A famous landmark that flouted the planning laws

Derek JamesTen years after work had started on the magnificent landmark, the Duke of Norfolk discovered he had a rather embarrassing problem…the grand church he was building in Norwich didn't actually have enough planning permission.Derek James

Ten years after work had started on the magnificent landmark, the Duke of Norfolk discovered he had a rather embarrassing problem…the grand church he was building in Norwich didn't actually have enough planning permission.

A decade after turning the first sod on the site of the old city gaol Henry Fitzalan Howard, the 15th Duke of Norfolk (1847-1917), ran into technical difficulties which could be scuppered the development.

In 1893 the Duke discovered that he did not have planning permission to complete the full length of the church so he wrote to the city council saying he hoped he would not have to build the second half of his church elsewhere.

'I think,' said the Duke, a man with a keen sense of humour, 'that two halves of a church look better when they are joined together than when they are many miles apart,'


You may also want to watch:


The city planners had a think…and then granted permission for the building to continue and so what became the second largest Catholic cathedral in the UK was completed and this year it is celebrating its centenary with an appeal for your memories and photographs.

Can you imagine what would have happened if they refused permission?

Most Read

If you have any memories or photographs highlighting the building of St John's or events at the church please get in touch with me or Stephen Slack at the cathedral office on 01603 624615

Mother Church

The largest catholic parish church in England became a cathedral and the mother church of the new diocese of East Anglia in 1976.

Norwich is one of the few English cities to have two cathedrals which, over the 30 years, have grown closer in a spiritual and practical relationship.

A grim history of executions

Norwich City Gaol existed from 1827 to 1881 and during that time two men were executed there.

In 1829 John Stratford, aged 42, was hanged for the murder of John Burgess. This was a public execution from the roof of the porter's lodge which attracted a large crowd.

Stratford's body was exhibited inside the Guildhall for all who cared to look and than taken to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital for dissection.

The second execution was that of the infamous William Sheward in 1869 when he was 57 years of age.

He cut up his wife, Martha in 1851 and distributed her in pieces around the city, escaping justice for 18 years.

This time around the people were cheated of their 'entertainment.' The days of public hangings were over.

Sheward met his maker in private, although the press was invited to watch the proceedings.

A crowd of around 2,000 people were waiting in front of the prison gates for the black flag to rise - the sign that a life had been taken.

Afterwards he was buried in the prison grounds - thought to be somewhere on the Unthank Road side of the grounds.

Poor Martha, in an incomplete state, lies under the Guildhall.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus