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 John 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 John 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.





The sailing ship as an Arts & Crafts motif


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From the mid-C19th to the early C20th, the sailing ship was a common, if not central, decorative motif in the Arts and Crafts movement. It is difficult at this distance to appreciate how popular this image was but some idea of its pervasiveness is indicated by the number and range of household objects to which it was applied. The ship in full sail appears on several buildings in Norwich.

Billowing sails symbolise adventure and escape, which may explain its popularity at the peak of Victorian industrialisation. A previous blog on the Arts and Crafts house mentioned William Morris’ moral crusade against mechanisation and the revival of a medieval style unsullied by industrialisation. When it came to furnishing their aesthetic homes the middle classes, keen to display their artistic leanings, would have been influenced by magazines like The Studio. In this advertisement from that magazine, which overflows with cultural references, Liberty’s of London (“Arts&Crafts Central”) included several sets of billowing sails.


Advertisement for Liberty’s on the back page of The Studio vol 15, No68 (1898).


The Viking ship on the plate on the mantelpiece is in full sail, like the  galleons on the frieze.

Most Arts and Crafts homes would  have had this motif somewhere for it occurred in paintings and book illustrations, on furniture,  jewellery, pottery, stained glass etc.  A quick survey in a favourite Norwich shop specialising in Arts & Crafts [1] revealed ships in full sail on a wooden fire screen and on a hammered-copper clock face …



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The sailing ship also appears on the building itself; it is seen here on this galleon found on a plaque on Garsett House, named after a former mayor (died 1611). It is said to have been built in 1589 from timbers salvaged from a Spanish galleon defeated in the Armada, hence the alternative name of Armada House [1].


Armada House, St Andrew’s Street, Norwich

The south wing of Armada house was cut away in 1898 to allow construction of a road carrying the new tramway [2].

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Armada House on St Andrew’s Hill, opposite Cinema City. (c) Picture Norfolk

Perhaps the best known ship in the city is on George Skipper’s Haymarket Chambers, currently the home of Prêt à Manger.

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George Skipper’s Haymarket Chambers 1901-2. (c) RIBApix

Not quite as depicted in this drawing, each of the two lozenges on the towers contains a large Royal Doulton tile bearing a galleon [3]. The Doulton artist WJ Neatby (of Harrods’ Food Hall fame) also designed the tiles for Skipper’s Royal Arcade nearby but although the ‘Haymarket’ sailing ship is in Neatby’s bold art nouveau style I have been unable to find evidence in Doulton catalogues that ties him to this work.


From the grandeur of the building I had thought the facade might have originally hidden a cinema but the semicircular tympani within the arches  contain Doulton terracotta palms – either a reference to J H Roofe’s superior grocery stores on the ground floor or to the exotic possibilities offered by the Norwich Stock Exchange situated above the shop [4].

This beautiful stained glass panel on Tower House (below), at the junction of Kingsley and Newmarket roads, is quite similar, hinting at common influence.


For a source of these influences we can look again to The Studio, which disseminated the designs of contemporary style-makers. Christopher Dresser, for example, was a luminary of the Arts and Crafts Movement and an 1898 edition of the magazine shows one of his fabric designs…

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Christopher Dresser design for cretonne. From, The Studio vol 15 No. 68 (1898)

Charles Robert Ashbee was another artist of immense importance to the Arts and Crafts Movement and was founder of the Guild of Handicraft. The sailing ship was one of his favourite motifs and it appeared frequently in the guild’s work.

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Brooch, originally a pendant, designed by CR Ashbee ca 1903. (c) V&A Images

CFA Voysey’s designs for Arts and Crafts houses were widely copied but as someone who designed contents as well as houses his influence was all-pervasive, as seen here in his design for fabric.

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‘Three Men of Gotham’. Design for printed velvet by CFA Voysey ca 1889. RIBA Collections

Another key figure was Edward Burne-Jones, associated with the Pre-Raphaelite  Brotherhood and a founding partner of William Morris’ decoration and furnishing business, Morris & Co. Burne-Jones was commissioned by Morris to design this dramatic stained-glass panel for the home of an American tobacco heiress who had been told of the Viking origins of the area.


