Tags

, , , , , ,

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.

Norwich from St Giles carpark_1.jpg

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.

OS map1882_2.jpg

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].  

Gunton workers.jpg

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.

Costessey Hall RIBA7018.jpg

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

CossyChimneys_Bridewell_PN.jpg

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

Gunton Bros catalogue 1907.jpg

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.

Costessey Hall demolition.jpg

Demolition of Costessey Hall began in 1920; seen here in 1934 (c) www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk

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.

Brickfield Loke.jpg

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.

Gunton brick furnace.jpg

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.” 

Cossy bricks on bldg west end_@BridewellPicNorflk.jpg

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.

Gunton gable.jpg

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

 

Gunton Chimneys.jpg

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.

Earlham Rd Terrace_1.jpg

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

Aucuba villa_1.jpg

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

Adelaide villa_1.jpg

... and again at Park Lane, Norwich

Gunton bricks.jpg

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

bricks Plntn garden480.jpg

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

Fountain Plantn Garden.jpg

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

Curfew Terrace_a.jpg

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.

United Refd Church.jpg

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.

Boardman Untd Refrmd Chrch_1.jpg

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.

Castle chambers2_1.jpg

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.

Royal Hotel Norwich_1.jpg

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.

Royal Hotel detail_2.jpg

royal hotel_1.jpg

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 …

Bethel St.jpg

 

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.

Skipper's office_2.jpg

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

Skipper_3.jpg

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.

Bewick House_a.jpg

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

Bewick House porch.jpg

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:

13 Ipswich Rd Norwich.jpg

Ipswich Rd date_4.jpg

1878. Number 13 Ipswich Road

Boardman date_4.jpg

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

Castle Chambers date_4.jpg

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

Bewick House date_4.jpg

1894. Number 22 Thorpe Road

Norwich Gaol date_4.jpg

1886. Norwich Gaol, Mousehold Heath

St Ethelbert's date_4.jpg

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.

Sources

  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: http://www.costesseybooks.co.uk/purchasebooks.htm
  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: http://www.costesseybooks.co.uk/contact.htm.  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.

Visitwww.picture.norfolk.gov.uk. 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 (http://plantationgarden.co.uk).

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.