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Visiting the Royal Arcade, Norwich, Norfolk, England: late 19th century elegance in shopping, by George Skipper
Victorians window-shopping in style
This arcade was one of a growing number of quality shopping arcades which came into being in the 19th century. During the course of that century, this style of shopping gradually became popularized. The Burlington Arcade, London, was an early arcade, dating from 1819. The Royal St. Hubert Galleries, in Brussels, Belgium, date from 1847.
In 1899, the Royal Arcade in Norwich, Norfolk, England, was completed by local architect George Skipper (1856-1948) (1). This pleasing complex — not very large by 20th and 21st century standards — is 75.3 metres long, but a considerable achievement in the late 19th century. The Arcade was executed in Art Nouveau style, although the term Arts and Crafts is sometimes used to describe Architect Skipper's work here.
In the 1980s, lamps made of wrought iron and glass, in keeping with the original style, were added, replacing neon lighting from the 1950s, which had arguably detracted from the period-specificity of the original work.
Features include interior arches and tiling: the latter manufactured by Doulton and painted by W. J. Neatby, and featuring flowers, fruit and peacocks (a particular theme of Art Nouveau). Strategically placed mirrors in the Arcade also enhance a sense of spaciousness and light.
Among the retailers present in the Arcade is the Mustard Shop, in which many varieties of mustard by the local firm Colman's, and related memorabilia, are sold, and which attracts many visitors.
The name of the Arcade might fleetingly sound, by its 'royal' designation, that Queen Victoria herself, or a member of her family, opened it or even shopped there. Actually, no; the reason for this name related to the building in which the Arcade is housed. There was a inn, named the Angel Inn, on the Gentleman's Walk (2) site of the Arcade, which, later, became the Royal Hotel. It was the entrance to this building that was rebuilt in 1846 by Joseph Stannard and this was later incorporated by George Skipper into the entrance to what became known as the Royal Arcade. Fit for a queen? Go and visit it, and you be the judge!
(1) Other work for which Architect Skipper was responsible included the Norwich Union headquarters in Surrey Street, Norwich, dating from 1903/04.
(2) Gentleman's Walk is the pedestrianized street in which the Arcade is situated.
Also worth seeing
In Norwich itself, other visitor attractions include: Norwich Guildhall, Norwich City Hall: both near the Royal Arcade; Norwich Castle; Norwich Cathedral; Elm Hill; Pull's Ferry; Bishop Bridge; Cow Tower; and many others.
How to get there: Continental 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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