Norwich Street Photographs

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Ber St:
        From Timberhill / Golden Ball St to Bracondale / City Rd / Queen's Rd
Thorn Lane, Mariners Lane

      West side
Ber St 1 to 13 [1273] 1936-08-16
In the mid-1930s, Hastings the greengrocers, at No 1 Ber St, stood on the corner of All Saints' St and in the way of its planned widening. In a letter to the Press dated 30th September 1936, "S.E.G." (Colonel S.E.Glendenning) wrote: "As each section of this huge scheme comes up for action, it becomes obvious how destructive it will be of all that has given character and interest to Norwich, without even making it a well planned modern city. As an example, I see in an advertisement in today's Evening News that it is proposed to destroy one of the most prominent 16th century buildings in Norwich - Hastings' greengrocers' shop at the city end of Ber Street."
In the face of this and other representations the Council were persuaded to change their minds, and three years later recommended that the widening should take place on the north side instead. The Germans were not so accommodating, however, and during the air raid of 27th June 1942, in the same blaze which destroyed Bond's large department store, this old house was so badly damaged as to necessitate its complete demolition a few months later.
In the Norfolk Annual published in October 1937, there appeared a photograph by William Buston of this building, taken from the entrance to Golden Ball St, and captioned "Corner Doomed to Destruction" - an accurate prophecy, although not for the reason the photographer had envisaged.
Ber St 1 to 1a [1648] 1937-05-23
Ber St 23 Agriculture House farmers' union [4396] 1955-09-26
National Farmers' Union, Norfolk branch, erected 1952.
Ber St 43 to 51 [1274] 1936-08-16
Ber St 47 to 49 rear from Cogman's Yard [1819] 1937-07-27
Ber St 55 to 57 [1307] 1936-08-23
Ber St 81 to 83 [6541] 1989-04-08
In 1989 Norfolk County Council agreed to continue the development of the city's Inner Link road by adopting a line from Queens Rd across Surrey St and by a tunnel below Ber St to Rouen Rd. Thence by new bridges over the river and railway to Lower Clarence Rd and Thorpe Rd. This idea was later abandoned.
Ber St 83 rear from Chapel Loke [1800] 1937-07-17
Site of abandoned proposed Inner Link road extension.
Ber St 89 to 91 [6542] 1989-04-08
Ber St 95 to 97 [1300] 1936-08-23
Ber St 123 to 127 125 Jolly Butchers' PH [1302] 1936-08-23
Ber St 131 to 137 135 Bull's Head PH [1301] 1936-08-23
Ber St 135 Dart Inn [3029] 1939-05-29
Ber St Bull's Head Yard [1799] 1937-07-17
Ber St 147 [1308] 1936-08-23
Ber St 147 rear [1798] 1937-07-17
Ber St 151 to 153 Fox and Hounds PH [1303] 1936-08-23
Ber St 151 to 153 Fox and Hounds PH rear [1797] 1937-07-17
Ber St 165 [1304] 1936-08-23
Ber St 165 rear [1801] 1937-07-17
St John de Sepulchre north side from Ber St [2277] 1938-04-08
Largely 15c.
St John de Sepulchre from N [B141] 1931-00-00
St John de Sepulchre north porch [2276] 1938-04-08
Vaulted ceiling and parvise above.
St John de Sepulchre from SE [3346] 1940-03-23
St John de Sepulchre tower south side [6235] 1982-07-05
With stair turret.
St John de Sepulchre interior view east [1861] 1937-08-09
Nave 28 feet 2 inches wide with four-centred arches.
St John de Sepulchre East Anglian type font [1862] 1937-08-09
        East side
Ber St 2 [2521] 1938-07-06
Ber St 8 former King's Arms PH [6002] 1979-04-15
Ber St 16 [1278] 1936-08-16
Other property destroyed during the June raids included No 16 Ber St, opposite Bonds and adjoining Mason's Court. This was a small house and shop, the upper front plaster faced, the roof surmounted by an unusually wide dormer lit by two casement windows. For many years the shop was occupied by G.J.Woods and Son, Chair, Basket and Sieve Works, established 1832, as announced by the facia board. In a description of the business published in 1940 it was stated that it was probably the only place in England where sedge horse-collars were still made. Other articles included cycle baskets made with reddish-brown osiers - "buff" to the trade - and "wilshes", - the basketwork nozzles used by those who brew their own beer; these fit over the inside end of the tap and act as strainers of the solid matter - the body of the malt and hops.
