Norwich Guildhall

Norwich Guildhall


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.


Norwich Guildhall - History


South side of Norwich guildhall.
The doorway at the western end would originally have been an entrance into the south-west tower.
Photo © S. Alsford

The beginning of building a new guildhall, in 1407, must be understood in the context of the constitutional changes that resulted from the royal charter of 1404, incorporating the borough, granting county status, substituting mayor and sheriffs for the former ballival executive, and endowing the mayor and four colleagues with powers of Justices of the Peace. This followed a period when the ruling class was consolidating its power, with some resistance from elsewhere within the community, and preceded a period of even more intense wrangling over the constitution (see the page "History of medieval Norwich: A division of interests".

At some point in the months following the grant of the charter a resolution established a body of 80 citizens to participate in assemblies, apparently on behalf of and in place of the community at large. Previously an electoral committee had been chosen to act for the community in electing bailiffs now the 80 were to act for the community but their power was restricted to making nominations – the final decision resting with mayor and council, in the London style. This did not sit well with the community.

In the disputes that followed, there were complaints about a royal charter's (1380) replacement, in its grant of the power to make by-laws, of the community by the town council (representing the community) as the agent for giving approval to any such by-laws. The patriciate counter-attacked by trying to have references to the community, as a constitutional entity, removed from the city charter. The settlement of the dispute introduced a more convoluted procedure for electing the various officials at the same time members of the upper council were given life-membership status and the dignified title of aldermen, and it was no longer pretended they represented the community, this role falling to the larger body (reduced to 60) now firmly established as a lower council.


East gable of Norwich guildhall.
The clock tower was an embellishment of 1850.
Photo © S. Alsford

The construction of a new home for civic government reflected the ambition of the ruling class to have more a complete and unchallenged control of governance. The introduction of new names – mayor, aldermen, wards, guildhall – suggest an emulation of London. At the same time, the new town hall was a symbol of the enhanced status of the incorporated borough. It has been suggested that the scale of the guildhall, unprecedented outside London, may owe something to the example of "the great city halls which graced the wealthy cloth towns of the Low Countries, with which Norfolk had close trading contacts" [I. Dunn and H. Sutermeister, The Norwich Guildhall , City of Norwich, ca.1978] .

The Guildhall replaced an older hall, the Tolbooth, on its sloping site on the north side of the marketplace a less impressive structure, in terms both of size and construction materials, the Tolbooth had served for judicial and financial administration, but electoral assemblies had to be held in a large chapel at another location. The changes in the early fifteenth century, increasing the judicial powers of city officers and the number of different courts, as well as replacing the popular assembly with a sizable two-tiered council, must have been factors in the decision to spend on a new building. That building would accommodate a larger gaol than its predecessor, as well as city archives and treasury, all functions demanding a sturdy and durable structure. The original function of the Tolbooth, as the point of collection of tolls on goods brought to market and probably of licence fees for stalls, was transferred thereafter – if it had not been earlier – to the Murage Loft, another building in the marketplace, originally for collection of special tolls to go towards wall building.


North side of Norwich guildhall.
The two separate ranges, perhaps imitating nave and chancel of a church, can be made out.
Photo © S. Alsford

The core building was completed by 1412, thanks to the imposition of special local taxes three times during the construction period, and the impressment of labour (apparently unpaid, except for the carpenters, masons and other skilled craftsmen), with work sometimes going on from dawn to dusk. Donations and bequests by citizens also contributed to what must have been a considerable cost, compared to the annual revenues that were part of the normal city budget. Raising of a roof, tiled with lead, in 1412 enabled the building to begin to be used, first for housing prisoners in the gaol in the vaulted cellars. Benches for the mayor's court were being installed in the same period.

Work continued to outfit, enhance, and construct add-ons to the Guildhall throughout the century. A multi-storey porch was constructed in the 1420s, although this was rebuilt in 1723 and again in the Victorian era in fact the entire range on the south side (see photo at top) is post-medieval. The building is constructed in the same material as Norwich's medieval churches: flint rubble with a facing of knapped flints and flint fragment infill. The castellations around the roof are shown in the earliest illustration and might be medieval. Most windows were probably glazed, and some contained stained glass images, of which a little survives. The effect of the building must have been, and been intended, to instil some awe and respect in the citizens.

The east gable is decorated in a similar fashion to Lynn's guildhall: a chequer pattern using flint contrasted with freestone possibly it symbolized the city accounting office (exchequer). Its window is the only one that survived Victorian renovations the armorials below it are, however, a sixteenth-century addition. Further down, at ground level where a Victorian waterfountain is now placed against the wall, may originally have been an entrance into the crypt the earliest illustration of the building shows what seems to be a barred entrance or window into the basement. Against this wall scribes set up stalls, where citizens could buy their services, some related to making copies of official records. At the opposite (west) end of the building stood two towers, one housing the treasury, which collapsed in the early Tudor period, and the second surviving until the eighteenth century.

The larger range (west) had on its upper floor an assembly room for the full council, two storeys high, which also served as the sheriffs' court a private chamber was incorporated at one end. The smaller range, apparently built over the foundations of the Tolbooth, housed on its upper level a smaller chamber where the inner council of aldermen met, doubling as the mayor's court. On the ground floor were prisons for men and women a small chapel in the porch served prisoners' needs. The dungeons in the crypt were for more dangerous criminals.


  1. 1 Dutch design could inspire revamp of danger roundabout
  2. 2 Two Norfolk restaurants in top five 'secret' places to eat on English coast
  3. 3 Prince William, George and Charlotte start races at Sandringham
  1. 4 Rare condition kills 'amazing' lorry driver
  2. 5 'More like March' - So when will we get the sunshine back?
  3. 6 Machinery sale marks end of family's 100-year farming history
  4. 7 You can run, Mr Hancock, but you can't hide
  5. 8 Farke on his contract situation at City
  6. 9 Cactus shop selling £95 plants opens in Norwich phone box
  7. 10 Warning over 'Amazon' cold call recordings scam in Norfolk

• On Thursday November 20 at 6pm Frank Meeres will be talking about Murders and Misdemeanours: Norwich Guildhall and the City's Criminals.

Join historian and archivist Frank for a talk on the history of the building and its part in the trials of some of the city's most infamous criminals. Heretics, murderers and thieves all stood trial for their crimes at the Guildhall. Learn about the punishment meted out for the theft of two bottles, the tragic story of young Jane Sellers and how it was used during the great plagues.

• On Thursday November 27 at 6pm Maurice Morson will be talking about Norwich Murders.

Who was Martha Sheward and why were her remains buried under the Guildhall? What trials took place? And who was the murderer arrested just outside by the Chief Constable?

In his talk Maurice, a former city police officer who went on to became head of Norfolk CID and is now an accomplished author, will reveal some of the gruesome murders that have taken place in the city.

• Tickets for both talks cost £5. For more information go to www.heritagecity.org

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.


A timeline of Norwich

Read about some of Norwich&rsquos most important dates in history, including when Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral and other historic and important buildings were built. When the Black Death reached Norwich, Kett&rsquos Rebellion and when devasting fires hit the city. See important dates in history for Jarrold Department Store, Colman&rsquos Mustard, The University of East Anglia, Norwich International Airport and Norwich City Football Club.

Norwich is a small Anglo-Saxon settlement, north of the river Wensum with its own mint. During the 10th Century Norwich grew rapidly spreading to the south bank of the river

The Danes burn Norwich - with the buildings made of wood and thatch, this was easy. However, Norwich was re-built and soon began to flourish

Normans start work on Norwich castle

At the time of the Domesday Book, Norwich had a population of about 6,000 and was one of the largest towns in England. The main industry was the manufacture of wool

The bishop moves his seat from Thetford to Norwich

Work begins to build a new cathedral out of flint and mortar

Norwich granted city charter by Richard I, a document granting the people certain rights

The Great Hospital is founded by Bishop Walter de Suffield with the original beneficiaries being poor scholars, sick and hungry paupers and aged priests

During a civil war Norwich is sacked by rebel barons, but it soon recovered

There are riots in Norwich - with a disagreement between religious men and the citizens of Norwich over duties, boundaries and rights

Cathedral consecrated in the presence of Edward I

In 1278 Cow Tower is built for collecting tolls

Norwich has a population of around 10,000 and the main industry is wool making. At this time there is also an important leather industry

Plague/Black Death reaches Norwich

The Bridewell is built and is used as a prison between 1583 and 1828

During the Peasants Revolt rebels capture Norwich. However, they didn&rsquot hold Norwich for long, with the Bishop mustering an army the rebels retreated to North Walsham where they were defeated

Norwich is given a new charter and gained a mayor and two sheriffs

The Guildhall is built between 1407 and 1413 and served as the seat of city government from the early 15th century. In 1938 it was replaced by the newly built City Hall

Erpingham Gate, a magnificent flint and stone gateway was erected directly opposite the west front of the cathedral around 1420 and was donated by Sir Thomas Erpingham

Sir Peter Mancroft was built between 1430 - 1455 - the largest church in Norwich

In 1463 Norwich Cathedral&rsquos spire is struck by lightning and the nave roof is destroyed. In 1480 a new spire is built

Norwich suffers a severe fire, with two more fires in 1507. With most buildings made of wood and thatch, fire was a constant hazard

Kett&rsquos Rebellion in Norfolk was during the reign of Edward VI. Enraged by the treatment of landowners, many farmers rebelled and started a revolt in Wymondham, destroying fences that had been put up by wealthy landowners. Led by farmer Robert Kett, the rebels stormed Norwich on 29th July and took the city. The rebels were defeated at the second attempt, this time by an army under the leadership of the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Dussindale. Kett and many rebels were captured and hanged

Weavers come to Norwich from what is now Holland and Belgium, fleeing religious persecution, bringing their canaries with them. Locals soon adopted rearing these birds as a hobby and by the 18th century Norwich became famous for its canaries. This is where Norwich City Football Club got its nickname, the Canaries

An outbreak of plague kills around a third of Norwich&rsquos population

The population of Norwich is about 25,000, despite outbreaks of plague in 1625 and 1665

Bethel Hospital, for the mentally ill, is built

The first newspaper in Norwich is published in 1721

Designed by architect Thomas Ivory, the Assembly House is built. It became an entertainment centre for assemblies, concerts and dances, held for the gentry of Norwich

The first bank is founded in Norwich and it was in 1775 that a local family, John and Henry Gurney, started a bank which still survives today as part of Barclays

The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital is founded

Norwich has a population of 36,000

Theatre Royal is remodelled by William Wilkins, a local builder and architect

A body of men called the Improvement Commissioners is formed to pave, clean and light the streets of Norwich

Jeremiah Colman founded Colman&rsquos of Norwich in 1814, at the Stoke Holy Cross mill on the River Tas, four miles south of Norwich

Smallpox kills 530 people in Norwich

Jarrold & Sons Ltd was founded in 1770 in Woodbridge, Suffolk and moved to Norwich in 1823

Norwich&rsquos first police force is formed

Norwich railway opened in 1844

The council builds a pure water supply

The first public library opens in Norwich

A network of sewers is built

Norwich High School for girls is founded

Slum clearance begins in Norwich

Norwich City railway station opens

Work to build the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Norwich begins

HM Prison Norwich is established, and the prisoners are transferred from the Castle to the new prison

City College Norwich is founded

Norwich Castle opens as a museum

Royal Arcade, designed and built by Dereham-born architect George Skipper is built

Electric trams run in Norwich - covering more than 17 miles

Population in Norwich is 111,733

Norwich City Football club is formed and their iconic 'On The Ball, City' anthem, widely considered to be the world's oldest football song and still sung today, is thought to also date around 1902

Norwich City Football Club move to The Nest, a disused chalk pit

Norwich&rsquos first cinema opens. Known as the TDL or Theatre de Luxe, it was the first "picture palace" in the city

In 1921 the conversion of the Roman Catholic Chapel, into a working theatre is completed and the Maddermarket Theatre is founded

Ethel Colman is the first Lady Lord Mayor of Norwich and daughter of the mustard giant Jeremiah James Colman

Heigham Park is formally opened, with work having started in 1921

Woodrow Piling Park opens in 1927

Sloughbottom Park and Mile Cross Gardens open

Norwich Airport official opening at site in Mousehold

Waterloo Park opens in 1933

Electric trams cease running in Norwich

Norwich City Football Club move to Carrow Road from their former ground, The Nest

In April, Norwich was hit by aerial bombing by German forces

A new Central Library is built in Norwich

Norwich City Football Club win the League Cup

Norwich University is founded in 1963 and admitted its first cohort of 87 students in this year

