A dream of the new millennium, Chantry Place - or Chapefield, as it was known then - was to be a shopping mall of the modern age.

We've taken a look at seven little-known facts about the centre's long and varied history.

1. Built on a former chocolate factory

Some may not know that Chantry Place sits over 113 years of chocolate-making history?

Originally built by Albert Caley to produce mineral water, the factory started manufacturing drinking cocoa in 1883 and then chocolate in 1886.

In 1932 the factory was sold to confectioners Mackintosh, and five years later the first-ever packet of Rolo rolled off the lines.

Mackintosh merged with Rowntree in 1969 and then Nestle in 1988, however, after nearly 10 years of job cuts and downsizing, the factory closed for good in 1996. 

Norwich Evening News: The site of Chapelfield where the chocolate factory used to be. Pic: Archant

2. It has had three names

In only 18 years, the shopping centre has had not one, not two...but three names. 

Opened in 2005, the centre was named Chapelfield by its parent group Capital Shopping Centres.

In 2013, Capital Shopping Centres changed its name to 'intu' and Chapelfield became intu Chapelfield. 

Finally in 2020, following intu going into administration, the centre was bought by an investment group managed by Savills and renamed Chantry Place.

What might it be next?

Norwich Evening News: The first shoppers rush into Chapelfield.

3.  Claimed to be UK's largest shopping centre to open in 2005

With space for 80 shops, 17 cafés and restaurants, 100 apartments and a 1,000-space underground car park over 530,000sqft, it's no wonder such a large claim could be made. 

In 2006 the British Council of Shopping Centres awarded the centre its Gold Award for best In-Town Retail Scheme, and for meeting its goal four months before the opening of creating 2,000 new jobs with 800 more to come.

Norwich Evening News: The first shoppers rush into Chapelfield on opening day.

4. 17 skeletons were found by builders 

In 2004, during preparation works on the ground that would become Chapefield shopping centre, workers found the remains of 17 people. 

A lengthy investigation was made which determined the remains were most likely Jewish settlers thought to have been plague victims from 1150 to 1300.

In 2013 the bones were finally put to rest at Earlham Road Cemetery.

Norwich Evening News: Seventeen suspected victims of religious persecution, found at the bottom of a Norwich well are buried an estimated 800 years after their deaths in a service in the Jewish Cemetery in Earlham Cemetery, Norwich. Minister Alex Bennett adds soil to the grave.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

5. It cost £275m (over half a billion in today's prices)

Work broke ground on the shopping centre project in late 2002 with the demolition of the old chocolate factory and took four years to complete, opening in September 2005. 

Total construction costs amounted to over £275m, which adjusted for inflation to 2023 rates is estimated at £556,287,288! 

Norwich Evening News: The Chapelfield development nears completion for the September opening deadline.

6. Annual footfall of 15 million people

According to statistics, 10 million people visited Chapelfield in its first year and have since reported an annual footfall number of 15 million visitors. 

The busiest shopping centre by footfall is Westfield Stratford, in London, with 51 million visitors annually.

Norwich Evening News: The Chapelfield Shopping Centre in Norwich  Photo: Antony Kelly

7. The 'Chantry' in Chantry Place dates to the 1200s

It all began in the 1200s when a college and chapel were built on the area which is now Assembly House. 

The chapel was reported to be very important to Norwich at the time and grew during a period of tension between the secular people of the city and the church.

The college closed following Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and the chapel was also demolished.

In 1973, the Chantry on Chantry Road was demolished and only the Assembly House remains to remind us of the site's original purpose. 

Norwich Evening News: The outdoor seating at the Assembly House in Norwich.