Ber St Mason's Court [1277] 1936-08-16
Windmill Alley from churchyard [1820] 1937-07-27
From St Michael at Thorn churchyard.
Windmill Alley old house from churchyard [1786] 1937-07-13
From St Michael at Thorn churchyard.
Windmill Alley thatched house north side [0596] 1935-05-26
2 Windmill Alley. On the same night Bond's was burning, so too were the nearby church of St Michael-at-Thorn and a pair of thatched cottages in Windmill Alley. These cottages faced the north side of the church and had had their roofing renewed only five years previously. Mr Woodcock of St Faith's had carried out the work, using reeds from Hickling. The old thatch he found had been bound with tough bramble stems, a very old method, but he himself used hooks.
The building had several other points of interest. The back wall, for instance, was a strange mixture of bricks and flint. Some years before the war, too, when the floor of a bedroom was being repaired, a layer of squared flints had been discovered between the boards and the downstairs ceiling. Was this an early attempt at soundproofing, one wonders?
St Michael at Thorn south side from Ber St [2180] 1938-03-18
The church of St Michael-at-Thorn stood at the edge of the Ber St ridge, overlooking the Wensum valley. On its south side Thorn Lane led steeply downhill into King St, but since the area was redeveloped in the early 1960s it terminates at Rouen Rd.
The church was completely gutted by the incendiary raid, leaving only the walls and tower standing. As described by Ian Hannah, the building was partly built in 1430 but largely modern. It consisted of a square west tower, nave with north aisle and south porch, and a chancel. The original tower collapsed in 1886 and was rebuilt in the following year. To judge from the view in Sillett's Norwich Churches, published in 1828, the style of the modern work followed very closely that of the old.
Latterly the tower contained only one bell, but John L'Estrange noted in 1874 that "There were three bells here until about 1838, when the two largest were sold, to help to build a hideous north aisle, recently replaced by a much more comely structure. They are now the first and second bells at Bale, near Holt. The inscription on 2, 'Nobis Succurre Michael Raphael Gabriel Quaesumus', is unique." On the remaining bell he observed the following inscription: "Pack and Chapman of London Fecit 1777. John Spratt and Henry Warns Ch. Wardens."
The main entrance to the church was through the porch and south doorway; the latter was Norman probably the oldest remaining part of the building. Having survived the blitz it was later dismantled and re-erected in the rebuilt St Julian's church. It is described as having a shaft on either side supporting a round-headed arch with cable and zig-zag ornaments, with one of the billets of an outer moulding carved into a queer little animal. According to White's Norfolk directory of 1833 the door was then still in possession of its ancient ironwork.
Turning our attention to the interior, an octagonal font with shields constituted about the only ancient fitting. All the woodwork was modern, including a fine roodscreen surmounted with a St Michael's cross.
The historian Francis Blomefield wrote that the living "was anciently a Rectory appendant to the Castle, until the Conqueror gave it to FitzWalter along with St Martin at the Bale." The latter, also known as St Martin-in-Balliva, stood anciently on a triangular piece of ground close by the entrance to Golden Ball St, near the principal entrance to the barbican of the Castle, but was demolished in 1562 when the parish was united to that of St Michael. The strange title of the church stems from its having been built within the bailey, the outer courtyard of the castle.
In 1926 a chapel in St Michael's was dedicated to the patron saint of the Bale to perpetuate this association with St Martin's. In the registers, which date from 1562, are records of burials here of many of the criminals who were executed on the Castle hill.
