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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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
  2. Girouard, Marc (1977). Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement 1860-1900. Pub: Yale University Press.
  3. James Minns, Carver of Norwich. Mentioned also in previous blog [9]:
  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].
  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

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.


When Norwich was the centre of the world*


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*… 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)

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.

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(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 It is an amazing resource and Sarah encourages visits and invitations to talk (


  2. Rawcliffe, C., Wilson, R. and Clark, C. (2004). Norwich since 1550. Pub: A&C Black.
  4. Gage, A.T. (1938). A History of the Linnean Society of London. Pub: Linnean Society London.
  6. Do read Joe Mason’s fascinating blog on this house, where his family had lived.
  8. Quote from Tony Irwin page 20.
  11. White, P. (1999). The purchase of knowledge: James Edward Smith and the Linnean Collections. Endeavour 23: 126-129.

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.



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)

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)

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)

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 in the 1930s 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)

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.

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RG Carter’s son Bob (in school cap) with workmen outside The Constitution Tavern (c)

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]. 

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Murrell’s Yard, King Street, Norwich 1936 (c)

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

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.

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

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


  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.

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 (

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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].

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Not Signor Villecrop.

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].

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Courtesy Terry Drayton

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

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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 …

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… 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.

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“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) 

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.

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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].

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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:



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


  2. John Riddington Young (1975). The Inns and Taverns of Old Norwich. Pub: Wensum Books.
  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.
  6.  Scots Magazine June 1785
  7. Terry Coleman (1965). The Railway Navvies. Pub: Hutchinson.


Jeckyll and the Japanese wave


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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])

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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.

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(c) Picture Norfolk. Norfolk Museums Service

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

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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.

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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


  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:




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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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.

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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.

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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… 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:



  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

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].

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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 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.

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Carrow Abbey, prioress’ parlour (1940). Courtesy

This neo-Gothic fireplace has been decorated with beautiful, large, raised tiles in the Iznik style that had such an influential effect on William de Morgan during his ‘Persian’ phase. However, these tiles are not flat but embossed and there is nothing to indicate that de Morgan produced such moulded tiles.

Carrow Abbey tiles.jpg

Fireplace, Carrow Abbey. Courtesy Andy Maule.

A prolonged trawl through the internet produced a tile in the identical pattern and colourway [4]. The labels says it is a Qajar Iznik-style tile, origin Iran, ca C19th. So, not by de Morgan but direct from his source of inspiration.


The second ‘Heritage Day’ fireplace is in Curat’s House (for online tour see [5]). The house at numbers 3-4 Haymarket – once Back’s pub and wine bar, now Fatface – is a well-preserved timber-framed medieval building secreted behind a later facade.

Curat's House Norwich.jpg

The hidden medieval Curat’s House (star) runs at right angles to Haymarket/Gentleman’s Walk. The Octagon is part of St Peter Mancroft. Google Earth (c) 2016 Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky

The late C15th-early C16th house was home to John Curat, mercer. Curat’s House was built on the site of an earlier house with a vaulted crypt that had been part of the Old Jewry – the Jewish quarter since the arrival of the Normans [6]. The overhanging jetties of the timber building are now disguised at ground floor level by the C20th shopfront and the upper floors by Georgian brickwork.

Curats House Norwich.jpg

The Delft tiles in the first floor fireplace are described as ‘original’ but tin-glazed blue and white tiles have been made ever since the C16th, first in The Netherlands then in England.  Delftware can be difficult to date with accuracy, as the tile below demonstrates…

G&G Delft tile480.jpg

‘Gilbert and George’ tile made in Spitalfields 1985 by Simon Pettet [7].

Another hidden gem: to the side of the covered courtyard in the ancient Maid’s Head Hotel in Tombland is a small, panelled Jacobean bar. It was supposed to have been the innkeeper’s snug and contains this lovely Dutch-tiled fireplace.

Maids Head.jpg

In contrast to ceramic tiles, where the decoration is painted as a surface glaze, encaustic tiles were made by pressing a pattern into wet clay then filling the impression with different-coloured liquid clays, or by compressing clay dusts under high pressure. Encaustic tiles had been around since the medieval period but their popularity peaked in the second half of the C19th, during the Gothic Revival. A fine example can be seen at the chapel of the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, designed by Thomas Henry Wyatt and  Edward Boardman in 1879-84.

NN chapel.jpg

Two identical marble tile mosaics, one in the Guildhall (left) and the other in the Norwich Technical Institute (later the School of Art, now Norwich University of the Arts, right), are thought to have been made around 1900 by craftsmen from the Italian community living in Ber Street. The two City Arms are identical but the backgrounds are different. The 28 bees could  reasonably represent the busy students of the Technical Institute but what was meant by the 22 shrimp-like motifs in the Guildhall (anyone?).

Mosaic .jpg

About a decade later (1912), the School of Art at Great Yarmouth was designed by JW ‘Concrete’ Cockrill. Just before the restoration of this proto-modernist building in 2010 this fine tiled facade had been obliterated with white paint [8]. In contrast to the Art Nouveau curlicues on the Yarmouth Hippodrome [9], built by his son RS Cockrill in 1903, these tiles form an austerely geometric pattern reminiscent of the Viennese Secession. GYSchoolArt_1.jpg


Thanks to: Hannah Henderson (Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell), Andy Maule (for the Carrow Abbey photo) and Michelle Ivimey and Steve Ryan (of RMG Ltd, for access to the old N&N chapel).

The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   Visit:






Hands off our bollards!


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Little things mean a lot

I’m breaking my three-weekly posting cycle to speak out against the city council’s attempts to remove decorative ironwork from one of the city’s conservation areas.

bollards2.jpgThe bollards in question guard the alleyway between Clarendon Road and Neville Street in the Heigham Grove Conservation Area. See the cast-iron railings on the adjacent house? The council’s own conservation appraisal of the area highlights these in its excellent document and says:

“Several surviving cast iron railings along Clarendon Road are particularly fine and rare examples of once common Victorian ironwork”.

Now, without consultation, the city council wants to replace these bollards to make the alleyway accessible to its mechanical sweepers. There must be a way to preserve them.

One argument for their removal is that the bollards are no older than the 1980s but the George Plunkett archive of historic Norwich clearly shows the same type of cast-iron bollard around the green outside St Gregory’s Church in 1931. So the pattern is at least 85 years old and almost certainly Victorian.

St Gregory's 1931.jpg


The same design can still be seen bordering the green today…

St Gregorys bollards.jpg

… and at other historically-sensitive sites, such as the steps from the market to St Peter Mancroft, the area around Bishop Bridge and steps between Davey Place and the Castle. This design is much more in keeping with these historical sites than the hollow-cast replacements.

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Clarendon bollard (left), Davey Place steps (right)

Why this matters  Norwich is a fine city, not just because of its shopping malls, but because of the incredibly rich heritage that confronts visitors at every turn. It is the historical texture of the place – what John Litster of the Norwich Society calls ‘patina’ – that visitors find so rewarding. But we have to fight for it. Remember, it was only the casting vote of the mayor in 1924 that prevented our major tourist attraction – Elm Hill – from being demolished. The council meets to discuss the Clarendon bollards early next week so please act now.

What you can do  

  1. Sign this petition
  2. e-mail Luke Powell of the Norwich Evening News who has been following this campaign.
  3. Become engaged via The Norwich Society. Contact administrator John Litster on

Stained Glass: Arts & Crafts to Art Nouveau



After writing about medieval church glass in a few posts this article is about the stained glass that decorated secular buildings in the late C19th/early C20th century (plus a few latecomers).


Fanlight in office on All Saints’ Green, Norwich

But first, why the three hundred year gap in glass making until its revival in the mid-C19th?  Norwich was once an important centre for medieval glass painting  [1, 2]]. The kaleidoscopic appearance of this window, with a feathered angel playing a lute and a reflection of a disembodied hand doing the same above, suggests it was salvaged after one of the waves of destruction that followed the Protestant Reformation (C16-C17).


C15th Norwich School painted glass from All Saints Bale, Norfolk [3

Medieval glass was almost exclusively religious. These C16th Norwich School roundels are refreshing for depicting non-biblical characters at work (plus a king enjoying the fruits of their labours)[4].


Four (of eight) ‘Labours of the Months’ roundels ca 1500-1525, attributed to John Wattock [4]. Clockwise from top left: ‘Pruning’, ‘A King Feasting’, ‘Harvesting Grapes’, ‘Sheltering from a Storm’.(c) Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Painted vs stained glass. ‘Painted glass’ refers to the process of painting the pattern with a solution of metallic salts (e.g. silver nitrate) before firing, as in the medieval glass above. ‘Stained glass’ also includes pieces of coloured glass arranged in a pattern and held together by strips of lead.

After the puritanical rampage there was little ecclesiastical glass-making until the great religious revival of the C19th. In 1861, William Morris founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co with his Pre-Raphaelite friends, including Rosetti, Ford Madox Brown and Burne-Jones. The company initially focused on church glass but some of their patterns were applicable to the home. Taste-makers were keen to bring something of the Gothic/Arts and Crafts Revivals into their houses and the fashion for domestic stained glass can largely be traced to Morris & Co, for whom Edward Burne-Jones was a main designer [5].


‘Penelope’, stained and painted glass panel, designed for Morris & Co by Edward Burne-Jones – a major designer for the firm ca 1864. (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This large house in Eaton, Norwich was built in 1905 as a late example of the English Domestic Revival style.  The large window on the half-landing contains a series of nine painted-glass roundels based on the ‘Signs of the Zodiac’.


The remaining three signs of the zodiac are fitted into a round window to the side.


The hand-painted glass  below is very much in the Arts and Crafts tradition. It is in the 1852 Heigham house built by Robert Tillyard, a leather merchant and one of the founders of  the Norvic shoe factory  [6, and previous post].


Stylistically, these paintings resemble Aesthetic Movement portraits of the 1870s-1880s. ‘Juliet’s’ strong chin, below, is reminiscent of Morris’ wife, Jane.


The top figure is unlabelled; the lower pair bear the names Juliet and Elaine. Could these be a romanticised version of Tillyard’s wife Julia and his daughter Ellen?

In contrast to the unique paintings of Tillyard’s family, the coloured glass panels that decorated so many late Victorian doors were made in large quantities. Realistically-painted  birds and flowers are typical of domestic glass of this period.


Late Victorian stained glass door panels in the Golden Triangle, Norwich. The inset shows the left-hand panel containing painted bird and flowers.


Front door panel in a 1900 house Cecil Road, Norwich

Below, the flowers in the vase are not painted but assembled from individual pieces of coloured glass. The sinuous line of the leadwork and the move to abstraction anticipates the arrival of Art Nouveau.


Door panels in a house on Unthank Road

The house with the Arts and Crafts ‘Signs of the Zodiac’ glass (above) also has stained glass  (below) containing the stylised Mackintosh rose of the Glasgow School (ca 1905). This nicely illustrates how glass design developed: from its early Arts and Crafts origins through to the Art Nouveau that persisted in some form until the First World War.


The highly stylised, and less sinuous, Mackintosh rose – the more muscular version of Scottish art nouveau.

Comparison between Victorian-looking stained glass and the new designs of the early C20th shows the simplification that occurred once Art Nouveau struck: patterns were less fussy and designs tended towards the abstract.


Left, a window from George Skipper’s Hotel de Paris, Cromer (1895) and, right, an Art Nouveau door panel from Unthank Road (ca 1910) illustrate different ways of handling a similar theme: the design on the left is mostly painted, the right is a mosaic of coloured glass set in lead.

The upper window lights around the dining room in the Hotel de Paris offer a scenic tour around Cromer. The glass paintings appear to have been skilfully copied from photographs.


Hotel de Paris Cromer dining room has painted roundels depicting sights around the area; here, the town itself

By contrast, Art Nouveau-influenced glass is hardly representational; flowers, for instance, were not necessarily identifiable, just generically floral.

Christchurch Rd.jpg

Stained glass fanlight and door panel on Christchurch Road


Two panels, bearing stylised flowers, and a fanlight in stained glass, Park Lane, Norwich

As part of this simplification the lead itself became an intrinsic part of the overall pattern. Of practical importance, the relatively small amount of stained glass allowed more light into the hallway.


The colours here are subdued. Valentine Street, Norwich


Larger houses ca 1900 had room for six-panel windows on the half-landing. Mile End Road, Norwich


Front door panel from an Arts and Crafts house (built 1904) on Lindley Street, Norwich


Upper lights in a bay window of the same house on Lindley Street


Hall window of Lindley Street house showing opalescent glass panels

George Skipper’s Royal Arcade (see previous post) is the city’s most expressive Art Nouveau building. This semi-circular stained glass panel above the east entrance contains birds flying amongst trees bearing stylised daisy-like flowers.


East end of Royal Arcade 1899

The Royal Arcade, with Art Nouveau tiles designed by WJ Neatby of Doulton Lambeth, is decorated with peacocks.  In this large stained glass window the repeated motifs resemble the eyes of peacocks’ feathers.


Back of The Royal Arcade, first floor Jamie’s Italian (not accessible to the public)

After the First World war, and the demise of Art Nouveau, stained glass door panels often depicted cosy, reassuring images, as in these adjoining houses in Cecil Road.


Door panels from adjoining houses ca 1920-30

Although the glaziers of the interwar years rejected a return to the pared down geometry of the Art Nouveau, they were content to use other, more representational images from around 1900, like the sailing ship (see post on The Sailing Ship as an Arts and Crafts Motif).


Left: interwar house on Kett’s Hill; St Stephen’s Road ca 1905.


