The Norwich 12
Norwich Castle Museum & Gallery: One of Norwich's most famous and visually iconic buildings, Norwich Castle dates back to Norman times when it made into a Royal Palace by William the Conqueror's sons over 900 years ago. It is now one of the finest surviving secular Norman buildings in Europe.
The castle's construction was started in 1067 by the Normans as a show of strength; its mound was the largest in the country, which was surrounded with deep defensive ditches. From around 1300 Norwich Castle's military importance began to wane leading to the building being used as a prison for political and war prisoners, petty felons, horse thieves, highwaymen and murderers for the next 500 years. Many prisoners were hanged just beyond the castle bridge, with the site’s final hanging taking place in 1867.
Today, Norwich Castle serves as a museum and art gallery. As well as impressive collections of archaeology and natural history, it also holds the world's largest collection of ceramic teapots and the collection of provincial civic regalia in the UK.
Norwich Cathedral: Norwich’s Cathedral is one of the most complete major Romanesque buildings in Europe and has attracted visitors and pilgrims for more than 900 years.
The foundation stone of Norwich Cathedral was laid in 1096, endorsing the fast-growing city's status and prospects; the Norman conquerors knew that grand castles and cathedrals would be powerful symbols to the English of their new masters' dominance.
Norfolk had no suitable material for building such a great monument, so Caen stone was imported all the way from Normandy and a canal was specially dug to bring the stone as close to the site as possible.
When the building was complete in 1145, Norwich Cathedral was the largest building in East Anglia; 141 metres (461 feet) long and 54 metres (177 feet) wide and at 96 metres (315 feet). The cathedral also boasts the second tallest spire in the UK. The original Norman ground plan survives today in spite of devastating gales, fires, riots and wars taking place on the site over the centuries.
The Great Hospital: The Great Hospital was founded in 1249 by Bishop Walter Suffield. Medieval hospitals were religious institutes, and rather than provide medical treatment as we consider it today, offered residents rest in warm and relatively clean surroundings, providing them with regular supplies of food and drink. Originally at least 30 bed were reserved for the sick poor, and 13 paupers were fed daily; in the interest of propriety, however, female residents were forbidden.
St Helen's church is at the medieval heart of the hospital, which boasts a 15th century cloisters and an elaborately decorated chancel ceiling, which is adorned with more than 250 black eagles in honour of Anne of Bohemia’s visit to Norwich in 1383 with her husband, King Richard II. A first-storey level was added to the chancel, which became lodgings for female patients, also known as the Eagle Ward. Today the Great Hospital functions as sheltered housing and a residential care home.
The Halls – St Andrew’s and Blackfriars: St Andrew’s and Blackfriars, known as the Halls, are the most complete medieval friary complex to survive in England today. The Halls were built more than 600 years ago to serve as the home of the Dominicans or 'Black Friars', whose namesake came from the colour of their habits.
By the 1530s, during the dissolution of monasteries the three times Mayor of Norwich, Augustine Steward, asked King Henry VIII if the building could be bought to conduct fairs and feasts for the Norwich citizens. With the proposition accepted, the Halls survived and were also put to use as a school, granary, workhouse and building stores over the following years. The Halls also served as an impressive setting for civic assemblies, ceremonial banquets, law courts and guild meetings.
St Andrew’s and Blackfriars Hall is still in constant use today, hosting conferences, antique fairs, markets, weddings, concerts and the largest provincial beer festival in the country; its crypt, the oldest piece of the building, is now a café.
The Guildhall: In 1404, the status of Norwich dramatically changed when the city received its first charter of incorporation. This allowed Norwich the right to elect a mayor, collect its own taxes, hold its own courts of law and own property in common. In celebration of this landmark a splendid new civic building, The Guildhall, was constructed to host council meetings, law courts and fulfil the other activities of the new city government.
The Guildhall was by far the largest and most elaborate medieval city ever built outside of London; a statement of the burgeoning economic and political power by the emerging ruling elite – wealthy freemen of merchants and traders. The building's exterior is a fantastic façade of flint work, and its east end is a visually striking chequered face of flint and ashlar stone – a replicate of the London Guildhall.
The Guildhall's appearance has been repeatedly altered since its construction and today an amalgamation of architectural styles can be witnessed: in 1850, its clock tower was erected and in 1861 many of the windows were replaced with ones of the Victorian Gothic style. The Guildhall served as a civic centre until 1938, when the new City Hall was constructed; its assembly chambers were also used as law courts until 1985 and today a café resides in the place of The Guildhall's 'free prison'.
Dragon Hall: Dragon Hall, a Grade 1 listed building, is the only surviving medieval trading hall built by an individual merchant in the whole of Western Europe. Built by rich merchant Robert Toppes in 1430, Dragon Hall served as an impressive building to store and display his merchandise.