The Voyage to Vinland the Good 1883-4. Designed by Edward Burne-Jones, made by Morris & Co. (c) Ad Meskens/Wikimedia Commons

It may be unfair to follow this technical and artistic tour de force with the ship in the window of The Gatehouse pub on Dereham Road for the building is a very late example of Arts & Crafts style (see Twinned Towers post); when the glass was installed in 1934 contemporary artists would have been more familiar with a simpler, geometric Art Deco style.

TheGatehouse Norwich_1.jpgAround 1900 Glasgow was the undisputed centre for art nouveau design in Britain and Jessie Marion King was one of its leading exponents, focusing mainly on illustration. She, along with Margaret MacDonald – wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh – was one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’ and Jessie’s feminine, curvilinear style shares resemblances with the MacDonald/Mackintosh group. The sailing ship in the illustration below does not look as ruggedly seaworthy as the Burne-Jones Viking ship but is one of countless examples of the sailing ship in children’s books, stretching to ‘Swallows and Amazons’ and beyond.

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‘Wynken Blynken and Nod’ by Jessie M King. The Studio vol 15 No. 70 (1899)

No ships in the image below – just an excuse to show one of Jessie King’s beautiful book covers.


From her ‘Three Ages of Woman’ designs, Jessie M King’s cover illustration for George Routledge and Sons’ series of classic books

As we have seen, the ship motif was executed in a wide variety of materials, one of the more unusual being the coloured pebbles used on this post-war panel outside St Paul’s catholic church Tuckswood, Norwich.

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The last of the Norwich ‘ship’ emblems comes from Norfolk House in Exchange Street. The building – now a part of City College – was constructed after the war on the site of a furniture store that had been bombed in the Baedecker raids. Although constructed in a modern style it was intended that the building reflect something of local history and this was effectively achieved with the artwork below. The East Anglian shield is comprised of the cross of St George and the smaller St Edmund’s shield with its three golden crowns. Surmounting this is a craft that must have been a common sight into the early C20th – the Norfolk wherry whose shallow-draught allowed it to trade on the Broads.Norfolk House_1.jpg

Before the war, Raymond King and his wife had been impressed by the simple style of modern architecture in Sweden and wanted to build something forward-looking on the site. The model was the Town Hall at Halmstad in southern Sweden.

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Norfolk House, Exchange Street Norwich. Taken in 1951 by

This plaque in the foyer marks the inauguration of the building in 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain that celebrated British renewal and enterprise after a debilitating war.


The bronze plaque includes the Norfolk wherry, mirroring the ship on the parapet. Like all ships with wind in their sails it projects a brighter future … and one with an appropriately local flavour.


Please let me know if you know of any other ship motifs in Norwich and Norfolk.


1.Antiques & Interiors, 31-35 Elm Hill, Norwich (

2. See entry on ‘Princes St 1 Garsett House’.

3. Bussey, David and Martin, Eleanor (2012). The Architects of Norwich. George Skipper, 1856-1948. Pub, The Norwich Society (available from











Arts & Crafts houses in Norfolk


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Following the explosion of terraced-house building in the latter part of the C19th it was perhaps the Arts & Crafts movement that had the greatest influence on the detached and semi-detached houses that were then built at the edges of a still-expanding Norwich.

The Arts & Crafts Movement took its name from The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society (1888). Its members believed in the fusion of art and craft and held to the principles of craftsmanship and truth to materials expounded by William Morris. Morris was revolted by Victorian mechanisation and started a moral crusade in search of a purer, craft-based way of living. His Red House, designed by his friend Philip Webb, represented a transition from full-blooded Gothic to a romanticised pre-industrial version.


The Red House, Bexleyheath. Built ca. 1860 (Ethan Doyle White)

Morris despised much of contemporary design so he decorated the house with help from friends such as the Pre-Raphaelite artists Rosetti and Burne-Jones.  This was expressed in his famous motto: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” At about this time Morris formed  his own design company, Morris & Co, which became “the furnishing wing of the Pre-Raphaelite movement” [1].