The Gatehouse PH (subject of previous post) was built in 1934. This turreted building also looks back to the Arts and Crafts style, with cartoon-like medieval glass to match.


Montage of cameos from The Gatehouse PH, Dereham Road. 

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The benefits of reading. Above entrance of Mile Cross Branch Library, Aylsham Road, Norwich 1931


The benefits of drinking. Advertising glass at The Ribs of Beef PH at Fye Bridge,Norwich


The Norwich Society helps people enjoy and appreciate the history and character of Norwich.   More details on their website


Thanks to Keith Roberts, Grant Young and Gareth Lewis and all who let me photograph their glass.


  1. Woodforde, Christopher (1950). The Norwich School of Glass-Painting in the Fifteenth Century. Pub: Oxford University Press.
  2. See previous post on Norfolk’s stained glass angels
  4. Vance, Francesca (2013). Stained Glass Roundels: the Labours of the Months.

    In,  Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia, exhibition catalogue (ed Ian Collins) SCVA.

  6. Holmes, Frances and Michael (2013). The Story of the Norwich Boot and Shoe Trade. Pub:

Angels in tights


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Angels aren’t as common as they used to be. Five hundred years ago, before the Reformation, church was where most people would see artistic representations. The subject matter was strictly religious with angels playing important parts. Angels were ubiquitous and could be seen painted on rood screens, or as wooden roof angels, on wall paintings, painted glass and carved in stone. The way that angels were represented in these religious contexts may, however, have borrowed something from less strictly religious mystery plays.


Archangel Gabriel wears a feather suit. C15th Norwich School glass, from St Peter’s Ringland. 

In medieval mystery plays the angels would wear – in addition to wings – feathers that covered the body, ending neatly at neck and ankle. These costumes are variously described as ‘feather tights'[1] or feather-covered ‘pyjama suits’[2]. The roof angel below is covered with only few ‘feathers’ but this probably reflects the case that such body suits may have been covered with scale-like flaps of cloth or leather to represent feathers [1].


Roof angel, St Agnes Cawston, Norfolk, adorned in relatively few large flaps painted as feathers. The Cawston angels are unique in standing upright on the hammer beams. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was fascinated by them (below).

In the early C13th, Pope Innocent III became so concerned about the growing popularity of clergy in these mystery plays that he banned them from appearing. The dramas were taken over by town guilds who courted popularity by dispensing with Latin and adding comic scenes [3]. Such performances were known to have taken place at York, Coventry and Norwich. From Norwich, one play survived: this was performed by the Grocer’s Guild and named Paradyse [3] or The Fall of Adam and Eve [4]. The text of the Norwich Stonemasons’ play, ‘Cain and Abel’ is lost [4]. The Norwich guilds are likely to have mounted their parts of the cycle in a pageant, which involved elaborate ‘pageant wagons’ [2], staged on the early summer feast of Corpus Christi [5]. This C19th engraving of the Coventry mystery pageant gives an idea of what such events looked like.


Coventry Mystery Pageant, engraved by David Gee (1793-1872). Source: Beinecke Library

There were nine orders of angels, ranked in order of importance [6]. Chief were the seraphim, with three pairs of wings (often depicted in red): one pair for shielding their eyes  from God, one pair for flying and the third pair for covering their feet in respect. However, some say the latter were for covering their genitals, representing base instincts, and this is how they can appear in medieval images.


Six-winged angel at St Peter, Ketteringham, Norfolk. Norwich School painted glass late C15th

Cherubim had four wings, usually depicted in blue. Then, after Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers and Principalities we come to the more familiar Archangels who transmitted messages from God as Gabriel is doing in the first image above. Last were Angels – intermediaries between heaven and earth. Clarence was James Stewart’s guardian angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Its a wonderful life RKO.jpg

Clarence Odbody (Angel Second Class). From “It’s a Wonderful Life” RKO 1946

Some of the most beautiful medieval images of feathered angels in the country can be seen in Norfolk’s rood screens. Two stunning examples are at Ranworth and Barton Turf. Below, one of the Archangels, the “debonair and fantastical” [7] Michael, slays a many-headed dragon. The dragon probably represents Satan, who – according to Milton in Paradise Lost – was wounded by Michael in personal combat [6A].


Archangel St Michael from the church of St Helen, Ranworth, Norfolk. (C15th).

While most of the 12 screen panels in Ranworth represent saints, the equally beautiful rood screen at Barton Turf offers a rare depiction of The  Angel Hierarchy. The painting can be dated to the late C15th based on the detailing on the armour [7].


Cherubim (left) have gold feathers, two pairs of wings and are typically covered with eyes. To the right is one of the Principalities. At St Michael and All Angels, Barton Turf, Norfolk


Left, Archangel Raphael – the leader of the Powers (usually depicted in their armour) – with a chained demon beneath his foot. The face on the devil’s belly denotes  base appetites. Right, one of the Virtues. 

Thrones n Archangel.jpg

Left: one of the Thrones holding scales, presumably for weighing souls. (This Throne has six wings normally used to depict Seraphim [6]). Right: an Archangel in late C15th plate armour. Note the fashionable late C15th turban.

During the Reformation then the Civil War the iconoclasts, who were most active in East Anglia, destroyed countless idolatrous and superstitious images so it is surprising that so much of the Barton Turf masterpiece survives intact. Only two of the panels were defaced.


The Dominion (left) and Seraphim (right) were probably defaced because of their papist tiara and incense-containing censer, respectively.

Curiously, the feathered angels swinging censers in the spandrels of the west doorway at Salle [8]– less than 20 miles from Barton Turf – were untouched by the iconoclasts.


St Peter and St Paul, Salle, Norfolk

Angels were commonly depicted playing musical instruments. A favourite is this beautiful painting of an angel playing a harp at All Saints East Barsham. The glass was probably painted in the latter part of the C15th by the Norwich workshop of John Wighton [9] (see my first blog post on Norfolk’s Stained Glass Angels).


The harpist wears a fashionable turban. The ‘ears of barley’ at the bottom are typical of the Norwich School’s way of depicting wood grain.

Another harp player at St Peter and St Paul, Salle.SalleAngelHarp.jpg

At St Mary’s North Tuddenham this angel plays the lute…NthTuddLute1.jpg

… and at St Peter Hungate, Norwich – bagpipes HungateBagpipes.jpg

One of the glories of East Anglia is the large number of angel roofs, 84% of which are found in this region [13]. David Rimmer has examined two explanations for this. The first focuses on the Lollard heresy. (The name derives from their mumbling at prayer [from Middle Dutch lollaert = mutter]). Lollards were followers of John Wycliffe who – over a hundred years before the Protestant Reformation – objected to the pomp, imagery and idolatry of the Catholic Church. Their first martyr, who was burnt at the stake in London 1401, had been priest at St Margaret’s King’s Lynn. Lynn’s church of St Nicholas was the site of East Anglia’s first angel roof (1405-9) [13] suggesting that the large number of angels in East Anglia could be a counterblast to the Lollardism that was rife throughout this region.  In Norwich, men and women were burnt in Lollards Pit, a chalk pit once used for digging the foundations of the cathedral.

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Lollards’ Pit pub near Bishop Bridge, Norwich

Another hypothesis involves the Royal Carpenter Hugh Herland who had created the first angel roof at Westminster Hall in 1398. Herland and his craftsmen came to make the new harbour at Great Yarmouth and it is argued that his influence spread throughout the region (although the first datable angel roof was in Kings Lynn [then Bishops Lynn] rather than Great Yarmouth).

Norwich has five angel roofs: St Mary Coslany, St Michael at Plea, St Peter Hungate, St Giles and St Peter Mancroft [13]. St Peter Mancroft Norwich has a particularly fine mid C15th angel roof, said by Michael Rimmer to be “virtuoso medieval carpentry” [13]. The Perpendicular fan vaulting in wood masks hammerbeams whose free ends are capped by angels.


St Peter Mancroft, Norwich

Cawston, north of Norwich, has one of the finest angel roofs. As well as the demi-angels with spread wings, forming a frieze around the wall plate, man-size angels stand vertically at the ends of each hammer beam as if ready to dive.

Cawston angels.jpg

Single hammer beam roof at St Peter and St Paul Knapton, Norfolk

Thrust from the heavy roof tends to splay the walls outwards. Opposite walls can be held together by tie braces that span the width of the church but in hammerbeam roofs, the force is deflected downwards onto the jutting hammerbeams beams that only project partway into the volume. Cawston has a single row of these hammerbeams. Below, Knapton has double hammerbeams, allowing an ‘amazing’ span of 70 feet [7]. Double-deckered angels at the ends of these beams, together with two rows on the wall plate, result in a total of 138 angels.  KnaptonRoof.jpg

The roof was added to C14th Knapton church in 1503. This probably dates the earliest angels [7] although some clearly derive from later restorations – the lower rank from the 1930s [10]. Note that the post-medieval angels no longer appear to wear feather tights.


One of the lower Knapton angels, dating from the restoration of the 1930s

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is associated with East Anglia by the pencil and watercolour drawings he made when he and wife Margaret stayed in Walberswick, Suffolk, in 1914. But he had previously visited Knapton, Norfolk, in 1896/7.

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Knapton roof angels. Creative Commons. Source: Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections 1897 [11]

According to the Hunterian Gallery’s archive in Glasgow, Mackintosh had toured Norfolk with fellow architects Alfred Greig and John Stewart, ‘possibly’ in 1896.  This is his sketch of a Cawston angel standing at the end of a hammerbeam.


Charles Rennie Mackintosh pencil drawing.  Roof truss St Agnes Cawston 1896? (c) The Hunterian Museum Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2016.[14]

Booton St Michael was enthusiastically but eccentrically revived in Victorian Gothic Revival style by Reverend Whitwell Elwin, a local man who claimed to be a descendant of the North American Indian princess Pocahontas [12]. Completed in 1891, his updating of the medieval church gets a mixed reception from various commentators: Simon Jenkins thought the interior was “blighted by the customary Victorian frigidity” although architect Edwin Lutyens concluded it was “very naughty but built in the right spirit” [12]. But Lutyens had a vested interest since he married one of the ‘Blessed Girls’ – the seemingly numerous young beauties whose portraits appear in the tracery glass [12, 13].


Most agree that the stained glass and roof angels made up for other misjudgements. The local master carpenter James Minns carved this hovering roof angel at Booton [13]. BootonAngel.jpg

James Minns is also credited with designing the bull’s head emblem for Colman’s mustard [13].


Left to the end: how Jeremiah James Colman made his money [15]


Just as I was finishing this article, Costessey resident Peter Mann responded to a previous blog article on Gunton’s brickworks by naming all the workers (below) at the Costessey brickyard.  Excitingly, he identified the arrowed figure as James Minns with John Minns seated on his right. Both were labelled as “Carvers of Norwich”, consistent with census returns giving their occupations as ‘carver’ (or, once for James, ‘sculptor’).  The entry for Minns [16] on the Mapping of Sculpture website gives his full name as James Benjamin Shingles Minns (ca 1828-1904). James was sufficiently confident of his skill to submit (successfully) a carved wooden panel of ‘A Happy Family’ to the 1897 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy; he had also carved the mantelpiece and panelling for Thomas Jeckyll’s commission for the Old Library at Carrow Abbey (1860-1) [17]. The presence of this highly skilled sculptor and (I presume) his son at the Costessey Brickyard strongly suggests that they carved the moulds for the ornate ‘fancy’ bricks and panels for which Guntons were locally renowned. From his independent status as ‘Carver’ it seems possible that “James Minns of Heigham” [17] might have been freelance rather than a full-time employee, especially since his address was ca. five miles away from the Costessey Brickyard. Minns@Guntons.jpg

Employees of the Guntons Brickyard Costessey. James Minns is arrowed (white) with his son John, arrowed red. Pre-1904. (c) Ernest Gage Collection at Costessey Town Council


Norwich is a small city and its many lines of history are interwoven. A previous blog focused on the Boileau Memorial Fountain once sited at the junction of Newmarket and Ipswich Roads. James Minns collaborated again with architect Thomas Jeckyll by carving this coat of arms in the tympanum of the fountain [17].


Minns of Heigham” [17] carved this plaque for the Boileau Fountain formerly at the Newmarket/Ipswich Road junction. (C) Norfolk Library and Information Service: Picture Norfolk

Back at Booton and another angel – the statue of St Michael above the porch … Richard Cocke [18] has suggested that Minns could have sculpted the model for Archangel Michael.


Church of St Michael Booton. A rather stern St Michael sheaths his sword, with a bemused Jabberwockian dragon at his feet. Attributed to sculptor James Minns.


  6. Ref 6A:
  7. Mortlock, D.P. and Roberts, C.V. (1981). The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches; I. North-East Norfolk. Pub: Acorn Editions, Fakenham.
  9. King, David. (2004). Glass Painting. In, Medieval Norwich eds C. Rawcliffe and R.Wilson. Pub, Hambledon and London. pp121-136.
  12. Jenkins, Simon(2000). England’s Thousand Best Churches. Pub: Penguin.
  17. Soros, Susan Weber and Arbuthnott, Catherine (2003). Thomas Jeckyll: Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. Pub: BGC, Yale.

Thanks to Peter Mann for identifying James Minns; Brian Gage for giving permission to reproduce an image from the Ernest Gage Collection at Costessey Town Council; Paul Cooper for providing the new photograph of the Guntons workers; Jocelyn Grant of the Glasgow School of Art for assistance with Mackintosh’s (K)Napton angels; Michael Rimmer of for his help with the Norwich angels; and Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk.

