Five Norwich churches that have been given a new lease of life

The Botanical Garden Bar is back in Norwich by popular demand, with Norfolk food and drink on the menu. 

St Simon and St Jude Church is now the home of Curious Directive theatre company and their Curious Botanical bar and kitchen - Credit: Rob Dodsworth

It famously used to be said that Norwich had a church for every week of the year and a pub for every day of the year.  

While there may not be as many churches in our city as there once was, a number of former churches have been transformed into some of Norwich’s much-loved cultural destinations.  

Here are five church buildings that have been given a new lease of life.  

1. St Simon and St Jude Church 

Where: Elm Hill, Norwich, NR3 1HG 

This medieval building was proposed for demolition in 1920, having become redundant in the 1890s. The threat of demolition galvanised the Norwich Society into action, taking a stand against the city council and reversing their decision.  The Norwich Society have continued their work to preserve and support Norwich’s architectural history ever since. 

Today, the 573-year-old building is the home of the Curious Directive, a theatre company whose science-led productions have gone on to gain international acclaim. Last year, the theatre company also launched the Curious Botanical Bar and Kitchen, serving woodfired pizzas and tasty drinks in the church’s garden.  

St Gregory's Church in Pottergate, Norwich.

St Gregory's in Pottergate is now an antiques centre - Credit: Archant Norfolk

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2. St Gregory’s Church 

Where: Pottergate, Norwich, NR2 1ER 

Located in the heart of Norwich lanes, St Gregory’s is one of five churches along St Benedict’s. This 14th century church is famous for having some of the finest wall-paintings in East Anglia. The best-known depicts St George slaying a dragon and is an impressive 12ft high. Its former graveyard is now known as St Gregory’s Green, a popular hang-out spot in the city.  

St Gregory’s church now functions as a treasure trove of antiques and collectibles, featuring a huge variety of vintage clothes, furniture, memorabilia and just about everything else you can imagine. 

 Since opening in 2010, St Gregory’s has become a popular market place for selling and buying second-hand goods in the city. 

Martin Ayres, Tango, shown in Naked in Norwich at St Margaret's Church.

Martin Ayres, Tango, shown in Naked in Norwich at St Margaret's Church. - Credit: Richard Cleland

3. St Margaret's Church 

Where: St Margaret's Street, Norwich, NR2 4TU 

St Margaret's elegant 14th century tower helps the building stand-out amongst the other five medieval churches along St Benedict’s. It is surprisingly large once inside and its stained-glass windows fill the building with light and colour.  

Plans for demolition in 1975 were fortunately defeated, and the church has since been used as a gymnasium before later becoming an art gallery and exhibition space. 

St Margaret's is now known as the church of art, hosting regular exhibits that showcase work by artists from our region.   

Norwich Puppet Theatre.

Norwich Puppet Theatre. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

4. St James Pockthorpe Church 

Where: Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN 

There has been a church on this site since the 12th century, although much of the current structure was built in the 15th century. The church was made redundant in 1972 and was later converted for use as a theatre in 1978. 

Norwich Puppet Theatre has resided in this medieval church since its conversion, using the nave as its auditorium and the chancel as the performance space. Norwich Puppet Theatre is one of only three puppet theatres in the country to have a permanent building.  

Norwich Arts Centre in St Benedicts
Photo: Bill Smith
Copy: Emma Lee
For: Archant
Archant © 2010

Norwich Arts Centre in St Benedicts Photo: Bill Smith Copy: Emma Lee For: Archant Archant © 2010 01603 772434 - Credit: Archant © 2010

5. St Swithin's Church 

Where: St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, NR2 4PG 

Built in 1349, St Swithin's remained a working church until 1891, falling into disrepair soon after. 20 years later, the medieval church was repaired and has since been used as a community hub ever since.  

In 1980, a group of arts enthusiasts took residence in the church, turning the building into a place of worship once again – albeit of a different kind.  

The iconic Norwich Arts Centre has been hosting some of the biggest names in music, comedy and theatre since opening its doors, becoming a vital cultural landmark in the region.  

The likes of Nirvana, Ed Sheeran and Oasis have all wowed crowds at the venue, and many up-and-coming artists have cut their teeth here before moving on to bigger and brighter success. Following the completion of their regeneration project, St Swithin's will continue to be a hub of arts and culture for many years to come.