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Street has its Place in City History

PUBLISHED: 15:33 18 September 2012

Photo taken from an album owned by Rob Cranthorne of images of Norwich taken about 100 years ago. Davey Place.  Photo: Simon Finlay  Copy:   For: EDP News  EDP pics © 2009  (01603) 772434

Photo taken from an album owned by Rob Cranthorne of images of Norwich taken about 100 years ago. Davey Place. Photo: Simon Finlay Copy: For: EDP News EDP pics © 2009 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2010

Davey Place celebrates its bicentenary with an exhibition of rare old plans and drawings at the City Bookshop. It is a walkway with a great history.

I will, declared the colourful and controversial Norwich alderman and former sheriff, put a hole in the King’s Head before a week is out.

He made his outburst at a meeting of the Commons Council a couple of hundred years ago. Members were outraged, rose in a body and shouted “Treason!”

They demanded he take his words back but he refused, saying: “You gentleman wait the time.”

As a result his house was strictly guarded day and night, while constables were stationed on the main turnpike to prevent Jonathan Davey, of Eaton Hall, from making any journey in the direction of King George III.

Was the monarch’s life really at risk? Did this powerful Norwich businessman and landowner mean him harm? He was, after all, reported to be a well-known radical and French Revolutionary sympathiser.

He also appears to be a man possessed with good dollop of Norwich humour.

Within a week he had bought the King’s Head, an important old coaching inn, on the Market Place at auction and proceeded to make a hole in it and create what we now know as Davey Place.

He had, he told his fellow citizens, made good his words.

What he had done was to create the first purpose-built pedestrian street in the city linking The Walk with Castle Meadow.

It opened in August of 1812 and had been an important and very convenient throughfare in the heart of the city ever since.

So what kind of a chap was Davey of Davey Place?

Well, he was described as “the projector” – a word which goes back to the reign of Elizabeth I, when he built Foundry Bridge in 1810.

Apart from being a builder, he owned three farms at Eaton and built the hall to go with them.

He was a baptist along with John Couzins and John Copeman, running commercial businesses in the city. An Alderman for many years he was also a Sheriff of Norwich in 1800.

Davey Place became a major centre for grocery shops including Copeman’s. Davey was a partner and was the great uncle of the late H J Copeman.

Dakin’s the tea merchants and grocers were also there along with the tea people, Bonsers.

All manner of shops have operated from Davey Place over the years – remember Ashworth & Pike – and of course the dear old Post Office.

Drop me a line if you have any Davey Place memories at derek.james@archant.co.uk

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