Four brilliant sites


Norwich’s pre-loved buildings


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Who, at this Victorian horse market outside Norwich Castle, would have predicted that motor vehicles would displace horses from the city’s streets or that a shopping mall with space for over 1000 cars would be excavated where they once stood? This post is about once-vibrant buildings, such as stables, corn halls, weaving  sheds and leather boot and shoe manufactories, that outlived their original purpose and had to be reinvented in order to survive.

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Norwich horse market on site of former cattle market ca 1900. (c) Norfolk County Council

It is still possible to catch glimpses of life in the horse-drawn era.The words above this arch (shoeing, forge, livery, stable) in Orford Yard off Red Lion Street are a reminder of John Pollock’s veterinary surgery and livery stables. The date on the building’s Dutch gable gives the date of this Edward Boardman building as 1902. Boardman turns out to be a major figure in this post.Looses Norwich.jpg The yard now accommodates Loose’s Cookshop and Chez Denis cafe and brasserie. Until 1998 the owner of Chez Denis had a previous business here, Cafe des Amis, the name of which can just be made out above the central arch in the photograph below.

Red Lion St Orford Yard former stables [7536] 1998-03-10.jpg

Former stables 1998, Orford Yard (c)

By 1840 Norwich’s weaving industry had been in decline for some years. Its hand-loom weavers were unable to compete with the steam-powered mills of the north whose better transport and production of popular cotton goods affected the sale of Norfolk’s more traditional worsteds [1]. As a consequence the shoe industry, which had been active for centuries, assumed a more dominant role. In the middle of the C20th there were about thirty boot and shoe manufacturers in Norwich that, together with allied trades, employed over 10,000 people. Now there is only one major shoe-maker, Van-Dal. This wall is all that remains of the Co-op Shoe Factory in Mountergate, and was only allowed to remain “as a baffle against traffic noise for Parmentergate Court” [2]. Coop factory.jpg


Above the gate,  the last vestige of ‘Norwich Cooperative Industrial Society Limited’?

While the grander C19th public buildings tended to adhere to the binary choice between  Classical or (particularly in the north of England) Gothic styles, the popularity of Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace of the 1851 Great Exhibition introduced a further option. Cast-iron was cheap and strong and, being able to support large expanses of glass on thin glazing bars, opened up new possibilities in which brick and stone were no longer the major players. In 1863, Holmes and Sons – who manufactured and sold agricultural machinery – built this showroom on Rose Lane. Now it is known as Crystal House and home to Warings furniture store.


The elegant facade of Crystal House (1863) – a great favourite of mine. 

Haldinstein’s began making shoes in the early C19th and up until the early 1960s their Boot and Shoe Manufactory occupied seven blocks of buildings between Queen Street and Princes Street [1, 1a]. In the 1930s the firm went into partnership with the Swiss shoe company Bally but by the time shoe production stopped in 1999 only Bally remained [1]. The building at 2-4 Queen Street was renamed Seebohm House and now contains several businesses. The factory is dated ‘1872’ on the rain heads and, like Edward Boardman’s Colegate shoe factory of the same period (1876, see further below), is distinctly ‘modern’ and quite unlike Gothic Revival buildings of that period. However, the building does not appear to have been listed as one of Boardman’s despite his offices being only a few yards further down Queen Street in Old Bank of England Court.


The last remnant of the Haldinstein and Bally factory at 2-4 Queen Street 

While the upper floors appear to look forward to C20th modernism – rejecting Neo-Gothic and Classical motifs – the appearance of the Gothic arch at the entrance is confusing and backward looking. The door grille, on the other hand, appears to anticipate the  Art Deco period.  Seebohm House2.jpg

Clarification lies in the Norfolk Record Office whose files reveal that Boardman did design the Haldinstein building. His original plan shows that the doorway shared the same  shallow (and decidedly non-Gothic) arch as the ground and first floor windows. The files also contain other plans by the Boardman practice, dated June 18th 1946, for “Proposed Alteration to Ground Floor”. These relate to a reorganisation of rooms but since this was the year that  George Haldinstein sold his 51% share to Bally [1] it strongly suggests that the Gothic entrance was a post-war addition as was the ground floor’s patterned stucco .


Boardman’s plan for Haldinstein’s Queen Street factory, with Philip Haldinstein’s signature over the sixpenny stamp. Note the original door and its surround. (c) Norfolk Record Office BR35/2/23/10/1-43

In 1870, Foster’s Elementary Education Act decreed that towns would build Board Schools in which the teaching of religion was to be strictly regulated [3]. Funded by the local rates these were amongst the first public institutions to be open to both sexes. Thousands of such schools were built throughout the country. For Norwich’s own Board School in Duke Street,  JH Brown designed a Higher Grade School that was opened in 1888. It was built by J Youngs and Sons (now a part of the RG Carter Group).

Duke St School plaque_1.jpg

The Norwich Board School in Duke Street with the city’s coat of arms to the left, surmounting “Literature, Science and Art”.

Probably following London’s influential board schools the Duke Street school was built in the contemporary and  progressive Queen Anne Revival style (see previous post). The school therefore has the Flemish, high-gabled silhouette with small-paned upper lights and tall casement windows typical of many of this country’s schools [3]. Recently, the building was extensively refurbished by the Norwich University of the Arts – not a major leap from its original purpose but a reflection of current trends in higher education.Duke St School.jpg

Counterbalancing the image of the Victorians’ high moral purpose is the former skating rink in Bethel Street, where fun could be had by gaslight. Built as a roller-skating rink in 1876 it was then used for ten years (1882-1892) by the Salvation Army as their Citadel (see previous blog). The Citadel was entered from St Giles Street via the iron gates adjacent to the Army’s present building that was once Mortimer’s Hotel. I remember the skating rink towards the end of its 100 year occupancy by Lacey and Lincoln, builders’ merchants, before it was refurbished by the present owners in the 1980s. Now, Country and Eastern  (below) is a spectacular eastern bazaar that – reflecting the owners’ interest in oriental culture – also contains a small museum of South Asian arts and crafts.

country and eastern.jpg

This factory-like building in St George’s Street was constructed in 1914 as premises for Guntons builders’ and plumbers’ merchants. At one time it was owned by Gunton and Havers – the latter being a relative of the actor Nigel Havers. Now the Gunton Building is another addition to the Norwich’s expanding University of the Arts.Guntons Building.jpg

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The Gunton & Havers building in St Georges Street, Norwich 25th March 1967 (c) Archant/EDP Library

St Giles House (41-45 St Giles Street) – one of George Skipper’s big, Baroque and slightly overblown buildings – should dominate the street but it is set parallel to the road and difficult for the passerby to see face-on. It was built in 1904-6 for the Norwich and London Accident Insurance Association just after the opening of another of Skipper’s projects, Surrey House, for rivals Norwich Union: in fact, it has been described as “the Norwich Union in miniature” [4]. Its first rebirth was as a telephone exchange and is sometimes referred to as Telephone House. George Plunkett described it as “Municipal offices until 1938. Education and Treasurer’s departments.” Now it is a luxury hotel, St Giles House.St Giles Hotel.jpg

In 1770-5, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital was built just outside St Stephen’s Gate by the architect William Ivory. However, the facade of the old hospital that we see today was the result of Edward Boardman’s makeover a century later. His pedimented Dutch gables and rather municipal clock tower do make it look like a town hall [4]. In 2001 a new hospital was built in the suburb of Colney and the old hospital was converted to apartments.NN hospital.jpg

Another building designed by Boardman architects (father EB and son ETB) was for the Norwich Electric Light Company. In 1892 they converted the old Duke’s Palace Ironworks to a site where coal-fired boilers generated electricity that, by 1913, lit over 1750 street lamps around the city. Only 13 years later, superseded by the power station at Thorpe, the over-worked Duke Street site was converted to offices [5]. Now the offices are used by car-sharing company Liftshare.Duke St electric offices2.jpg

The offices of the electricity works are dated 1913. Norwich City’s coat of arms is above the door.

Duke St 4 Electricity works floodlit [1633] 1937-05-13.jpg

Decorations on the floodlit electricity works celebrating the coronation of George VI (1937) (c) George Plunkett

Prolific Boardman had more effect on the appearance of Norwich than perhaps any other architect. His name lives on in Boardman House – the Church Rooms he designed along with the Congregational Chapel in 1879. In 2015 this building in Princes Street was imaginatively refurbished by Norwich University of the Arts to house the School of Architecture.Church Rooms.jpg

inside church rooms.jpg

Boardman House, interior. 2016.

In the latter part of the C19th Edward Boardman spearheaded Norwich’s expansion, from church rooms to factories – the very diversity of his projects underlining “his aesthetic flexibility”[6]. Howlett and White’s shoe factory (later the Norvic Shoe Co Ltd) became the largest in Britain and between 1876 and 1909 Boardman & Son designed various additions for the expanding enterprise [1]. By the 1930s Norvic occupied virtually all of the land from the river to Colegate and from Duke Street to St George’s Street. But in 1981 the business was in receivership after being asset-stripped of its shops after a takeover in the 1970s [1]. Now the former factory contains offices, apartments, The Last Winebar (a punning reference to its previous incarnation) and, since 2014, The Jane Austen Free School.


Part of Howlett & White’s ‘Norvic’ shoe factory. Edward Boardman designed right of the tower in 1876 and left in 1895.

In the face of competition from mills in the north of England, the mayor Samuel Bignold (son of the founder of Norwich Union) tried to bolster Norwich’s textile trade by establishing the Norwich Yarn Company. The company’s plaque – dated 1839 – can just be seen below the dome of St James’ Mill,  built on the site of a C13th Carmelite monastery.  Norwich Yarn Co.jpg

Ian Nairn of The Observer, who could be fierce in his architectural reviews, loved this building and called it “the noblest of all English Industrial Revolution Mills” [4]. Its engine-powered looms were not, however, sufficient to avert the threat to Norwich weaving. St James’ Mill was subsequently used by the chocolate manufacturers Caley’s and, until a few years ago, as Jarrold’s Printing Works. Currently, the mill houses private offices. Visit the John Jarrold Printing Museum,which is situated in a riverside building behind St James Mill.Jarrolds Mill.jpg

As a county town Norwich benefitted considerably from the agricultural wealth of the surrounding countryside for which it was the trading centre. In 1882 this was recognised in the inauguration of the Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall, designed for once by an architect other than Edward Boardman: JB Pearce. The opening ceremony was performed by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) as Patron of the wonderfully named Norfolk and Norwich Fat Cattle Show Association [7]. It is not recorded what the cattlemen thought of Oscar Wilde’s lecture on “The House Beautiful”given at the Hall some two years later. The building now houses Anglia TV’s offices and studios.Agriclrl Hall.jpg

Pearce’s sombre public building is made of local red brick faced with a deep red and alien Cumberland sandstone [4]. Further decoration is provided by moulded Cosseyware (see previous post) from Guntons’  brickyard in nearby Costessey. The keystones above the ground floor doors and windows  are decorated with heads or emblems. The Prince of Wales feathers refer not only to the prince himself but to the adjoining Prince of Wales road that connects Thorpe railway station with the former cattle market on Castle Hill. One of several heads is shown below; it is evidently a portrait but the identities of these agricultural worthies are no longer known. The reference to the bull’s head seems more straightforward but since JJ Colman was Vice-Chairman of the Agricultural Hall Company might this also allude to what had been Colman’s trademark since 1855? [8].heads_use.jpg


  1. Holmes, Frances and Holmes, Michael (2013). The Story of the Norwich Boot and Shoe Trade. Pub: Norwich Heritage Projects  Ref 1a: Burgess, Edward and Wilfred (1904). Men Who Have Made Norwich. 
  3. Girouard, Marc
  4. Pevsner and Wilson

Thanks. For permission to reproduce images I thank Jonathan Plunkett from the Plunkett archive; to Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk  and to Siofra Connor of the Archant/EDP Library. I am also grateful to  Frances Holmes, Philip Tolley and Diana Smith for their assistance.


Flint buildings


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“Very flat, Norfolk”. (Noel Coward. Private Lives)

“No place in England was further away from good building stone”. (Stefan Muthesius [1])

“The geology of Norfolk in eastern England largely consists of … sedimentary rocks of marine origin…” [2]

These three statements are, of course, related. Much of Norfolk is based on chalk derived from the skeletons of countless marine organisms that rained down upon the seabed some 60-95 million years ago when the sea level was much higher. In places, these layers of chalk are 300 metres (1000 feet) deep [3]. Quarry stone is therefore hard to find.

To build Norwich Cathedral the Normans brought in limestone from Caen in Normandy. Pulls Ferry (below), which was built later, is the medieval watergate that marks the route by which the stone was diverted from the River Wensum to the building site. However, despite this logistical triumph the core of the cathedral was still based on flint for the ashlar limestone is just a facing [2A].

Pulls Ferry Norwich_A.jpg

Pulls Ferry, Norwich, which marks the entrance by which building stone was shipped into the cathedral precincts

Flint and chalk are found together. Skeletons of some marine organisms provided the calcium carbonate that formed the chalk strata: others  – like this diatom – provided the silicon dioxide (silica) from which the nodules of flint were formed. I estimate this diatom to be ca. 15-20 millionths of a metre in diameter, giving some idea of the staggering number of organisms required just to make one flint nodule, let alone the blizzard of marine life needed to deposit 300 metre layers of chalk.

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Arachnoidiscus sp.– a diatom (c) Zeiss Microscopy

It is thought that holes formed by sea creatures burrowing through the gelatinous ooze at the bottom of the seabed provided the right sort of chemical environment for dissolved silicon – released from exoskeletons – to recrystallise, growing the irregular flint nodules around the holes [4].