Norwich Airport moved to Horsham St Faith

First holiday charter flights begin to run from Norwich Airport

Norwich City Football Club are promoted to the top flight

Colman&rsquos mustard shop opens in Norwich, closing in April 2017

Norwich Arts Centre opens

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, located on the University of East Anglia&rsquos campus and designed by the architects Norman Foster and Wendy Cheesman, opens

Norwich Puppet Theatre is founded. It first opened to the public in 1980, following the conversion of the medieval church of St. James, in the heart of Norwich

Sewell Barn Theatre opens

Norwich City Football Club win the League Cup

Norwich Airport terminal opens

The official launch of Norwich Research Park

The Castle Mall shopping centre opens, having taken around 4 years to complete, occupying nearly 7 acres in the centre of Norwich

Norwich Central Library burns down

Norwich Playhouse opens in what was formerly a 19th Century maltings

Riverside Leisure Complex opens

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital founded

The Forum is completed, built on the site of the previous Norwich Library which burnt down in 1994

Chapelfield Shopping Centre opens

99.9 Radio Norwich begins broadcasting

Theatre Royal building is refurbished

In 2009 Norwich hosted the city&rsquos first Gay Pride event, for the regions lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans life communities

Norwich Film Festival begins

A total of 132,512 people live in the City of Norwich according to the 2011 census

Colman&rsquos mustard shop closes in April 2017

The above is a time line of Norwich and is intended to serve as something of interest and does not claim to be completely accurate. Although great care has been taken to methodically research these dates and events in Norwich, there may be some inaccuracies (eg whilst researching, differing dates have been found in books and online material for the same event!)

If you would like to see something added to this timeline that you feel shouldn&rsquot have been missed, please get in touch.


Venue Type:

Access to the foyer and Caley's Cocoa Cafe:
Mon- Fri 10 - 4.30
Sat 10.30 - 5
Sun 11 - 3

Tours of the historic Guildhall - every Friday (exc. Bank Holidays) 10 and 2

Discover the unique history of The Guildhall, England's largest and most elaborate provincial medieval city hall, in this hour-long tour from the Guildhall Guides, which opens up the building's hidden heritage.

See the elaborate Mayor's Council Chamber with its decorative woodwork and stunning stained glass the virtually intact late Victorian courtroom with its oak panelling, and the atmospheric undercroft which pre-dates The Guildhall and was used to accommodate dangerous criminals.

Areas of this building currently function as offices, therefore some areas are inaccessible at all times.


The Norwich coat of arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police Station, Bethel Street 1938

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The right-hand version of the city arms also appears on Percival’s 1960 redevelopment on Rosary Road.

© 2018 Reggie Unthank

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


7 Reasons to love historic Norwich

Norwich is the only English city in a National Park (the Norfolk Broads) and until the Industrial Revolution was the second largest city in the country.

‘Norwich has everything’ according to Nikolaus Pevsner.

Well known for its pubs, churches, cultural scene and winding cobbled streets, Norwich is the only English city in a National Park (the Norfolk Broads) and until the Industrial Revolution was the second largest city in the country.

Here we celebrate 7 reasons to love historic Norwich:

1. Medieval marvels

Norwich is the UK’s most complete medieval city and is home to many intact, cobbled streets from the period. Norwich Guildhall is the largest surviving medieval civic building outside London and the city has one of the grandest Norman Cathedrals in Britain. Along Elm Hill and in Tombland there are many distinctive Tudor buildings.

2. The largest covered market in Europe

In its current location the market has operated for over 900 years, but the original market opened in the latter part of the 11th century for Norman merchants and settlers. It has been rebuilt and redesigned several times and today it is the largest covered market in Europe, with stalls selling food and clothes from around the world. Norwich was a major trading hub in the 14th century, which made the city large and prosperous: the Grade I listed Guildhall was built next to the market to serve as a centre for local government until 1938 when the new city hall was built.

3. A complex religious history

It was said that Norwich had a church for every Sunday and a pub for every day of the year. Despite this, Norwich was also described as the most ‘godless city’ in England when over 40% of residents declared themselves to have ‘no religion’ in the 2011 census. It is also the only English city to have ever been entirely excommunicated by the Pope, after riots broke out in the 13th century. St Ethelbert’s Gate is a Scheduled Monument, paid for by local residents as penance for the violence.

4. A city of literature

In 2012 Norwich became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, and back in 1608 it was the site of the first library to be established by a corporation in a corporately owned building outside London. Meanwhile, the highly-celebrated creative writing course at University of East Anglia has produced Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro and several Booker Prize winners.

5. It’s not all medieval

Alongside its medieval history, Norwich is also home to an array of 20th century buildings, many of which are listed. Denys Lasdun’s Norfolk and Suffolk Terrace (better known as the Ziggurats) at the University of East Anglia are Grade II* listed and amongst the boldest designs of any post-war university. Directly opposite, Foster Associates Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts: a vast hanger-like space, is also Grade II* listed.

In the centre of the city The Forum, designed by Hopkins Architects, was opened in 2001 and the large plaza out front is a well-loved meeting place for young people.

6. The first council to get online

Thanks to its forward-thinking Treasurer, Mr A.J. Barnard, the City of Norwich was one of, if not the first, local authority to use computer technology. The Elliott 405 computer was delivered to Norwich City Hall in 1957, and became operational in April of the same year: the event was celebrated with a press conference and hosted by the Lord Mayor.

7. Strangers and canaries

The symbol of the city, the canary, was an import: brought by refugees from the Low Countries, who came to the area seeking refuge from religious persecution in Holland Belgium in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the early 20th century the local football team, Norwich City, began to be referred to as the canaries. The weaving trade was also brought by the refugees, and Grade I listed Strangers Hall got its name from the ‘strangers’ from Belgium and Holland who lived there.

Norwich is special as one of England’s great historic cities, and we are concerned about proposals for the planned redevelopment of Anglia Square. Find out more here.