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William Morris’ wallpaper design ‘Fruit’ (1864) still in production today (

Richard Norman Shaw was a contemporary of Webb’s. Although both architects adhered to Morris’ principles of locally sourced materials and craftsmanship both diverted from the Gothic to develop a vernacular alternative. Webb developed Old English design but by the 1870s this had given way to a trademark ‘Queen Anne’ Revival style [2]. This Arts & Crafts style was not a slavish return to the architecture from Queen Anne’s age (early 1700s) but a mixture of influences: Dutch,  Flemish, French, Robert Adam and the Japanese-influenced Aesthetic Movement. Added to this was an English Renaissance style based on Christopher Wren (the ‘Wrenaissance’) in which red brick was favoured over the white stone (or brick) of classical Palladian buildings [3]. As well as red brick, red tiles and terracotta panels became the materials of choice during the Queen Anne Revival.

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A celebration of red brick, Ipswich Road 1878

In Shaw’s version of Queen Anne, multi-paned windows with crisp white glazing bars were a distinguishing feature. By the time this had filtered down to the general building trade – which is when we see it in the provinces – a common formula for windows was for the small panes to be restricted to the upper part with larger panes of plate glass at the bottom [3].

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‘Queen Anne’ in Unthank Road

Bedford Park Estate in Chiswick London occupies an important place in the Arts & Crafts canon because it provided the model for the late nineteenth century suburb and led to the Garden City Movement [1].

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The Tabard in Bedford Park; a ‘pioneer’ Queen Anne pub designed in 1877 by R Norman Shaw (

Initially, EW Godwin – who anticipated modernism with his stunning Aesthetic, Japanese-influenced sideboard – had designed small detached and semi-detached houses but these were not well received and so Norman Shaw was recruited  to provide further designs.

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EW Godwin was heavily influenced by Japanese design as in this sideboard 1867-1880 (copyright Victorian and Albert Museum). A bit off-piste but a favourite of mine

The Ballad of Bedford Park (below), although satirical in intent, gives an idea of the totality of the Arts & Crafts movement and shows how its spirit invaded all parts of the art-conscious middle-class home.

With red and blue and sagest green

Were walls and dado dyed

Friezes of Morris there were seen 

And oaken wainscot wide

Now he who loves aesthetic cheer

And does not mind the damp

May come and read Rosetti here

By a Japanese-y lamp.

(St James’s Gazette, 1881)

Two other architects had a major influence on Arts and Crafts style. The first was Charles Francis Annesley Voysey [4]. Characteristically, he employed large sweeping roofs set above horizontal ribbons of windows. Walls were covered with his trademark white-painted roughcast. Even when he wanted to use local materials, clients insisted on his popular roughcast [5]. This coating, which John Betjeman [6] thought ‘dematerialised’ the surface of a house, provided local builders with an inexpensive shortcut to an Arts & Crafts style unburdened by any underlying philosophy.


Voysey designed this house for his father 1896. Photo FCG Dimmick (

Voysey took a child-like approach to his work and used obvious imagery like hearts as cuts outs on woodwork and as a recurring motif in his ironwork – another shorthand for readers of weekly trade journals like The Builder.

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‘Hearts of Oak’ chair for Liberty with heart-shaped cutouts.

Edwin Lutyens was another key figure in the Arts & Crafts movement. He enjoyed a long professional partnership with the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. In 1896 Lutyens built Munstead Wood. Miss Jekyll clearly wanted a house rooted in tradition (“Arts and Crafts simplicity was the note” [7]) for she specified something “designed and built in the thorough and honest spirit of the good work of old days” [8].

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Munster Wood by Edwin Lutyens for Gertrude Jekyll (

His early designs involved huge chimneystacks in Norman Shaw’s Old English style, horizontal bands of leaded casement windows, and great sweeping tiled roofs. These catslide roofs could come down to door level leaving the first floor bedrooms to protrude via large gables [1]. A Norfolk example can be seen at Overstrand Hall:


Lutyens’ Overstrand Hall (

… and while we’re in Overstrand here’s a surprising Lutyens building:

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Overstrand Methodist Church designed by Edwin Lutyens

Lutyens was famously playful and loved verbal as well as visual puns, such as shaping brackets to the silhouette of the client. In one version of a story he is claimed to have said to a bishop toying with a portion of fish, “I suppose that’s the piece of cod that passeth all understanding”.

