The Norwich Cathedral Close

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Text © Copyright Evelyn Simak, May 2018
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.


 Norwich Cathedral from St James Hill --> Norwich Cathedral from St James' Hill

The Close is the name of an area of land surrounding the cathedral and is said to be the largest such space to have survived of any English cathedral. It is dominated by the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, one of the great medieval cathedrals of England – with the second tallest spire and the largest monastic cloisters in England, and one of the most complete Romanesque buildings in Europe, begun in 1096 by Herbert de Losinga and completed in 1145 under the direction of Bishop Herbert's successor, Eborard de Montgomery - and divided into the Upper Close in the west and the Lower Close in the east.

 Cathedral Close

The Close encompasses 44 acres of ground, much of it forming part of the floodplain of the River Wensum, and is surrounded by a precinct wall, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the city. Bounded by Tombland and Palace streets in the west, Bishopgate in the north, St Faith's Lane in the south and the River Wensum in the east, there are several access points leading into the Close. From Tombland, access is either through the 14th century St Ethelbert's Gate or the 15th century Erpingham Gate, both leading into the Upper Close, the latter directly to the cathedral's west door. Further to the south-east Horsefair Loke, a short path turning off St Faith's Lane by Horsefair Green leads into the Lower Close. Access from the north is from Bishopgate, either through a gateway near Life's Green (by 61 The Close) or via Gooseberry Garden Walk and Hook's Walk, also leading into the Lower Close. The only access from the east is at Pull's Ferry and along Ferry Lane from there, on foot on the Riverside Walk following the course of the River Wensum on its western bank, either from Foundry Bridge or from Bishop Bridge. There is no direct route across the river at Pull's Ferry, as the ferry which once operated here has long since closed.

TG2308 : St Ethelbert's Gate by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Erpingham Gate by Evelyn Simak

In the mid-1800s, the Close still had five pubs: The Ferry House, the Gate House, the Black Jack, the Three Cranes and the Garden House aka Golden Horse Shoes, all since closed. Today, the Close contains more than 80 listed buildings, the earliest and most prestigious often built of stone or of a combination of stone and flint, with many bearing evidence of earlier buildings in their fa็ades, some of which being considered to be amongst the best examples in the city.

A large green space at the upper (west) end extends the whole width of the Close, from the St Ethelbert's Gate in the south to the Erpingham Gate in the north. This whole area was formerly known as Almary Green and later as Upper Square. Today only the enclosed area to the west is referred to under this name. The green is surrounded by buildings currently occupied by the Norwich School and local businesses, and there is a statue of Wellington at its southern, a statue of Nelson situated at its northern end, and a modern sculpture called Mother and Child in front of 68 The Close.

TG2308 : The Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Houses at the Upper Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Statue of the Duke of Wellington by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Statue of Horatio Nelson in the Upper Close by Evelyn Simak

TG2308 : 75 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 74 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 73 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 72 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 71 The Close by Evelyn Simak

For 11 weeks during the summer of 2018, 50 beautifully painted hare sculptures are on display at strategic locations in the city of Norwich. Three can be seen on the Upper Close and a fourth is situated by the watergate at Pull's Ferry. They are 'Poppy', 'Norvicenses Salientes' (Sally), 'Professor Hare and his Magic Library' and 'The King of Scribble', the later's decoration being based on drawings made by the artist's late father, John Walker, who was an art master at the Norwich School for over 40 years..

TG2308 : GoGoHares - Poppy by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : GoGoHares - Professor Hare and his Magic Library by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : GoGoHares - Norvicenses Salients "Sally" by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : GoGoHares - The King of Scribble by Evelyn Simak

To the north of the green stands the early 14th century Carnary chapel, a stone chapel founded in 1316 by Bishop Salmon and built by Mason J Ramsey as a chantry for six priests. It is accessed through a vaulted porch which is the work of Bishop Lyhart (bishop from 1446-1473). Beneath the chapel was a stone-vaulted charnel house, since cleared of all old bones (makes one wonder where they are now) which came from the burial ground of a long since lost wooden church which stood at this location and that the chapel had been built on. The crypt currently serves as an art gallery, mainly for the Norwich School.

