A to Z of Norwich knowledge - This week we look at Hippodrome, Italian immigrants and Jarrold

Jarrold the store, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Jarrold the store, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Every month we look at some of Norwich's most famous sites and stories and the facts behind him. This week we look at things beginning H, I and J.

Built in 1903 as the Grand Opera House, the name was soon changed to the Hippodrome.

Built in 1903 as the Grand Opera House, the name was soon changed to the Hippodrome.

H is for Hippodrome

Former theatre and cinema.

Built as the Grand Opera House in 1903, on the site of the Norfolk Hotel, and renamed the Hippodrome in 1904, the venue specialised in variety acts but was showing films in the Hippodrome Bioscope before the first cinemas came onto the scene.

Between both world wars some of the greatest names in entertainment, such as Charlie Chaplin, Marie Lloyd and Gracie Fields, performed on the Hippodrome stage.

It became a permanent cinema in 1930 but reverted to a variety in 1937. During the Baedeker Blitz in 1942, the building suffered a direct hit when the manager, his wife and the trainer of a group of sea lions was killed.

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The Hippodrome reopened after the war and in the early 1950s was again a popular venue for variety acts including Laurel and Hardy, Max Miller, Morecambe and Wise and the Goons.

The last variety show was in 1958 and for the next two years, the Hippodrome became the home of The Norfolk Playhouse Repertory Company.

The old building gradually fell into disrepair and finally it stood empty and vandalised until, in 1964, it was demolished to be replaced in 1966 by the St Giles multi-storey car park and St Giles House offices for the council.

I is for Italian immigrants

During the early 19th century a significant Italian community, seeking a new life, settled in the city. Some early arrivals had included Italian goldsmith, George Rossi, who had fought with Marshall Soult, Napoleon's Chief of Staff at Waterloo, before making a career move to Norwich and establishing a business in Guildhall Hill, which survived for four generations.

Italian sculptor Pellegrino Mazzotti, from Lucca, also established a studio adjoining Strangers Hall in 1819. Towards the end of the 19th century there was a more significant influx of Italians who arrived by boat at Great Yarmouth –some thinking they were landing in New York – and others, such as Elizabeth Marcantonio, who made the three-month trek from Italy to Calais on foot then reached Norwich via London. They brought with themA a range of trades and skills including leather working, but most noticeably the introduction of ice cream making to the city. A Little Italy blossomed around Ber Street where there were at least six ice cream kitchens. The Italians ran pubs, cafés, restaurants, fishmongers and even a demolition business (Valori). The Italian community was further swelled by post First World War immigration and by prisoners of war from the Second World War.

J is for Jarrold

Jarrold started life in Woodbridge, in Suffolk, as a drapers and greengrocers in 1770. By 1823 it had moved to the south side of London Street, in Norwich, to sell books and stationery. Printing joined the book selling operation in 1830. In 1840, the company moved to the present site on London Street, which had previously been occupied by one of the City's leading booksellers, William Oliver.

Jarrold expanded both its business and range and by 1903 had commissioned the iconic Norwich architect George Skipper to build them a new department store (pictured).

The store was extended further in 1964 when Jarrold bought and redeveloped TD Barry's Corn Exchange. In 2004 the surviving medieval building on the corner of Little London Street was incorporated into the store.

Jarrold took over the St James' Yarn Mill in Whitefriars in 1898 and after a succession of uses it ultimately became the HQ of the Jarrold printing and publishing empire. It prospered until, unable to compete with the production costs of overseas printing, the works closed in 2006. This heralded a further diversification as it moved into property. Jarrold has supported a range of cultural and social activity within the city and until recently sponsored at stand at Carrow Road.

• Information kindly republished from The Norwich Knowledge, written and published by Michael Loveday and available in Norwich bookshops.