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The day Norwich heard the real King's speech

PUBLISHED: 13:45 01 March 2011

The Duke of York visits Norwich in 1925

The Duke of York visits Norwich in 1925

Archant © 2011; 01603 772434

The King's Speech reigned supreme at the Oscars. Derek James looks back at the day when the man who inspired the film visited our Fine City.

The real star of the movie the whole world is talking about was in Norwich almost 90 years ago to open a building where people are now queuing up to see his extraordinary story.

On Sunday, Colin Firth received an Oscar for his portrayal of King George VI and The King’s Speech was named as the best film.

Long before he was King and before he was given back his voice, the Duke of York, came to Norwich for a grand day of openings and ceremonies.

In 1925 he arrived in the city and among his duties was to open Suckling House and the Stuart Memorial Hall for the people –today those ancient buildings are home to Cinema City.

“It’s fascinating to think that you can now watch The King’s Speech in a building that was opened by the King himself,” said manager Jack Thompson.

“This is by far the most popular film ever screened at Cinema City bringing people through the doors who haven’t visited the cinema in many years,” he said.

“The King’s Speech is not just a fantastic film, but it is also proving to be the catalyst for many to rediscover their passion for the big screen,” added Jack.

Medieval Suckling House was restored by two members of a famous Norwich family, Ethel and Caroline Colman, and bequeathed to the Mayor, Aldermen and people of the City of Norwich.

They wanted it to be used by the people of Norwich and were delighted it was given the royal seal of approval.

The Evening News covered a memorable day in the history of the Fine City, when huge crowds turned out to welcome the Duke of York.

And now, thanks to the film, we can imagine just how tough it was for him when he made public speeches at events across Norwich.

The only disappointment was that the Duchess of York was unable to make the journey to Norfolk with him, owing to a “slight indisposition”.

He was in the city to celebrate the centenary of Norwich Castle Museum, open the Bridewell Museum of Local Industries, the Samson and Hercules House Girl’s Club, Suckling House and the Stuart Memorial Hall.

Saturday, October 24, 1925, was a day the whole city and county had been looking forward to and Norwich was transformed into a colourful city of flags. This was the day when the county came to the city anyway, but thousands more women and children also came into Norwich – hoping for a glimpse of the Duke.

Thorpe Station was a sea of colour as he stepped onto the platform and he was met by the Lord Mayor, Dr Pope, Sheriff J Howard Dakin and other dignitaries, including chief constable John Henry Dain, who made sure everything went smoothly.

“A great shout of welcome went up from the spectators, which the Duke, smiling, acknowledged,” said a report.

Huge crowds lined the streets to watch as the Duke was driven in a convoy up Prince of Wales Road and Castle Meadow to the Castle.

Following the pomp and ceremony he rose to his feet and only now, all these years later and thanks to the film, can we appreciate how difficult it must have been for him.

He recalled his visit to Norwich when he was aged nine and said the ancient city had lost none of its charm.

The Duke said his mother and father, as Duke and Duchess of York, had been to the museum more than 30 years earlier and since then it had had nearly four million visitors.

He congratulated the committee on the fine exhibition of works of art highlighting the work of the Norwich School of Artists. The Duke went on to open the Bridewell Museum of Local Industries, where he was presented with a history of the building by Anne Bracecamp, aged just three.

His Royal Highness then walked across to Suckling House and the adjoining Stuart Hall, built in memory of Mrs James Stuart, another member of the Colman family.

Finally, he went to Samson and Hercules House to open it as a YWCA – performing the duties on behalf of the duchess.

So it was a day to remember in old Norwich – when the people turned out to welcome the man who would be king – and the man who finally found his voice.

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