norwich-over-the-water but a few miles outside the city in Earlham Hall, which currently houses the University of East Anglia’s School of Law.

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Earlham Hall, north front 1935. (c) georgeplunkett.co.uk

Elizabeth came from banking stock [5]. Her mother Catherine was a Barclay, from the family who established Barclay’s Bank on Bank Plain (now OPEN Youth Trust). Her father, John, became a partner in Gurneys Bank, founded by a cousin – Barclays and Gurneys banks eventually merging in 1896. For generations the Gurneys had been financial middle-men in Norwich’s cloth trade [6] and by the C19th they were sufficiently wealthy that one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s characters in the opera Trial by Jury could be described, “as rich as the Gurneys” [see 7].

In 1800 Elizabeth married John Fry at the Friends Meeting House in Goat Lane (replaced by the ‘new’ meeting house in 1826).


The ‘new’ Friends Meeting House (1826), Lower Goat Lane, by the otherwise unknown Norwich surveyor JT Patience. To left and right can be seen four almshouses built for poor Quakers.

Elizabeth was greatly influenced by the writing of American Quaker William Savery, leading her to take on the cause of prisoners, the sick and the poor. After moving to London she began to visit women and their children in Newgate Prison where she was appalled by what she saw. This led to her forming the first national women’s association in the country – the British Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Reformation of Women Prisoners. She gave evidence to parliament on prison reform; she also instigated a training school for nurses that is said to have been the inspiration for Florence Nightingale’s mission in the Crimea [5, 6]. In rejecting the external authority and mystery of the Anglican church in favour of a personal examination of moral and religious matters, Quakers – like other Dissenters – incurred the displeasure of the establishment. In consequence, Quakers were disbarred from holding certain civil offices and from attending university. The identifiable otherness of non-conformists during this period was brought home to me by an advertisement in The Norwich Mercury (Sat December 2nd 1837) that offered insurance specifically for ‘Protestant Dissenters’. It is therefore remarkable that a dissenting woman …

(a) portly matron with ten children … gatecrashed into public life, into an exclusively male preserve, when the very idea was unthinkable [6]. 

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Elizabeth Fry’s soberly coloured costume in, perhaps surprisingly expensive grosgrain silk. The waist measures 71 inches (180cm). http://norfolkmuseumscollections.org/collections/objects/object-3741928732.html


Opie St.jpgAmelia Opie (1769-1853) was also born into a Quaker family, at a house in Colegate (demolished) [5]. Her father James was a physician and her mother (also Amelia) was known locally as a leading proponent of the abolition of slavery. Out of this union emerged a spirited young girl who became a prolific writer, writing novels, poems and plays; by the age of 18 she had already published (anonymously) a novel entitled The Dangers of Coquetry. In her early years Amelia attended the Octagon Chapel along the road from her house. Completed in 1756 by architect Thomas Ivory, this elegantly simple building was the first of its kind in England and one of the first Methodist chapels in the world [8].


The Octagon Chapel, Colegate, Norwich (1756)

In London, Amelia met the fashionable painter John Opie and they married in 1798 – the year he painted her portrait.

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Amelia Opie by John Opie 1798.  © National Portrait Gallery

In London, Amelia was part of a literary circle that included Sir Walter Scott, Wordsworth and Sheridan. During this period she wrote her best known book, the romantic novel Adeline Mowbray (1804), which she was encouraged to write by her friend Mary Wollstonecraft [9] – another of John Opie’s sitters. Wollstonecraft was famous for having written A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) in which she argued that women were not inferior to men, just less well educated [9]. After John Opie’s early death in 1807 Amelia returned to live with her father in Norwich where she was encouraged to join the Quakers by Elizabeth Fry and her brother Joseph John Gurney. On becoming a Friend Amelia stopped writing and in 1825 adopted the clothing of the ‘Plain’ Quakers. This meant that she shunned the fine clothes that had attracted her as a girl [10] and wore instead drab gowns and plain bonnets; it is in this form of dress that she is depicted on her statue in Opie Street [11].  Currently, this artificial stone statue is uniformly coated in a matt-cream stone-paint. This may seem brutal to those who can remember the purple-painted cloak from over 20 years ago although it does seem more appropriate to Quaker ideals.

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Statue of Amelia Opie, placed above what was the Leicester Building Society in Opie St in 1956. Made by Norwich men, architect JP  Chaplin and sculptor Z Leon (1956) [12]

Amelia Opie may have lived further up Opie Street, at the junction with Castle Meadow.

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As a Quaker, Amelia began to campaign against the slave trade and, together with Anna Gurney, set up the Norwich branch of a national network of female anti-slavery societies. A few years after the Slavery Abolition Act was passed (1833) Amelia attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London (1840). Shamefully, Haydon’s painting of the event does not depict leading female activists like Lucy Townsend [13] but it does at least acknowledge the key role of female campaigners by including some, such as Amelia Opie seen on the right in her high, black Quaker bonnet.

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The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, by Benjamin Robert Haydon. Oil on canvas 1841 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London

The distinctive Quaker bonnet can be seen again, in Norwich Castle Museum, in a fascinating exhibition case containing artefacts about the Anti-Slavery Movement.

Opie museum.jpg

Display of abolitionist material featuring a bust of Amelia Opie by David D’Angers. (c) Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

Amelia Opie died aged 84 and is buried by the side of her father in the Quaker Burial Ground in Gildencroft, off St Augustine’s Street. The Gurneys congregate in the far corner.


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Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was born into a family of Norwich Unitarians. Unitarians were Dissenters who rejected the concept of god as a trinity in favour of a less dogmatic religion in which individual conscience plays an important part. The family – of French Huguenot descent – is commemorated by Martineau Lane near County Hall. However, this is named for Harriet’s uncle Dr Philip Meadows Martineau who owned nearby Bracondale Hall and Carrow Abbey [14]. The name is also displayed on the Martineau Memorial Hall and Sunday School in Colegate but refers to Harriet’s younger brother James (1805-1900) who established the school, next door to the Unitarian Octagon Chapel. Harriet, however, eventually came to renounce religion; she espoused Darwin’s ideas and called herself a secularist.

Martineau school.jpg

Harriet’s own name can just be glimpsed though the bars of the gated alleyway to Gurney House in Magdalen Street where, earlier, Elizabeth Fry had been born.

Harriet Martineau.jpg

Frys plaque.jpg

At home, Harriet and her three sisters were educated to the same level as their four brothers except the young men then went out into the world while the young women were expected to stay at home – an injustice that Harriet addressed in an article ‘On Female Education‘ in the Unitarian Monthly Repository [5, 15]. She had been a sensitive and sickly child; she was deaf from age twelve and used an ear trumpet throughout her life. In her twenties – after her father died – Harriet was forced to earn a living, which she eventually achieved through her writing. In 1832 she moved to London where she was lionised by the city’s intellectual circles, meeting economist Malthus, geologist Lyell, philosopher JS Mill, mathematician Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin’s brother Erasmus, and novelists Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Eliot. In the capital she published enormously popular economic parables in Illustrations of Political Economy, which ran to 25 volumes and outsold several of Dickens’ novels [15]. This was followed by Poor Laws and Paupers Illustrated and Illustrations of Taxation [15,16].


Harriet Martineau by Richard Evans 1834 ©National Portrait Gallery

Perhaps surprisingly for someone who had been a sensitive child, Harriet Martineau spent two years travelling in the 1830s. Furthermore, instead of enjoying the civilised amenities of Europe she decided to ‘rough it’ by observing the new democracy of the United States [16]. Her experiences in the new world were published in Society in America (1837) in which she was outspoken in her call for racial equality and – concerned about the lack of education for American women – female rights. Harriet Martineau was a radical whose relentless activism led Charles Dickens to say of her that she was,”grimly bent upon the enlightenment of mankind”[see 17]. This burning concern for social reform ranged widely over what have become separate disciplines. Nowadays she is recognised as the first female sociologist and a pioneer of that field of study [see 15]. She is also considered to be one of the first women journalists, having earned her living by her pen since her twenties and joining the staff of The Daily News in 1852 [17]. In later life, after an argument with her brother, she moved to Ambleside in the Lake District. She died in 1876 and was buried in the Martineau family grave in Birmingham [18].

Isn’t it time that the dissenting city recognised one of its heroines by commemorating Harriet Martineau’s name in her own right? If Thetford can have a Harriet Martineau Close …

© Reggie Unthank 2017


  1. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/constituencies/norwich
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kett’s_Rebellion
  3. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/social-innovation/norwich-in-the-civil-war.htm
  4. Wilson, Kathleen (1995). The sense of the people: politics, culture and imperialism in England, 17-15-1785. Pub: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Chandler, Michael (2016). Historical Women of Norfolk. Pub: Amberley Publishing, Stroud.
  6. Rose, June (2007). Elizabeth Fry. Pub: Tempus Pub Ltd.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurney’s_Bank_(Norwich)
  8. http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/norwichoctagon/norwichoctagon.htm
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Wollstonecraft
  10. http://spartacus-educational.com/Amelia_Opie.htm
  11. http://www.literarynorfolk.co.uk/Norwich/amelia_opie.htm
  12. http://sculpturefornorwich.co.uk/NorwichSculpture.php?id=214
  13. http://spartacus-educational.com/Lucy_Townsend.htm
  14. http://www.literarynorfolk.co.uk/Norwich/harriet_martineau.htm
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Martineau
  16. http://martineausociety.co.uk/the-martineaus/harriet-martineau/
  17. https://unbound.com/books/encounters-with-harriet-martineau/excerpt
  18. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/whos-who/harriet-martineau.htm

Thanks to Lisa Little and Samantha Johns of the Norfolk Museums Service for their kind assistance.