A hole through a flint nodule – a probable reminder of the burrow made by a Cretacean sea creature.

In a wonderful piece of inorganic chemistry in action, this metamorphosis of sludge on the seabed produced flint nodules; their ‘organic’ shapes fascinated C20th artists – as did the holes. In the 1930s, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth holidayed at Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast [5]. In 1931, apparently based on the Happisburgh flints, Barbara Hepworth created  one of the first sculptures with a hole through it for non-representational purposes (Pierced Form. Lost in the war). And Henry Moore’s sculptures are famously “lumpy and bumpy and sometimes have holes right through them.”

Hepworth statue Norwich.jpg

Barbara Hepworth. Sea Form (Atlantic) 1964 at St George’s Green (outside Norwich Playhouse)

One idea why there are so many round-towered flint churches in East Anglia is that the lack of stone to make the quoins or cornerstones meant it was easier (and cheaper) to build circular towers from knobbly flints set in mortar [6] . Another idea is that the Anglo-Saxons introduced round towers as protection against the Danes but this seems to have been discredited by the finding that many towers are post-Norman Conquest [7]. Geology does seem to provide the answer for while continental invaders spread far further than Norfolk only five round tower churches escaped the confines of the East Anglian chalklands compared to the 126 made in Norfolk [6].

Norwich had one church for every week of the year and one pub for every day.

The actual number of churches appears to have been about 57, of which 31 are still in existence. I haven’t yet visited all the medieval churches but would guess that virtually all are built of flint – even the stone-clad St Peter Mancroft contains flint. However, not many of Norwich’s churches are round-towered. One was St Benedict’s church but this was bombed in the Baedecker raids of 1942 and only the tower, which is made of unknapped flint, survives.

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Only the tower of St Benedict’s church remained after the bombing of 1942.

St Benedict's south side from church alley [0140] 1934-06-28

St Benedict’s Church in 1934. (c)

Well shaped flints occur on Norwich’s Guildhall, which is “the largest surviving medieval civic building in the country after London“[7]. It was built as a result of a royal charter of 1404 that gave the city the right of self-government. The east end (below) –  rebuilt in the C16th with a clock turret added in the C19th  – is a glorious example of diaper flushwork, where alternating diamonds of dark flint and light limestone form a smooth (i.e., ‘flush’) surface. The black and white chequerboard pattern may be a reference to the Guildhall’s use as an exchequer [8] in which a squared cloth was used for counting money.

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East end of Norwich Guildhall C15th

In places, the Guildhall walls contain unshaped stones surrounded by shims of flint – a byproduct of knapping. Pushing flakes into the spaces around the flints – or galleting – filled the gaps and protected the exposed mortar. The selection of flints that would leave large gaps seems to have been deliberate since it allowed swirls of galleting to become a decorative feature in its own right.

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‘Decorative’ galleting on the Guildhall

By contrast, parts of the east wall have been expertly squared up. Not only was the external face of these flints made smooth but four other sides were also square-knapped with such skill that the flints could be laid in regular courses without the need for galleting or, indeed, any visible mortar.

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Coursed flints on the east wall of the Guildhall

Another civic building famous for the quality of its square-knapped wall is the Bridewell, which was built about 1370 as a private house and became a prison for minor offenders  nearly 200 years later. It was named after St Bride’s Well, the first such institution in London.

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North wall of the Bridewell, Norwich

The north wall of the Norwich Bridewell has claim to being “the finest specimen of faced flint work in the country” [9]. But the knappers seem to have been less constrained here by a requirement for perfect squareness. The square-knapping is not as precise as on parts of the Guildhall and the flints are of variable size. But this honesty with which a difficult material has been handled contributes to the beauty of the wall.Bridewell 2.jpgFlushwork  was a speciality of Norfolk and Suffolk and was at its most inventive during the Perpendicular Period (1330-1530) [7, 10]. St Michael (often contracted to St Miles) Coslany is a famously exuberant example.  The artist John Sell Cotman claimed that the flushwork on the south side was “one of the finest examples of flint work in the kingdom” [11]. Parts of the church were rebuilt in the C19th. Here on the east end, restored in the 1880s, the flushwork mimics the tracery in the Perpendicular-style window next to it. This fits the general rule that representational designs were made in stone with flint in-fills while non-representational examples were in flint on a stone background [10].

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Replica window motif at St Michael (Miles) Coslany

The church of St Andrew in St Andrew’s Street, Norwich, was completely rebuilt in 1506. It also has tracery flushwork but just as fascinating is the re-set frieze of shields beneath the chancel window  – the only survivor from the previous church [12].  These can be easily examined as you trudge up St Andrew’s Hill after leaving Cinema City. Kent and Stephenson [11] devoted an entire chapter to this frieze. Three of the thirteen shields (below) represent: the arms of Bishop Dispenser; Richard Fitzalan the Earl of Arundel; and possibly Thomas Mowbray who was later to become Duke of Norfolk.

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Tracery flush work beneath the chancel window of St Andrews. Above this is a frieze of shields inherited from the previous church.

According to Stephen Hart [7] “the earliest positively datable example” of flushwork is on St Ethelbert’s gate of Norwich Cathedral (1316). The date is known with some certainty because of the events surrounding its construction. In 1272, conflicts between the cathedral and the citizens led to the torching of the Anglo-Saxon church of St Ethelbert together with the main gate to the monastery. Thirteen citizens were killed in the riots and thirty  rioters were hanged [13]. (The man fighting a dragon in the spandrels above the gate may refer to this conflict – see 13A). The king decreed that the citizens should rebuild St Ethelbert’s gate. In 1815 this C14th gateway was restored by William Wilkins  [7, 11] but although he generally followed the original pattern of three circular motifs Wilkins made significant changes to the flushwork. These circles are referred to as replica ‘rose windows’ [7] or ‘flushwork wheels’ [13A].

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R Cattermole’s engraving of St Ethelbert’s Gate to Norwich Cathedral (right) [14] shows that Wilkins’ 1815 restoration modified the pattern of the flushwork on the parapet. (Courtesy of Norfolk Heritage Centre. Norfolk County Council Library & Information Service).

Another decorative technique, proudwork, was in contrast to the flatness of flushwork [7]. St Gregory’s provides a rare example in Norwich. In this case, the ashlar in tracery design stands proud of the flint.

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Proudwork on the single-stage parapet of St Gregory’s church tower

It should not be surprising that Norwich, as a major centre of East Anglian flint-building, had its own brand of flushwork. In the Norwich style [7], vertical stone strips divided the flintwork beneath parapet crenellations into zones into which stone motifs were inset. This can be seen on the tower of St Clement’s Church in Colegate (near Fye Bridge), on which lozenges are decorated with blank shields indicating that God is shielding the building. The smaller lozenges appear to be recent restorations.

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St Clement’s Colegate

In serial flushwork, letters or motifs are repeated in a frieze. A good example can be found  at All Saints, East Tuddenham – a few miles west of Norwich. Above the porch is the inscription in Lombardic script (Italian lettering of the early Middle Ages): GLORIATIBITR  (Gloria Tibi Trinitas, or ‘Glory be to you Oh Trinity’ [15]). The letters are crowned when referring to god, saints and martyrs but never donors [16].

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Serial flushwork at East Tuddenham made of crowned Lombardic lettering

Seen here on the porch of St Michael at Plea (below) the Norwich workshop gave St Michael a crowned M as well as a crowned sword. The crowned sword can be seen following the first M but “over-zealous pointing” seems to have obliterated subsequent swords [16].

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St Michael at Plea, Norwich. Crowned ‘M’ and (one) sword in serial flushwork above porch.

In 1671 the diarist John Evelyn wrote that Sir Thomas Browne of Norwich had told him that “they had lost the art of squaring the flints, in which they so much once excell’d, and of which the churches, best houses, and walls, are built...”[11]. The quality of the Victorian restoration at the east end of St Miles Coslany provided one example that the art of square knapping had not been lost; this  men’s lavatory of 1892 is another – an example of a different kind of flushwork.

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Men’s lavatory, St Andrew’s Plain, no longer in use

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Square-knapped flint, dated 1892


  1. Muthesius, Stefan. (1984). Norwich in the Nineteenth Century. Ed, C. Berringer. Chapter 4, pp94-117.
  2.                                                              [Ref 2A].
  5. This links to excellent notes by Nicholas Thornton on an exhibition held in Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, in 2009: Moore/Hepworth/Nicholson. A nest of gentle artists in the 1930s. 
  6. Round Tower Churches Society.
  7. Hart, Stephen. 2000. Flint Architecture of East Anglia. Giles de la Mare Pub Ltd. 
  10. Talbot, Margaret. 2004. Medieval Flushwork of East Anglia and its Symbolism. Poppyland Publishing.
  11. Kent, Arnold and Stephenson, Andrew. (1948). Norwich Inheritance. Pub: Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich.
  13.  [Ref 13A Summers, Dominic John (2011) Norfolk Church Towers of the Later Middle Ages. PhD UEA].
  14. Britton, John (1816). The History and Antiquities of the See and Cathedral of Norwich. Pub: Longman et al. London.
  16. Blatchly, John and Northeast, Peter (2005). Decoding Flint Flushwork on Suffolk and Norfolk Churches.

Thanks to Jonathan Plunkett for permission to use an image from the George Plunkett archive I also thank the Norfolk Heritage Centre for their help.

Entrances and Exits (Doors II)


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In the previous post I covered Kent and Stephenson’s [1] selection of twenty Tudor-to-Georgian doorways still standing after the war (1948). In walking around Norwich I photographed many more doorways; here is my own selection of twenty (plus one from Great Yarmouth).

In 1871 Thomas Jeckyll, a leading light in the Japanese-influenced Aesthetic Movement, designed an extension for High House, Thorpe St Andrew. The brackets supporting the canopy were carved in a loose Jacobean Revival style [2] but perhaps of greater interest to Jeckyllites are the terracotta panels above the door – probably of Cosseyware from Gunton’s Brickyard in nearby Costessey (covered in a recent post).  The rectangular panel contains the initials of client Thomas Birkbeck while Jeckyll’s own initials are transformed in a Chinese-inspired roundel to the right.

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No 1 High House, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich

This house below was designed in Queen Anne Revival style around the turn of the C19th/20th.  Like other Arts and Crafts houses in the city built in the QAR style this house has characteristic smaller panes at the tops of the windows. However, this house is distinguished by the quality of its doorway with hooded canopy carried on carved brackets and slim columns.


34 St Stephens Road, Norwich

Until recently, the magnificent shop front in Upper St Giles belonged to an unmodernised chemist’s. It dwarfs the small Georgian-style doorway to the side whose mystery is enhanced by the purple paintwork  (Purpleheart 188 by Little Greene).


76A Upper St Giles, Norwich

The frontage for the Salvation Army on St Giles Street may appear to be hewn from granite but in reality is composed of Coade Stone – a weather-proof ceramic invented by Eleanor Coade (b 1733). The rusticated appearance is produced by cut-back joints and the worm-like tracks on the vermiculated surface (vermiculi = little worms; vermicelli = tastes like little worms). The head on the keystone is thought to be “classically-inspired”; suggestions include Bacchus or perhaps a Greek philosopher.


Salvation Army. 36 St Giles Street, Norwich

The frontage of the Citadel was originally built in 1892 as Mortimer’s Hotel. Around 1900 it was known as the Opera House Hotel probably because it was used by performers from the Grand Opera House opposite (now the site of St Giles car park).

St Giles' St 34 former Mortimer's Hotel [5278] 1969-08-16.jpg

34-36 St Giles Street, Norwich (c) George Plunkett Archive. Photographed 1969. The gates beneath the white-painted single bay to the left were the entrance to their Citadel before the Salvation Army also bought the five-bayed Mortimer’s Hotel .

Princes Street is full of gems. At first glance Numbers 16 and 18 appear to be identical twins but 18 is slimmer. The alternating blocks on the architrave to the sides of the doors, and the blockiness of the wedge-shaped voussoirs and keystone above, are typical of the so-called Gibbs surround.


16-18 Princes Street, Norwich.

This fine, painted house is at the bottom of Cow Hill at the junction with Pottergate. The Georgian doorway, with its simple triangular pediment supported on scrolled brackets, is – in Norfolk dialect – seriously ‘on the huh‘. Of course, this is part of its considerable charm.


95 Pottergate

Number 168 King Street is part of a row of C17 houses that formerly contained the Ship Inn. Above the partly blocked alleyway is a lintel on which is carved ‘Princes In’. It is thought this was re-cycled from the inn of that name that once stood in Princes Street, off Tombland.


168 King Street

The building below was once the home of John Harvey who, over the late 18th/early 19th centuries, became Sheriff, Mayor and High Sheriff. Norwich was famed for its shawl weaving, which is said to have been introduced to the city by Harvey in 1791. The rear of the building has a fine central bay whose three floors are rhythmically related. The ‘blind’ arch of the three-part Venetian door on the ground floor is mirrored in the Venetian window above (where the arched central light is typically the taller of three), and is topped by the semi-circular Diocletian window on the third floor.


Gladstone House (rear), 28 St Giles Street

The rear doorway of Gladstone House (above) is – with the exception of the Venetian lights – relatively plain, with scrolled Ionic capitals supporting an open pediment. The Georgian front door, opening onto St Giles Street, is more imposing (below). The open base of the triangular pediment allows the intrusion of a nine-petalled fanlight of identical design to the one illustrated in the previous post for Thomas Ivory’s 13 All Saints’ Green. The break in the base of the open pediment leaves two floating parts to the cornice, which are carried on consoles; these console cornices are, in turn, supported by two fluted and banded columns, the whole being more decorative than the door to the rear.


