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Community of caring housed in a hidden Norwich gem

PUBLISHED: 11:30 21 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:30 21 May 2014

Winkles Row, Norwich that has survived intact since 1820 and now occupied by deaf people from nearby Rotary House. Photo: Steve Adams

Winkles Row, Norwich that has survived intact since 1820 and now occupied by deaf people from nearby Rotary House. Photo: Steve Adams

At the start of 1820 in Norwich the news of the death of George III resulted in factories and businesses closing early and church bells being tolled for three hours.

Winkles Row, Norwich that has survived intact since 1820 and now occupied by deaf people from nearby Rotary House. Photo: Steve AdamsWinkles Row, Norwich that has survived intact since 1820 and now occupied by deaf people from nearby Rotary House. Photo: Steve Adams

By the end of the year two “celebrities” arrived unannounced after hearing they had been granted the honorary freedom of the city – they were the Duke of York and the Duke of Wellington.

In between these two events a man called Philip Blyth was busy building houses in what was then called Prospect Place but soon became known as Winkles Row.

Much has changed since those days... but Winkles Row is looking better than ever.

Thousands of terraced homes have been destroyed in various “slum clearance” programmes, the Luftwaffe also played its part in changing the way the city looked but wonderful Winkles is a rare survivor.

Now this delightful row of cottages, tucked way off ancient King Street, has been given a new lease of life by Rotary House for the Deaf, which has been described by Stephen Fry as a “magical place”.

Rotary House is the only home of its kind in the country, offering a safe haven and independent living for those with hearing problems. The house itself was built in the 1970s and Winkles Row, which also has the original wash and laundry house, is an important part of the complex.

“We wanted to make it look the way it would have done when it was built,” said Rotary House chairman Andy De ’Ath. “And we are all very pleased with the way it has turned out.”

They took advice from conservation officers at City Hall to make sure the new windows and doors along with other restoration work was in keeping with the style of the 1820s.

“We think they are fairly unique in the city due to their age and relative lack of change to the frontage,” added Andy.

Originally called Prospect Place – the “prospect” was probably the view across the river to the slopes of Thorpe – this had been dropped by 1901, perhaps because other development had resulted in the view being blocked.

But no-one is sure where the name Winkles came from. People in various trades lived in the houses in the shadow of the city walls.

When Colman’s arrived across the river the company started buying up houses and building others as Carrow Works expanded into a huge operation. Winkles Row, along with the adjacent Dunston Cottages, were owned by Colman’s for their workers.

Some houses in the area were destroyed or damaged by bombing in the Second World War but Winkles survived and by the 1970s Colman’s sold the land next to it to the Rotary Club of Norwich for a unique home for the deaf community – one which would give them a chance in life they deserved.

At the opening Lady Bacon said: “The welfare state must be enormously pleased with this. We like to think they look to provide everything but they can’t and they rely on the goodwill of the people of this country to prove what they cannot.”

Charles Collins, secretary of the Deaf Welfare Association in Norfolk and Norwich, said Rotary House was a dream come true.

Generous readers of the Evening News and Eastern Daily Press supported Rotary House when it was chosen as the civic charity during my term of office as Sheriff of Norwich in 2010/11 and we raised more than £27,000 for the home, every penny of which is being put to good use.

It is a home with a heart – and I like to think Philip Blyth would be proud of how his Winkles Row looks in the 21st century.

For more details about Rotary House get in touch with manager Angi Goldsmith, Rotary House, King Street, Norwich, NR1 2BL. 
Call 01603 626170 or 07986 614242, fax Norwich 611437 or email rotaryhouse4thedeaf@btinternet.com

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