The flamboyant Mr Skipper


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Two architects changed the face of Victorian Norwich: Edward Boardman and George Skipper. Boardman sketched out the quiet fabric of a post-medieval city but it was Skipper who provided the firecrackers.skipper3.jpg

The son of a Dereham builder, Skipper (1856-1948), spent a year at Norwich School of Art studying art and – probably at his father’s insistence – architecture [1]. He did, of course, follow the architectural path but – as the Norwich Mercury wrote in 1906 – he was known for his ‘artistic temperament’ and he expressed this side of his personality in the exuberance of his buildings. He is reputed to have said, you “need an artist for a first rate building” [1a]. However, one of his early buildings (1890), for which he and his brother Frederick won the commission, was the “modestly ‘Queen Anne’ town hall” of Cromer [2] that gave little idea of the fireworks to come.

CromerTown Hall.JPG This project is important, though, for introducing the association between Skipper and the ‘carver’ James Minns, who was responsible for the decorative brickwork from Gunton Bros’ Brickyard at Costessey [3].


In addition to the decorative shields, James Minns sculpted the tableau in the pediment depicting the discovery of Iceland by local sailor Robert Bacon [4]

In the late 1880s Clement Scott’s column ‘Poppyland‘ in the Daily Telegraph extolled the virtues of the North Norfolk coast, particularly around Overstrand [5,6]. The book based on these articles, The Poppyland Papers, proved very popular and this, combined with the arrival of the Great Eastern Railway in 1887, transformed nearby Cromer from a quiet fishing village to a fashionable watering place for the wealthy.

Not everyone succumbed to the bracing pleasures of Cromer, including the young and homesick Winston Churchill who wrote to his mother: “I am not enjoying myself very much”.

The comfortable middle and upper middle classes came to see the coastal attractions and they needed suitable accommodation [5].  This triggered a wave of hotel building and Skipper was engaged by a consortium of Norwich businessmen to design several of them [6]. After The Grand Hotel he built The Metropole, which is said to have shown signs of Skipper’s flair and exuberance [1] but both hotels were demolished, as was another of his hotels, The Imperial.


The last vestige of the Hotel Metropole

A survivor was Skipper’s best known project, the Hotel de Paris (1896). Its frontage, which borrows features from the late medieval palace at Chambord, disguised the previous Regency buildings. Marc Girouard thought the result was cruder but jollier than Skipper’s other hotels [2].


The hotel demonstrates one of Skipper’s  favourite tropes of using turrets and cupolas to provide interest at the skyline [6]. He used the same device to disguise an ugly lift heading at Sandringham [7].


Sandringham House. Skipper’s is the taller of the two cupolas. http://www.tournorfolk.co.uk/sandringham

Further along the clifftop at Cromer is another of Skipper’s hotels – The Cliftonville – with decorative ‘Cosseyware’ (fancy brickware) by Guntons of Costessey near Norwich [8].  Skipper was responsible for modifying the hotel originally designed by another Norwich architect, AF Scott [6]. The Cliftonville was transformed into an example of the Arts and Crafts style showing the influence of the French Renaissance as well as the C19th Queen Anne Revival.

Trevor Page & Co of Norwich provided the soft furnishings [6]. The company was a partnership between Henry Trevor (who made great use of Cosseyware seconds in creating the Plantation Garden in Norwich) and his stepson John Page. Much of the ‘hard’ interior decoration survives.

cliftonville montage1.jpg

Clockwise from top left: Turret with octagonal cupola; stained glass peacock panel; Guntons terracotta panel; dining room doors referencing ‘Poppyland’; fireplace in the dining room.

Skipper designed several private houses in Cromer. St Bennet’s at 37 Vicarage Road, built in 1893, is one of the most impressive. Freely decorated in red brick panels it is said to have been carved by James Minns [6].


St Bennets, Cromer, designed by Skipper 1893; brick carving attributed to Minns

Skipper’s first offices (1880) in Norwich were in Opie Street but by 1891 he was employing about 50 people and in 1896 he moved to 7 London Street. At that time, architects were not allowed to advertise their services but, flying close to the regulatory wind, he commissioned Guntons to sculpt terracotta plaques depicting Skipper, on site, examining the work of sculptors and as the architect discussing plans with a client.

skipper pair2.jpg

Carved brick tableaux at No 7 London Street. Upper centre: Skipper, with family to the left, inspecting sculpted work. Lower centre: Skipper showing work to clients.

I suspect the figure presenting Skipper the plaque in the upper panel could be James Minns himself – the ‘carver’ for Guntons. Although about 68 at the time Minns was still sculpting to a high standard for one year later he successfully submitted a carved wooden panel to the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy [9].

Minns Duo.jpg

Skipper’s designs draw on a variety of sources. The French Renaissance style of his early years (enriched by Flemish influences from his visit to Belgium as a student) were to give way to the more weighty Neo-Classical Palladian buildings – buildings such as the Norfolk and Norwich Savings Bank (now Barclays Bank) in Red Lion St, the Norwich and London Accident Assurance Association (now the St Giles House Hotel in St Giles’ St) and his most expensive and sumptuous project, Surrey House for Norwich Union Life Insurance Society. But around the turn of the century he still found time for more playful ventures, embarking on ‘the mildest flirtation with British Art Nouveau'[7]. The Royal Arcade – covered in a previous blog [10] – is one such ‘transitional adventure’ although the credit for this Art Nouveau gem must surely go to the head of Doulton Pottery’s Architectural Department,WJ Neatby, who designed the jewel-like surfaces.


In a post on decorative tiles [11], I noted the close similarity between Neatby’s design for the young woman holding a disc in the spandrels of the arcade’s central crossing and a self-portrait by the Brooklyn photographer Zaida Ben-Yusuf. But, drawing various threads together, it seems likely that both artists were borrowing from the work of Alphonse Mucha  whose well-known posters illustrate young women holding very similar poses [see 10 for a fuller discussion].


Left: Zodiac figure by WJ Neatby (1899); right ‘The Odor of Pomegranates’ (ca 1899) by Zaida Ben-Yusuf

Hints of Art Nouveau were also to be seen in the turrets and domes of the Norfolk Daily Standard offices (1899-1900) on St Giles Street. This riotously decorated building survived the bombing of the adjacent building in the Blitz (1942) but later lost some of its features during a conversion to a Wimpy Bar.

Daily Standard1.jpg

Art nouveau touches can be seen on the spandrels above the first floor windows and on the Dutch/Flemish gables. The copper-domed turret is a familiar Skipper motif.

It was to ‘exuberant’ buildings such as these that Poet Laureate John Betjeman was referring when he made his well-known quotation comparing Skipper to Antonio Gaudi of Barcelona [7, 12].


Frontispiece to the catalogue of the Norwich School of Art’s exhibition on Skipper, 1975  [12]

A more convincing Art Nouveau building is the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club at Lowestoft. Skipper’s competition-winning design from 1902 is stripped of the decoration and frenetic eclecticism of his other projects to produce a building using “the vocabulary of British Art Nouveau … with more than a sidelong look at CFA Voysey” [7]. The plain stucco walls – one of Voysey’s signatures – and sloped buttresses are relieved by circular and semi-circular windows and topped by a copper dome. This puritanical excursion was a one-off for Skipper.

shieldsd04_lowest05 Yacht Club.jpg


Back in Norwich Skipper designed Commercial Chambers in Red Lion Street (1901-3), wedged into a narrow site between another of his projects (the Norfolk and Norwich Savings Bank 1900-3) and John Pollock’s veterinary premises designed by his great competitor, Edward Boardman (1901-2). Even on a such a narrow building Skipper manages to create interest at the skyline by using moulded cornice, statuary, a finial and a campanile that just sneaks above Boardman’s adjacent Dutch gable by the height of its copper dome.

Commrcl chambrs.JPG

Left, Boardman’s building for Pollock; centre, Skipper’s Commercial Chambers; right, Skipper’s Norfolk and Norwich Savings Bank.

Because Commercial Chambers was built for the accountant Charles Larking [7] you would be forgiven for thinking that the robed figure at the top of the building, making entries into a ledger, was Larking himself but it is clearly the self-publicist Skipper.

skipper montage.jpg

Between 1896 and 1925 [6] Skipper remodelled, in stages, the frontage of his neighbour’s department store on London and Exchange Streets. Original plans show that Skipper had also planned a dome to surmount the semi-circular bay – “rather like a tiered wedding cake” [1] – at the corner of Jarrolds department store.  But at the end of this long project no copper-clad dome materialised [1].


Work began first on the London Street side whose second floor facade is punctuated by a series of Royal Doulton plaques bearing the names of authors first published by Jarrold Printing [7]. The one shown below commemorates Anna Sewell who wrote Black Beauty while she lived in Old Catton just outside Norwich.


