Thursday, 18 September 2014


NORWICH is synonymous with Norwich Union Insurance.
Building work on Surrey House, The Norwich Union (now Aviva) headquarters in Surrey Street in Norwich, commenced in 1900 and the fine Palladian style building opened for business in 1904 having been built to fulfil a role to house a successful insurance company. The interior of this building in English Renaissance style is astonishing, it is almost impossible to prepare yourself for your first sight of this incredible spectacle. The entrance hall is the perfectly conceived introduction to what lies ahead, with its domed ceiling and marbled columns said to be the finest of their kind in the world.
It was the architect George Skipper, commissioned to produce a splendid yet functional office space, who persuaded the directors to use marble throughout and indeed for the 40 columns in the main hall. Skipper also incorporated the themes of insurance, protection and wellbeing in his design and his aim was to reassure policyholders, when they entered the building to pay their insurance premiums, of the Society’s strength and prosperity. The spectacular domed ceiling is eleven  metres  in diameter.  A marvel of ingenuity at the turn of the century was the stylish air conditioning fountain, decorated with a host of symbols, which wafted warm air in the winter and cool fresh air in the summer. Whilst public access is restricted to the main hall, visitors can see the magnificent staircase with its six different types of marble, stained glass window and richly painted ceiling. The upper rooms are equally opulent.
The building is still functional but the original Edwardian desks have been replaced by modern furniture.
The variety of marble types used in the Marble Hall lend an air of grandeur to this magnificent structure. Much of the stone was shipped from Italy and Greece, and the work was carried out by two teams of Italian stone masons.
Surrey House is certainly unusual amongst commercial offices and is one of the finest and most beautiful of non-ecclesiastical buildings.
GREAT YARMOUTH is the premier seaside resort in  Norfolk
and very convenient for the famous 'Broads'.

 Great Yarmouth is also a well known fishing resort and the fine Fishermen's Hospital almshouses was built by the Corporation in 1702.

The church of St Nicholas is said to be the largest parish church in England
and was restored in 1959 after being damaged in WW2.
 The Norfolk Broads are a series of inland waterways and shallow freshwater lakes north east of Norwich.
Numbering more than 30 lakes and some 200 miles of navigable waterways ,unique in Britain, they were formed in medieval times as a result
of peat digging.

The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Thomas at WYMONDHAM (pronounced Windham) south west of Norwich, was the scene of unseemly controversy for many years in the 14th century.  It seems that there was a dispute between the monks and the parishioners which resulted in the monks dividing the church by blocking the central arch with an octagonal tower (now the east end of the church) and hanging their bells there.   In the meantime the parishioners built a second tower at the west end of the church for their bells, which was going to be bigger and better, but when they had reached a height of 143 feet, the two groups were reconciled and things were left at that.  And so it is today.


The parish church of St Mary at CRANWICH is also worth close inspection.   This unusual church has a thatched roof and a pre-conquest round tower, the base of which is as early as 700AD, although the site is almost certainly pre-Christian.  The graveyard is circular, a feature although now unknown, is very rare.


A 15th century lectern in the church of St John  The Evangelist at OXBOROUGH is one of some fifty 'Peter’s Pence Lectern’s'  in the country.  They were so called because they were used to collect a tax of one penny per household imposed by King Offa in AD787.  The money, which was sent to Rome, was put in a slot in the beak and recovered from a second slot in the tail.
This partly ruined church,  is notable for its fine 16th century terra cotta work.

The church of St Peter and St Paul at SWAFFHAM owes much to the good fortune of local man John Chapman, known as The Swaffham Pedlar.    Back in the 15th century the old church had partially collapsed and it seemed that the only way to rescue the building from dereliction was by means of a burdensome tax on the parishioners, but Chapman, a humble pedlar, was able to provide means to build a new north aisle and the tall steeple.   
Legend has it that Chapman had a dream on three successive nights that if he went onto London Bridge he would hear something to his advantage.  Apparently he made the long journey on foot accompanied by his faithful dog.  He stood on London Bridge for many hours without result and just as he was about to leave he was approached by a man who asked him what he was doing.  Chapman told the man about his dreams, without mentioning his name or where he was from.  The man said that he had also had a similar dream that if he went to a place called Swaffham he would find a tree in the garden of a man called Chapman under which was buried a pot of gold.   Chapman said nothing but quickly returned home and to his amazement he found a large pot inscribed with strange words, as described by the stranger.  It was full of gold coins.    He kept his find a secret and put the pot on a shelf amongst other things in his little shop.   Some time later a customer looked at the pot and asked Chapman if he knew what the inscription on the pot meant.  When the pedlar shook his head the man told him that it read, “ Under me  lies  another, much richer than I.”  
That night Chapman dug deeper and found a second pot filled with twice as many gold coins as the first one.


 Pedlar carving on church pew.


To discover that there are two churches in the churchyard at REEPHAM is unusual, yet in the past there were three churches in that one churchyard.  The present day church of St Mary stands end to end with St Michael’s church which is now used as a sunday school and for other parish functions, whilst the scant remains of All Saints church, destroyed by fire in 1543, stands alongside.
Why three churches?  Local legend says that three sisters, who are depicted on the village sign, each had their own church.   This may be true but the fact is that three parish boundaries meet in the churchyard.


St Mary and St Michael.
All Saints is just a ruin.

The church of St Nicholas at Blakeney on the north coast has a curious small tower at the opposite end to the huge main tower which  was added in the 15th century, probably to contain steps up to a chamber over the chancel.   However, local tradition says that it was built as a beacon
to warn shipping passing nearby.


In 2011 builder Nick Willan paid more than £100,000 at auction for a redundant Victorian toilet block on the sea front at SHERINGHAM, a popular resort on the north Norfolk coast. Situated at the foot of the cliff over the promenade alongside the beach, the builder intends to convert the substantial building into a beach house for the use of his family.

The first bomb to be dropped on Britain in WW1 was at Sheringham

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