From the blitz to Beeching, change on our historic Norwich Streets
Tales of our city's streets continue.
Barnes Close (Purland Close,Heartsease)
It was 75 years ago when the man this road was named after was the first citizen of the city during one of its darkest times. James Henry Barnes was a bricklayer and trade union official who was the Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1941/42. It was a year when much of the city was reduced to rubble, whole families were killed and thousands were made homeless. This was April of 1942, the time of the Baedeker Raids when the Luftwaffe set out to destroy historical towns and cities in England... and Norwich was one of the targets. James was one of those who lost his home but he dedicated his year as Lord Mayor to one of helping others in their hour of need. He was a figurehead people looked up to. The city was knocked to its knees but was fighting back and more determined than ever to win the war. Born in Newcastle in 1876, he came to Norwich with his father, a local man, at the age of eight and went to Crook's Place School – now Bignold.
When he left school James trained as a bricklayer and then in 1923 he became the full-time organising secretary of the Bricklayers and Masons section of the Amalagmated Union of Building Workers in Norwich.
A leading member of the Labour Party, James had become a councillor during the First World War and went on to serve as a magistrate, an Alderman in 1929 and he was Sheriff of Norwich in 1937. He served as chairman of the Executive Committee, vice-chairman of the housing committee and was on the advisory committee of the Employment Exchange.
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A true man of the people and a champion of the working class he spent much of his time helping others and it was said that he 'served the city with homely dignity and geniality of manner and had a thorough grasp of the duties required of him.' His leadership during the Norwich Blitz of 1942 was described as setting an admirable example to his fellow citizens in their time of need. He lived in Angel Road and died in 1946.
Barrack Street (Pockthorpe)
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The Cavalry Barracks in Pockthorpe was the first major building erected by the Crown in Norwich since the completion of the Castle. The barracks went up in 1791-3 on the site of an old manor house at the cost to the government of £20,000. It was a huge project at the time which provided plenty of work. The buildings were made of brick and formed three sides of a square – the centre being for the accommodation of officers.
The wings could house a total of 320 soldiers and 266 horses. The wall enclosed ten acres. The barracks were demolished several years ago and the land formerly occupied by the army has now been built on.
Beeching Road (Lakenham)
From 1911 until his death in 1919, the Very Rev Henry Charles Beeching was Dean of Norwich. A quiet and a clever man.
It was said of him: 'As Dean, he was a quietly effective and instructive preacher, whose sermons, like his books were always marked by a graceful literacy style.' At the time of his death we reported: 'As a platform speaker, he never wasted words over trivialities and preferred to say little when the opportunity did not permit of his adding any useful contribution to the subject discussed.' His cremated remains were brought in a bronze urn from Golders Green crematorium and the place of burial was at the back of the apse behind the High Altar at Norwich Cathedral.
Beloe Avenue (Humbleyard, Bowthorpe)
William Beloe was Rector of Bowthorpe from 1791-1839 and of Earlham from 1791-1817. He was also Usher at Norwich Grammar School from 1779 to 83 and had graduated from Corpus Christ, Cambridge, with a BA.
Bell Avenue (Orford Hill to Market Avenue)
This was the avenue which led
to the Blue Bell, the original name of The Bell, one of the most famous and historic hostelries in the heart of Norwich.
Imagine the way it was when the horse sales and the markets brought the county to the city. Then there were the public hangings which attracted ruffians by the hundred. It was a rough and tumble old place.
Today it lies under the site of the Castle Mall shopping development and the days of the city centre livestock markets and horse sales are parts of our history. The avenue, which ran from Rose Lane to Market Avenue took its name from the Bell Hotel which is thought to date back to 1480 and was probably named after a bell foundry which once operated in nearby Timberhill. The notorious Hell Fire Club met at the Bell in the 1750s and their aim was to crush the Methodists. They called themselves 'gentlemen of principle.' Not quite! Then there was The Revolution Club (they liked what was happening in the French Revolution) while the anti-revolutionaries moved across the road to the Castle pub. In the Second World War the Bell was HQ for the American Women's Army Corps. It was closed for a while but re-opened again in 1994 and continues to play a role in 21st century city life.