Gladstone House (front), 28 St Giles Street


13 All Saints’ Green. Identical to the fanlight on Gladstone House

In about 1330, John Page built a hall house in King Street; one hundred years later the wool merchant Robert Toppes remodelled it to make the entire first floor his trading hall [3]. Then it was known as Splytts, now we know it as Dragon Hall. Toppes became a man of influence in the city. To ensure his spiritual wellbeing, or perhaps to celebrate his status as mayor and member of parliament, Toppes sponsored the stained glass ‘Toppes Window’ in the east end of St Peter Mancroft. My first post showed Toppes and female members of his family depicted in the donor panel of this medieval masterpiece. Part of Toppes’ C15th remodelling of Page’s house involved adding an “expensive stone surround” to the C14th ogee doorway [3], explaining the ‘door-within-a-door’ below.


Dragon Hall, Norwich

The fanlight at 25 St George’s Street is a reminder of times when the word ‘cosie’ could be used unironically. The lettering, sentiment and use of stained glass suggest a date in the early part of the C20th.


25 St George’s Street, Norwich

Jenny Lind (‘The Swedish Nightingale’) was enormously popular in the mid C19th. The profits from three concerts she gave in Norwich helped provide for an infirmary for sick children. The original playground in Pottergate was bombed in the Second World War while children were in the bomb shelter yards away. In 1972 the 70-year-old gate was moved to a new playground in Union Street near the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. The owner  of the nearby Littlehaven Coffee Co remembers being one of a line of children recovering in bed after having their adenoids taken out in the Jenny Lind Wing. But the re-siting of the hospital from Newmarket Road to Colney in 2001 left the gateway marooned.  Still, it is a fine monument. The classically-influenced stone arch is decorated with blue and green mosaic; the Art Nouveau gates, complete with ‘spade’ cut-outs, were made by Boulton and Paul of Norwich – another target of German bombs.


Jenny Lind gateway 2016

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The Jenny Lind gate when in Pottergate 1902-1972. (c) Picture Norfolk

Another commemorative arch is at the entrance to the James Stuart Garden at Recorder Road/St Faith’s Lane, off the bottom of Prince of Wales Road. The gardens were laid out by the Norwich architect Edward Boardman in 1922 in memory of James Stuart, Privy Councillor, of Carrow Abbey (d 1913). It would have been built sooner but for the First World War.  The coat of arms on the fascia of the memorial gate is that of the Stewart clan; the Scottish connection is underlined by the thistle in the left-hand spandrel, echoed by the English rose on the opposite side. The renaissance style and use of botanical swags suggests this to be a late example of the English Domestic Revival style.


Politics aside, this is one of my favourite doorways, not for the door itself – which is unexceptional – but for the Art Nouveau surround which elides into the magnificent Royal Arcade around the corner, designed by George Skipper. The Parian Ware tiles were designed by W J Neatby at Doulton’s Lambeth Pottery.

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Royal Arcade, Norwich

Despite stumbling around Norwich for many years I had never come across Crown Road, behind the Agricultural Hall, off Market Avenue. The proximity to the former major cereal trading house seems to account for the name – Cereal House – emblazoned on the door itself and, hammering home the point, the sculpture of three wheat-sheaves above the door. This sculpture, apparently cast in bronze, is notable but appears at the expense of the heavily-carved Georgian doorcase that was still present in the 1960s (see further below).


Cereal House, 33-34 Crown Road

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34 Crown Road 1962 (c)

Number 2 Cathedral Close was built by Thornagh Gurdon who wrote a history of Norwich Castle. The house is set inside the cathedral precincts on Almary Green. The ‘Mary’ part of this name could be misleading since it is a corruption of Almonry Green, a reference to the place where the almoner once doled out bread and alms. The entrance to this mid-C18th house is imposing since you have to ascend the stone staircase required to rise above the basement. Given the size of the doorway overall the scrolled Ionic columns are rather slim, set against a rusticated surround. According to Pevsner and Wilson [4] the rounded segmental pediment is “a rarity in Norwich”. (‘Segmental’ in this context means based on a segment of a circle).


No 2 Cathedral Close, Norwich

Numbers 2 and 3 Cow Hill were built in the late C17th as a single range beneath six gables [4]. The architectural detailing and decoration are unified, except for the key  features of the front elevation – the doors. The differences in door style are relatively minor (e.g., one has fluted columns, the other fluted pilasters) but it is the size of No 3’s doorway that stands out. Yes, it is further down the hill, requiring extra steps up to the threshold but then the doorway shoots up beyond its neighbour so that the triangular pediment breaches the string course.  From the base of the first step to the apex of the pediment the door is less than half the total height.

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Numbers 2 and 3 Cow Hill, Norwich

Samson and Hercules House in Tombland is thought to have been built in 1657 [4] on the site of an earlier building made for Sir John Fastolf (the presumed inspiration for Shakespeare’s Falstaff).  The Georgian-style porch is supported by the two heroes, Samson (left) and Hercules (right). Samson holds the jawbone of an ass in one hand and in the other a small animal, which looks like a lamb or a kid although closer inspection reveals a bushy tail that could not have belonged to either. The animal is a fox and alludes to the biblical story that Samson caught 300 foxes (probably jackals) and tied their tails together in pairs so that they could trail a burning torch between them (Judges 15:4). Those of us concerned about advertising a lobster restaurant by painting historical figures lobster red can extract some consolation from knowing that the figures are replicas – the original C17th figures having been replaced in 1999. Even so …

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Samson and Hercules House, Tombland, Norwich

Showing one Falstaffian house provides the excuse for showing another – a favourite of mine. In a previous blog I mentioned Fastolff House in Great Yarmouth, a striking art nouveau building designed by the local architect ‘Concrete’ Cockrill. The patina’ed bronze door does look like the entrance to a mausoleum.

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Fastolff House, Regent Street, Great Yarmouth

Norwich is so rich in historic buildings that I could have selected many other ancient doorways. Most are prized and well-maintained but a significant number are unloved. For example, 41 All Saints’ Green is a large five-bayed merchant’s house built in the late C18th [4]. In 2010 the Norwich Evening News reported that this building had been empty for some time since last used as a dental practice. It is still empty and the fine Doric doorcase is showing signs of neglect. In 2016 the building appears on the Norwich City Council’s Heritage at Risk Register.  The Norwich Preservation Trust, who have a fine record of intervention in such cases, is also keeping a watchful eye.

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41 All Saints’ Green, Norwich

Number 33 Bethel Street has one of the city’s finest Georgian doorways with an impressive Doric entablature containing martial arms on the frieze. Unfortunately, there appear to be no plans to restore this building, which is described on the council’s at-risk register as “Poor condition. Long-term vacant building”. Shame!


 33 Bethel Street, Norwich

Next post: Flint buildings (Sign up for free email alerts)


  1. Kent, Arnold and Stephenson, Andrew (1948). Norwich Inheritance. Pub: Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich
  2. Susan Weber Soros and Catherine Arbuthnott (2003). Thomas Jeckyll, Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, New York. Pub: Yale University Press.
  3.  Matthews, Richard.(2013). Robert Toppes. Medieval Mercer of Norwich. Pub: The Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust.
  4. Pevsner, Nikloaus and Wilson, Bill (1997 ). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I: Norwich and North-East.Pub: Yale University Press.

I thank Jonathan Plunkett for permission to reproduce three images from the George Plunkett archive.  I am also grateful to  Clare Everitt for permission to reproduce the image from Picture Norfolk. Thanks, also, to Richard Matthew for information about the Dragon Hall doorway.





Early doors: Tudor to Georgian


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“Fine medieval, Tudor and Georgian doorways once abounded in Norwich, but they are rapidly disappearing.“(Kent & Stephenson, 1948).

In 1948, Kent and Stephenson published a book of photographs of ancient buildings celebrating our ‘Norwich Inheritance’ [1]. Close to the Second World War it was surprising that they didn’t dwell on losses to enemy bombing. Instead, they wanted to record what remained, to show how easy and elegant Norwich once looked and perhaps might look again. But they seemed to have had little confidence in post-war renewal, suspecting that there was a, “danger of throwing away this heritage … for a commercial conglomeration of humdrum mediocrity”. You be the judge.

Kent and Stephenson worried that little would remain in 50 years time. Almost 70 years later, I thought I would try to find the 20 doors illustrated in their section on ‘The Doorways of Norwich’.

1. The Old Bridewell Entrance, St Andrew’s Hill.  This four-plank door, with joints covered by fillets, is a replacement for the 5/6-plank door illustrated by Kent and Stephenson [1].  The head of the Tudor door with carved spandrels survives; the Gothic grille is hanging on but needs repair. George Plunkett [2] said it was the oldest of its kind in the city, dating it to ca. 1490 (early Tudor). The history of the Gothic arch is of a gradual flattening, from the steeply pointed lancet windows of the Early English style to the Perpendicular/Tudor phase where the four-centred arch produced a flatter profile.

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The Old Bridewell Entrance, St Andrew’s Hill. The Tudor arch is still noticeably pointed in this early doorway but gets flatter throughout this period. 

No 2. Bacon’s House 31 Colegate (now numbered 35).  This house was built for Henry Bacon, a wealthy worsted merchant who was mayor and sheriff in the mid 1500s. The several rectangles of newer wood set into the Tudor door replaced the letterboxes and other door furniture described by Kent and Stephenson as ‘a disfigurement’. There is a separate ‘wicket’ door within this door with its own spandrels.

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Henry Bacon’s House, Colegate.

No 3. Bayfield’s Court, Stump Cross.  This Tudor doorway is no longer in existence, a possible victim of the 1960s inner link road and flyover that aimed (and missed by a country mile) to have minimal impact on medieval Magdalen Street. Thankfully, in 1935 George Plunkett recorded this Tudor doorway with its carved spandrels bearing the date and owner’s name (not Bayfield who was a C19th owner).

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Bayfield Court (demolished) [George Plunkett archive, 1935]

No 4. Shaw’s Yard, Colegate. Shaw’s Yard is described by Kent and Stephenson [1] as being “by the side of the Labour Exchange”, but the building is no longer used for that purpose. The date (1570) in the right-hand spandrel is said to mark the second mayoralty of John Aldrich. In George Plunkett’s post-war survey of more than 150 old doorways [2], he calls this Shave’s (not Shaw’s) Yard.

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Shaw’s or (Shave’s Yard), Colegate.

No 5. 29 Magdalen Street.  Twenty nine Magdalen Street was the house of Thomas Shipdham whose initials may be those in the right-hand spandrel. He was a rich mercer who became sheriff then, in 1631, the mayor. Although the date of 1612 in the left-hand spandrel places it outside the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603) this well-preserved doorway is clearly in the Tudor style.

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 29 Magdalen Street

No 6. Tudor doorway at Thorpe Lodge, Thorpe Road.  This is no longer in existence. Instead, here is a medieval doorway that would not have been known by Kent and Stephenson for it was only uncovered about 2010 when repairing the render at the side of Roaches Yard off Elm Hill.   The frame of the simple three-plank door has a Tudor four-centred arch with plain spandrels.

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Roaches Court, to the side of No 36 Elm Hill.

No 7. Garsett House, St. Andrew’s Plain.  The preceding Tudor style (1485-1603) had its roots in the Gothic but by the middle of the C18th Georgian architecture was heavily influenced by Neoclassicism. In this revival of interest in ancient Greek and Roman architecture, proportion and symmetry were central as was the ‘order’ or style of column used. Most of the following Norwich doorways were based on the  Greek Doric order – the simplest order characterised by fluted (sometimes plain) columns topped with a plain capital. Another typical Doric feature was the cricket-wicket-like triglyph (III) that decorated the frieze or middle layer of the horizontal entablature. This can be seen at Garsett House, which was the first Georgian doorway described by Kent and Stephenson [1].  The medieval timber-framed house was modernised by adding this Classical portico. Above the six-panelled door is a rectangular transom light to illuminate the otherwise gloomy entrance hall.  As the C18th progressed this style of light tended to be superseded by the semi-circular fanlight.

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Garsett House 

No 8. 17 Pottergate. Unfluted columns support a large and rusticated (projecting) keystone entablature. This stone doorway was said in 1948 [1] to be “in poor condition and suffering from a rash of bells”: the rash is gone.

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17 Pottergate

No 9. 46 St Giles. St Giles Street is Norwich’s finest Georgian street filled with the houses of the rich mercantile class. This Georgian doorway at No 46 is being renovated in 2016. The door furniture has not survived but the six-panelled door, fanlight and fluted columns appear to be as they were in 1948. Situated above the transom is a sun-ray fanlight. Fanlights added height to the doorway but the increase in overall size tended to be counteracted by their delicacy when finely cast in metal. Here, the horizontal entablature increases height further – as do the three doorsteps – but in adding width (and grandeur) the fluted columns restore proportion.

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46 St Giles’ Street

No 10. 48 St Giles.  The Reverend Robert Parr built the house in 1792 [1]. In May 2016, number 48 St Giles is shrouded in scaffolding but at least this wonderful portico survived the war and the post-war renewal. In 1948 Kent and Stephenson complained that the decorated Doric frieze was obscured by a badly placed YMCA sign [1]: today, despite the netting and scaffold poles, the entablature and fanlight are at least visible.