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George du Maurier, Punch (1895)

Although Arts & Crafts architecture became a popular movement its most iconic buildings were mainly architect-designed one-offs for the wealthy. Amongst the important examples in Norfolk is Home Place, now known as Voewood, at Kelling near Holt. Its architect was ES Prior, the co-founder of the Art Workers’ Guild and “perhaps the most brilliant of all Shaw’s pupils” [1].  Here he built a butterfly house with its obliquely projected wings. Building material dug from what is now the sunken garden was used to make the inner core of concrete to which the larger excavated flints were applied [7].


ES Prior’s Home Place/Voewood with sunken garden at front. (

Two other butterfly houses are found in Norfolk: Kelling Hall by Sir Edward Maufe and Happisburgh Manor by Detmar Blow and Ernest Gimson. Although they were built in the Arts & Crafts spirit their singularity (and cost) ensured that butterfly houses did not become models for a more widespread Arts & Crafts style.

In Norwich, at number 24 Tombland is St Ethelberts designed by EP Willens and built in 1888. It throbs with A&C references: red brick, plaster swags between curved oriel windows, roughcast, dormers set in a tiled hipped roof. The design of this remarkable house is said [9]  to owe a debt to Norman Shaw (“wildly Norman Shavian”) but the original on which this was surely based is not too far to find.

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St Ethelbert’s No 24 Tombland, Norwich (1888)


The Ancient, or Sparrowe’s, House Ipswich 1670 (Photo: Andrew Dunn)

‘The Sparrowe’s House’ type of oriel (curved sides, flat front, leaded lights with a central arch) is recognised to be one of three Old English window designs used by Norman Shaw  [3]. However, these two East Anglian buildings, with oriel windows joined by botanical swags, are so similar that it seems likely that the Norwich architect had first hand knowledge of the Ipswich building as well as of Norman Shaw’s pattern book .

Swags are found on another Norwich building …


… St Mary’s Croft in Chapelfield, built in the Tudor Revival style.


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St Mary’s Croft 1881

St Mary’s Croft is a symphony of red brick, from the concave/convex ovals on the gateposts – a humorous example of the bricklayer’s art – to the floral panels of moulded brick. I remember when it used to be my dentist’s surgery.

One of my favourite buildings in Norwich is Tower House at the junction of Newmarket and Kingsley Roads.

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Tower House, Kingsley Road, Norwich

Tower House is generically Arts & Crafts with roughcast walls and a romantic tower capped by an ogee lead roof. What I find more interesting is the simplicity and asymmetry of this elevation – its effect depending on the massing of ten different windows (plus fanlight) in eight different styles. This irregularity echoes one of the most iconic buildings of the Arts & Crafts movement: the White House by EW Godwin. The irregular composition of its windows – really a blocking out of shapes on a flat surface – is thought to reflect Godwin’s fascination with Japanese art and the way it embraced asymmetry [3].

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The White House in Tite St, Chelsea, designed by EW Godwin for James Whistler (1878). Demolished in the 1960s.

Below, in Limetree Road, Norwich is this archetypal Arts & Crafts house by Percy Morley Horder. (His students couldn’t resist a Spoonerism and called him Holy Murder). He went on to design Nottingham University for Jesse Boot (the Chemist). This part  of the building (1908) containing the carriage arch, covered in roughcast, is pure Voysey.

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In 1879-1886, at the time of the first Ordnance Survey, the parts of Newmarket and ‘Unthanks’ Road south of the present Mile End ring road were mainly open fields and nurseries. Their development around 1900 shows how various Arts & Crafts features were absorbed by local builders to make the Edwardian house, some 40 years after Morris et al had tried to find an honest vernacular style.

These semi-detached houses were designed by architects Postle and Webster in 1906 for the builders Podd and Fisher of Aylsham Road.

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Eaton Road, Norwich

Constructed of red brick and tile the houses have Voyseyian touches: steeply-pitched roofs sometimes coming down to door level; roughcast for the upper floors; coloured glass hearts and heart-shaped cutouts in the woodwork.

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This house on Unthank Road shows the now-familiar heart-shaped cutouts on a gently asymmetrical porch.

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Below, the house on Grove Road is a good example of how Arts & Crafts design became part of the everyday vocabulary of the local building trade. A neighbour said that his grandfather (“Youngs the Builder”) had built the house for his own family (presumably after the First World war).