On another project, Skipper’s plans for a dome were again frustrated. In 1907 Skipper completed the London and Provincial Bank (now GAP) a little further along London Street. Architectural interest was created by breaking the flat symmetry of the classical facade with a fourth bay containing a curved two-storey bay window [7]: the deeply recessed cylinder even broaches the massive cornice that caps the building. This is explained by the fact that Skipper originally planned to top the fourth bay with a trademark cupola whose circular section would have echoed the curved segment of the cornice. In the event, the cupola was abandoned because it would have infringed a neighbouring property’s ‘right of light’ [7].


Just before the First World War, Skipper had planned to retire  but loss of his savings in the East Kent Coal Board meant he had to keep working. He designed various buildings in Norfolk, Kent and London and in 1926 built a second extension to the University Arms Hotel in Cambridge. Here, he did successfully add two cupolas: it was, “an unmistakable Skipper gesture, but in this case somewhat incongruous” [7].


University Arms Hotel as proposed after the fire in 2013. Painting by Chris Draper. johnsimpsonarchitects.com

During the Second World War Skipper had kept his London Street offices open while his son Edward, a fellow architect, was on active service [7]. Edward could not, however, afford to keep the offices open and in 1946 sold the building to Jarrolds.  Skipper died in 1948 when he was nearly 92.

skipper cupolas2.jpg


  1. Summers, David  (2009). George Skipper: Norfolk Architect. In, Powerhouses of provincial  architecture 1837-1914 (Ed, Kathryn Ferry). Chapter 6 pp 75-83. Pub: The Victorian Society.   Ref1a  http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/whos-who/george-skipper.htm
  2. Girouard, Marc (1977). Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement 1860-1900. Pub: Yale University Press.
  3. James Minns, Carver of Norwich. http://www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk/copy-of-norwich-history. Mentioned also in previous blog [9]:
  4. http://racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=1132
  5. http://jermy.org/poppy02.html
  6. Hitchings, Glenys and Branford, Christopher (2015). ‘George John Skipper, The Man Who Created Cromer’s Skyline’. Pub: Iceni Print and Products. Available from Jarrolds and from City Bookshop, Norwich.
  7. Jolly, David and Skipper, Edward (1980). Celebrating Skipper 100: 1880-1980. Booklet produced by Edward Skipper and Associates; foreword by Edward Skipper with posthumous contribution from David Jolly [see 11]. Available at Norwich Library Heritage Centre, Cat No. C720.9 [OS].
  8. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/05/05/fancy-bricks/
  9. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/08/18/angels-in-tights/
  10. http://wp.me/p71GjT-1C1
  11. Jolly, David (1975). Architect Exuberant: George Skipper 1856-1948. Catalogue of an Exhibition Held at The Norwich School of Art, Norwich, 24th Nov.-13th Dec., 1975
  12. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/09/29/decorative-tiles/

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visitwww.thenorwichsociety.org.uk


When Norwich was the centre of the world*


, , , , ,

*… the natural world.

This is the story of Norwich-born James Edward Smith and his involvement with the way we describe and classify the living world … but beneath this lies an important sub-text about the role of dissent in the advance of knowledge.


Father and son: James Smith  and James Edward Smith (c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, and Wikimedia Commons

James Edward Smith (1759-1828) was son of James Smith (1727-1795), a mayor of Norwich and wealthy wool merchant. This was at a time when Norwich could still claim to be one of England’s major cities, before mechanisation shifted power to the northern towns.  James Edward was a shy, delicate child who was taught at home, at 37 Gentleman’s Way. His mother’s love of plants may have stimulated his precocious love of botany [1].

Smith at 3.jpg

James Edward Smith age 3 years 8 months, by Mrs Dawson Tuner after a drawing by T Worlidge

His continuing botanical education was to be shaped, however, by the family’s religion – Unitarianism. At that time the two English universities, Oxford and Cambridge, only offered botanical studies as part of a medical course since physicians were required to prepare drugs from medicinal plants. But such studies were closed to non-conformists like Smith since only members of the Church of England were allowed to receive a degree. Against this rising tide of dissent (and by 1829 one in seven of Norwich adults were dissenters [2]) those who could afford it had to be educated elsewhere, at dissenting colleges or universities in Scotland and the Continent. So James Edward Smith went to Edinburgh and, rather prophetically, started his studies on the day that the famous Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus, died [1] .


Old College, Edinburgh (c) ed.ac.uk

The Enlightenment of the C17th and C18th saw free-thinkers looking beyond the rigid views of the established church and embarking on a more tolerant examination of ideas through scientific enquiry and philosophical reasoning. The C18th was a period of great exploration, not only mapping the world but collecting as many examples of its flora and fauna as possible. After the gathering phase came the sifting stage in which naturalists tried to understand the underlying plan. At Edinburgh, Smith was a student of Dr John Hope, who was one of the first to teach Linnaeus’ (1707-1778) system for classifying plants and animals. Decades later, Charles Darwin (1809-1882), a fellow Unitarian, was also to study medicine at Edinburgh where he was exposed to debate about creation and whether species were God-given (i.e., fixed) or changeable.

systema naturae2.jpg

(c) Smithsonian Libraries

The Linnaean system of classification placed plants into groups based on the number and arrangement of their reproductive organs.

The sexual basis of this system was not without controversy. Johann Siegesbeck called it ‘loathsome harlotry’ [3] and Linnaeus’ revenge was to give the name siegesbeckia to a small, useless weed.  (Later, Smith was cautioned not to copy Linnaeus’ foul use of “scrotiforme and genitalia”[11]).

The original system based solely on the arrangement of sexual organs was imperfect but two key parts survive in the improved version used today. The first was Linnaeus’ method of placing organisms into hierarchical groups based on shared similarities, from kingdom down through class, order, genus, species (other groups were added later). The second survival was his binomial system in which the two names – genus and species –were sufficient to identify a plant or animal. Before this, plants were referred to by long, imprecise Latin descriptions whereas the binomial system could tie down a specific plant. For example, there are many roses in the genus Rosa but addition of the specific or species name canina distinguishes the dog-rose (Rosa canina) from the red rose (Rosa rubra). Hierarchical classification and the relationship between species can be seen as an important precursor to Darwin whose Tree of Life added an extra dimension by showing that species were not fixed at the time of the Creation but mutable, evolving over time.

Linnaeus died in 1778; his son Carl inherited his father’s collections and when he died only five years later they were offered to the President of the Royal Society,  Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who had befriended Smith in London. The Empress of Russia had tried to buy the collections as had the King of Sweden who is said to have sent a ship to intercept them.


Engraving by Robert John Thornton of the apocryphal pursuit of the Linnean Collection by a Swedish frigate. (c) The Linnean Society of London

Banks could not afford the 1000 guineas himself but persuaded Smith to borrow the money from his wealthy father and so James Edward Smith became possessor of Linnaeus’ 3000 books and 26 cases of plants and insects. Smith was rewarded by being elected Fellow of the Royal Society within two years: three years later he founded the Linnean Society of London, remaining President for the rest of his life [1, 4].

But metropolitan life did not agree with Smith so he returned to Norwich for nine months each year. Ill health is often quoted as a reason but he was known to be fed up with the “envy and backbiting” of London life [11]). In 1796 he married a Lowestoft woman, the letter writer and literary editor, Pleasance Reeve. Lady Reeve was painted as a gypsy by fashionable portraitist John Opie when she was 24: she was to live another 79 years.

Pleasance Smith x2.jpg

Left, Pleasance Smith by John Opie (Wikimedia Commons). Right, by Hannah Sarah Brightwen after Opie (c) National Trust Images, Felbrigg, Norfolk

Two unavoidable discursions:

  • The wife of portraitist John Opie – Amelia Opie the novelist and abolitionist – lived at the corner of Castle Meadow, Norwich and is commemorated by a statue in nearby Opie Street [5].


  • Pleasance, who was childless, was evidently close to her niece Lorena Liddell (née Reeve) who gave her daughter the middle name ‘Pleasance’ after her aunt. This child, Alice Pleasance Liddell, was of course the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. [6].

Alice Pleasance Liddell aged 20 by Margaret Julia Cameron (Wikimedia Commons)

When Smith married Pleasance, her father gave them the tall Georgian town house, 29 Surrey Street, Norwich, as a wedding present. The garden that once contained Smith’s beloved plants was sold in 1939 to the Eastern Counties Bus Co [7]; No 29 itself was bomb damaged during WWII while the adjoining part of the terrace was worse hit and replaced somewhat unsympathetically after the war.


29 Surrey Street, Norwich (centre). Two houses to the right were replaced after the war.


The row of houses had been designed by local architect Thomas Ivory (1709-1779), who contributed much to Georgian Norwich [6]. Not only did he design The Assembly House and the terrace in Surrey Street but he built the elegant Octagon Chapel in Colegate. Smith was deacon there when in 1820 the ownership of the chapel transferred from the Presbyterians to the Unitarians.