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48 St Giles’ Street


No 11. Harvey’s House, 18 Colegate.  Thomas Harvey (1710-1772), merchant,  Mayor and Sheriff of Norwich, was born in this house. The doorway has fluted Ionic pillars capped by the angled scrolls or volutes that are characteristic of this order. George Plunkett [2] remembered coming across a note stating that a number of pillared doorways in Norwich were based on designs by Thomas Ivory – the city’s pre-eminent Georgian architect. Plunkett could find no supporting evidence but hoped that the best of the doorways were inspired by  Ivory. Here he specifically named the next two doorways, 18 Colegate and 44 Magdalen Street. In these examples there is no fanlight. Instead, the solution for allowing light into a dark entrance hall was to glaze the top panels of the door itself, although this may have been done later. The door may be a replacement but considering the importance of this doorway the door furniture and signage are quite out of keeping. This probably explains the pained look on the keystone’s face above.

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Harvey’s House 18 Colegate

No 12. 44 Magdalen Street. This is the other of George Plunkett’s two ‘best’ Norwich doorways.

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44 Magdalen Street. 

Magdalen Street, one of Norwich’s most celebrated medieval-to-Georgian streets largely survived the war but not the peace. The decision to bisect it with a flyover did not, as was anticipated, save the street but blighted it. Little thrives beneath the concrete and the surrounding post-war buildings are mostly derelict and an eyesore. However, look closely and it is still possible to pick out gems, like the Tudor and Georgian doorways illustrated here.

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The frieze is classical Greek Doric with raised decoration between the triglyphs

No 13. All Saints’ Green.  Ivory House was built in 1771-2 to a design by the well-known Norwich architect, Thomas Ivory.  Kent and Stephenson [1] knew this building as ‘Artillery Barracks’ although I have seen it referred to as Militia Barracks. The horizontal joints of the columns are cut back to produce the rusticated banding. Pevsner and Wilson [4] liked “the good nine-vaned fanlight.’

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Ivory House, All Saints’ Green

No 14. Gurney’s Court.  This doorway survives more or less as illustrated by Kent and Stephenson although the fine Georgian lamp has been replaced [1]. The carved canopy seems to be Baroque rather than Classical and could be a remnant of a previous doorway.  The plaque to the left celebrates the fact that two notable Norwich women – Elizabeth Fry and Harriet Martineau – were born in this house

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14 Gurney’s Court, Magdalen Street

No 15. St Catherine’s Court, All Saints’ Green. This Adam-style porch with its genteel swags was – even in 1948 – a plaster replica. Possibly, the original was damaged in the bombing raid that destroyed porticos in adjacent Surrey Street (see No19).

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St Catherine’s Court

No 16. 79 King Street. Like Magdalen Street, King Street has suffered much since the war but, fortunately, this Georgian doorway remains as does the Venetian window above. The fanlight based on overlapping Gothic arches differs from the more usual variations on radiating sun rays. Contrast this doorway with No 9. (46 St Giles) whose height is exaggerated by a fanlight quite separate from the entablature above. Here at 79 King Street the triangular pediment is open at the base, allowing the fanlight to intrude into the entablature. In the second half of the C18th the open pediment allowed doorways  to be less tall and grandiose (e.g., where dictated by an entrance hall of limited height).

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79 King Street

No 17 20 Colegate. This is an early C17th house with a Georgian doorway that, unusually for Norwich, is made of stone. The temple-like doorway has a Doric entablature and  unfluted columns.

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20 Colegate

No 18. Churchman House, 68 St Giles (now 71 Bethel Street).  Churchman House, built in the early C18th for Alderman Thomas Churchman, has been described as ‘possibly the best Georgian provincial townhouse in England’[3]. The Churchmans were  worsted weavers, underlining the point that when Norwich was the nation’s second city its wealth was largely derived from the wool trade. Although the wooden entablature and the triangular pediment are very similar to the stone version above, the overall effect here is less squat since the height of the doorway is stretched by inclusion of steps as well as fanlight. Inside, the rooms are proportionately tall. I was witness at a wedding here when it was Norfolk Register Office: now you have to get wed at the Castle.

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Churchman House

No 19. 25 and 27 Surrey Street (demolished). This terrace is said to have been designed by Thomas Ivory. The projecting Doric entablature, supported by fluted pilasters and free-standing columns, provided the entrance to two houses, each having a fine door and rising-sun fanlight.

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25-27 Surrey St 1938. (c) George Plunkett

The double portico was amongst the finest in Norwich but was destroyed by an enemy bomb in 1940 [2]. The house itself was pulled down in 1963. The wartime photograph below shows fluted columns and the rest of the portico lying in the road. George Plunkett [2] said that this revealed various pencilled dates on the woodwork, including 1692 and 1740. Another inscription read: “James Rump carpenter and joiner … Norwich made this portico in the year 1821”. It is possible that older pieces of wood were incorporated into the structure. Pevsner and Wilson [4] date the houses to 1761-2 with later porches.

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25 and 27 Surrey Street. Inspecting the bomb damage, 1940. Source: Picture Norfolk 

In the photo below the war-damaged 25 and 27 Surrey Street are the furthest right of the three double porticos, but the other two survive today.

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Surrey Street 25-35 (c) George Plunkett. Photographed in 1935. The two houses/porticos left and centre survived the bombing.

The photographs below are of 35 and 33 Surrey Street (the double portico on the left in the photo above). George Plunkett [2] wrote that the replacement of the square pillars on No35 by round marble columns with ornate Corinthian capitals had been done “with great lack of taste”. This “unhappy” [1] substitution was already visible in the 1935 photograph, prior to the war. I remember reading the damage was caused by a motor accident but cannot trace the reference – can you?

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35 and 33 Surrey Street

No 20. 31 and 33 St Giles. These houses were originally built in the late C16th – early C17th and refaced in the late C18th [5]. The houses were not, therefore, built with Palladian proportions in mind so the late Georgian doorway would have been retrofitted to a less generous floor-plan. Spanning two doors with a common fanlight above the entablature required structural ingenuity since a semi-circular fanlight of that diameter would have been too tall for the hallways it was intended to illuminate. Instead, height was reduced by: using a narrow segment from a very large circle as a template for the fanlight (and confusing the radial spokes of the fanlight in the process); reducing the entablature to just the supporting architrave – no decorative frieze; and ensuring that the columns did not extend above the head of the door.

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31 and 33 St Giles’ Street

The fact that 17 out of the 20 selected doorways [1] can still be seen today might seem to be cause for optimism. However, the selection was made from those still standing after the war. George Plunkett’s [2] much larger survey included doorways known to be present before the war and shows just how many fine buildings and doorways fell victim, not just to the war, but to C20th modernisation. As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Next post: “Entrances and Exits (Doors II)”. Sign up for free email alerts.


  1. Kent, Arnold and Stephenson, Andrew (1948). Norwich Inheritance. Pub: Jarrold and Sons Ltd., Norwich
  2. Plunkett, George (1945). Old Norwich doorways. Norfolk Archaeology vol 28, pp39-70.
  3. Nierop-Reading, Vic. (2006). Visit to Churchman House. In, Norfolk Historic Buildings Group Newsletter No 12. pp 8-9.
  4. Pevsner, Nikloaus and Wilson, Bill (1997 ). The Buildings of England. Norfolk I: Norwich and North-East.Yale University Press.
  5. Norfolk Heritage Explorer. NHER Number:26186.

I am grateful to Jonathan Plunkett for allowing me to reproduce photographs from the George Plunkett archive ( and to Clare Everitt for permission to reproduce images from Picture Norfolk.





Fancy bricks


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The look of a place 

Until the coming of the railways in the mid C19th, towns were necessarily made from the materials around them. The honey-coloured villages of the Cotswolds look so right in their environment for even the stone roof-tiles topping the honey-coloured stone walls derive from the bedrock on which they stand. But as we know, Norwich is about as far from decent building stone as you can get. Only the Church and rich grandees could afford to import building stone by water; famously, the Normans built Norwich cathedral of stone shipped from Normandy. So between the age of the medieval timber-framed building and the arrival of steel-reinforced concrete the majority of the city’s buildings were made from clay in the form of brick and tiles. This post focuses on decorative brickwork, produced by one family, that characterised Victorian building in Norwich.

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Norwich roofscape from St Giles car park

Around 1860, Norfolk contained 114 brickyards spread throughout the county so though Norfolk may have lacked stone there was evidently no shortage of brick clay [1]. In the pre-railway age, bricks tended to be made close to the building site due to the difficulty of transporting heavy loads over long distances. The arrival of railways in Norwich in the 1840s allowed building materials, such as Welsh slate, to be transported more easily and this, combined with the repeal of the tax on bricks in 1850 [2], contributed to the explosion of terraced-house building in Norwich  [3]. Surrounding Norwich were the brickyards of Banham, Lakenham, Reedham, Rockland St Mary, Surlingham and Welborne [1] but the one that perhaps had the greatest effect on Norwich via its red or white decorative products was the Costessey Brickyard five miles to the west, run by the Gunton family.

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Gunton Brickyard, Costessey Nr Norwich. (c) Ordnance Survey 1882. Image source, Norfolk Heritage Centre

Many years ago I saw comedian Ken Dodd at the Theatre Royal Norwich. Part of his introductory schtick was to play with local names, pronouncing Happisburgh as Happy’s berg instead of Hay’s bruh and Costessey as three-syllabled Coss-tess-ee instead of Cossey. How we laughed. Anticipating Doddy’s difficulties the Gunton family, who managed the Costessey Brickyard from the 1830s to 1915, called their range of ornamental bricks ‘Cosseyware’. As the map shows, it was quite a large enterprise, employing 40 men and boys in 1882 [4].  

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Workers at the Costessey Brickyard at the beginning of the C20th. Source: Ernest Gage Collection at Costessey Town Council. [For names of men in this photograph see footnote].

Other yards made decorative bricks in Norfolk during the Victorian heyday but Costessey Brickyard became pre-eminent through its association with Costessey Hall.

In 1824, when Sir George William Jerningham became the 7th Baronet Stafford, his “commanding and forceful”[4] wife became dissatisfied with the old Tudor hall at Costessey and so began an overambitious plan to build an elaborate, battlemented, pseudo-Tudor replacement. Designed by John Chessel Buckler, Costessey Hall was to be “the richest Gothic building in England” [quoted in 6] but it became a folly that was never fully completed [4]. The fortunes of the Guntons coincided with the rise and fall of the Hall.

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Costessey Hall 1870, architect John Chessell Buckler. Source: RIBA Collections


Costessey Hall showing Tudor Revival chimneys made at the Gunton Brickyard. Source: Picture Norfolk and Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell

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Gunton Bros catalogue 1907. Source: Norfolk Heritage Centre

In 1862, the owner of Costessey Hall, Sir Henry Valentine Stafford Jerningham, who had produced no heir, asked the wonderfully-named Masters of Lunacy to declare the next in line (his nephew The Right Hon. Augustus  Frederick FitzHerbert Stafford Jerningham) to be of unsound mind [5].  When nephew Augustus inherited the estate in 1884 the Lunacy Commissioners suggested the Hall was not suitable for him and that it be closed up. But Norwich’s foremost architect Edward Boardman argued against closure, marking an early connection between him and Costessey. On Augustus’ death his brother, Sir FitzOsbert Edward Stafford Jerningham, inherited to become the last Baron Stafford to live at the Hall. He was described as an eccentric who, mindful of what had happened to his brother, kept his back to the wall (literally) and refused to leave the confines of the estate [4]. After his death the estate was seen as a white elephant to his inheritors, leading to the long drawn out demolition of the Hall.

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Demolition of Costessey Hall began in 1920; seen here in 1934 (c)

Tastes had already begun to change some years before the demolition of the Hall. During the second half of the C19th one of the styles within the all-embracing Arts and Crafts Movement was for decorative “Gothick” brickwork (usually red) of the kind that the Guntons had made first for Costessey Hall then for the wider public. However, this fascination for Tudorbethan brick was in decline by the turn of the C20th and in 1915 the Guntons failed to renew their lease at Costessey. All that remains of the Hall is the Belfry Block off the eighteenth fairway at Costessey Park Golf Club. And all that remains (reportedly) of the Brickyard is a derelict kiln at the end of Brickfield Loke.

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The family continued making ordinary bricks (known as ‘builders’) at their Barney, Little Plumstead and Runton works but these outposts closed in 1939 due to fears that the kilns could act as beacons to enemy planes.

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Stoking the furnace to burn bricks, probably at Gunton’s yard at Barney. Source: Ernest Gage Collection at Costessey Town Council.

After the main phase of building the Hall, George Gunton began to look for alternative outlets for his decorative bricks; their widespread dispersal was greatly assisted by the 1850 repeal of the brick tax – a tax that had been particularly punitive for oversize decorative bricks [6]. Cosseyware began to increase in popularity, first under George Gunton then from 1868 under his sons William and George. It was therefore during the second half of the C19th that Costessey clay started to have an impact upon the appearance of the city.

At the back of the Old Red Lion Beerhouse at 64 Costessey West End, George Gunton built an outhouse. Local historian Paul Cooper told me: “The Red Lion outbuildings would have been a showroom and where they did the intricate carving on the chimneys and fireplaces.” 

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Cosseyware letter bricks spell out the name of George Gunton. Bricks like these can be spotted throughout Norwich. Source: ‘Picture Norfolk‘ and Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell.

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The same gable end in 2016, minus doorways. Note the Cosseyware chimney.


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Cosseyware chimneys in Costessey West End 2016. Left: grapevine pattern; right: ‘patriotic’ rose/shamrock/thistle bricks on the building shown in the previous image.

The GG tiles beneath the grapevine-patterned chimney on the left suggest this is one of the nine houses that George Gunton is known to have built between 1850-1860 [6] in West End, not far from the brickyard.