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Grove Road, Norwich

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Handcrafted details include this decorative rainwater hopper



  1. Davey, Peter (1995). Arts and Crafts Architecture. Phaidon Press, Oxford.
  2. Anscombe, Isabelle (1991). Arts and Crafts Style. Phaidon Press, Oxford.
  3. Girouard, Mark (1990). Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement 1860-1900. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
  4. Hitchmough, Wendy (1995). CFA Voysey. Phaidon Press, Oxford.
  5. Blakesley, Rosalind P. (2006).  The Arts and Crafts Movement. Phaeton Press, Oxford.
  6. Betjeman, John (1974). A Pictorial History of English Architecture. Penguin Books.
  7. Aslet, Clive (2011). The Arts & Crafts Country House. Arum Press, London.
  8. Tinniswood, Adrian (1999). The Arts and Crafts House. Mitchell Beasley, London.
  9. Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wilson, Bill. (1997). The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Thanks to David Bussey for background on the Eaton Road houses


Colonel Unthank and the Golden Triangle


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I have lived in Norwich for ages, mostly on or around the Unthank Road, and became fascinated by the name and the distinctive style of housing found in this area.

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“What’s in a name?” The name first occurs as William de Unthank (or Onthank) of Unthank Hall, Northumberland (ca 1231). Several explanations have been offered for the name [1]

  • Unthank = thankless or unthankfulness
  • the amount of land granted to a Saxon thane, or to a Scottish chieftain, each recipient holding “a thank” or one thane’s holding – about the size of a village or hamlet. A thane would be known as a “one thank man”  and un/on thank was originally confined to the borderland between England and Scotland [2].
  • Old English for land held without leave by squatters. Or common land annexed by outlaws, e.g., the border reivers.

Unthanks came down from the north to Norwich in the 17th century; others came in the 18th century [1] and became prosperous businessmen. In 1793 William Unthank moved outside the walls of the congested medieval city. He bought land in rural Heigham, just outside St Giles’ Gate, over a century before St John’s Catholic Cathedral was built (ca 1910).

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The houses at the end of Upper St Giles Street today (left) can be identified in  John Ninham’s engraving of 1792 (right). The catholic cathedral (left) now stands where open fields could once be glimpsed through St Giles’ Gate [2].

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Open countryside could be seen through St Giles’ Gate in 1792

The family amassed about 2500 acres of land, including farmland to the south and west of Norwich as well as their Heigham Estate that stretched from St Giles’ Gate southwards to Eaton (aka Waitrose). This meant that when William’s son and heir, Clement William Unthank, went courting the heiress of the Intwood Estate, Mary Anne Muskett, he could ride for most of the journey without leaving family land [1,3, 4].

At first, Clement William and Mary Anne lived in Norwich at ‘Unthanks House’ near modern-day Bury and Onley Streets but in 1855 they moved to her childhood home, on the Intwood estate, at the outskirts of the city [3, 4]. (‘Onley’ was a family name of the Musketts).

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Intwood Hall

Unthank Road and the New City   The Unthanks had already begun to sell off parcels of their Heigham Estate for housing but this was accelerated when Clement William moved out to Intwood in 1855. This helped the spread of the New City. The old city itself contained unsanitary medieval courts  or yards [5] that had to wait until the C20th for demolition or improvement but Clement William’s buildings were of a higher standard. As the New City continued to be developed it became subject to the more enlightened bye-laws and acts that arrived in the latter half of the C19th [6,7].

Originally, ‘Unthanks Road’ had been known as Back Road – a private sandy lane on the Unthank estate [1]. But between 1849-1870, when some of the early ‘Unthank’ streets (such as Essex, Cambridge and Trinity Streets) were built, Unthank Road became the main axis to which they were attached.

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Unthank Road when it was still little more than a lane. Looking up towards the city with the junction to Park Lane to the left, just beyond the pub sign.

Norwich: “No place in England was further away from good building stone” Stefan Muthesius [8]

The Normans had to ferry stone for their cathedral from Caen in Normandy, much of the medieval city was built of flint, but the new city was to be built of brick and slate. This was helped by the arrival of the railways, which also allowed easier access to slate from North Wales. Clement William Unthank closely regulated the appearance of the estate and builders had to sign restrictive covenants stating how brick and other building materials were to be used [5, 6].

