This celebration all began in 2010 on Magdalen Street and now in 2012 will expanded to cover both Magdalen Street and St. Augustine's Street. These areas where largely part of the historic district of Norwich Over the Water. Here's a brief history of the two streets as well as the inspiration for the festival!
Looses Store, 1935, Copyright: George Plunkett
Magdalen Street was the most important thoroughfare in Norwich-over-the-water. (This is Morant's street map of 1873.) Until the 1960s this was a completely self-contained medieval quarter, full of workshops and factories. For centuries much of the industry that made Norwich fabulously wealthy was concentrated in this area and you can still see clues today. Beneath the veneer of the modern shops, the street’s character is much closer to districts like Santa Croce, the leather-working area of Florence, than any industrial British city.
In medieval times, the Strangers and other migrants and refugees settled in Magdalen Street, with densely packed courts and alleys such as Twinemakers – a long alley for stretching out ropes. There are the houses of wealthy Tudor merchants, with massive wooden doors concealing private courts.
Georgian architecture is represented by Gurney Court, which you can see through a wrought iron gate not far from St Saviours. Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker prison reformer, was born here and it’s where her father set up Gurneys Bank - later merged with Barclays. And perhaps the saddest sight is number 44, almost opposite. Once it must have been the finest house in the street; now it’s slowly rotting away.
At the start of the twentieth century there were fifty food and drink shops in the street – now there are nine; and twenty pubs – today three. A saddler, a blacksmith, a basket-maker, a cabinet-maker and countless other trades kept Magdalen Street self-sufficient.
In 1959 a spectacular makeover of the street was admired and copied nationally, it won the first Civic Trust award for regeneration. This photo shows Barclays Bank at Stump Cross. Botolph Street forks to the left, Magdalen Street to the right.
The construction of the St Saviour’s flyover and the Anglia Square shopping centre served to sever the northern stretch of the street from the rest of Norwich-over-the-water.
Today something extraordinary is happening. The street buzzes with renewed energy; new shops and businesses are springing up; artisans are making things in new workshops. And a new scheme for Anglia Square has been approved.
The most important part of this transition is the people – the local community, some of whose families have lived here for centuries, some of whom are are new arrivals, drawn to the vibrancy and diversity of the neighborhood, just as the Strangers did in Tudor times.
We’re celebrating Magdalen Street’s future – we hope you’ll join us.
Jane Chittenden and Stefi Barna
To explore more of Magdalen Street's history and read about Jane's tour of the street with history guide, Rod Spokes, visit the Transition Norwich blog here.
|St. Augustine's Street, early 1900s|
St. Augustine's Carnival, 1930s style. (Photo courtesy of Viv Lynes)