For as long as he lived in Norwich the house in Surrey Street, and not the Linnean Society, was the private museum in which Smith housed the Linnean collection. This included Linnaeus’ three herbarium cabinets arranged so that ca. 14000 specimens – plants dried on sheets of paper – could be easily referenced [1]. Attracted by Linnaeus’ own type specimens “Norwich (became) the centre of the biological and natural history study of the world” [8]. In 1938, two of the cabinets returned to Sweden but the Linnean Society retained one plus all contents.


One of Linnaeus’ original herbarium cabinets (c) Linnean Society of London [9]

Smith maintained a prodigious output. Between 1790 and 1823 he published 36 volumes of English Botany [10]. The series, which was issued by subscription, contained over 2,500 hand-coloured plates by illustrator James Sowerby: indeed, the work was sometimes called Sowerby’s Botany because Smith – unsure about being associated with a popular illustrated work in English – left his name off the first edition [11].

ladies slipper.jpg

Lady’s-slipper orchid by James Sowerby from JE Smith’s English Flora. Courtesy John Innes Foundation Collection of Rare Botanical Books

Smith also wrote Flora Brittanica (1800-1804) and The English Flora (1824-1828). At the time of his death Smith had also edited eight and half of the 12 volumes of John Sibthorp’s survey of Greek flowers, Flora Graeca [12] a beautiful publication, each with 100 plates illustrated by Ferdinand Bauer (the final volume by Sowerby having 66 plates).


Sibthorp’s Flora Graeca compiled by James Edward Smith. Courtesy John Innes Foundation Collection of Rare Botanical Books

At one time, Smith instructed Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, and her daughters; he taught the elements of Botany and Zoology but this relationship was cut short after he criticised the French court and mentioned the republican Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The dissenting mind once again confronted the establishment when Smith tried unsuccessfully to become Professor of Botany at Cambridge University – his non-conformity, support for the abolition of slavery and of Greek independence, did not help his cause [1].

Perhaps surprisingly, Smith did not bequeath his collections to the society he had founded and of which he had been President for life. Instead, he left instructions that they were to be sold as one lot to a public or corporate body, causing The Linnean Society to purchase the very reason for their existence for the vast amount of £3150 – a sum that took them over 40 years to pay off [1].

There is a memorial plaque to Sir James Edward Smith on the north side of the nave in St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, but his body was interred in his wife’s family vault in the churchyard at St Margaret’s Lowestoft.

JESmith vault.JPG


Thanks to archivist Sarah Wilmot for providing access the rare books in the John Innes Historical Collections. Visit http://collections.jic.ac.uk/. It is an amazing resource and Sarah encourages visits and invitations to talk (sarah.wilmot@jic.ac.uk).


  1. https://www.linnean.org/library-and-archives/library-collections-of-j-e-smith/biography
  2. Rawcliffe, C., Wilson, R. and Clark, C. (2004). Norwich since 1550. Pub: A&C Black.
  3. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/linnaeus.html
  4. Gage, A.T. (1938). A History of the Linnean Society of London. Pub: Linnean Society London.
  5. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/whos-who/amelia-opie.htm
  6. Do read Joe Mason’s fascinating blog on this house, where his family had lived. https://joemasonspage.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/the-story-of-a-house-1/
  7. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/whos-who/thomas-ivory.htm
  8. http://www.nnns.org.uk/sites/nnns.org.uk/files/imce/user11/publications/natterjack/NJ108.pdf Quote from Tony Irwin page 20.
  9. https://ca1-tls.edcdn.com/listing/_c960xauto/Herbarium-Cabinet.jpg?mtime=20160705144628
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Botany
  11. White, P. (1999). The purchase of knowledge: James Edward Smith and the Linnean Collections. Endeavour 23: 126-129.
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora_Graeca

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visitwww.thenorwichsociety.org.uk



Arts & Crafts pubs in the C20th

In an earlier post I mentioned two turreted pubs that reminded me of the ‘medieval’ towers by Victorian architects like the Williams, Morris and Burges – Gothic Revivalists who peddled nostalgia for a pre-industrial past. Why did these and other pubs continue to refer to the Middle Ages half a century or so after the height of Victorian medievalism?


The Artichoke PH in 1932 (c) georgeplunkett.co.uk

The first pub, at the end of Magdalen Street, was The Artichoke with its conical roofs so reminiscent of chateaux of the French Middle Ages. Built in 1934, The Gatehouse on Dereham Road shares a clear resemblance. Neither pub would have been out of place in 1860. William Morris’s version of the Gothic Revival in the mid C19th can be seen as a reaction to industrialisation – a symbolic retreat to sunnier times when honest craft was appreciated. However, the medieval-style pubs of the 1930s looked back at Merrie England from a different viewpoint: the intervening First World War provided a new and powerful reason for reacting against mechanisation and for settling on a style that so strongly rejected C20th Modernism.

The Gatehouse is clearly built in the revived medieval style. One of its intriguing stylistic details is the chequering produced by alternating panels of ubiquitous Norfolk flint with pressed concrete blocks substituting for the stone that is so scarce in Norfolk[1].

The Gatehouse.jpg

The Gatehouse 1939. (c) georgeplunkett.co.uk

A likely model for The Gatehouse was the Barbican gatehouse (1539) to the toll bridge in Sandwich, Kent [2]. The two-storeyed bays are very similar and the names are near-enough synonymous.


The Barbican, Sandwich, Kent (c) rollingharbourlife.wordpress.com

A third pub, The Barn, at the bottom of Grapes Hill shares a family resemblance to The Artichoke and The Gatehouse, perhaps not surprisingly since  all three were designed by Norwich architects Buckingham and Berry whose offices were in Prince of Wales Road.

The Barn Trio1.jpg

The cockerel sign on The Barn marks a takeover by Courage but the lazy anchor in the gables shows that the pub was originally built for Norwich brewers, Bullards. Their sign of the jolly landlord was designed in 1909 by one-time student of Norwich School of Art, A. J.(later Sir Alfred) Munnings.

Bullards sign.jpg

A fourth family member is the Constitution Tavern on Constitution Hill, also designed in the early 1930s by Buckingham and Berry. With its projecting double-height semi-circular bay, capped with a conical roof, The Constitution Tavern taps into the medieval style while the catslide roof over the twin doors references the Arts and Crafts houses of Charles Voysey from the beginning of the C20th.


The former Constitution Tavern, now a private house

Not only were these four buildings designed by the same architects but they were all built by the same Norwich building firm of RG Carter.



RG Carter’s workers building The Constitution Tavern in 1933. (c) rgcarter-construction.co.uk

The Artichoke and The Barn stand just outside the city walls, at the Magdalen and St Benedict’s Gates, respectively. The Gatehouse and The Constitution Tavern are situated further out from the city: the latter on Constitution Hill on what was the old North Walsham Turnpike; the former on Dereham Road, near another circle of hell – the outer ring road.

RG Carter workers.jpg

RG Carter’s son Bob (in school cap) with workmen outside The Constitution Tavern (c)rgcarter-construction.co.uk

The construction of the outer ring road in the 1930s helped relieve unemployment and established an outer boundary to the expanding city. Up until the First World War most citizens lived within the walled city, a very large number of them in the Norwich Yards – dwellings made in the gardens and courtyards of grander houses abandoned by the wealthy. As Frances and Michael Holmes have graphically shown, by the 1930s these ramshackle houses were poorly ventilated, ill-lit and very unsanitary [3].

The conditions of life in this yard must be hard indeed. An open channel runs in front of the houses containing sewage, slops and rainwater. The smell was neither imaginable nor describable. One battered pump made in 1808 supplies water to…three yards. [Norwich Mercury, see 3]. 

King St Murrell's Yard [1265] 1936-08-13_s.jpg

Murrell’s Yard, King Street, Norwich 1936 (c) georgeplunkett.co.uk

To make ‘homes fit for heroes’ the 1919 Housing and Town Planning Act required local authorities to provide houses for families. The City Council responded by starting to build the large estates that now more-or-less encircle the medieval city. The council also received government funding to build five parks (Wensum, Eaton, Heigham, Waterloo and Mile Cross Gardens) that gave pleasure to the rising population as well as providing unemployment relief  [4]. In the 1920s and 30s Captain A Sandys-Winsch supervised the laying out of these parks and planted the characteristic avenues of trees that still soften the roads beyond the old city walls.


In lock-step The Prince of Wales (centre), with Sandys-Winsch (on his right), opening Eaton Park in 1928. Courtesy  of [5]

It was against this background of civic improvement that the new public houses were designed. Morgan’s Brewery, for example, took advantage of the new estates and the increased traffic on the ring road to build The Gatehouse on the site of a former pub. The wave of pub building was not confined to Norwich for about 1000 new pubs were built countrywide in the 1920s, and 2000 in the period 1935-1939.  Most of these were part of the Improved Pub Movement that hoped to change the perception of public houses as places of drunkenness to a more respectable one with separate saloon bars, dining rooms, games rooms and gardens that would encourage women.


‘Both were on their knees and unable to rise’. Carlisle 1917. Courtesy www.cumbriaimagebank.org.uk

During the First World War the government became concerned by the absenteeism and poor productivity in munitions factories caused by drunkenness. In what became known as ‘The Carlisle Experiment’ the government nationalised breweries and pubs around Carlisle and parts of the Scottish Borders; they also redesigned pubs and food-providing taverns to try to control the excesses of munitions workers [6]. This experiment in public house reform had national impact and provided a model for the new public houses of the 1920s and 30s.

