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Visiting 45-51 London Street, Norwich, Norfolk, England: are banks supposed to look like church buildings?

Updated on December 16, 2013
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
45 - 51 London Street, Norwich
45 - 51 London Street, Norwich | Source
 St. Martin-in-the-Fields from in front of the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London
St. Martin-in-the-Fields from in front of the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London | Source

There's no business like religious business

Let's make some plausible statements; and then see which is true.

This is one of many fine buildings in Norwich, in England's county of Norfolk. (True!) A local saying in the city claimed that at one time Norwich boasted 52 churches and 365 public houses: a church for every Sunday and a public house for every day of the week. (More or less true! although the terms of reference are somewhat fluid.)

Influenced by the architectural style of Sir Christopher Wren, this fine structure is one of these 52 church buildings in the city; Anglican in confession, its ecclesiology has traditionally been Broad Church; the building is the hub of lively parish activity, which includes a strong musical tradition, expressed most notably during its popular, lunch-time Christmas concert series (1). (False!)

False? and why so? Because it is a bank.

The bank dates from 1924, when the Neo-Classical building, designed by F C R Palmer and W F C Holden, was executed in stone. Among the structure's crowning features is a tower, with a cupola supported by pillars; a conspicuous weather vane stands atop the cupola. The building's main entrance has a pediment supported by four, large pilars; a further, smaller pediment rises above the main door itself.

This structure houses a branch of the National Westminster Bank (NatWest). It is situated at 45-51 London Street, Norwich, in England's Norfolk county.

But I'm having fun; I don't want to go home yet; my imagination is now stimulated by this church-like building. Is it, then, a monument to the adaption of ecclesiastical style by mammon? Does it, indeed, represent the commercialization of fine, architectural features 'supposedly' best left for ecclesiastical buildings? Or do similarly ornate, 'genuine' ecclesiastical buildings inherently attract a clientele seeking regular identification with perceived, status-enhancing architecture, in any case? Or stated differently, are such structures — whether ostensibly used for professedly religious or commercial purposes — simply an exercise in attempting to boost business confidence?

I'm really not sure.

Oh well.

December 16, 2013


(1) I am even reminded generally of the style of the (larger) Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London; this arguably brings into focus the question of what is meant by 'comparative', if like is compared with unlike? or whether a building's usage in itself involves the projection of some form of illusion? or in a post-Le Corbusier, functionalist architectural scene, are all ornate buildings literally 'off-the-wall'?

Some sourcing: / English Heritage

Map location of Norwich, Norfolk
Map location of Norwich, Norfolk | Source

Also worth seeing

In Norwich itself, other visitor attractions include: the Medieval Norwich Cathedral, picturesque Elm Hill, the Medieval structures Pull's Ferry and Cow Tower, both situated not far from Bishop Bridge; Norwich Castle and Norwich Guildhall, and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Norwich is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. Norwich is 233 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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