Contents

The county town of Norfolk, Norwich is a city on the River Wensum in the East of England. Its origins are unclear, but by the reign of King Æthelstan (924–939) the city was a major trading centre and one of the most important boroughs in England. [1] The Anglo-Saxon settlement was centred around Tombland, a large open space at the point where the roads into Norwich converged. [1] The plain of Tombland was the site of Norwich's market. [1]

Following the Norman conquest of England (1066–1071), Norwich was radically redesigned. Norwich Cathedral was built immediately to the east of Tombland and much of the old town to the southwest of Tombland was cleared for the motte of Norwich Castle. A new Norman town was built west of the Castle, in an area known as Mancroft. [1] [note 1] The new town at Mancroft included a market of its own to provide for the Norman settlers and merchants moving into the area, and possibly also to supply the castle's garrison. [1] The exact date of the foundation of the market at Mancroft is not recorded, but it is known to have been operational by the time the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086. [1] Granting the right to trade in Norman England was a part of the Royal Prerogative and, as with most fairs and markets of the period, the market at Mancroft was operated under licence from the King. The King's Clerk had jurisdiction over all trade conducted at the market, and tolls and rents were collected on behalf of the King. [3]

Almost no records survive of the Norman market in the 11th to 13th centuries. [1] It is known that shortly after the market's establishment, a tollhouse was built nearby, which served as a collection point for taxes on trade. [1] Although the precise location of the tollhouse is not recorded, it was immediately north of the market on part of the site now occupied by the Guildhall. [1] At some point soon after its construction, the tollhouse also became the centre for the civil administration of the city. [1] Although the Tombland market retained its charter to host an annual horse fair, [4] over time the market at Mancroft supplanted that at Tombland as the principal market of the area. [1] At the end of the 11th century, the Tombland market was removed during construction work on Norwich Cathedral. [4]

By the start of the 14th century, Norwich was one of Europe's major cities. East Anglia was at this time one of the most densely populated areas in England, producing large amounts of grain, sheep, cattle and poultry. Much of this produce was traded in Norwich, an inland port roughly at the centre of the region. [5] The City, meanwhile, had industrialised, its growth based on textiles, leather and metalworking, as well as being the administrative centre of the region. [6] By 1300, Norwich had a population of between 6,000–10,000, [5] with a total of around 20,000 people living in the area. [7] (One 19th century historian estimated Norwich's population pre-1349 at as high as 70,000. [8] ) It was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the country, [5] and was considered the second city of England. [7] Aside from occasional fairs, the majority of all goods produced in or imported to the region passed through the market at Mancroft. [5] While there is some evidence that the market operated daily for a period around 1300, it generally operated on Wednesdays and Saturdays. [5]

Layout Edit

The market had by this time taken on roughly the layout it retains today. It was a long rectangular open space aligned north–south, with the tollhouse (the Guildhall after 1413) marking the northern end and the very large church of St Peter Mancroft marking the southern end. [9] (St Peter Mancroft was built in 1430–55 incorporating an earlier church built in 1075 and was financed by the market's merchants. It retains its association with the market all stallholders retain the right to hold their weddings in the church and to be buried in the churchyard. [10] ) The marketplace sloped downwards from west to east. A long straight passageway called the Nethererowe or Nether Row (later renamed Gentleman's Walk) marked the eastern boundary. Another passage called the Overerowe, or Over Row (later renamed St Peter's Street, and since 1938 occupied by City Hall), marked the western boundary. [9]

The mediaeval market was divided into sections, each dealing with a particular trade. The stalls of the market were arranged in rows. They varied in width from 2 feet (60 cm) to 15 feet (460 cm). [5] Highly valuable, in the early years of the market they were generally owned by major institutions such as trade guilds and religious bodies, and generated a high income from rents. [5] They also provided a steady income for the King, and later the city, from perpetual rents. [3] The marketplace was surrounded by retail buildings, construction of which began in about 1300. These were fixed, permanent structures, some of which had multiple storeys and cellars. [5]

The northern section of the main market place, immediately south of the tollhouse, housed fishmongers, butchers, ironmongers and woolsellers. [9] This section of the market also housed the murage loft after 1294, where tolls to fund the building of Norwich's city walls were collected. [5] The southern section of the main market place, north of St Peter Mancroft, housed a bread market and a number of stalls associated with Norwich's significant cloth and leather industries. A broad space between the main marketplace and the Nethererowe was kept clear for the use of country smallholders, who would set up temporary booths and tents to sell their wares. [3]

South of St Peter Mancroft was a second marketplace dealing in wheat, poultry, cattle and sheep. [9] Pigs, horses, timber and dye were not traded in the main market, but had dedicated markets elsewhere in the city. [5] (The modern Norwich place names of Timberhill, St John Maddermarket and Rampant Horse Street derive from their origins as the sites of the mediaeval timber, dye and horse markets respectively. [5] )

Transfer to city control Edit

In 1341, King Edward III visited Norwich for a jousting tournament, coinciding with the completion of the city's defensive walls. Edward and his mother, Isabella of France, were very impressed by the city and, as a token of appreciation for bearing the costs of the defensive fortifications, Edward granted the franchise of the market to the city in perpetuity. [3] The control by the King's Clerk over trade at the market was ended and tolls and rents from the market from then on went directly to the city's bailiffs (the rulers of the city). [3]

With the powers of the King's Clerk abolished, the bailiffs of Norwich set about regulating the operation of the market for what they felt was the greatest benefit to the city. To encourage fair competition among the market's traders, it was forbidden to sell foodstuffs before the Cathedral bell had tolled for Lady Mass (6.00 am). [3] The practice of forestalling (meeting merchants on their way to the market either to buy their goods for resale, or to prevent them from attending the market and thus make goods of the type they were selling scarce and hence more expensive) was forbidden. Trading anywhere other than in the market was strongly discouraged and the right to re-sell goods at a profit was restricted to Freemen of the city. [3] [note 3] The prices of bread and beer were fixed, [note 4] and a set of standardised weights and measures was introduced, against which measures used by merchants would regularly be checked. [3] Shortly after the transfer of the market to the city a market cross was erected near the centre of the main market (opposite the present day entrance to Davey Place), the design of which is not recorded. [11]

In mid-1348, the outbreak of bubonic plague known as the Great Mortality (later referred to as the Black Death), which had swept across Europe during the past year, reached England for the first time with an outbreak in the south coast port of Melcombe. [12] The plague spread gradually over the rest of the country with devastating effect, causing a mortality estimated at between 30%–45%. [13] In late March 1349, the outbreak reached East Anglia and, for reasons which are not understood, increased drastically in intensity. [13] In 1349–50 alone, more than half the population of East Anglia died. [14] In 1369, East Anglia, whose farming economy had collapsed in the wake of the plague, was struck by famine.