  • the building to be faced in good white brick and roofed in good slate or tiles
  • that doors should be arched in gauged brick
  • that no building be placed beyond the building line
  • that no gable peak be allowed to the front of the house
  • that no porch or projection should extend more than 18 inches from the building line unless agreed by Clement William Unthank

Uniform, flat-fronted terraces of a high standard were therefore assured across Unthank’s Heigham estate, as seen in Trinity Street below. Suffolk White bricks were known to have been used as were ‘Cossey Whites’ from the nearby village of Costessey.  I lived for some years in Cambridge with  its plain-fronted terraces of white brick and it was this that had drawn me to the Unthank estate.

Trinity St Norwich.jpg

Evidently, workers leaving the land for the city could be more economically housed in uniform terraces compared to the individuality of rural cottages. These modest houses may well have been a much diluted version of the Palladian houses and terraces seen by the upper classes on their Grand Tour. In Norwich, the use of white brick and arched doorways  are likely to have been influenced by the expensive white bricks used for country houses like William Kent’s Holkham Hall in north Norfolk and John Soane’s Shottesham Park, which was only five miles south of Norwich – a short horse ride from CW Unthank’s new home at Intwood [7,8].

The widespread use of arches made of ‘gauged’ bricks fired in specially-shaped concentric templates, and the fineness of their pointing, is thought to be characteristic of Norwich [8, 9]. Nowadays, generations of owners have personalised the houses by painting over the gauged brick and adding porches that would have been frowned on by Clement William Unthank. This British reaction against uniformity was celebrated in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s ‘My pink half of the drainpipe’.

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Newmarket Street where some degree of variation was allowed, with white gauged bricks alternating with red brick rarely seen on front elevations

Kimberley Arms gauged brick.jpg

The recessed inner arch gives variation without breaking the building line; seen here in the former Kimberley Arms being refurbished in 2016. Compare the fine pointing between the arched gauged bricks with the thicker mortar in the horizontal courses.

However, compared to the gentility of the front elevations the backs of buildings were generally constructed of cheaper materials.

earlham Rd.jpg

Earlham Road front: Recreation Road behind. The frontage is built from Suffolk White bricks and slate: the rear from Norfolk Red bricks and pantiles (based on 6).

The use of cruder materials to the back has been referred to as a Queen Anne front and a Mary Anne behind – as in the popular song: (6)

Queen Anne Front (lyric Robert Schmaltz)
When Great Grandfather was a gay young man
And Great Grandmother was his bride
They found a lot, a jolly little spot
Over on the old North Side
It sloped down toward the river, from River Avenue
Great Grandma said that it would give her
Such a lovely view
So they took a look in Godey's Ladies Book
To see what they could find
And they found a house, a jolly little house,
With a Queen Anne front
And a Mary Anne behind.

Larger houses for the middle classes were built along Unthank Road itself whereas the smaller houses for artisans were situated in the streets behind. As part of the Unthanks’ urban planning, trade was prohibited from the terraced houses so purpose-made public houses were confined to corner locations on back streets (e.g., York Tavern, Rose Tavern, Kimberley Arms and Unthank Arms).

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The Unthank, formerly The Unthank Arms

So who was Colonel Unthank? Clement William Unthank sold much of the land his father had amassed on the Heigham Estate. His son, Clement William Joseph, continued to sell parts of the state for building but the effect is said to be less good [7]. CWJ is the first of two Colonel Unthanks in this article.  He was a captain in the 17th Lancers and Lieutenant Colonel of the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Norfolk regiment [1, 4].


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Clement Wm Joseph Unthank with his hounds Ringwood, Domino and Fencer [from 1]

CWJ Unthank’s son was John Salusbury Unthank (below) who continued to develop the Heigham Estate into the C20th.  He served in The Boer War and World War I, where he fought at The Somme and Ypres. So John Salusbury Unthank is the second Colonel of this article. Anecdotal evidence of him survives into the C20th and there may be some who still remember him [1,3,4].

