Is Prince of Wales Road undergoing a transformation?
- Credit: Archant Library
Prince of Wales Road has enjoyed several incarnations - the grand entrance to the Fine City and even Norwich’s financial centre.
A group of bankers were behind the creation of the road - but 200 years after their initial plans were approved the road is best known as the region's nightlife central.
But the area once labelled "carnage" by Jeremy Kyle is now shaking off the criticisms undergoing a subtle transformation.
Over the course of lockdown new independent cafes, restaurants and hairdressers have opened in the street with former empty sites renovated for residential use.
The most recent example is Piccolini, the new Italian cafe which will soon be offering al fresco dining in tables and chairs on the pavement.
Owner of Piccolini and adjoining takeaway restaurant Piccolino, Babak Ahmadi, said the nature of Prince of Wales had changed during lockdown.
"It has gone through a bit of a transformation. We've got a new cafe opening, we've got new businesses coming to the area, and overall it's making this road feel like it's not just about night life and it's an area where you could come and have meetings or lunch during the day."
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Hair salon Chalk also opened at the bottom of the street during lockdown with the owner saying: "There's a real feeling of community on the Prince of Wales Road - both among the customers but also other local businesses.
"The day we opened other businesses came in and dropped some food off and introduced themselves. When we were renovating the site I was here through the night doing decorating and I did half-expect to have people banging on the windows but there was absolutely none of that. Everyone has been so friendly."
New tenants on the street also feature Thiago's cafe and Salls Lokma which has opened just around the corner on Eastbourne Place.
Elsewhere Mantra has rebranded to Truth with a higher-end bar offering.
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But the presence of people living on the street has also helped to add to the community feel.
Elliot Rose of AbbotFox, which deals with a number of properties on Prince of Wales Road and Rose Lane, said that although the majority of contracts signed are for six months tenants tend to stay for at least double that.
He said: "I think when we first started handling these properties there was some nervousness because they're always going to have a Prince of Wales address. But we have never had a problem selling or even renting any of the properties.
"Sometimes no news is good news and we've never heard from tenants that the noise levels are too high. I think once you're inside the building even when the road is busy you don't really notice."
Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, added: “Prince of Wales Road has been part of a very successful evening and night time economy in Norwich over the past 20 plus years, and it’s great that it is seeing the next regeneration of the area as a mixed-use space.
"It is a key gateway into the city centre, and as Norwich looks to recover from the pandemic, this development of residential, leisure and service businesses will help to revive the area.”
- Prince of Wales through the years
1800: A group of bankers formed the New Street Company, securing the green light to build the road and buy out existing stall holders around Rose Lane and St Faiths Lane.
Buildings were destroyed to make way, and it opened in 1862, then home to just a handful of properties, including the Commercial Hotel - now the closed Prince of Wales pub.
1900: The road quickly became a bustling centre for business and transport, with the Norwich Tramway System, which had routes down Prince of Wales, opening in July 1900.
The former Railway Mission site, today a listed building, was built between 1901 and 1903 to the design of Edward Boardman.
In the 1980s, more free houses and entertainment centres arrived, and the road we know today began to take shape.
Popular spots included the Magic City amusement arcade, open in 1980s and 1990s, and the former Regent Cinema, which was renamed ABC Norwich in 1961 and the Cannon cinema in 1986.
The move towards nightlife continued in the 1990s, with nightclubs opening and restaurants and takeaways following demand. In 2001 the SOS Bus parked up near Agricultural Hall Plain, relocating in 2006.