Although the market continued to operate, in the immediate aftermath of the plague it was at a much reduced level and many stalls were left empty for some years after. [15] The famine of 1369 overwhelmed Norwich's burial grounds, necessitating an expansion of St Peter Mancroft's churchyard. The southernmost rows of stalls in the main marketplace, which had been occupied by drapers and linen merchants, [9] were removed to clear space for an enlarged churchyard. [15] By 1377, the population of Norwich had fallen from at least 20,000 before the outbreak to below 6,000. [14]

Although social order was maintained throughout the plague years, the economy of the region was devastated. [16] [note 5] However, the surviving merchant community were very influential in the city and, in the wake of the catastrophe, set about increasing the council's influence around the market, buying many of the surrounding shops. [15] The council also bought a set of wharves along King Street near Dragon Hall in 1397 and decreed that all goods entering Norwich by water be unloaded there. This ensured almost complete control of Norwich trade by the merchants who now dominated the council. [15]

The market soon began to recover from the plague years to become a major trading hub again. Records of 1565 show 37 butchers' stalls alone in the market, and Norwich also became a major centre for the import of exotic foods. Sugar, figs and prunes were traded in the market in the 16th century, and it is recorded that 20,000 oranges and 1,000 lemons were provided for the 1581 St Bartholomew's Day fair. [17]

Guildhall and new market cross Edit

In 1404, Norwich secured a royal charter granting it autonomy as "The County of the City of Norwich". The local council was restructured into a body headed by a Mayor and administered by Sheriffs and Aldermen the Mayor also formally became Clerk of the Markets, but in practice the running of the markets was always delegated to deputies. [15]

By this time, the tollhouse was proving inadequate as the seat of local government and between 1407 and 1413 it was demolished, along with an adjoining site which had housed a vegetable market, and was replaced by a new Guildhall. In keeping with Norwich's status, it was one of the largest civic buildings in England outside London and housed all aspects of local government and justice for the new council. [15] [note 6] The Guildhall cost between £400–£500 to build. [18] (As it was built primarily using pressed labour, modern equivalents of the building costs are virtually meaningless. The annual income of the city council at the time the Guildhall was built was around £120. [18] ) The eastern face of the Guildhall was built in a distinctive black and white checked design, representing the exchequer. [18] The undercroft of the tollhouse was retained for use as a dungeon, while a new basement served as a lock-up from the opening of the Guildhall until the 1980s. [18]

The murage loft in the market, redundant since the completion of the city walls, took over the functions of the old tollhouse and became the offices of the market supervisor and the collection office for market tolls and taxes. [15]

Between 1501 and 1503, Mayor John Rightwise had the original market cross demolished [19] and replaced with an elaborate new cross. This was octagonal in shape, stood on a plinth 30 feet (9 m) wide, and rose to a height of 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m). The central structure contained an oratory, occupied by a priest. [11]

Rightwise's new market cross only survived in its original form for a short time. During the English Reformation of the 1530s, the rood on the pinnacle was pulled down and the oratory became a storeroom. The octagonal plinth became a shopping arcade of small stalls. In 1549, a temporary gallows was erected at the cross for the mass execution of 60 of the participants in Kett's Rebellion, who had congregated in the marketplace during their brief capture of Norwich. [20] In 1574, a local law was enacted demanding that all unemployed men were to assemble at the market cross each morning at 5.00 am, along with the tools of their trade, and remain there for an hour in the hope that they would be offered work a bonesetter was hired to treat any men who claimed they were unfit for work through injury. The success of this scheme is not recorded. [19]

By the 17th century, the building was known as the Market House, and was used for the sale of grain and other goods sold by the bushel a set of approved measures were chained to the pillars for public use. [11] The archaic title of "Keeper of the Cross" was bestowed on the man appointed to sweep the marketplace weekly. [21] [note 7]

The market cross also served as the focal point of Norfolk's parliamentary elections. Candidates would bring large crowds of voters in by cart from the surrounding countryside and ply them with large quantities of free alcohol to ensure their support. [22] Candidates would pay for lodgings for the voters, but, in closely fought elections, more voters than usual would be shipped in and every inn in the city would fill, forcing voters to sleep in and around the cross. Sir Thomas Browne described the voters around the market cross as "like flocks of sheep" during the unusually close elections of 1678, at the height of the Exclusion Crisis. [22] Following the counting of the vote, the winning candidate would be carried three times around the market, followed by torch-bearers and trumpeters. By this time, the crowds would generally be extremely drunk on the liquor provided by the candidates, and elections would often degenerate into drunken revelry or fighting. [22]

Although it was popular with travelling vendors, particularly of small fancy goods, [11] the maintenance of the market cross was costly and unpopular with Norwich's citizens. In 1732 the cross was demolished, and the stone was sold for £125. [21] In 2005 the base of the cross was rediscovered in excavations during renovation of the market area, but has since been re-covered. [23] Its site is now outlined in red stones embedded in the market floor. [19]

With few fixed structures in the main marketplace, the plain traditionally served as a public open space on days when the market was not operational. [21] Before the Reformation in the 1530s, its main use was as a venue for religious festivals, particularly the annual procession of the Craft Guilds at Corpus Christi. [21] Most public religious festivals were abandoned following the Reformation and the subsequent dissolution of many of the mediaeval guilds, and the leading event on Norwich's civic calendar became the annual inauguration of the mayor, which took place each May. [25] [note 8]

The inauguration ceremony was conducted by the civic authorities and by the surviving, and still powerful, Guild of St George, and combined elements of a public festival and a religious carnival. [26] Four whifflers (city officials carrying swords) marched ahead of the procession to clear a path. Behind the whifflers, the incoming and outgoing mayors rode side-by-side, preceded by trumpeters and standard-bearers carrying the banners of England and St George, and followed by the city's Sheriffs and Aldermen in ceremonial gowns of violet and red, respectively. The procession was flanked by the city's waits (musicians playing loud wind instruments, usually the shawm) (a mediaeval double reed wind instrument with conical wooden body), and accompanied by dick fools (clowns carrying wands and wearing red and yellow gowns adorned with bells and cats' tails) and a man costumed as a dragon. [26]

As well as the mayoral inaugurations, the marketplace was also the setting for other public events, particularly mourning processions on the deaths of monarchs, coronation celebrations, [note 9] royal birthdays and celebrations of military victories. [26] Firework displays and bonfires would be held on these occasions, accompanied by the local militia firing volleys and the ringing of the bells of the surrounding churches, while local residents and shopkeepers would illuminate their windows with lit candles. [26] Often, particularly in the 18th century, temporary triumphal arches would be erected beside the Guildhall. [22] Free beer would traditionally be distributed at these events, which would on occasion degenerate into drunken disorder. [27]