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Letter and number bricks, identical to those at Costessey West End, on the gable end of a house at the junction of Belvoir and Earlham Roads, Norwich

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Aucuba Villas (1896) on Earlham Road, Norwich. [Aucuba is an evergreen shrub]. Note the characteristic Gunton ‘A’ in all these examples.

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... and again at Park Lane, Norwich

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The rose bricks above the ‘Adelaide Villa’ lettering were still to be found in the Gunton Bros 1903 catalogue

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The same bricks from the ‘patriotic’ range (but no leek!) were incorporated into many of the walls and features of the Plantation Garden, Norwich.

In the mid 1850s, Henry Trevor created The Plantation Garden near St John’s Cathedral on Earlham Road in an old chalk and flint mine. It is a Victorian delight, benefitting from years of careful restoration. If you want to see a range of Gunton’s products look no further: fragments from more than 15 of their 34 patterns on chimneys can be identified here [7].Plantn garden_2.jpg

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The Plantation Garden’s fountain (1857) with its characteristic mixture of flint and ornamental Cosseyware

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Not far from the Plantation Garden this plaque can be found on Earlham Road near the junction with Park Lane.

Two of Norwich’s foremost architects, Edward Boardman and George Skipper, used Cosseyware to ornament their buildings – a choice that helped define the appearance of the Victorian city. In 1869, Boardman designed the Princes Street Congregational Chapel (now United Reformed Church) and adjoining Church Rooms in an Italianate style.

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Boardman’s Congregational Chapel, with triangular pediment, is seen beyond the Church Rooms that he also designed. The Rooms have been renamed Boardman House and are now part of Norwich University of the Arts.

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Gunton’s white decorative wares were used to realise the classical Italian style 

Pale brick from Gunton’s was used again by Boardman for his office block, Castle Chambers, in Opie Street off Castle Meadow.

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Castle Chambers 1877. Architect Edward Boardman

Some 20 years later Boardman was to design the Royal Hotel around the corner on Agricultural Hall Plain in red brick and ornamental Cosseyware. This hotel replaced the old Royal Hotel that provided the site for Skipper’s Royal Arcade off the marketplace.

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Royal Hotel, Norwich (1896-7). Architect Edward Boardman

The Arts and Crafts Movement roamed widely for its pre-industrial architectural influences: the Royal Hotel is described as being “free Flemish” [8]. The lower levels are relatively plain but further up the stylistic tics of neo-Renaissance architecture become more apparent in the ornamented string courses, gables and pinnacles – all richly decorated in Cosseyware.

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The diamond shapes in the triangle at the centre of the gable above form a repetitive pattern or diaper that can be seen on several buildings around Norwich

The former carriage entrance of The Green House 42-46 Bethel Street offers a fine example of Gunton’s diapering …

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Boardman used red Cosseyware diapering on his own offices in Old Bank of England Court, Queen Street. His nameplate, which is a gem of Victorian lettering, was custom made rather then being made from Gunton’s individual letter bricks.edward boardman_1.jpg

Gunton’s red clay was used to make these intricate tableaux on what were once George Skipper’s offices, now subsumed into Jarrold’s department store on London Street.

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Arts and Crafts: Skipper is showing clients the Art of architecture while workmen demonstrate the various Crafts of building


In this other Cosseyware panel, Skipper introduces his work to potential clients. In the background are three of his completed Norwich buildings [9]

Glance right next time you exit Norwich Rail Station and you will see one of the most richly decorated buildings in Norwich – 22 Thorpe Road . It was designed ca. 1900 by A F Scott and Son [6] using red Cosseyware in Franco-Flemish neo-Renaissance style.

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Bewick House, 22 Thorpe Road, headquarters of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust

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The moulding is still crisp after more than 100 years

Buildings in the last quarter of the C19th buildings were often exuberantly marked with terracotta date plaques – perhaps an expression of the confidence felt by Victorian architects and their clients at the height of Empire. This example below is over one metre tall:

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1878. Number 13 Ipswich Road

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1875. Edward Boardman’s office in Old Bank of England Court

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1877. Boardman’s Castle Chambers, Opie Street, Norwich

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1894. Number 22 Thorpe Road

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1886. Norwich Gaol, Mousehold Heath

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1888. St Ethelbert’s House, Tombland, Norwich

From terraced houses to large public buildings, Cosseyware left its distinctive mark on Victorian Norwich.

Next post: “Early Doors: Tudor to Georgian”. Sign up for free email alerts.


  1. Lucas, Robin (1993). Brickmaking. In, An Historical Atlas of Norfolk. pp154-155.
  2. Lucas, Robin (1997). The tax on bricks and tiles, 1784-1850: its application to the country at large and, in particular,to the county of Norfolk. Construction History vol 13, pp29-55.
  3. O’Donoghue, Rosemary (2014). Norwich, an expanding city 1801-1900. Larks Press, Dereham.
  4. Gage, Ernest G. (1991). Costessey Hall. A retrospect of the Jernegans, Jerninghams and Stafford Jerninghams of Costessey Hall, Norfolk. Available from:
  5. Gage, Ernest, G. (2013). Costessey: A Look into the Past. Pub: Brian Gage, 31 Eastern Ave, Norwich NR7 OUQ (also, see preceding link).
  6. Lucas, Robin (1997). Neo-Gothic, Neo-Tudor, Neo-Renaissance: The Costessey Brickyard. The Victorian Society Journal pp 25-37.
  7. Adam, Sheila (2009). The Plantation Garden Norwich: A History and Guide. (Available from the Plantation Garden, 4 Earlham Road, Norwich).
  8. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Yale University Press.
  9. Bussey, David and Martin, Eleanor (2012). The Architects of Norwich. George Skipper, 1856-1948. The Norwich Society.

Visit: the excellent website with many photographs of Costessey Hall and of brick-making on:  I am grateful to Brian Gage for generously providing information and access to the Ernest Gage Collection. Thanks are also due to Paul Cooper, local historian, for sharing his extensive knowledge of Costessey Hall and the Gunton Brickyard. An endlessly fascinating archive of photographs of old Norfolk with a great series of photographs of old Costessey Hall. Thanks to Clare Everitt, who runs the website, for her help.

Visit: if you haven’t already seen the Plantation Garden you are in for a treat. Open daily 9.00am – dusk. Their excellent website is well worth exploring (

Footnote: Peter Mann mailed in to provide the names of men in the photograph of the Gunton workers. He says: my Grandfather and Great Grandfather are included in the Picture. Names as Follows:
Back Row L/R, Albert White, John Ireson, Charles Doggett, George Gunton (Part Owner), Walter Ireson, James Simmons.
Middle Row L/R, Daniel Drury, William Gunton Jnr, Fred Barber, William Gunton Snr (Part Owner), Noah Mansfield, H.E Gunton, Charles Gotts, Thomas Mann Jnr. Seated Row, Arthur Paul (kneeling), John Minns, James Minns, (Carvers Of Norwich), Joseph Goward, Thomas Mann Snr.
Bottom Row, Robert Burton, James Paul, William Bugdale, Harry Banham.


Thomas Jeckyll & the Boileau Family


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You may have gathered from two earlier posts [1,2] that I am fascinated by a local hero, the Wymondham-born architect and designer Thomas Jeckyll. Through his C19th designs for the Norwich foundry of Barnard Bishop and Barnards he became a major contributor to the Japanese-inspired Aesthetic Movement and helped make the sunflower its defining motif.

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Sunflower table top, cast-iron. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll ca 1870 for Barnard Bishop and Barnards. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service)

Jeckyll was also the original designer of the iconic [3Peacock Room, made to accommodate shipping magnate Frederick Leyland’s extensive collection of china. However, Jeckyll’s mental collapse allowed arch-aesthete James McNeill Whistler to reinvent the room as (an admittedly stunning) ‘Harmony in Blue and Gold’ by literally overpainting Jeckyll’s surfaces to make the best-surviving example of the Anglo-Japanese style.

This post is about the Boileau fountain, a more humble project of Jeckyll’s but another that can no longer be seen as he originally intended.

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Boileau Fountain at the junctions of Ipswich and Newmarket Roads, Norwich. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll ca 1870, completed in 1876. (Postcard bought at a local antiques fair).

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As a young man, Jeckyll had been the protégé of Sir Thomas Boileau of Ketteringham Hall, a few miles south of Norwich.

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Sir John Peter Boileau by Sir Francis Grant (President Royal Academy 1866)

It was therefore fitting that one of Jeckyll’s last projects was to design this drinking fountain (ca 1870) as a memorial to his former mentor. Sir Thomas had died in 1869 but it took time to prove his will that provided £1000 for the memorial, which was completed in 1876 [4, 5].

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Postcards tended to focus on the electric trams that arrived in 1900

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“for people and cattle”

Sir John had been concerned for the welfare of animals being driven to Norwich market, explaining the gift of water, but the statue added a more personal note to his legacy. The seated figure represents Charity giving a child a drink of water from a shell.

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Charity by Sir J Edgar Boehm

Lady Catherine Boileau had died in her fifties in 1862 but the face of the seated Charity is said to have resembled Lady Catherine when younger.

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Lady Catherine Boileau by Sir Francis Grant

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The plaster maquette of the Boehm statue can be seen through the door of the Orangery at Ketteringham Hall 1878

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The Orangery (above) was later used as the Ketteringham Hall Preparatory School where the  Boehm maquette (top centre) was still in situ ca 1958.

The sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, was born in Vienna and moved to England where he became an Associate of the Royal Academy [6].  One of his students was Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise; she was in Boehm’s house when he died, fuelling speculation in the press of a sexual relationship between them [6].

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Carte de visite of Sir JE Boehm 1860s (Wikimedia Commons)

At the ceremony to dedicate the fountain, Sir John’s son Francis praised Jeckyll’s contribution and noted his famous metalwork designs.

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Francis Boileau’s pencilled annotation at the top of the cheque reads, “For luncheon on opening of the Boileau Fountain”. Note the names of the famous Norwich banking families.

But within a week of this ceremony Jeckyll had descended into the manic state that eventually led him to be confined to the Bethel Asylum, where he died in 1881 [4].

Curiously, younger members of the Boileau family were to be involved in a ‘carriage accident’ at the site of this ceremony one generation later.

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On Wednesday 16th November 1910, according to the Eastern Evening News of that date, a carriage containing Sir John’s grandson Sir Maurice Boileau, granddaughter Lady Margaret and Rev. Hart were in an “Exciting scene in St Stephen’s”. Approximately where the pony and trap are seen to the right of the fountain a cyclist skidded in front of the horses causing them to bolt “at a terrific pace”towards St Stephen’s Gates. Horses and carriage crashed into two stationary vehicles outside Mr Bean’s the corn merchant.  Margaret, who was herself a physician (a fact not mentioned in the report) helped the injured coachman into the adjacent hospital to which her grandfather had been a benefactor. One of the fine bay horses had to be put down.

Jekyll’s double-canopied fountain was dismantled in 1965 in order to ease traffic flow and to increase the visibility of passing traffic.

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The Boileau Fountain 1965 during demolition. (c) Archant/EDP Library

In 2008 the statue was returned, some 50 metres west of where it had once stood, to a new site next to a pond in the grounds of the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital [5].

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Boehm’s ‘Charity” statue in the grounds of the former N&N hospital, 2016.

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The plaster maquette of Boehm’s ‘Charity’ remains in Ketteringham Hall

Thomas Jeckyll enjoyed a long relationship with the Boileau family. The son of a cleric, Jeckyll had a fascination for church architecture; he restored many churches around Norfolk and worked on the tower of Ketteringham church, adjacent to the Boileau’s Hall [4].

At the beginning of his career, in the 1840s, Jeckyll had helped design a Gothic folly – a medieval ruin – in an old gravel pit near Ketteringham Hall [7].

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Her Ladyship’s Pit also known as St Catherine’s Cell, 1886. The figure here is Lady Lucy, daughter-in-law of Lady Catherine who had died in 1862. 

In about 1847 Jeckyll was called in to complete the pit as a work-in-progress, which he did with the help of Mr Woodbine, a local builder. Jeckyll told Sir John he would, “Build the Ruins for her Ladyship as cheap as I can“. In the event poor Mr Woodbine completed the job for £12 instead of the £18 he had estimated.

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Lady Lucy Boileau with her three children (Maurice, Margaret and Raymond) and school friend Harry Bennett disporting themselves in a lime tree in ‘her Ladyship’s Pit’, 1886. Herr Stein maintains his dignity.

In 1849 Sir John had supported a proposal to install stained glass in the west window of Norwich Cathedral in commemoration of his great friend, Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich. Only 40 or so years later it was thought that the fifteenth century tracery into which the glass had been set was insufficiently robust and should be replaced. Sir John’s son Francis, who was as avid a collector of antiquities as his father, bought the Perpendicular stonework for £10 and set it above a wall in another part of the Ketteringham estate known as ‘The Abbey’. By this time Jeckyll was too ill to have been involved in the venture.


The head of the C15th Perpendicular window set upon a wall, 1885.

Unfortunately, during the great gale of 1895 two elm trees fell on the wall leaving only a narrow course of arches.


After the storm of 1895

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This article was based on the record generously supplied by local historian and warden of Ketteringham Church, Mary Parker.  The section on the Gothic follies at Ketteringham is based on an article that Mary and I wrote for the Norfolk Gardens Trust News, which can be downloaded online [7]. I am grateful to Hannah Henderson of the Museum of Norwich, Bridewell Alley, for showing me the Jeckyll collection.