In 2015, Historic England awarded The Gatehouse and 20 other national pubs Grade II listing in recognition of their place in the historic Improved Pub Movement [7,8]. Virtually all are built in a backward looking Arts and Crafts style.


The rather baronial bar of The Gatehouse (c) Historic England/Pat Payne Ref: DP172339

The stained glass panels, just visible in the photo above, are thought to reference the Bayeux Tapestry, underlining the diversity of sources that the Improved Pub Movement used to evoke the faux medieval style.


Montage of stained glass panels in The Gatehouse

The building of roads, estates and pubs therefore took place as a more or less coherent campaign under the general banner of ‘improvement’. RG Carter’s building firm played a major part in shaping the outer city. Where the A1024 crosses the Drayton Road they built the Mile Cross Estate of 92 houses (1925) together with the shopping centre (and a similar one on the opposite side of the city where The Avenues crosses the ringroad).


Carters built a mirror image to this curved shopping centre, out of shot to the right

In 1929 Carter’s also built the nearby pub, The Galley Hill, in a simple Tudor Revival style. The S&P carved into the half-timbered gable end shows it was built for the Norwich brewery of Steward and Patteson.The MItre 2.jpg

Carters also built The Mitre in Earlham Road for Bullards – a solid Tudor Revival building with jettied central bay and timbered side bays infilled with herringbone brick. The local newspaper said it was a vast improvement on its Victorian predecessor and that the quality of its ‘half-timber work is not of the kind associated with speculative work and liable to be blown off by the wind.’ That is, the woodwork appeared to be a more integral part of the structure than the superficially applied beams on speculative pubs built in ‘Brewer’s Tudor’ [9]. It was presumably the cheapened form that John Betjeman referred to as ‘various bogus-Tudor bars‘ in his poem, Slough.

Earlham Rd 131 Mitre PH [B510] 1933-03-28.jpg

The Mitre 1933,  Earlham Road, now a community space for St Thomas’ church, at left  (c)georgeplunkett.co.uk

It is not clear who built The Boundary Inn at the intersection of the ring road and the A140 where a Mile Cross boundary marker used to stand. However, this pub does have the usual stylistic tics of the Tudor Revival style, with its high-pitched roof, prominent chimney, a hint of half-timbering and Tudor-arched doors. It was built in 1928 for Young, Crawshay and Youngs.


The Boundary PH, Aylsham Road, Norwich

Carters constructed the Bull Inn at Hellesdon [1935] although its historical credentials are Tudor-lite compared to The Mitre.

The Bull Inn 1.jpg

But after World War II the moment had passed, the Gothic and Tudorbethan revivals had lost their fascination and a new austerity had arrived, as can be seen from The Dial on Dereham Road, built for Bullards  by RG Carter in 1950.


The Dial PH. Courtesy rgcarter-holdings.co.uk


  1. http://www.rgcarter-construction.co.uk/about/
  2. https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/barbican-high-street-sandwich-cc56-00758
  3. Holmes, Frances and Holmes, Michael (2015). The Old Courts and Yards of Norwich: A Story of People, Poverty and Pride.  Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects.
  4. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001348
  5. http://friendsofeatonpark.co.uk/history/
  6. https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/first-world-war-home-front/what-we-already-know/land/state-control-of-pubs/
  7. https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/twenty-one-best-inter-war-pubs-listed.
  8. http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/find_out_why_heritage_chiefs_decided_to_protect_a_norwich_pub_1_4213510
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tudor_Revival_architecture

I am indebted to the RG Carter Archive, Drayton, Norwich for supplying photos and information. I am also grateful to: Gareth Hughes for making the connection between The Gatehouse and Barbican Gate, Sandwich; Stephen White of Carlisle Library, Frances Holmes, and the invaluable Plunkett archive (www.georgeplunkett.co.uk).

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visit: www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk


Entertainment Victorian style


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Ken Skipper of the Cork Brick Gallery, Bungay, recently lent me this small book on historical events in Norwich. It starts with the castle being built by King Uffa the First in 575AD and ends on July 30 1900 with the Electric Tram Company running their “first Cars for the Public”. All the early events are big ticket items, official record entries like, “981 The City was utterly destroyed by the Danes”. Compared to this the C19th entries seem inevitably mundane yet they are fascinating for providing insight into mass entertainment in the Victorian age. As we shall see, this is closely linked with developments in transport.


“1825. September 7. Col. John Harvey, High Sheriff, ascended in a Balloon from Richmond Hill Gardens.” Before the age of mass transport, pleasure gardens at the periphery of the crowded medieval city centre were important sources of entertainment. London had its famous C18th Ranelagh and Vauxhall Gardens [1]: Norwich  had its versions too. Norwich’s Ranelagh Gardens were just outside the city walls between what is now St Stephen’s Road and Sainsbury’s supermarket. The ornamental gardens contained The Adelphi Theatre, a skittle alley and the Pantheon arena where firework displays would help depict famous British victories [2, 3].

The High Sheriff’s flight from another pleasure gardens in Bracondale was evidently uneventful but in July 1785, only two years after the Mongolfier brothers’ first balloon flight, The Ranelagh Gardens had been witness to a more dramatic event when Colonel Money of the East Norfolk Regiment of Foot ascended in an ‘aerostatic globe’ [4, 5]. Unfortunately, an ‘improper current’ took him out to sea, off Yarmouth and Lowestoft. In his words:

 I ascended from this place with a balloon, and was drove out to sea, not being able to let myself down from the valve being too small. After blowing about for near two hours I dropped in the sea. My situation, you may easily conceive, was very unpleasant… [6].


A Byronic Colonel Money struggling for his life off Yarmouth. Courtesy Picture Norfolk, Norfolk County Council 

“1826. Humbug on Mousehold. Signor Carlo Gram Villecrop’s ‘leap'”.  [A humbug: a trick, a deception] Mousehold Heath – the high ground overlooking the city – was another venue capable of accommodating large crowds. According to a circulated bill, Signor Villecrop the Swiss Mountain Flyer promised to appear there on the 28th of August and with his 50 foot Tyrolese pole would perform:

the most astonishing gymnastic flights never before witnessed in this country… (and) … will frequently jump forty and fifty yards at a time[4].

Screen Shot 2016-11-16 at 15.07.09.png

Not Signor Villecrop. ghost-in-the-library.tumblr.com

He would run up St James’ Hill with the pole between his teeth, lie on his back and balance the pole on his nose and on certain parts of his body, walk up and down the hill on his head balancing the pole on his foot. Twenty thousand people came to see him but it was, of course, a hoax.

“1840. June 21. Mount Joy walked from Norwich to Yarmouth and back twice a day for six consecutive days”. John Mountjoy was referred to as ‘a veteran pedestrian’ – that is, a speed walker – and in the summer of 1840 he performed a series of remarkable feats [5].


John Mountjoy, Veteran Pedestrian. Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London

He started his twice-daily walk from the Shirehall Tavern, Norwich, to Symonds’ Gardens, Yarmouth and when, six days later, he crossed Foundry Bridge for the last time a ‘tremendous crowd bore the toll collectors before them and made a free passage’. Previously, on the 16th of June at The Ranelagh Gardens he had taken up with his mouth, without touching the ground with his knees, 100 eggs a yard apart and dropped them into a bucket of water without breaking them. Warming to his theme, on the 13th July he ran a mile, walked a mile backwards, ran a wheelbarrow half a mile, trundled a hoop a mile, hopped 200 yards, picked up with his mouth 40 hazelnuts etc etc  …

“1847. Douro and Peto were chaired, at which stones were thrown at Douro.” This economically-worded entry glosses over what others have called the Norwich election riots of 1847: an example of When Crowds Go Wrong. Samuel Morton Peto was an eminent Victorian responsible for building The Reform Club, Nelson’s Column, The Houses of Parliament, London’s brick sewers etc. [7]. Peto was a major railway contractor and was said to have been the largest employer of labour in the world [8]. He built railways around the globe but is remembered locally for building the lines that connected Yarmouth and Lowestoft to Norwich and London. The speed and capacity of trains finished the coaching trade to London [9] but allowed large numbers of Norwich citizens to spend leisure time at the growing seaside resorts, like Cromer, Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Glance up next time you visit Norwich Rail Station.


On the concourse of Norwich Station, “Sir Samuel Morton Peto 1809-1889. Baptist Contractor Politician & Philanthropist”

In the election The Marquis of Douro (The Duke of Wellington’s son) and  Peto won two of the available seats, leaving the other candidate – the Non-Conformist Serjeant Parry – well behind. Two hundred of Peto’s navvies from the Eastern Counties Railway paraded merrily through the city until they met Parry’s disgruntled supporters. Stones were thrown. The outnumbered navvies became barricaded in The Castle Inn, windows were broken and the police had to use horse buses to transport the workers to a special train waiting at the station. Peto paid £70 towards the damage. Whether or not this constituted a riot depended very much on the newspaper that reported the affair [7].