TG2308 : 70 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Carnary Chapel – the porch by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Carnary Chapel – Chapel of St John the Evangelist by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Norwich School (plaque) by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 69 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Carnary Chapel – Chapel of St John the Evangelist by Evelyn Simak

TG2308 : Door into the Crypt Gallery by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The guardian of the crypt by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Crypt Gallery by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Crypt Gallery - graffiti by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Crypt Gallery - graffiti by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Crypt Gallery - graffiti by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Crypt Gallery by Evelyn Simak

For some time in the distant past this chapel housed the Norwich School, and the medieval school house, now the school office, is tucked onto it immediately to the east. More school buildings and a teaching block adjoin in the north, and while these are fairly ordinary structures the school also uses the adjacent very large and anything but ordinary 11th century Bishop's Palace. Externally a mid-19th century building, the palace dates from 1104/6 and was built by Bishop Losinga. It consisted of a vaulted wing projecting from the north wall of the cathedral, terminating in a miniature keep. Bishop Salmon added a vaulted kitchen and also built a crypt and a domestic hall. The palace contains a Norman barrel vault, a 14th century vault in the kitchen, and a 15th century priory prison. (NB - The school grounds are accessible only during school holidays when no pupils are around.)

During WW1, the Bishop's Palace, as it is succinctly being referred to in the Red Cross' list of VAD auxiliary hospitals without giving any clues as to its whereabouts (there were a few other locations in Norwich also known as the Palace), was a Red Cross auxiliary hospital, as has recently been confirmed by this author's find in the Norfolk Record Office/Archive Centre of a document and photographs recording a visit by Queen Alexandra to this hospital on 12 October 1918. During WW2, the building was used by the US Army for the rehabilitation of USAAF pilots and from 1943-46 was an American Red Cross Service Club providing refreshments, accommodation and recreational activities to servicemen. Since the mid-1950s the building is used by the Norwich School, first for housing boarders and later converted to classrooms. During WW2 the area which is now the school's main playground was used by the Cadet Force as a parade ground.

TG2308 : Teaching block at Norwich School by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Dyers Lodge by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Dyers Lodge (detail) by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The main playground at Norwich School by Evelyn Simak

TG2308 : The Bishop's Palace by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Bishop's Palace - north elevation by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Bishop's Palace - east elevation by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Spiraling steps by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Backdoor into the Bishop's Palace by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : The Bishops Palace as seen from the south-east by Evelyn Simak

Almary Green, today a private garden with impressive Grade II* listed Georgian houses and surrounded by cast-iron railings, is located at the opposite end, south of the green. These houses occupy the site of the former Almoners Barn and incorporate parts of the monastic granaries, with their rears backing onto St Faith's Lane and being generally older than the front elevations. The main range of buildings there, a terrace of houses known as 3 and 4 The Close, was built in 1701 by Jeremy Vynn, alderman and mayor of Norwich at the time, who lived there with his wife Susan.

TG2308 : 5 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 6 The Close (front elevation) by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Grade 2 listed gate ppiers by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Scheduled garden wall in the Norwich Cathedral Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 2 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 3 and 4 The Close by Evelyn Simak

TG2308 : 3 and 4 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 4 The Close - door by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 4 The Close - plaque by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 3 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Bollards on St Faith's Lane by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 17th century walls by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : St Faith's Lane by Evelyn Simak

Everywhere in the Close wooden benches invite the visitor to sit down, rest, and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, and for anyone interested in rare wildlife, there is a falcon observation point manned by experts and equipped with telescopes enabling a closer look at the peregrine falcons nesting high up on the cathedral's spire (depending on weather and season). Also, look out for the distinctive canon-style bollards along the main thoroughfare leading through the close. They were made by John Francis & Thomas Blyth, a partnership of Norwich ironfounders which was dissolved in 1840, and are hence now almost 180 years old.

TG2308 : Taking a break in Cathedral Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : George VI postbox by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Roses in the garden of 28 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Canon bollard in the Cathedral Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Norwich Cathedral falcon observation point by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Peregrine falcons' nesting platform by Evelyn Simak

Adjoining the green in the east is a long range of flint and brick buildings which once incorporated the organist's house but has since been divided into separate entities, some being occupied by the Norwich School.

TG2308 : Mother and Child sculpture on the Upper Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 68 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 68 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 67C The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 67A + B The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 67a, 67b, 67c and 68 The Close by Evelyn Simak

For those with an interest in gardening and herbal medicine there is the cathedral's herb garden planted with medicinal herbs traditionally used by Benedictine monks to make ointments and remedies, at 65 The Close which houses the Chapter Office and is known as Emmaus House. It can easily be recognised because of its mathematical tiles. The small garden surrounding it is open daily and can be explored free of charge.

TG2308 : 65 The Close - Emmaus House by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close - Emmaus House by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close (sign) by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close - Mathematical tiles by Evelyn Simak

TG2308 : 65 The Close - herb garden (information board) by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close - herb garden by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close - herb garden by Evelyn Simak TG2308 : 65 The Close - herb garden by Evelyn Simak

KML

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