With regard to the dedication - or rather the "surname" - of the church, Blomefield mentions that it is "called in antient evidences, St Michael in Berstreet, and ad Spinas or at the Thorns, and even to this Day, a very large Thorn remains growing in the Churchyard. I find it also in the most antient Deeds called St Michael Super Montem, or St Miles on the Hill from its situation".
To the last, thorn trees continued growing in the churchyard, though perhaps not the same ones to which Blomefield referred. The name of Thorn Lane is comparatively modern, for two centuries ago it was known as Sandgate, no doubt from the nature of the soil there.
In July and August 1952, the tower and all other remains were demolished, and the site was converted into a private car park.
St Michael at Thorn south side from Ber St [B102] 1931-00-00
The original tower built in 1436 collapsed 3rd November 1886, but was rebuilt in 1887.
St Michael at Thorn south Norman doorway [2179] 1938-03-18
Norman. Since re-erected in nearby St Julian's church.
St Michael at Thorn interior view east [1869] 1937-08-12
Modern oak rood screen surmounted by a St Michael's cross.
St Michael at Thorn tower before demolition [4081] 1952-07-31
It survived air raids in 1942 but the tower was demolished ten years later.
Ber St Lamb Yard east side [1821] 1937-07-27
Ber St 38 awaiting demolition [2064] 1938-01-01
40 and 42 were demolished in December 1937 following subsidence. 38, and 44 to 58 were awaiting demolition.
Ber St 44 awaiting demolition [2059] 1938-01-01
Ber St 44 awaiting demolition [2062] 1938-01-01
Ber St 44 to 54 awaiting demolition [2063] 1938-01-01
Ber St 50 to 52 awaiting demolition [2061] 1938-01-01
Ber St 54 to 58 awaiting demolition [2060] 1938-01-01
Ber St 72 King George IV PH [1281] 1936-08-16
Ber St 74 to 78 [1280] 1936-08-16
Since the war much of the east side of the street has undergone redevelopment as part of the larger scheme involving the whole area between here and King St. Although this had been largely filled by 19c cottages of a poor standard, a number of houses in Ber St itself were much older, including gabled houses at Nos 72-78. No 72 was the George IV public house; having been kept in good condition, it remained until some time after the war, but Nos 74-78 were in a shocking state when photographed in 1936 and were demolished soon after.
Ber St 74 to 78 [2481] 1938-06-18
St Bartholomew's Ber St nave blocked window [2980] 1939-05-18
A few yards south along the street from the site of St Michael at Thorn a portion of St Bartholomew's tower stands preserved among a block of new dwellings. Secularised after the Reformation, the church was then adapted for other uses, and as late as the 1930s most of the nave and part of the chancel remained, largely hidden from view by slaughterhouses and other buildings. Brought to light only in recent years, it offers slight compensation for the loss of St Michael.
St Bartholomew's Ber St nave south wall [1841] 1937-08-07
Warehouse at rear of 82 Ber St, incorporating remains of St Bartholomew's church.
St Bartholomew's Ber St partial demolition [2981] 1939-05-18
Desecrated at the time of the Dissolution. Further parts demolished 1939.
Ber St 82 rear St Bartholomew's gabled wall [2979] 1939-05-18
West side of gabled wall dividing nave from chancel.
St Bartholomew's Ber St south doorway arch [4906] 1965-05-01
St Bartholomew's Ber St west tower S wall [4907] 1965-05-01
Interior of south wall.
St Bartholomew's Ber St west tower from SW [6256] 1983-04-15
Ber St 86 former Butchers' Arms PH to 88 [1282] 1936-08-16
Ber St 90 to 100 [1283] 1936-08-16
Ber St 102 to 104 [2498] 1938-06-20
Ber St 110 [1284] 1936-08-16
Ber St 110 King and Sons' offices [4381] 1955-09-17
Erected 1953.
Ber St 112 [2520] 1938-07-06
Ber St 120 former Recruiting Serg PH to 122 [1285] 1936-08-16
No 120 Ber St, once the Recruiting Sergeant public house, was another building of interest dating from Tudor times. It had a timber frame with jettied first floor, the whole being concealed by a covering of plaster. In 1961, however, a small portion of this fell away, leaving one or two of the old beams with their clay and brick infillings exposed to view - but not for long, for all was soon to be cleared away when the whole area was redeveloped.