“1858. Huffman’s Humbug on the Old Cricket Ground”.  Now, you would have thought that those who had been bamboozled by Villecrop’s humbug in 1826 would have warned the next generation when Mr JW Hoffman came to town. But Hoffman had previously been to Norwich as manager of his ‘Organophonic Band’ (a full orchestra with just the human voice) so it did appear as if he could put on a show [5].

Hoffman's band.jpg

Courtesy Terry Drayton

On this occasion Hoffman had widely advertised a medieval pageant on the Old Cricket Grounds, presumably at Lakenham.

Lakenham Cricket.jpg

The Cricket Ground, Lakenham, Norwich. (c) Dereham Times

The big difference between this and the previous humbug was that the railway had in the meantime come to Norwich – the Yarmouth line in 1844 and London via Brandon in 1845. And The Ranelagh Gardens were now occupied by Victoria Station. Train companies ran excursions, crowds thronged the streets; once again the city was immobilised and business was suspended. With so much anticipation the pageant, which consisted of 30-40 people on foot following a man on a horse, was an anti-climax and was met with boos and hisses. The ‘Old English Sports’ that followed were also a failure, ending with general fighting amongst the blackguards at the ground [5]. But the long arm of the law soon caught up with Hoffman for in September 1858 The London Gazette mentioned that John William Hoffman, Professor of Music and Elocution, Exhibitor of Ventriloquism, and Caterer for Public Amusement in General, and of 16 previous addresses, was being sued in Shrewsbury County Court [10].

“1868. Aug 13. Mr Maris ascended in a Balloon from the Market-place, which was lost at Sheringham.”  Balloon flights continue to be mentioned in The Record of Local Events throughout the C19th. We do know that some balloons were filled with coal gas at the City Gas Works in Bishop Bridge then led to the launch site. It isn’t known how the balloon was filled on this occasion but hundreds of people waited all day in the market place to see the ascent. At about six o’clock, Mr Maris the fruiterer ascended with Mr Simmons the aeronaut. After two minutes they had already risen to 10,000 feet from where Mr Maris was able to point out towns as far apart as Harwich and King’s Lynn. However, the noise below of threshing machines and barking dogs very soon gave way to the sound of the sea and they had to make an emergency descent. Fortunately, they jumped out over land but the balloon, now lighter, re-ascended and was lost in the sea at Sheringham [5].


Norwich balloon ascent, late C19. (c) Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk

“1849. Jenny Lind sang.”  Jenny Lind, ‘The Swedish Nightingale’, was one of the most popular sopranos of the early-mid C19th and she was more deeply embedded into Norwich life than this brief note could suggest [11].


She first came to sing in St Andrew’s Hall in 1847 …

jenny lind poster reduced.jpg

… two years later, at the age of 29, she announced her retirement from opera although she still appeared in the concert hall and even toured with showman TP Barnum in the States. She was highly philanthropic and the money she raised from concerts in 1849 and 1854 [11] funded the city’s Infirmary for Sick Children in Pottergate.  Her name lives on in the Jenny Lind Children’s Hospital at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Another reminder is provided by the memorial gate in the Jenny Lind Park off Vauxhall Street, left isolated by the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital’s move to Colney. I remember my children saying they were off to play in the Jenny Lind.

JennyLindGate reduced.jpg

“1895. June 1. The Jenny Lind Steamboat burned”. Steam power would shape the nineteenth century. The little record book mentions the first steamboat on the Yare in 1813 but this later reference is to a serious fire that occurred  at Foundry Bridge. Launched in 1879 the Jenny Lind would run daily excursions from the quayside next to Thorpe Station and travel the few miles down to Bramerton Woods where there was an inn and a seven-acre pleasure garden [12]. The Jenny Lind would also steam down to Brundall Gardens, known as “The Switzerland of Norfolk”because of the 120 acres of wooded slopes surrounding a lake [13].


Jenny Lind steamboat at Brundall Gardens (c) broadlandmemories.co.uk 

The ship apparently survived but another steamboat named ‘Jenny Lind’was not so fortunate. In 1853, the US steamboat Jenny Lind – a ferry between Alviso and San Francisco– exploded just as dinner was called [14]. Superheated steam flooded the dining room, killing 34 passengers.

jenny lind explosion.jpg

Explosion of the American ‘Jenny Lind’. (c) Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

“June 23 1879 Norwich Omnibus Company started.” Increased mechanisation saw workers leave the countryside and find jobs in the city’s industries; by the end of the C19th Norwich’s population had tripled to ca 100,000. Horse-drawn omnibuses carried citizens around the city for 20 years but the company stopped business on December 17 1899 [16].


A horse-drawn Norwich omnibus. Photo 1977 (c) Joe Mason [15]

“July 30. 1900. The Electric Tram Company ran their first cars for the Public.” By mid-century, steam engines were carrying people long distances over land and water but within towns and cities horse-power still reigned. But, never an efficient means of mass transport, omnibuses were withdrawn in 1899 and superseded by the horseless carriages of the Norwich Electric Tramways Company [16]. Power was provided by the Norwich Electric Light Company that, from 1892, generated electricity at the old Duke’s Palace Ironworks off Duke Street [see 17].

Boileau fountain 1908.jpg

There were seven routes. The tram above, at the junctions of Newmarket and Ipswich Roads would have been on the Green route to Cavalry Barracks [16]. If Norwich’s industrial workers wanted to get away from the grime they could, in the summer, take the extension up the hill to Mousehold Heath, scene of Signor Villecrop’s humbug three quarters of a century earlier.

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visit: www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk



Thanks: to Ken Skipper, Joe Mason, Terry Drayton, broadlandmemories.co.uk, Picture Norfolk (norfolkspydus.co.uk) and Mary Parker for their assistance.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranelagh_Gardens
  2. John Riddington Young (1975). The Inns and Taverns of Old Norwich. Pub: Wensum Books.
  3. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/at-leisure-in-norwich/norwichs-pleasure-gardens.htm
  4. Carol Twinch (2012). The Norwich Book of Days. Pub: The History Press.
  5. Charles Mackie (2010). Norfolk Annals, a Chronological Record of Remarkable Events in the Nineteenth Century. http://archive.org/stream/norfolkannalsach34439gut/34439.txt
  6.  Scots Magazine June 1785
  7. Terry Coleman (1965). The Railway Navvies. Pub: Hutchinson.
  8. http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Samuel_Morton_Peto
  9. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/industrial-innovation/norwich-railway-station.htm
  10. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/22186/page/4313/data.pdf
  11. https://norfolkwomeninhistory.com/1800-1850/jenny-lind/
  12. http://www.broadlandmemories.co.uk/pre1900gallerypage2.html
  13. http://www.brundallvillagehistory.org.uk/gardens.htm
  14. http://www.mercurynews.com/2013/04/08/herhold-ceremony-set-to-remember-1853-jenny-lind-steamboat-disaster/
  15. https://joemasonspage.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/colmans-mustard-omnibus/
  16. http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/social-innovation/swish-rattle-and-clang.htm
  17. https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/07/28/norwichs-pre-loved-buildings/


Jeckyll and the Japanese wave


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Sackler sunflowers.jpg

Thomas Jeckyll’s ‘Sunflower’ andirons – emblems of the Aesthetic Movement. (c) The Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington DC USA. Photo: Neil Greentree 

He was a key figure in the Aesthetic Movement who helped spread an esoteric fascination with japonisme to the nation, yet Thomas Jeckyll was an unsung local hero who died in a Norwich lunatic asylum. In previous posts [1,2, 3] I discussed how this son of a clergyman from Wymondham, Norfolk  joined the set of London aesthetes including Whistler, Swinburne, Rosetti and fellow Norfolkman Frederick Sandys. This influenced his work  back home in Norfolk where his designs for Barnard Bishop and Barnards’ Norwich Iron Works advertised the Anglo-Japanese Movement on an industrial scale.

Jeckyll and father.jpg

Thomas Jeckyll with his father George in the 1860s ((c) Picture Norfolk. Norfolk County Council)

Jeckyll’s first national success was with the Norwich Gates that he designed for Barnards in 1859 [4]. They took three years to manufacture and, when exhibited in the 1862 International Exhibition in London, were awarded a medal for craftsmanship; Jeckyll – who received ecstatic critical acclaim – was elevated to national attention. The people of Norfolk and Norwich bought the gates by public subscription and presented them to the Prince and Princess of Wales on their marriage in 1863. The gates can still be seen at Sandringham.

Norwich Gates.jpg

Norwich Gates, Sandringham, Norfolk (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

But Jeckyll’s continuing reputation was shaped by events on the other side of the world. In 1853-4 US Admiral Perry used gunboat diplomacy to force Japan out of its self-imposed isolation, opening trade with the west. The woodblock prints that emerged had an immediate impact on western art: the works of Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Vuillard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard, Cassat all showed the signs of Japanese influence, often being occidental versions of original oriental themes [5]. The unusual (to western eyes) cropping of the image, flattened shapes and planes composed of few subtle colours changed the direction of French art in the latter half of the C19th.


