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Visiting the former Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall, Norwich, Norfolk, England: 1882 structure by John B. Pearce
A striking series of pediments, pilaster and Syrian arches
Executed in red brick, which even today continues to exude a strong colour as it has done since it was erected in 1882, the former Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall has since 1959 been known as Anglia House, hub of a local television network.
The area immediately in front of the main frontage of Anglia House is still called Agricultural Hall Plain (overlooked by the Medieval Norwich Castle).
The building's architect was John Bond Pearce (1).
Norfolk — and, indeed, East Anglia — has traditionally been a strongly agricultural area (2). In the 19th century the Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Association thus possessed headquarters which reflected the size of the organization.
The main frontage of Anglia House at Agricultural Hall Plain is characterized by four upper storey Corinthian pilasters topped by a pediment above three smaller, round pediments. Further Corinthain pilasters —two each side — are featured at each end of the elevation. The rusticated lower storey has nine fine examples of Syrian arches, with the central one for the doorway aligned beneath the main pediment, the other either at windows. These arches give the lower storey a distinctly Romanesque look, while for the upper storey the Neo-Classical predominates.
The foundation stone of the building was laid on March 25, 1882, by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, the Earl of Leicester (3). The completed building was formally opened on November 16 of that year. Interestingly, in between these two ceremonies a lawsuit was in process, with the aim of stopping the work on the building! However, this aim was unsuccessful, and the Prince of Wales — later King Edward VII — duly declared the building open! The Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall mainly continued to function in its original use, containing a sales floor for agricultural produce, until World War Two, when it was requisitioned for wartime purposes. It had previously also been used as a public meeting hall; Ontarians and New Yorkers will note with interest that the famous tightrope walker Blondin (5), who crossed the Niagara Falls in 1859, is recorded as having given a (much tamer!) demonstration here. William Ewart Gladston, the long serving British Prime Minister, is also known to have addressed a meeting here. Then the building passed to the administration of Norwich Corporation, which eventually released it to Anglia Television (6).
February 6, 2015
(1) Other works by Architect Pearce include the Town Hall of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk and ecclesiastical buildings. The Great Yarmouth Town Hall was executed by Architect Pearce in Queen Anne style; while Anglia House, as it now is, has been described as stylistically Italian (or Italianate).
(2) The annual Royal Norfolk Show, held on the outskirts of Norwich, continues to be a very well attended event based on the County's long tradition of agricultural activities.
(3) In the English system, the Lord Lieutenant is the Monarch's representative in a county, somewhat like a Canadian Lieutenant-Governor of a Province, though with some differences.
(4) See also: http://www.heritagecity.org/research-centre/industrial-innovation/agricultural-hall.htm
(5) Charles Blondin (1824-1897) gave tightrope performances widely in North America and Europe; it must be admitted that the Norfolk and Norwich Agricultural Hall would probably count as one of his slightly less 'exotic' venues in comparison with Niagara Falls!
(6) See also: http://sculpturefornorwich.co.uk/NorwichSculpture.php?id=284
Also worth seeing
In Norwich itself, among the numerous visitor attractions are: Norwich Cathedral; Bishop Bridge; Pull's Ferry; Cow Tower; Norwich Castle; Norwich City Hall; the Guildhall; Elm Hill; and many others; at the City Library there is the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, of the USAAF's 8th Air Force.
Thorpe Abbots (distance: 34 kilometres) has a museum dedicated to the USAAF 100th Bomb Group.
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. Please consult 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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