Norwich Cathedral art show fit for a Queen

Ian CollinsGerard Stamp's new watercolour tour of our heavenly cathedral is fit for tomorrow's royal visit - and a trip into his own history.Ian Collins

By Ian Collins

Gerard Stamp's new watercolour tour of our heavenly cathedral is fit for tomorrow's royal visit - and a trip into his own history.

The former Norwich School boarder recalls: "My first tearful night away from home was in a dormitory with a view of the cathedral framed by a Georgian sash window. It became a constant influence on my school life."

"The great building was used as a short cut to the lower Close (not allowed), or through the Bishop's Garden past the North Transept (definitely not allowed). Later that hallowed garden also became a handy route under cover of darkness to the pub in Palace Plain (definitely, definitely not allowed)."

"The cathedral was partly shrouded in scaffolding during the 1960s," Gerard continues. "Scaffolding to an adventurous schoolboy was too much of a temptation, and in those days it was easy to climb past the rudimentary obstacle designed to deter such activities.

Most Read

"I went everywhere (my initials can be found beside the top window in the spire). All is now heavily padlocked but back then a friendly steward let me into the one door that opened up a world of medieval adventure.'

Art classes were in the old chapel above Ethelbert Gate into the Close - the tutor raiding the Tombland horse trough, breaking the ice in winter, and hauling buckets of water for powder paints up the spiral stairs.

Gerard Stamp started collecting prints by the 19th century Norfolk artist John Sell Cotman, studying his pictures in Norwich Castle and sketching in his footsteps across Norfolk.

Moving to London and enjoying a successful career in advertising, he kept vowing to become a full-time painter. The dream was clinched as late as 2001.

So great was his devotion to Cotman that ensuing pictures copied the master. Dozens ended up in the fireplace of the family home - part of Gunton Hall near Cromer.

He then set to work on his own vivid vision. It's now on view in the Hostry.

As Simon Jenkins has written: "Gerard Stamp turns architecture into art. He converts stone and brick, light and shadow, the tilt of a roof and the line of a wall into a living, exhilarating picture."

*The Stamp show runs until May 18. Catalogues cost �5 including postage (from Sales of watercolours and drawings will aid future cathedral art projects - as will half the proceeds from a �275, limited-edition print of the Cathedral from the Cloister pictured here.