‘Mlle Marcelle Lender en buste’ by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1895); bust of the waitress Okita of the Naniwaya teahouse by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)

James McNeill Whistler, who was an avid collector of Japanese prints and pottery, is said to have been the first to bring back japonisme to this country after his return from Paris in 1860. The art dealer Murray Marks said that the artist had “invented blue and white in London” [5]. The mania for things Japanese could attract a certain preciousness; after Oscar Wilde said he was finding it hard to live up to his blue china, George du Maurier – one of Jeckyll’s London circle – pricked the bubble with this Punch cartoon:


The Six Mark Teapot (c) Punch

Aesthetic Bridegroom: “It is quite consummate is it not?”

Intense Bride: “It is indeed! Oh, Algernon, let us live up to it!”

Whistler’s own painting was changed by his exposure to Japanese art. His well known nocturne of Old Battersea Bridge certainly borrowed strongly from Hiroshige’s print of Kyobashi Bridge, part of his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (as Tokyo was called).


Utagawa Hiroshige, Kyobashi Bridge 1857: James McNeill Whistler, Old Battersea Bridge 1859

While the fashion for things oriental was originally confined to a metropolitan elite, where it developed out of their interest in the fine arts, it soon became a widespread phenomenon of the applied arts [5]. The influential decorative arts designer Lewis F Day recognised that Jeckyll’s work was amongst the first to show this Japanese influence [4]. Art dealer Gleeson White wrote that Jekyll was:

the first to design original work with Japanese principles assimilated – not imitated [6]

As designer for Barnards at their Norwich foundry, Jeckyll was able to spread japonisme  and he did this largely via the Great British Fireplace (coming soon to BBC1). From ca 1870 Barnard Bishop and Barnards produced numerous japonaise designs into which Jeckyll skilfully introduced cranes, cherry blossom, chrysanthemums, sunflowers etc.

Jeckyll stove.jpg

Designed by Thomas Jeckyll From Barnards’ 1884 catalogue. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

Japanese heraldic roundels or mon also became a recurring motif in Jeckyll’s designs, providing a ready shorthand for japonisme.

Roundels Fplace.jpg

Jeckylll fireplace (c)  The Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

Jeckyll designed numerous pieces of metalwork for the fireside, including perhaps his best-known items: andirons or firedogs in the form of the sunflowers that were to become emblematic of The Aesthetic Movement [7,2]. These sunflowers fenced in Jeckyll’s Pagoda that once stood in Chapelfield Gardens and – in reproduction form – now decorate the gates to these Gardens and to Heigham Park (see previous post [2])

sunflower dogs.jpg

Barnard Bishop and Barnards catalogue 1884. (c) Museum of Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

But it was this fender – seen in the apartment of Jeckyll’s friend, the Norfolk painter Frederick Sandys – that impressed a leading figure of the Anglo-Japanese Movement, E.W. Godwin. Indeed, Whistler insisted on having one of these fenders in his own apartment even though Godwin, who was refurbishing it, could have supplied fenders in his own designs [4].


EW Godwin’s sketch of the ‘Sandys fender’ (c) Victorian and Albert Museum, London

This fender can be glimpsed in part of a larger sketch made in Charles Barnard’s home ‘Greyfriars’, Norwich (demolished). Jeckyll’s sunflower andirons are also illustrated.


Firedogs. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

These were not prototypes made just for friends, for the fender must have been sold in fair numbers through Barnards’ catalogues and showrooms. Barnards’ Norwich showroom was on Gentleman’s Walk next to the market. By the 1930s the Hope Brothers had taken over the shop but it was still possible to see on the second floor the balcony railings that Jeckyll designed.

Hope Bros.jpg

(c) Picture Norfolk. Norfolk Museums Service

Barnards also had a showroom in Queen Victoria Street, London.

Barnards shop1.jpg

Barnards London showroom (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

Below, we can see the fender advertised in the London showroom – the photograph providing a glimpse of the mishmash of Japanese, Chinese and even medieval influences available to the rising middle classes wanting to establish their Aesthetic credentials.

barnards showroom.jpg

Barnard, Bishop and Barnards London showroom in the latter part of the C19. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

The scalloped pattern, which became one of Jeckyll’s most frequently used motifs, was based on a Japanese design. For the fender, Jeckyll had used a single layer of semi-circles as the main motif but it is clear from his other work that this had been extracted from the larger seigaiha (blue ocean wave) design.


Seigaiha pattern on a kimono. (c) SmithjackJapan on Etsy

The overlapping waves were also used on cast-iron garden benches.


Barnards catalogue 1884. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service

A local application of the seigaiha design can be seen on the gates at Sprowston Manor Hotel on the outskirts of Norwich.


Jeckyll also used the wave design independently of the work he did with Barnards. Here it is seen in a terracotta plaque on the garden wall of High House, Thorpe St Andrew (left) and on a quadrant from the ceiling of the Boileau Memorial Fountain (right, demolished) that once stood at the junction of Newmarket and Ipswich Roads near the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (see previous post on the fountain [1]).


Left, Jeckyll plaque at High House, possibly made at the Costessey Brickworks. Right, a quadrant of the ceiling from the Boileau Fountain [1]

Fabric is not always durable but in this case the japonaise embroidery, made to Jeckyll’s designs, outlived the Chapelfield Pagoda that was dismantled in 1949. Fortunately, the hangings that decorated the pagoda at international exhibitions are conserved in Norwich Castle Study Centre –the seigaiha design bottom right.


Left: The Chapelfield Pagoda. Right: Jeckyll’s hangings used to decorate the structure when it was exhibited internationally. (c) Norfolk Museums Service

Jeckyll was an inventive designer who was certainly not restricted to one design or material. He had previously collaborated with the sculptor Sir J Edgar Boehm on the Boileau memorial Fountain and when Boehm sculpted the monument to Juliana, Countess of Leicester for the estate church at Holkham Hall it is highly likely that Jeckyll designed the japonaise base [4].


Base of the monument to Lady Leicester in the church of St Withburga, Holkham Estate, Norfolk, which is attributed to Thomas Jeckyll


  1.  https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/04/15/thomas-jeckyll-the-boileau-family/
  2.  https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2016/01/06/jeckyll-and-the-sunflower-motif/
  3.  https://colonelunthanksnorwich.com/2015/12/26/two-bs-or-not-tw…s-thomas-jeckyll/
  4. Soros, Susan Weber and Arbuthnott, Catherine (2003). Thomas Jeckyll: Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. Yale University Press.
  5. Ives, Colta Feller (1974). The Great Wave: The Influence of Japanese Woodcuts on French Prints. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  6. The Cult of Beauty (2011). Eds Stephen Calloway and Lynn Feder Orr. V&A Publishing
  7. The Aesthetic Movement (1973). Ed, Charles Spencer. Academy Editions, London.‎

Thanks to: Hannah Henderson, Museum of Norwich, Bridewell Alley for showing me the Jeckyll collection; to Michael Innes for allowing me to photograph the Jeckyll terracotta at his house; to Mary Parker, warden of Ketteringham Church for providing the photograph of the ceiling in the Boileau Memorial; to Lisa Little of Norwich Castle Study Centre, Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service, Shirehall,for showing me the Jeckyll hangings and to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk for permissions.

Visit the display of Barnards’ work and Jeckyll’s designs in The Museum of Norwich, Bridewell Alley, Norwich

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visit: www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk




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To the medieval mind dragons stood as a metaphor for the devil and all his works, the origin of pestilence and plague. The concept of a dragon could have evolved from travellers’ tales about fabulous beasts or even fossils. In one incarnation, dragons were represented as giant worms – indeed, the Old English for dragon is wyrm (or Old High German, wurm). A beautiful manifestation of the worm-like dragon is to be seen on the C13th infirmary doors from Norwich Cathedral, now in Norwich Castle.

Norwich Infirmary Doors.jpg

Courtesy Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

The more familiar version is of a four-legged, bat-winged creature usually seen writhing at the end of St George’s lance or St Michael’s sword. The fable of St George and the Dragon is thought to have originated in the east and brought back to this country following the crusades. St George is usually represented as a knight on horseback as can still (just about) be seen in this C14th carving from Ragusa, Sicily.

St George Ragusa.jpg

Dragons feature strongly in Norwich’s history. St George is the city’s patron and the Guild of St George, founded in 1385 [1], became a prominent social institution, celebrating the saint’s feast day and performing acts of charity for its members and the needy. In 1417 the power of the guild was greatly enhanced when it was granted a Royal Charter by Henry V, perhaps in recognition of its members who fought alongside him at Agincourt. In 1548 the guild lost its religious basis, transforming itself into the secular Company of St George that celebrated the arrival of the new mayor. However, the dragon still took part in non-religious processions; it was first mentioned as taking part in 1408, it survived Puritanism then became a civic player, performing in annual guild days when the mayor was inaugurated.

Norwich dragon.jpg

Snap the Dragon at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

Taunted by the chanting crowd the dragon would grab caps in its jaws, ransoming the headwear for a penny.

“Snap, Snap, steal a boy’s cap, give him a penny and he’ll give it back”

This C19th engraving gives a sense of the raucous nature of the guild day.


In the marketplace,  outside the extant Sir Garnet (Wolseley )pub. (c) Picture Norfolk at Norfolk County Council

Although much of the pageantry disappeared after the passing of the Municipal Corporation Reform Act of 1835 it survived in mock pageants held in the district of Pockthorpe and in the nearby village of Costessey [1]. This 1887 photograph of the Costessey guild day nicely captures the flummery that accompanied the election of the ‘mayor’.