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A hunting man [1]

Colonel Unthank would stride into Intwood church where the service would not start until he’d taken his place. Once, when he stood up in church to take off his mackintosh the congregation behind him also stood up, telling us something of his position in the community [3]. Imagine.

In addition to the Unthank family the area was also developed by others, notably the Eaton Glebe estate [7]. Their restrictive covenants also ensured quality and some uniformity e.g., all parts of buildings exposed to view to be faced in good red brick [7]. But in detail the different use of materials – not just red instead of white brick but different treatments of bays and porches – gave this area a different texture as can be seen along College Road.

The entire area to the south-west of the medieval city is now known as The Golden Triangle, beloved of estate agents. The borders of this vibrant area can be drawn in various ways but the Triangle’s online organ, The Lentil (“Our finger on your pulse”), [10] gives this authoritative version:

Golden Triangle.jpg

The Golden Triangle (

The Wall

I can’t remember who told me that this piece of tall wall was the last remnant of the Unthank Estate, but it has adopted the status of urban myth. The wall shelters No 38 Unthank Road from traffic and is at the junction with Clarendon Road.

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‘The Wall’, at the junction of Clarendon and Unthank Roads

In the early C19th, according to Reverend Nixseaman [1], William Unthank lived in Heigham House and he places this directly opposite the stable wall above. However, it is claimed elsewhere [11] that the family estate was further down Unthank Road, too far away for ‘the wall’ to be part of their stables.

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Tithe Map of Heigham 1842 (Norfolk Records Office). Red star = Heigham House/Lodge; blue star = ‘Unthanks House’; arrow = ‘the wall’ on Unthanks Road.

So who did live opposite the wall? Consulting the tithe records for 1842 reveals that the brewer Timothy Steward lived here; he is shown as the owner of Heigham House (sometimes called Lodge) while William’s heir, Clement William Unthank, is recorded as living with family and servants further down the road near modern-day Bury Street (blue star).

But back to Reverend Nixseaman, he wrote his book about the Unthanks [1] in 1972 with the assistance of William Unthank’s descendants and was familiar with minutiae such as the names of CWJ Unthank’s three dogs. In his authorised version he asserted that in 1792 Clement William’s father, William, moved into a newly-built and spacious home named Heigham House, set in its own parklands.

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Heigham House (red) is bookended by today’s Clarendon and Grosvenor Roads with ‘the wall’ opposite (yellow). [6″ OS map 1887]

The OS map confirms that in 1887 there was indeed a Heigham House opposite the wall although by then the encroaching terraces left little room for the ‘parkland’ illustrated in Nixseaman’s book (below). So which version is correct?

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Heigham House ca 1800 [1]

The search for the location of the Unthanks’ house continues with two further posts and a book that contains much material – and Unthank photos – not included in the blog posts. See:

Cover Ping.png

Book available from Jarrolds book department and City Bookshop, Norwich. Price £10

©2017 Reggie Unthank


  1. Nixseaman, A.J. (1972). The Intwood Story.ISBN 0950274208, Norwich. (Available from the Heritage Centre, Norwich Library)
  2. Read the excellent article by Norwich City Council on St Giles Gate
  3. A History of Intwood and Keswick (1998), by Cringleford Historical Society. ISBN 0953011623. Held at The Heritage Centre, Norwich Library.
  4. Memories of Intwood and Keswick (2001) by Cringleford Historical Society. ISBN 0953011631.
  5. Holmes, Frances and Michael (2015). The Old Courts and Yards of Norwich.
  6. Muthesius, Stefan. (1982). The English Terraced House. Yale University Press.
  7. O’Donoghue, Rosemary. (2014). Norwich, an Expanding City 1801-1900. Pub, Larks Press ISBN 9781904006718.
  8. Muthesius, Stefan. (1984). Norwich in the Nineteenth Century. Ed, C. Berringer. Chapter 4, pp94-117.
  9. – an excellent discussion of the Unthank/Heigham Estate.
  10. The Lentil. The Golden Triangle’s wittiest online magazine

Thanks to: the staff of The Heritage Centre in Norwich Library and of the Norfolk Records Office for their cheerful help; Tom Tucker of The Lentil for drawing the Golden Triangle map; and Clare Everitt of Picture Norfolk for permissions.

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