Ber St 120 timber frame partly exposed [4623] 1961-07-30
Ber St 122 to 132 rear from Mariners Lane [2074] 1938-01-19
Ber St 126 to 128 thatched houses [0156] 1934-07-05
Another loss, due this time to redevelopment was that of 126-128 Ber St, three doors north of Mariners Lane. What made these houses unusual was a shared roof of thatch, No 126 also having a large dormer lit by a "weaver's" window. Writing in Norfolk Archaeology in 1917 J.T.Hotblack listed 16 tenements with thatched roofs in 11 situations as then existing within the city walls. Of this number only six now survive. They are: 20 Westlegate; Briton's Arms, Elm Hill; 53 Bishopgate; St Swithin's Alley; Pykerell's House, St Mary's Plain; and a cottage in Lion and Castle Yard, Timberhill.
The reason for this rarity within a county so plentifully endowed with reed and straw is the number of serious fires that devastated the city in the 16c. The first enactment to safeguard against this danger was made on 18th May 1509, when the City Assembly decreed:
"That in future all buildings within the City which shall be rebuilt anew, shall be covered with Thaktyle and by no means with reed straw called thakke under the penalty of 20s [£1]. for every offence of every house or building detected, to be paid by the proprietor thereof, to the use of the community."
This by-law was repealed in 1532, however, because the high cost of tiles proved such a deterrent to rebuilding. Moreover an Act of Parliament passed in 1534 had been foreshadowed whereby the city became liable to rebuild any burnt houses at public cost, in default of the owners so doing. Not until the more prosperous year of 1570 was the thatching of new houses finally prohibited by the passing of a series of general fire orders.
Ber St 130 to 132 [2519] 1938-07-06
Ber St 140 to 146 [1295] 1936-08-22
Ber St 148 to 150 [1294] 1936-08-22
Ber St 156 to 160 [3291] 1939-10-22
Proceeding southwards we pass the top of Mariner's Lane, now terminating in a cul-de-sac, but which before the construction of Rouen Rd descended the hill to join King St.
A little further, and facing the east end of the church of St John-de-Sepulchre, is a Georgian mansion - Ber House, flanked on each side by a Tudor cottage. That to the north (No 156) and its Tudor partner (No 160) are considered to be the wings remaining from a previous important building known as Black's Hall, the site of which is now covered by Ber House.
Although there is a legend that it was from here that the Black Prince once distributed largesse to the poor of the city, it is more likely that the name "Black's Hall" is derived from that of William Blackamore, who is recorded as the owner in Edward III's time.
By the 1940s, the two cottages had fallen into a deplorable condition, in particular No 160, which had "dangerous structure" notices posted on it. Fortunately in 1949 they were taken in hand by Christopher Perks and Sidney Glendenning, who restored them to their present admirable condition.
No 160 was then described as having been built about 1450, with the upper part added about 1590 and the dormer a few years later. The accommodation - light airy, and well proportioned - included a large sitting room, two bedrooms, a spacious loft and bathroom, large cellars and a small kitchen. Although 500 years old, the structure was found to be in excellent order and quite sound: even the main roof beams being intact.
At the southern end of Ber St is a short battlemented section of the city wall adjoining the site of Ber St gate.
Ber St 156 Black's Hall [1293] 1936-08-22
Ber St 156 Black's Hall old house at rear [4910] 1965-05-19
Ber St 156 Black's Hall rear [4909] 1965-05-19
Ber St 158 Ber House [1292] 1936-08-22
Ber St 160 [1291] 1936-08-22
Ber St 160 restored [3841] 1949-10-20
Ber St Field's Yard Tudor archway [0473] 1935-04-20
Ber St Gate mural sign Ber Strete Gate PH [2072] 1938-01-19
See also St Stephen's Gate sign in St Stephen's Rd.

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Text and photographs copyright George Plunkett

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