The market was also the location for public punishment of wrongdoers, and stocks and a pillory were set at a prominent position at the eastern end of the Guildhall. The stocks were used for the punishment of relatively minor offences such as breaching the regulations on the price of bread, public brawling or incivility to the Mayor [22] wrongdoers would on occasion also be paraded around the market wearing paper hats bearing details of their offence. [19] The pillory was used for more serious offences such as sedition. On at least two occasions in the late 16th century people convicted of sedition were nailed to the pillory by their ears on completion of their time on the pillory their ears were cut off. Public whippings of criminals were also conducted in the marketplace. [22] Although not all executions in the period are recorded, it is known that public hangings also took place in the market square and around the market cross. [20]

By the 17th century, the market had also become the venue for many travelling entertainments. Exotic animals were displayed, including lions, tigers, camels and jackals, and displays by conjurers, puppeteers, singers, acrobats and other entertainers also regularly took place. Displays of human deformities were also popular records exist from the 1670s and 1680s of the Mayor granting exhibition licences to, among others, "a monstrous man with 2 bodies brought from the Indies by Sir Thomas Grantham", "a girl of sixteen with no bones", "a monstrous hayrie child", and "a monstrous man taken from amongst the hills of Corinthia, he feeds on the roots of trees etc". [20] Stages erected by charlatans selling medicines and demonstrating miracle cures were often erected near the Guildhall, prompting regular complaints from fishmongers that the crowds were blocking access to their stalls on at least one occasion one of these travelling doctors had his licence withdrawn 'because of possible damage to the city's economy by the distraction of "idle minds" from their work'. [20]

Improvements in Norfolk's road infrastructure and the development of the stagecoach system made Norwich an increasingly popular destination with travellers. Norwich was recovering from the plague years and was a major city, with attractions and social events second only to London itself. The increasingly prosperous country landowners of Norfolk and Suffolk began visiting Norwich more frequently and staying for longer when they did so. [28]

By the end of the 17th century many of the strict regulations regarding trade in Norwich were lifted or relaxed, and Norwich became a fashionable shopping town. Shops catering for the growing wealthy classes, such as booksellers, vintners and gunsmiths, grew around the market plain, [28] especially in the large buildings along the eastern side of the market, the Nethererowe, which became so popular with the gentry it became known as Gentleman's Walk. [29] Gentleman's Walk acquired a number of luxury shops, including John Toll's drapers from which Elizabeth Gurney (later Elizabeth Fry) watched the election of 1796, [30] the wine and spirit dealership of Thomas Bignold who in company with other local shopkeepers founded a mutual association to provide fire insurance for the area's shops which became Norwich Union, [31] and Saunders Coffee House, patronised by the young Horatio and William Nelson. [30]

By this time, a row of stalls bordering on St Peter Mancroft's churchyard had developed into a row of three- and four-storey houses running east to west, and a second row of buildings running north to south ran through the main market square. This row of houses cut off the main market from the eastern strip housing the butchers and fishmongers, known as the Upper Market, leaving only two narrow passageways as direct links between the two-halves of the market square. [32] (Although the buildings dividing the upper and lower markets were demolished in the 1930s, one of these connecting passages survives as Pudding Lane. [32] The name "Pudding Lane" derives from "ped", an archaic word for the large baskets from which itinerant traders sold goods in the market. [33] )

With increased numbers of people visiting Norwich, trade boomed in the inns around the marketplace. [32] In addition to the existing taverns, at least four very large coaching inns opened along Gentleman's Walk. By the latter half of the 18th century, stagecoaches were leaving one or other of the inns almost daily to London, and the inns also served as the hub of a network of frequent services throughout East Anglia. [34]

Built around long narrow yards, as well as serving food and drink and providing lodgings, these coaching inns also served as temporary warehouses, auction rooms and gambling halls for travellers doing business in the market. [35] The best known was the Angel, parts of which dated to the 15th century. As well as providing the other functions of the Norwich inns, its yard also served as a popular theatre and venue for other performers. (Despite its significance as a city, Norwich did not have a dedicated theatre until 1758. [35] ) However, in 1699 part of the building collapsed during a performance by Thomas Doggett's troupe of players, killing a woman and injuring many of the audience. The reputation of the Angel was severely damaged, and although still used for small-scale entertainments such as puppet shows, it was never again used for full-scale theatrical performances. [35]

Meanwhile, the livestock market south of St Peter Mancroft was becoming overwhelmingly crowded on market days. Eventually part of the eastern side of the castle mound was levelled, and in 1738 the livestock sales were moved to this new site. The old hay market remained on the old site for more than a century, until it was also moved to the new livestock market site in the early 19th century. [32] The new livestock market was one of the last significant livestock markets in a British city centre, and developed a reputation as "the cruellest in the country". [36] [note 10]

The relocation of the livestock market had done little to resolve the problems of congestion in and around the market. [39] Many of the mediaeval access routes to the market were too narrow for wheeled transport, and the narrow alleys were also dark, dangerous and mostly unpaved. [40] Although the market had been resurfaced during the 18th century, this had been with flint pebble cobblestones which were easily dislodged and trapped refuse. [41] William Chase, editor of the first Norwich Directory, lobbied in the late 18th century for civic improvements and a rationalisation of the streets around the market. However, the economy of Norwich depended heavily on the textile industry, which had suffered badly from the loss of export markets during the French Wars, and funds for improvements were limited. By the beginning of the 19th century the only significant improvement had been the paving of Gentleman's Walk. [40] In 1805 a number of Improvement Commissions were established to propose solutions to the problems facing the area, but little action was taken. Local councils had no powers to levy rates to fund general civic improvements and as a consequence funds for improvement works had to be raised either through tolls and rents, via public appeals, or through long term borrowing, and the city was initially unable to raise sufficient funds. [39]

In 1813 the yard of the King's Head coaching inn was widened to create Davey Place, [35] a new street between the market and Back of the Inns, at that time a narrow passageway which ran parallel to Gentleman's Walk behind the coaching inns. [42] (Although the inns no longer remain, Back of the Inns survives as a street name. [43] ) In 1820 the Gasolier, Norwich's first gas lamp, was installed in the market outside the entrance to Davey Place. [39] Exchange Street, a new road running north from the northeast corner of the market, was completed in 1828 and a roadway was installed alongside the existing footpath. [42] [44] London Street, the main road connecting the market with the older areas of the city around Tombland and the Cathedral was widened in 1856. [42] In 1860 the decrepit fish market adjacent to the Guildhall, by now over 700 years old, was replaced with a new neoclassical building. [45] In 1863 Gentleman's Walk was paved properly with York stone, and in 1874 the cobbles of the marketplace were replaced by timber blocks. [39] Although by this time the market operated on all working days, Sunday trading laws meant it was closed on Sundays. The market space on Sundays was used for public assemblies and gatherings. [46]

