How you can live in the 'prettiest street in Norwich'
- Credit: Norwich Cathedral
It is renowned for being a picture postcard 'village in a city'. But just how do you get to live in the Norwich Cathedral Close?
It's a microcosm marvel. You step through the arch in Tombland with the noise and the bustle of city life behind you and it's like you've stepped through Norwich's very own back of the wardrobe.
Walk through into The Close and it's an oasis of calm, with beautiful period cottages, some covered in wisteria or surrounded by cherry blossom trees, giving colour to even the darkest, rainy days in spring.
People cycling or walking about actually say hello to you. Little streets meander away from the main green looking like something out of a Jane Austen novel and towering above majestically is of course the cathedral spire.
For many people, The Close may be where you go for a break away from work at lunchtime. The idea you could actually live there is not something many of us entertain.
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Yet, according to the Dean of Norwich, "anyone" can take up a tenancy in one of the properties there without any affiliation to the cathedral, Church or Norwich School.
The Very Rev Jane Hedges said: "People think you have to be very special to live in The Close but anyone is eligible and the houses are open to anyone to live in.
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"It's an open process, Savills looks after the properties and advertises when there is one available. We try to avoid long voids as it's not good for the properties to stay empty and it's sad to see them like that so they do come up.
"So you need to get in touch with Savills and get on the waiting list."
Just one house, No 60a, is owned privately with all of the other 105 homes owned by Norwich Cathedral's governing body, the Dean and Chapter, meaning they are available for rent only.
With various sized properties available from flats to large six-seven bedroom houses, it depends what you need as to how long you may have to wait.
Rents vary but a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house which was available earlier this year was £1,700 a month with service charge on top. Rents are usually for a minimum of three years.
The properties are a vital part of revenue for Norwich Cathedral, generating around £1.9m a year. The Dean said: "Although we do rely on tourism, property is a much bigger part of our portfolio."
Properties in The Close date to the 13th century with Georgian and Victorian additions. There used to be a shop; the sign for a 'general store' can still be seen on the corner of one of the properties and another was once a bakery. Some are lived in by people working for the cathedral; such as the Dean herself, who lives in one of the largest, the Deanery with seven bedrooms and dating in part to 1284.
Other properties are lived in by the cathedral's canons, organists and flats occupied by choral scholars. Otherwise it's a complete mix of age groups, professions and some retired.
Mark Little, head of the Savills Norwich office, who advises the Dean and Chapter, Norwich Cathedral, said: “The combination of the beautiful period setting and the feeling of community has much to do with it, but it’s also clear that people recognise the advantages of central Norwich as a place to live.
"There’s a very special atmosphere, all in the protective shadow of one of the country’s finest cathedrals.”
The Dean said: "Many people say they've 'always wanted to live' in The Close.
"It really is like a village in a city, near the river and also near to shops and it's very picturesque
"It is totally unique."
The 'dos' and 'don'ts' of living in The Close
When you sign a lease to rent a property you have to adhere to a tight set of rules aimed at preserving the beauty and historic nature of the buildings.
Although the interior decor and upkeep is down to people living in The Close, structural repairs and alterations are all managed 'in house' by the cathedral's own estate maintenance team based on site. You'll need to get permission to do most things and there is one thing for sure that you cannot do - and that is paint your front door a different colour. They are all blue and cannot be different.
Living in The Close gives you a bit of gold dust in the city centre - a parking permit. You can also get married in the cathedral and although there is no graveyard, your ashes can be buried. The Dean said this is, however, quite rare.
Norwich School is part of The Close and while there is an affiliation with the cathedral in that its boys sing in the choir, there are no benefits for people living there. You won't get your child a place simply because you're a tenant.
An enclosed precinct with an area totalling 44 acres, Norwich Cathedral Close is one of the largest of its kind in England.
A lane leads from the Ethelbert Gate through the Upper Close and down to the Lower Close, ending at the River Wensum, Pull's Ferry and the Riverside Walk.
"I didn't want to live anywhere else"
Lindsay Rix, 41, and her two boys, nine and eight, live in The Close. She grew up locally and returned from London knowing she wanted to live there. "The kids enjoy it here, it's as safe as anywhere can be and you are right in the middle of the city. There's also a really lovely community and I have good friends here.
"I realised I didn't want to live anywhere else."
Ms Rix actually moved to a bigger house within the Close and now has two cats, one whom has found fame as the 'Cathedral cat' Budge. He now features on keyrings and coasters as a well-known face in the cathedral where he sleeps until it closes up for the day and he's sent home.