TG2308 : Dragon Hall - the dragon

taken 6 months ago, near to Norwich, Norfolk, Great Britain

This is 1 of 2 images, with title Dragon Hall - the dragon in this square
Dragon Hall - the dragon
Dragon Hall - the dragon
The one remaining carved and painted dragon in the trading hall > Link. Some have suggested that it may be associated with the fact that Robert Toppes was a member of the socio-religious Guild of St George, Norwich's longest-living and richest guild, operating between 1385 and 1548. However, similarly carved dragons > Link can also be seen in the spandrels of the Great Hospital's 15th century refectory, and it is unlikely that the hospital's chaplains would have been members of this or indeed of any other guild. Dragons can also commonly be seen carved into the spandrels of medieval rood screen panels > Link. The dragon is the traditional symbol of the city of Norwich. See > Link for a wider view.
125-129 King Street - Dragon Hall

Dragon Hall received its present name during the 1980s, when, as a result of renovation work, an intricately carved dragon, the only one to have survived, was discovered. Before that time the building was known as the Old Barge, named after the Old Barge Inn, which had been accommodated at its southern end > LinkExternal link

Archaeological digs undertaken between 1980 and 2005 revealed remains of buildings on the site dating from between the 9th and 11th centuries. By the 13th century, Woburn Abbey (Bedfordshire) had established a smokehouse here, and by about 1330, an L-shaped hall-house, originally orientated towards the river, with a south block at right angles had been built here by the then owner, John Page.

The mercer, entrepreneur, and four-times mayor of Norwich, Robert Toppes, acquired the property in the 1420s. He exported Norfolk worsted cloth and imported fine textiles, ironware, wines and spices. It was he who built the timber-framed trading hall > Link with its magnificent crown post roof > Link at first floor level over the existing house. Recent tree ring dating revealed that the English oaks used in its construction were felled in the spring of 1427. The hall's own staithe on the River Wensum allowed the transport of goods by barge directly to and from the port of Yarmouth with its already established shipping routes to continental Europe and coastal routes to London and other ports in England. In his will, Toppes, whose coat-of-arms can be seen in one of the Guildhall's stained-glass panels, bequeathed money for the east window in the Jesus Chapel of St Peter Mancroft church. Much of this glass was, however, destroyed, and today the remaining panels, including the donor panel depicting Robert Toppes and his two wives > Link are incorporated in the chancel east window > Link. As none of the family members wished to continue the business after Toppes' death in 1467, the property was sold. Subsequent owners did not use it as a trading hall, and its features were hidden by later sub-divisions, and under alterations to adapt the building to other uses. Divided internally into a number of dwellings, externally it appeared to be a terrace of houses. By the 1950s, the northern end was occupied by a butchers shop, and the southern end was a public house, the Old Barge Inn.

Over time, all knowledge of the building's history became lost, until the 1970s, when a detailed survey was carried out by the University of East Anglia, during which its significance as an important part of the city's heritage came to light. Dragon Hall is thought to be unique in that it is the only such trading hall in Northern Europe owned by one man. In 1979, the city council bought the site from its then owners, the Norwich Brewery Company, and in 1986 the Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust was established to manage its restoration. During work to remove partition walls and attic floors an exquisitely carved dragon of Baltic oak > Link was discovered in one of the roof spandrels and it is from this discovery that the hall gained its present name. In his will, Robert Toppes had referred to it as 'Splytts'. He was buried in St Peter Mancroft church, but sadly, like much of his window, his tomb has also not survived.

In 2015, the tenancy of the hall was taken over by the Writers’ Centre Norwich, which three years previously had led the successful bid for Norwich to be recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature, the first in England. Further extensive renovation work and the construction of a new south wing commenced in 2017, and in the summer of 2018 Dragon Hall re-opened as the National Centre for Writing.

Tours of Dragon Hall, which is Grade I listed, are available on the first and third Monday of each month (donations towards the upkeep of Dragon Hall are requested) and additional tours are available during the Heritage Open Days in September each year.

Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Grid Square
TG2308, 5857 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 3 February, 2020   (more nearby)
Thursday, 6 February, 2020
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  City, Town centre 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 2355 0818 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:37.5193N 1:18.0906E
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 2355 0818
View Direction
Southeast (about 135 degrees)
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Image Type (about): inside  close look 
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