(c) Picture Norfolk at Norwich County Council

In 1951, Snap the Dragon was still being used in civic parades and is seen here accompanied by two whifflers (from Old English wifel for battle-axe) who, historically, carried weapons to clear the way through the crowd. The photograph is believed to be of the Pockthorpe Dragon, now stored by Norfolk Museums Service [2]

Festival procession snapdragon and whiffler [4008] 1951-06-24.jpg

(c) georgeplunkett.co.uk

Until the mid C20th another version of Snap was displayed in Back’s wine merchants in Haymarket, once known as the medieval Curat’s House [3], now landlocked behind a modern frontage (currently Fatface). During renovations the owner of a nearby shop discovered paperwork showing that Back’s used ‘Old Snap’ in their advertising.

Backs snapdragon.jpg

Probably the most famous Norwich dragon is to be found in Dragon Hall. In ca 1427, on the site of a previous building, wealthy textile merchant Robert Toppes [4] constructed a trading hall then known by the wonderful name, Splytts. Three-times mayor Toppes was member of the St George’s Guild, a fact celebrated in the beautifully-carved winged dragon in a roof spandrel.

dragon hall norwich3.jpg

Three pairs of dragons are to be found in the refectory roof of the Great Hospital, near the cathedral. The hospital has continuously provided for the needy since 1249, when it was built by Bishop Walter de Suffield to care for poor clergy, and is now a residential care home.


Also in the Great Hospital, in St Helen’s Church, is a fine example of the devil as the dragon. The dragon is said to have swallowed St Margaret of Antioch but her cross irritated the dragon, allowing her to break free. Here she is shown on a medieval pew end emerging from the dragon’s belly, illustrating her role as the patron saint of pregnancy and childbirth.

St Margaret.jpg

On St Ethelbert’s Gate of the nearby cathedral is another spandrel dragon, restored in the C19th. The dragon, facing an armed man/saint on the opposite side of the arch, may allude to a bloody C13th conflict between clergy and citizens for which 30 rioters were hanged [5]

spandrel St Ethelbert.jpg

Norwich Cathedral contains over 1100 roof bosses carved in stone: this boss is from the cloisters [6]. The swordsman’s nonchalant gaze could almost come from a piece-to-camera on how to kill a dragon.

norwich cathedral boss.jpg

C14th, Cloisters, Norwich Cathedral

Only yards away a rampant dragon appears amongst a series of coats of arms painted in the arches of the cloisters (restored in the 1930s). These represent the worthies who entertained Queen Elizabeth I during her progress to Norwich in 1578. The arms below belong to the queen herself and incorporate the lion of England and the dragon of Wales derived from her grandfather Henry Tudor.

Elizabeth 1 coat of arms.jpg

The city’s allegiance to the Tudors is also expressed in the first two of these exuberantly-carved bench ends in the Mayor’s Court of the Guildhall. The greyhound (lower left), with jewelled collar around its neck, represents the Beaufort line of Henry VII’s mother Margaret while the Welsh dragon (centre) refers to Henry Tudor’s Celtic father. And because of its imagination and skill  I couldn’t resist adding (right) the greedy dragon from St Agnes Cawston (although the beast would be more frightening if its head were less like a labrador’s).


Visitors to King’s College Chapel Cambridge will be familiar with the dragon and greyhound from the numerous Royal Coat of Arms that Henry Tudor displayed to impress his entitlement to the throne.

Tudor arms.jpg

St George Tombland contains more dragons than any other Norwich church with the beast rendered in  cast bronze, a C16th Germanic relief plaque, a  weather vane as a font cover, and even some Snap-the-Dragons. The stained glass window of St George and the Dragon is by CC Powell 1907.


Here is one of Norfolk’s treasures, St George wielding a sword to vanquish the dragon; from the rood screen at St Helen Ranworth (late C15th).

St GeorgeRanworth2.jpg

… and demonstrating that dragons are still alive in the city of dragons.

Should twenty thousand dragons rise, I’d fight them all before your eyes!


By Malca Schotten, 2016. Based on Snap, part of Norwich BID’s mural programme. Red Lion Street

Thanks to David Kingsley for the Back’s ‘Snap’ advertisement, to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk at Norfolk County Council for permission to use images, the staff of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery for showing me their dragons, and Jumara Mulcahy of Norwich BID.

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visit: www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk



  1. http://www.dragonglow.co.uk/snap.htm
  2. http://www.nor-folk.co.uk/Norwich%20Dragon/aliens.html
  3. http://wp.me/p71GjT-3Zt
  4. http://wp.me/p71GjT-t
  5. http://wp.me/p71GjT-32e
  6. Rose, Martial and Hedgecoe, Julia (1997). Stories in Stone: The medieval roof carvings of Norwich Cathedral.  Herbert Press.

Read about Norwich’s dragons in http://www.heritagecity.org/events-festivals/norwich-dragon-festival/norwichs-dragons.htm

Decorative tiles


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There are so few art nouveau buildings in this country but many homes around 1900 would have possessed beautiful examples of the art in the form of ceramic tiles. I used to collect them. They were used as inserts in fireplaces, as splash backs on washstands, panels in doorways and even as teapot stands. Tiles provided a relatively cheap and easy access to designers of the day such as William Morris, Walter Crane, Leon Solon and William de Morgan. The fourth tile below is a favourite, designed by Lewis F Day, a prominent member of the Arts and Crafts Movement.


Tiles 1 and 3 are by JH Barratt (1904); tiles 2 and 4 are by Pilkington’s (ca 1895) and designed by Lewis Foreman Day – the fourth bearing his raised initials. 

Similar tiles can be seen as decorative panels in porches around the Golden Triangle. Whitehall Road and Kingsley Road have good examples.


The Norwich foundry of Barnard Bishop and Barnards was internationally recognised for its Aesthetic Movement fireplaces for which Thomas Jeckyll had designed the japonaise motifs cast into the surface of their products. But by the time Jeckyll died in 1881 fashions had moved on and tiled inserts had become a major decorative element.


A selection of tiles offered by Barnard Bishop and Barnards at their London showroom, 1884. Courtesy, Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.

William de Morgan designed his most popular tile for Barnard Bishop and Barnards’ Norwich Ironworks. The fanned carnation is known as the BBB design in recognition of the fact that Barnards had given him his first large order for tiles to be placed in their cast-iron fireplaces [1].


Wm de Morgan’s ‘BBB’ tiles (left) and one of his designs (right). In production from 1898. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Great Yarmouth’s wonderful Hippodrome (1903) displayed these Art Nouveau letter tiles [9].

Yarmouth Hippodrome2.jpg

Similar tiles can be found in Norwich’s Haymarket Chambers, built by George Skipper (1901-2); these are incorporated into the facade above the narrow entrance to the Lamb Inn, situated in the courtyard behind.


It is not known who made the tiles but a few years earlier Skipper commissioned Doulton’s WJ Neatby – of Harrod’s Food Hall fame – to produce these art nouveau tiles for The Royal Arcade (see previous article).


Neatby decorated the spandrels of the central crossing of the arcade with tiles depicting a young woman who, in preliminary drawings, was intended to be holding a sign of the zodiac. In Brooklyn, at about the same time as the arcade was built (1899), Zaida Ben-Yusuf produced  what appears to be a self-portrait of a woman contemplating a pomegranate. The similarities are striking.


Left: Zodiac figure by WJ Neatby (1899); right: ‘The Odor of Pomegranates’ 1899 by Zaida Ben-Yusuf (ca 1899).

But recently, I saw this pressed leather panel decorating a cupboard in a junk shop. The figure is based on the 1896 Zodiac poster by Alphonse Mucha, surely the original inspiration for the models above?


The 2016 exhibition at Tate Britain, ‘Painting with Light’ [3] examined the cross-referencing between early photographs and painting. In it, Ben-Yusuf’s photograph was compared with Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s painting of ‘Proserpine’, Empress of Hades(1874). Jupiter agreed to release Proserpine back to Earth provided she hadn’t tasted Hades’ fruit: but she had eaten a single seed. As the exhibition notes suggest, Rosetti may have been examining his feelings for his muse Jane, the wife of his friend William Morris, the model for his painting and his soon-to-be lover.


Proserpine 1874 Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828-1882 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05064. Creative Commons

Patterns on tiles can be made in several ways. Raised outlines can be impressed on the blank during manufacture but tube-lining depends on the direct hand of the artist. For this, semi-liquid clay is squeezed through a nozzle onto a blank tile to form a raised outline and the areas between are then painted with coloured glazes before firing.

Shapland and Petter cabinet.jpg

Cabinet by Shapland and Petter of Barnstaple with tube-lined tile containing a Dutch scene; such scenes were popular ca 1900-1910. 

The Norwich Heritage Open Days 2016 gave access to two tiled fireplaces not normally seen by the public. The first is in Carrow Abbey. The C12th abbey was founded as a Benedictine nunnery and was considerably renovated (1899-1909) for mustard magnate J J Colman by Edward Boardman, who had married into the Colman family.