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PICTURE GALLERY: A hidden gem of Norwich's history opens its doors

PUBLISHED: 12:14 29 December 2011 | UPDATED: 13:48 29 December 2011

The Great Hospital in Norwich during one of the open days when visitors get a chance to see some of the historic items including the Eagle Ward cubicles where trustee Mike Brookes explains their history. Photo by Simon Finlay

The Great Hospital in Norwich during one of the open days when visitors get a chance to see some of the historic items including the Eagle Ward cubicles where trustee Mike Brookes explains their history. Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant Norfolk Copyright

A gem of Norwich heritage threw open its doors to give the public the chance for a post-Christmas peer through centuries of history.

The Great Hospital, at Bishopgate, held an open day yesterday, allowing people to enjoy the 17 listed buildings and get a feel for the many eras it spans.

The site – first opened in 1249 – currently houses elderly people in need of care, and who have limited means. But as a site of historical significance it has many a story to tell.

It housed the famous Norwich architect Thomas Ivory – who worked on the Assembly House – retired pastors, poor scholars, sick and hungry paupers and hospital wards.

Visitors to the open day found historical and architectural sights to suit all tastes, including the former music room with concave ceiling which amplifies conversations and the home of Mr Ivory, which is all curved doors and cylindrical hallways.

The church is medieval with lavish ceilings and an old swan pit, where the birds were fattened and kept before being sold off to wealthy institutions, a good money earner for the hospital.

“We want to show the people of Norwich what we’ve got here,” said expert and trustee Mike Brookes.

“We can’t permanently, as we have to balance caring for our residents, but we don’t want people to miss out on this site of historical significance.

“Many aren’t aware of what we have here.”

A lodge has recently been built, where a video display takes you through the history of the site.

More open days and group tours for a small fee are planned and further information is available on 01603 622022.

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