Meanwhile, Norwich railway station had opened in 1844. [47] Although many Norwich residents were reluctant to use the railway, and goods carriers initially found it more convenient to continue to collect goods from the coaching inns, [34] as railway usage gradually increased the number of coaches and carts calling at the inns slowly dwindled, reducing congestion. [44] In 1899 the Angel inn—renamed the Royal Hotel in 1840 on the occasion of Queen Victoria's wedding—finally closed, and was replaced with George Skipper's Royal Arcade, a shopping centre in the Art Nouveau style. [48]

Although the civic authorities initially resisted installing tramways in the city centre owing to concerns about nuisance and disruption, they eventually relented by the end of the 19th century Norwich had a total of 16 miles (26 km) of tram routes, including a route along Gentleman's Walk itself. [44] While schemes to rationalise the layout of the market's stalls had been proposed since the 18th century, they had foundered on the fact that so many of the stalls were privately owned. [44]

In the wake of the First World War the council's Markets Committee began a programme of gradually buying back all the privately owned stalls, with the intention of encouraging demobilised servicemen to work on the market. Within a few years the market was entirely publicly owned, and the council took responsibility for the upkeep of the market. [44] The city also bought out and closed many of the 30 or more inns in the area, transferring their licences to the growing suburbs. [49]

Meanwhile, the Guildhall, designed to serve the post-plague city with a population of around 6,000, was hopelessly inadequate as the administrative centre of a major modern city. As an interim solution the row of buildings dividing the upper and main markets had mostly been taken into public ownership and converted into civic offices, [44] and in January 1914 the 1860 fish market had also been enlarged and converted into offices. The Liberal welfare reforms of the early 20th century and the Local Government Act 1929 had greatly increased the role of local government in public health and welfare, and by the 1930s Norwich council was suffering from a severe lack of office space. [44]

The council opted for a radical redevelopment of the area around the upper market. [50] The row of buildings from St Peter Mancroft to the Guildhall, which divided the upper and lower markets, were demolished, opening up the marketplace, as were the buildings along the western side of the market. [50] The mixture of stalls and booths which occupied the market itself were all removed, and replaced by 205 stalls in uniform parallel rows, topped with multi-coloured sloping roofs (known locally as "tilts"). [51] [52] During the rebuilding of the market square, the existing stalls were relocated to a number of temporary locations in the area to allow them to continue trading, including the courtyard and rear of the City Hall development and surrounding streets. [53] In 1938 the coverings of the stalls were given the multi-coloured stripes for which they became famous. [54] [55]

In 1932, despite concerns from some local residents and businesses about the huge expense at a time of recession, a new building was envisaged to replace the demolished civic buildings, spanning the entire length of the western edge of the now unified marketplace. From over 140 entries a design by Charles Holloway James and Stephen Rowland Pierce was selected. [50] [56] Heavily influenced by Scandinavian architecture, the design attracted negative criticism at the time, with John Piper saying that "fog is its friend". [57] Opened by King George VI in 1938 as City Hall, [57] [note 11] the building proved extremely successful, and was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as "the foremost English public building between the Wars". [50] Norwich's war memorial, designed by Edwin Lutyens and opened in 1927 outside the Guildhall, was moved to a long narrow memorial garden on a raised terrace between City Hall and the enlarged market shortly after the opening of City Hall. [59] The Guildhall remained in use as a law court until 1985, and its basement remained in use as cells until that time. [18]

Although superficially the market remained little changed in the decades following the 1930s redevelopment, by the 1960s it was falling into disrepair, and it no longer met modern hygiene regulations. [60] A lack of funds delayed improvement works, and renovation works did not begin until February 1976. Hot and cold running water and refrigeration were provided to those stalls handling food, and many of the stalls were converted into lockable units. [51] New electrical mains cables were installed throughout the market, the site was resurfaced, and the elegant but ageing 19th century lavatories were demolished. [60] Aside from the demolition of the Victorian toilets, the only significant visible alteration was the addition of corrugated plastic covers over the walkways between the stalls. [51] [52] Although competition from supermarkets was by this time affecting shopping patterns, and the decline of market gardening meant a virtual end to stall-holders selling their own produce, the market survived competitive pressures. Many stalls diversified into specialist foods, clothing and other goods and the high number of stalls allowed the market to sell a range of goods as great as that provided by the supermarkets. [51]

While the 1976 renovations prolonged the life of the 1930s market, by the 1990s the market was once more becoming decrepit. The covers erected in 1976 over the walkways blocked sunlight, leaving much of the market dingy and poorly lit. The walkways themselves, already narrow, were becoming even more restricted as stalls erected external displays and additional weatherproofing. Removable shutters used to secure the stalls overnight were stacked against the sides of the stalls during trading hours, causing further obstruction, while on those stalls fitted with doors the doors opened outwards to maximise the limited space inside the units. In addition, the floors of stalls followed the slope of the hill, a gradient of about 1:12, causing health problems for those market workers who had to stand at this angle for prolonged periods during the day. [61] Norwich City Council decided that these problems needed to be addressed, and in December 2003 invited the public to choose between three proposals for a rebuilt market. [62]

These plans were extremely controversial. All three envisaged reducing the number of stalls from 205 to 140–160 to increase space, and all three involved splitting the market into isolated clusters of stalls, significantly altering its character and appearance. The Eastern Daily Press organised a campaign against the perceived unattractiveness of the designs, the proposed reduction in the number of stalls which would mean stallholders losing their jobs and the remaining stallholders facing rent increases to cover the difference, and the change to the character of central Norwich that such a radical redesign of the market would entail. A petition of over 12,000 signatories rejecting all three proposed designs was gathered. [63]

Following a public meeting on 26 January 2004 the council backed down, and Hereward Cooke, deputy leader of the council, said that "We are finding out what the stall-holders and people of Norwich want and we will try our best to fulfill their wishes". Architect Michael Innes proposed a new design, which was accepted by the council. [63] The new design was put in place in 2005. [64]