If you are interested in the history of Norfolk landscape, gardens and their buildings join the Norfolk Gardens Trust for only £10 single/£15 joint. The NGT promotes the preservation of gardens and designed landscape and has a programme of garden visits and lectures. Their magazine, Norfolk Gardens Trust News, appears twice yearly. Contact membership secretary Tony Stimpson





4. Weber Soros, Susan and Arbuthnott, Catherine. (2003). Thomas Jeckyll. Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. Yale University Press.

5. Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk.

6. Wikipedia

7.  Norfolk Gardens Trust News No21 Spring 2016 pp12-15.





Art Nouveau in Great Yarmouth


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Two Art Nouveau buildings (and a surprising one)

If the architect George Skipper was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona (see previous blog) then, surely, RS Cockrill was to Yarmouth what Skipper was to Norwich. OK, the line from Barcelona to Great Yarmouth does seem rather tenuous but what all three architects shared was a desire to bring the new art to their native towns.

Ralph Scott Cockrill  designed several buildings in Great Yarmouth with a strong Art Nouveau flavour. When researching the Royal Arcade in Norwich as an example of this style I read in Pevsner and Wilson [1] that “only two commercial buildings deserve a place in any book on the subject (The Arts and Crafts) in England: the Royal Arcade … and Fastolff House in Regent Street, Great Yarmouth…“. I didn’t know it, went to see it, and it is tremendous.

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Fastolff House, Regent Street, Great Yarmouth. Built 1908, designed by Ralph Scott Cockrill.

Fastolff House is evidently named for Sir John Falstoff  – Shakespeare’s Falstaff – who was born in nearby Caister Castle. The olde worlde reference is appropriate for an Arts and Crafts building that, with bands of casement windows, was designed with Norman Shaw’s Old English Revival in mind. The outstanding examples of English Art Nouveau – The Royal Arcade, Norwich and The Edward Everard Printing Works, Bristol – achieve their stunning effect with polychrome tiles designed by Doulton’s Neatby. But here, Fastolff House is covered by a facade of monochrome grey faience whose effect depends upon three-dimensional sculpturing instead of illustration.

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The strongly three-dimensional moulding of the faience tiles above the front door contrasts with the low-relief tiles used in Skipper’s Royal Arcade, Norwich

RS Cockrill’s father John William Cockrill had an association with the Doulton’s Lambeth factory via his Cockrill-Doulton Patent Tiles so they seem an obvious candidate for the faience here. But Doulton’s archive has suffered over the years from fire and flood and there seems to be no record that they were associated with Fastolff House. Of course, other potteries were available. The impressive frontage of The Empire on the promenade, for instance, came from The Leeds Fireclay Company.

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The decorative faience superimposed upon this Arts and Crafts building has been referred to as an “odd facade … with lively Germanic Art Nouveau” [2]. It is true that German Art Nouveau, like British, resisted the excesses of the whiplash line of France and Belgium but there are plenty of domestic sources for this restrained variant of Art Nouveau style – look no further than the front cover of The Studio …

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Liberty’s of London used a wide variety of bird and tree patterns “recalling the designs of Voysey (see fabric design further down) and Knox … while others are in a typical ‘Glasgow style'”. Such Glaswegian motifs “were organic, but highly stylised, with … sinuous curves contrasting with taut, straight lines“[3]. This neatly summarises the style applied to Fastolff House.

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The upper clerestory punctuated by heavily-undercut foliage around the gable. The roof tiles are green faience.

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The ‘lanterns’ in the ground floor windows may be a playful reference to pre-electric illumination used in Old English buildings

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The lights above the transom and the elongated stems of the flowers accentuate the proportions of the narrow side door


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The ‘W’ on the beautifully patinated side door probably refers to James Williment who developed this purpose-built office block [1].

The second Art Nouveau building in Great Yarmouth is The Hippodrome (1903).

The Yarmouth Hippodrome and the Blackpool Tower Circus are the only two purpose-built, permanent circus buildings remaining in Britain. The sawdust “ring (was) 45 feet in diameter (and) is so constructed as to be converted in a few minutes to a miniature lake of 60,000 gallons of water” [4]. The original mechanism that drops the floor and floods the ring still works and currently supports a ‘live action water show’.

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A busy and beautiful Art Nouveau facade but metal straps around the columns indicate the urgent need for restoration

The Hippodrome was built on the site of George Gilbert’s Circus.

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George Gilbert’s Circus. Courtesy of Colin Tooke.

When constructed, Cockrill’s  Hippodrome directly faced the promenade …

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Yarmouth Hippodrome 1911 (c) Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society

… but later building obscured it from the road.

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Yarmouth Hippodrome 2016

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The decorative surface of RS Cockrill’s Hippodrome is provided by buff-coloured terracotta moulded with various Art Nouveau motifs.

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Face of a young woman crowned by a wreath of heart-shaped honesty leaves – a common art nouveau motif. This and many of the following panels require urgent restoration.


A panel of stylised peacocks (above) and a frieze of owls (below)


Left: Above the capital of honesty leaves is a panel of figures with hair in smoke-like tendrils. Right: Terracotta block depicting a tree bearing the highly stylised leaves.

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The design on this terracotta panel is strongly reminiscent of work by Voysey (below).       The different coloured tile cements further underline the urgent need for restoration.


Birds-in-a-tree was a favourite design of the architect CFA Voysey, which he reworked and updated in many different ways. He used these patterns on an enormous number of wallpaper and textile designs, ensuring their widespread dissemination [3].

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Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. Fabric design 1898 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The previous two buildings emerged from the Arts and Crafts Movement of the nineteenth century and depend for effect on surface decoration. In the next building, by contrast, superficial decoration is suppressed (though not entirely) and looks forward to a twentieth century style of construction. The thread running through all three buildings is that they were designed by a Cockrill, except the third was produced not by Ralph Scott Cockrill but by his father John William (1849-1924). JW was born in Gorleston and was appointed to the local Board as Surveyor and (the rather Dickensian) Inspector of Nuisances. It is thought he picked up his other monicker of ‘Concrete Cockrill’ as a result of the concrete pavements he laid [5]. In 1912 he designed the School of Arts and Crafts, now restored as apartments. It is a handsome building but the local mayor ungraciously said it was “a lost opportunity with its austerely unlovely exterior“[5]. This should not be the lasting judgement because the building was an important pioneer of a new kind of architecture.

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School of Arts and Crafts with its austere north facade

At about this time Walter Gropius in Germany was expounding his revolutionary ideas of a modernist architecture in which conventional load-bearing walls are replaced by columns of concrete and steel that support large expanses of steel-framed glass. His Fagus Factory (with Adolf Meyer) of 1911-13 is an icon of the modernist movement that dominated C20th commercial building on an international scale.


Fagus Shoe-Last Factory, Alfeld, Germany. Designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer 1911-1913

JW Cockrill’s Yarmouth School of Arts and Crafts (1912) illustrates many of these principles: the  flat roof, its steel frame, the extensive use of concrete, large expanses of glass and (for the most part) shunning of ornament mark it out as one of the first examples of modernist design in Britain.


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The front facade bears the only decorative surfaces


JW Cockrill said that everything in this building was concrete except the doors … but he was working on it [5].

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  1. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Yale University Press. See pages 161 and 509.
  3. Morris, Barbara (1989). Liberty Design. Octopus Books Ltd.
  4. Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk 1904, page 45.
  5. Summers, David. The Building Cockrills of Yarmouth. Norfolk Historic Buildings Group Newsletter No25 Spring 2013. pp7-8.


I am grateful to David Summers, Judith Martin and Colin Tooke for their helpful advice.





Skipper’s Art Nouveau Building


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Art nouveau (the new art), le style moderne, Jugendstil (youth style), Secessionism, all refer to the newness of an art that, around 1900, broke away from academic tradition and – in some versions – emphasised the curved line of plant form. But this sensuous, rather decadent, style with its characteristic whiplash line might have had its origins in religious architecture.

Six hundred years earlier the curved line was being used to design the stone tracery decorating the tops of Gothic windows. Instead of scribing complete circles with his compass to produce, for example, the clover-leaf trefoils of the earlier Geometric phase,  the master mason of the Curvilinear period would join separate arcs to produce the sinuous S-shape of the ogee [1].   Nikolaus Pevsner described this window below as, “The best Decorated example in Norfolk” [2].


The curvilinear tracery of St Mary Snettisham, Norfolk. Photo: Spencer Means, Creative Commons

Compared to the sinuous line of the English Curvilinear period the continental version seems even more convoluted, reflexing back on itself to produce the flame-like curves of the Flamboyant period.


Flamboyant window in Milan Cathedral. Photo: Mary Ann Sullivan

The reversed curve may therefore have been deeply embedded in the architectural folk memory and, in Britain at least, reawakened  by the Victorian Gothic Revival. However, the first time that the flexuous line emerged as a recognisably art nouveau design was when this book cover by the English designer Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo was published in 1883. It was, said Pevsner, “the first work of art nouveau which can be traced” [3].


Book cover for Wren’s City Churches by A. H. Mackmurdo 1883.

Norfolk readers may appreciate Mackmurdo’s early Art Nouveau ‘Cromer Bird’ pattern, which used a similar undulating line.

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A.H.Mackmurdo 1884. ‘Cromer Bird’ design for block-printed cotton.

In medieval Gothic architecture even the most curvaceous designs of the Curvilinear period remained symmetrical: either radially symmetrical (as in the second figure above) or with left/right bilateral symmetry as in the first example of a Decorated window. But in designing this chair-back Mackmurdo resisted the urge for symmetry.

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Mackmurdo chair of 1883-4. The seat and legs are entirely conventional but the fretwork splat is wonderfully asymmetrical – almost a 3D version of the ‘Wren’ book cover above.

The ‘Wren’ book cover might imply that Art Nouveau originated in Britain but in reality the new art was an amalgam of styles that emerged at about the same time across Europe and America. However, Art Nouveau never fully emerged as a dominant architectural style here, perhaps being thought too decadent and sensuous for Protestant Britain. The major exception was in Glasgow where Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s buildings are masterpieces of a new style, although his version was more rectilinear and geometric than these snaking lines displayed in Victor Horta’s  Hotel Tassel, Brussels.


Hotel Tassel, designed by Victor Horta, Brussels 1893-4.

Compared to the pent up energy of the whiplash line unleashed in continental architecture the rare examples of Art Nouveau buildings in England appear restrained.

The Royal Arcade in Norwich is a nationally important example…


Royal Arcade Norwich 1899. Architect GJ Skipper, designer WJ Neatby of Doulton Lambeth Pottery

The photograph below, taken in 1955,  shows the ground floor of the shop that flanked the left entrance to the arcade.

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The Royal Arcade 1955 (c) 

This shop to the left of the Back of the Inns entrance was known as The Arcade Stores. Originally a Bullards pub, Skipper integrated it into the arcade. Below, we can just make out tiles bearing bunches of grapes (left) but they didn’t survive the destruction of this part of the building when converted to a butcher’s shop in the 1960s (see


The Arcade Stores 1956. (c) RIBA

Another jewel-like building with polychrome Doulton tiles by the same designer is the Edward Everard printing works in Bristol.


Everard’s printing press Bristol, with tiles by Doulton’s WJ Neatby. Only the facade survives, underlining the relative importance attached to exterior versus the interior (c) RIBA

Both built at about 1900, Everard’s and the Royal Arcade share obvious similarities derived from the Doulton tile designer William James Neatby. The figure to the left of the first floor windows of the printing works is the inventor of the printing press Johannes Gutenberg: to the right is William Morris who revived the art of printing with his Kelmscott Press. This in turn has resonances with another building by George Skipper in Norwich, The Norfolk Daily Standard offices in St Giles Street.


Norfolk Daily Standard offices  (1899-1900), architect George Skipper.

This Skipper gem is decorated with Doulton brown terracotta tiles. Although there are minor Art Nouveau touches it is not really an example of that movement for its influences are more eclectic [4]. But, recalling those two figures of pioneers on the Everard building (and the tendency of architects to borrow a good idea), the Norfolk Daily Standard building bears portraits of  William Caxton (the first English printer) and Daniel Defoe (one of the first English journalists and novelists).


William Caxton (printer) and Daniel Defoe (writer) decorate the Norfolk Daily Standard building.

These newspaper offices and the Royal Arcade are prime examples of Skipper’s imaginative buildings, designed about 1900, that brought a modern dimension to the largely medieval and Georgian-style city. As Sir John Betjeman said:

“He was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona”

Betjeman probably had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he compared Norwich and Barcelona but, don’t forget, Skipper was big in Cromer too! [5]

However, it was Neatby’s colourful tiles rather than the underlying architecture that caused the press to say the arcade was like a “fragment from the Arabian Nights dropped into the heart of the old city” [6].  At that stage, Neatby had been Head of Doulton’s architectural department for about ten years.

Sir Henry Doulton (d 1897) made his money from the manufacture of glazed stoneware drainage pipes at a time when there was an increasing demand for better sanitation. By 1870 the same clay used for sewage pipes was being used by students who came to his workshop from the nearby Lambeth School of Art to produce what became the enormously popular Doulton Art Pottery.

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Left, A Doulton slip-cast stoneware vase in which the pattern is applied by the mould. Centre, a Doulton stoneware vase that has been turned on a wheel with the pattern applied by hand. Right, a transfer-printed, hand-painted vase (factory unknown) showing the more continental whiplash line.

Neatby was an experimentalist and he helped develop Doulton’s Carraraware, a dense white body made to look like marble [7] that was used to clad the external facing of the Royal Arcade.


This winged angel guarding the east entrance to the Royal Arcade is a reference to the Angel Inn that once stood on this site [4].

The interior was decorated with another product –  a matt material called Parian ware, which was also developed by Neatby [7].

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