Records show that Toppes exported goods Great Yarmouth to ports in northern France, Holland and Belgium. He imported luxury goods, such as wine, fine clothes and spices, as well as timber, iron and roofing tiles.
The Great Hall is the building's centrepiece: 27 metres long (88ft), with a superb crow-post roof, and decorated with expensive timber and 14 fine wooden carvings of dragons. Today only one dragon remains, giving the Hall its modern namesake (it was originally known as the Great Hall).
Originally Dragon Hall would have been adorned with hanging tapestries and filled with tables of goods for trading all across Europe. After Toppes' death, the Hall was bought and used by wealthy citizens and gentry of the city.
The Assembly House: The present-day Assembly House was designed by Thomas Ivory to be a centre of entertainment and assemblies for the gentry of Norwich. The House was opened in 1755 and quickly became host to weekly card playing meetings, public assemblies, music playing and dances. In 1824, the Assembly House hosted a display of gymnastics and the following year Madame Tussaud staged a display of waxworks of various royalty, public figures and artists.
The Assembly House that can be seen today dates back to 1754, but in fact the Georgian building incorporates the layout of the medieval College of St Mary in the Fields, founded in 1248 as a hospital. The Music Room contains the core of the medieval Great Hall, where much of Norwich's civic business took place before the Guildhall was constructed in 1407.
St James Mill: At six stories high and boasting a dome cap at one end, covering a circular York stone staircase, St James Mill has been hailed as 'the noblest building of the English Industrial Revolution'.
The Mill has been a historically significant to Norwich since being constructed in 1839, at an estimated cost of £70,000, and with an original purpose to rejuvenate Norwich's dwindling textile trade. The building proved only to be a short-term solution to Norwich economic problems as production levels did not significantly improve, and by the start of the 19th century only 2,000 employees remained at the site.
In 1902 St James Mill was bought by Jarrold & Sons, a still major company in Norwich today, for their printing department. Two years later, the Mill was leased to Caleys, chocolate manufacturers until the end of the First World War, when the government purchased the building for use as a training factory to rehabilitate war veterans. Finally, St James Mill was rebought by Jarrold & Sons in 1933 and is still used by the company today as their head office.
St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral: Conceived by Henry Fitzalan Howard the 15th Duke of Norfolk in 1877, St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral was intended to return Catholicism to English civic life. It was built on the site of the old city 'gaol', and in 1976, was designated a cathedral – remaining the second largest Catholic cathedral in UK (after Westminster Cathedral) to this day.
The building's architectural style is that of 19th century Gothic revival. Its nave, 49 metres long and 18 metres high, is richly decorated with dark marble, speckled with thousands of fossils embedded in limestone. Inside, the cathedral contains for of the finest 19th century stained glass in Europe.
Surrey House: At the turn of the 19th century, local architect George Skipper was given the brief to design a 'splendid yet functional office space' that incorporated Greek influences and the themes of insurance, protection and wellbeing; all in aim to assure policyholders of the company's strength and prosperity.
No other non-ecclesiastical British building can boast an interior adorned with over 15 varieties of marble, elegant stained-glass windows, intricately carved wooden panelling: its Marble Hall features a rainbow of marbles; the Board Room contains floor-to-ceiling windows, mahogany fittings and chandeliers.
Surrey House also contains a number of unusual items, including a chiming skeleton clock that plays 12 operatic tunes, which was created for the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851. In the building's entrance hall stand striking lapis lazuli monuments to honour employees who died in the First and Second World Wars.
Norwich City Hall: In 1931 Charles Holloway James and Stephen Rowland won a national competition which sought the greatest design for a new city hall in Norwich. Designed and constructed within the interwar years, Norwich City Hall was described as 'the foremost English public building' of this period by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, although the building's bold design and art deco interiors initially divided opinions. The new City Hall was officially opened by King George VI in 1938, an event which attracted the largest crowds Norwich had ever witnessed.
Its bronze entrance doors display 18 plaques which illustrate the history, civic life and industry of the city. Plaques on the outer doors display trade good associated with Norwich: chocolate, boots and shoes, mustard. Keeping guard at City Hall's entrance are two heraldic lions. The clock tower holds the largest clock bell in the UK, originally intended to be seen from anywhere in the city; the tower contains 166 steps leading up to a viewing platform.
The Forum: Since being officially opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II, The Forum has become one of Norwich's most popular and culturally significant buildings. The Forum is built on the site of Norwich Central Library, which was destroyed by a massive fire in 1994. The building hosts a massive variety of historical, cultural and art events throughout the year, and is the permanent home of the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, Norfolk Heritage Centre, 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, Tourist Information Centre and the local BBC media hub.
The Forum's visually striking and innovative architecture was designed by Sir Michael Hopkins, who specially created The Forum's horseshoe shape to embrace and complement the immediate, historic surroundings. The building has won a host of prestigious awards.