Innes's design retained the market's layout of parallel rows of stalls with striped coloured roofs. The new stalls were built as steel and aluminium prefabricated units consisting of four stalls each, each stall having a level floor accessed by a step. These "pods" were arranged in rows, with 2-metre (6 ft 7 in) wide walkways between the "pods". Transparent retractable canopies were installed above the aisles, which could be opened and closed centrally. [65]

To allow the market to continue trading while the rebuilding took place, a set of temporary stalls were built in Gentleman's Walk and surrounding streets. A third of the market's stalls at a time traded from these temporary stalls while their stalls in the main market were replaced, a process taking four months for each third of the market. [64] The rebuilding was officially completed on 25 March 2006. [66] Although generally popular with traders and shoppers, the redesign was criticised by The Times, who described it as "an anaemic shopping mall for health and safety inspectors: straight lines, wipe-clean boxy cubicles, all life and love drained out." [67]

Meanwhile, in November 2004 engineers identified cracks in the terrace supporting the Memorial Gardens, and they were closed to the public as a potential hazard. Eventually in 2009 work began on renovating the gardens. Lutyens's memorial was dismantled and cleaned, and reassembled at a higher level to be visible from the street it was also rotated 180° to face City Hall, rather than the market. The terrace was strengthened, and the gardens were landscaped around a new sculpture by Paul de Monchaux on the original site of the memorial. [68]

Supermarkets continued to affect shopping patterns. In 1979 fruit and vegetable stalls occupied 70 of the market's 205 stalls by 1988 greengrocers occupied only 28 stalls, and by 2010 there were only seven remaining fruit and vegetable stalls on the market. [69] A wide variety of other stalls have taken their place, and the market remains active. One of the largest markets in Britain, it is a tourist attraction as well as remaining heavily used by local residents, and is a focal point of the city. [66]


Norwich Guildhall - History

Norwich Guildhall. The southern side view from outside City Hall

Norwich Guildhall is a Grade I building on Gaol Hill in Norwich, Norfolk. It was constructed between 1407 and 1413 to enable the greater self-governing powers conferred upon Norwich by the Charter of 1404 to be administered more efficiently.

Henry IV had introduced a ‘Charter of Incorporation’ to Norwich, granting special privileges to the city and raising its importance to a new level. The charter allowed burgesses to elect a Mayor, collect taxes and hold their own courts of law and with the removal of the popular assembly, was a chance for the government to become more locally representative. Crucially, the charter gave Norwich city status.

The Building
By 1435 the tower and porch had been added and in 1440 all of the city records were brought over, a reminder of its political responsibility. By 1453 the final windows of the magnificent building were glazed, essentially marking the building’s completion.

An upper council (of twenty-four Aldermen, one Mayor and two Sheriffs), with members from ‘dignified’ society and given life-long membership, were to govern alongside the associated lower council, whose sixty members were to act as representatives from the local community. These changes to the political structure instigated a sense of civic pride among the citizens of Norwich many felt that the growth in the city’s responsibilities and self-governing power should be marked by the establishment of an equally fitting civic building.

Prisoners first occupied the crypts of the building in 1412. In 1511 both the tower at the west end and the roof of the Council Chamber, collapsed. The roof was reconstructed between 1534 and 1537 by Augustine Steward, at a cost of over £200. The destruction forced the Council Chamber to move to the east end of the building. As part of the works, the exterior wall of the eastern face of the new Chamber was faced with chequered flint work and freestone, and a central panel containing a fragment of the Arms of Henry VIII, flanked by the City Arms and the arms of the St George’s Company.

In 1635 the Guildhall was almost accidentally demolished as saltpetre diggers went down too far. 1723 saw the reconstruction of the porch, and in 1747, after the destruction of the Shire Hall, the Guildhall took on further responsibilities and additional alterations were made. In 1850 the clock tower was erected as a gift from the Mayor, Henry Woodcock.

More renovations came in 1857, when the doorway of a house belonging to a Tudor goldsmith was taken down from its original location in London Street and placed in the south-west corner of the Guildhall. Additions to the south side of the building were constructed in 1861 by Thomas Barry, the City Surveyor, and further work was undertaken in 1908.

The Mayor and Officials Royal procession from Guildhall to open City Hall at Norwich in 1938

The Norwich Guildhall served as the seat of city government from the early 15th century until 1938, when it was replaced by the newly built City Hall. At the time of the building’s construction and for much of its history Norwich was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in England, and today the Guildhall is the largest surviving medieval civic building in the country outside of London.

As well as various courts, a prison and a chapel, the building contained facilities for accounting and tax collection, accommodation for civic officials (it remains the home of the Sheriff’s parlour today) and storage space for records, money and civic regalia. The Assembly Chamber (or Sheriff’s Court) was designed for meetings of the full medieval council. It now contains a virtually intact late Victorian courtroom.

The council chamber (or mayor’s court) is more elaborate with oak panelling, a 16-bay roof with tie-beams, renaissance decorative woodwork and stained glass. The undercroft, beneath the east end pre-dates the building, and is thought to be an original feature of the earlier toll-house on this site. It was used to accommodate more dangerous criminals.

The Norwich’s Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) has taken on a 25-year lease of the iconic landmark from Norwich City Council. As of January 2015 the building will be another place to explore Norwich’s past.

The Gates
The porch previously had a pair of iron gates to its outer threshold. These are thought to date from the 1720s and were removed several decades ago. They were recently ‘rediscovered’ and the City wishes to reinstate them.

I was asked to examine the paint on the gates.

NOTES
This has been taken from a variety of sources including Norwich HEART, Wikipedia and the Eastern Daily Press


Amazing Then and Now photos Show How Norwich Has Changed from the Norwich Blitz

During World War II, the German forces heavily bombarded Norwich and its surrounding areas, known as ‘The Norwich Blitz.’ The bombing was also launched in several other Britain’s cities in 1940. However, Norwich was not attacked until April and May 1942 as part of the so-called Baedeker raids. Targets were chosen for their cultural and historical value and not as strategic or military targets.

The furious bombing was launched on the evening of 27 April 1942, and it lasted for two days. There were further attacks in May and a heavy bombardment on 26 and 27 June in which Norwich Cathedral was damaged. Norwich Castle, the City Hall, and the Guildhall escaped while many residential streets were destroyed.

Here is a fantastic set of then and now photographs that show the Norwich landmarks immediately after the attack and how they look years later. Two pictures of the exact location in a single frame with the same angle.


Watch the video: Acting Auditions at Guildhall