Historic Elm Hill in Norwich is a great place to shop

Norwich's Elm Hill is steeped in history and home to unique local businesses who make it a great place to shop and visit.

Bears, antiques and books are some of the many things for sale in shops lining the cobbled street that has origins dating back to at least 1200 AD. There are also a number of independent cafes.

At The Tea House Peter Young and Chris Betts serve an array of drinks and lunchtime treats and snacks including homemade cakes and soups. Mr Young said they enjoy being in Elm Hill because it is a unique and relaxing part of the city.

'Everyone knows Elm Hill – there is more than 500 years of history in one road,' he said.

Further up the street The Bear Shop is crammed with bears large and small.

Owner Robert Stone said: 'We have been here for more than 20 years. We sell a bear for everybody, including handmade artist bears, manufactured bears like Steiff Teddies and Charlie Bears, and children's bears.

'Elm Hill is not like any other place. All the shops here are individual and it is a beautiful place to be.'

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In the Dormouse Bookshop, the shelves are laden with second-hand collectable and antiquarian books.

Owner Philip Goodbody said: 'We have been in Elm Hill for 13 years. Elm Hill is great because it has a great diversity of shops, it looks beautiful, and it is off the beaten track.

'There are often bargains to be had here too, and the people who live and work here are lovely.'

Jean Guymer and her late husband Cecil started Elm Hill Antiques about 16 years ago and the shop is an Aladdin's cave of furniture, jewellery and much more.

Mrs Guymer said: 'We try to have something for everyone. My son David restores the furniture and brings it back to life, and my daughter Julie helps me sell.'

Mrs Guymer said they like to take great care with their customers and to highlight Elm Hill's history to visitors. She said she felt privileged to work in the historic street.

Among the hive of artistic activity on Elm Hill is the Jade Tree which is run by seven artists who work on-site and sells the work of about 40 local artists.

Tamara Rampley, from The Jade Tree, said Elm Hill's history, originality, and small and friendly shops was a winning combination, and The Jade Tree offers people the chance to buy unique gifts without spending a fortune.

At Abbey Coins, which buys and sells coins, medals, and postcards, Tamas Hendrei aptly summed up the magic of Elm Hill. He said: 'Every building has its own history and every cobble stone could tell a story.'

In December many Elm Hill businesses have extended opening hours until 7pm on Thursdays and from 11am until 4pm on Sundays.

The Jade Tree has a Christmas shopping evening next Friday from 5pm-8.30pm.

For more about Love Local see pages 60 and 61.

Are you opening an unusual new business? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

Elm Hill facts

Elm Hill's name comes from the elm trees that have successively stood in the square since the 16th century.

The current tree on Elm Hill is actually a London plane tree not an elm tree. It was planted in 1979.

There is evidence that the origins of Elm Hill date back to at least 1200 AD.

In the 15th and 16th centuries Elm Hill and the river were important commercial thoroughfares.

With the decline of Norwich's weaving industry in the 19th century, Elm Hill lost its importance and slowly degenerated into a slum area.

In 1927 the Norwich Society carried out a survey which highlighted the street's historic and architectural value, and proposed it could once again become an important area of interest.

The Norwich Corporation wanted to demolish the north side of the street and build a swimming pool there but at the last moment was persuaded to adopt the ideas from The Norwich Society and renovation work commenced in 1927.

Very few buildings standing above ground in Elm Hill are of an earlier date than 1507, when a disastrous fire destroyed more than 700 houses in Norwich. The Britons Arms building may be older.

Facts provided by the Friends of Elm Hill.