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The lost buildings of Norwich

PUBLISHED: 15:58 28 March 2012 | UPDATED: 11:24 29 March 2012

Norwich Electric Theatre

Norwich Electric Theatre

Archant

It's time to look back at some fine city landmarks, some works of art, which, for one reason or another, have disappeared over the years.

Norwich is a city always changing and my recent stories about the way we were and we way we are in the 21st century have revived many memories.

Some fine buildings have disappeared in clouds of dust to make way for roads or new developments – others were victims of the Norwich Blitz.

Maybe some of the buildings our planners got rid of had little architectural merit but others were landmarks, works of art, which should never have been touched. Civic vandalism was particularly rampant during the 1960s when the demolition balls were certainly swinging – old was often considered bad while modern was good.

Even whole streets weren’t safe. Neighbourhoods were destroyed and the people scattered far and wide.

Among those who got in touch with memories of their favourite buildings and places was Andrew Wenley, who came up with his own top 20 of the biggest losses in Norwich over the years.

Lets take a look at what he has come up with.

1) It has to be The Hippodrome, which opened at the Grand Opera House in 1903. It was a music hall for the people, attracting the biggest names in the land, before being allowed to rot and decay. It came down in the 1960s to make way for the St Giles multi-storey car park.

2) The Corn Hall (now part of Jarrolds on Exchange Street). This building played a leading role in city life. Listz and Paganini both performed here. It later staged regular wrestling shows and weekly auctions and sales.

3) The Grosvenor Rooms on Prince of Wales Road where The Beatles played in 1963. The building, built in 1912, started life as a cinema and then became a popular ballroom and dance hall. It was demolished to make way for an office block.

4) The Electric Theatre on Prince of Wales Road. This ornate picture theatre opened in 1912 and put on films, variety shows and had its own orchestra. When the talkies came in April of 1929 with a five week run of Sunny Side Up, 89,000 people saw the film. Audiences dwindled in the 1950s. The Last film was Wild in the Country with Elvis Presley. It was then demolished.

5) All of Grapes Hill. Destroyed to build the dual carriageway road we have today.

6) The Drill Hall on Chapefield Road. Another fine building which stood in the way of the inner ring road.

7) The Pagoda in Chapelfield Gardens. A magnificent work of art and a symbol of Made in Norwich. It was opened in 1880. It was damaged in the Second World War and rather than repair it the city fathers decided to demolish it. It was sold as scrap for less than £100.

8) City Station. A fine building which was opened in 1882 and went on to be the southern terminus of the Midland and Great Northern Railway. It stood by the inner ring road round linking Barn Road and St Crispins. It never recovered from Second World War bombing closing to passengers in 1959 and then good traffic 10 years later. Our thanks go to members of the Friends of Norwich City Station who are preserving what is left of the station.

9) St Paul’s Church, near Peacock Street. Bombed in the Second World War. For 10 years the ruins lay bleak. Now it is under the inner ring road.

10) The Haymarket Picture House (now part of Top Shop). This was the premier city cinema in its day. Opened in 1911 it was rebuilt 10 years later to seat 1,700 patrons. It had a top orchestra and was the sixth in the land to be wired for sound when the talkies came along. The name changed to the Gaumont in 1955 but this was short-lived. The cinema closed in 1959 when the name was transferred to the Carlton on All Saints Green.

Coming up: Watch this space as we look at the rest of the top 20 from Andrew and remember some of the other buildings you loved, such as the Star in Quayside. We will also be heading along Magdalen Street which had the stuffing knocked out of it – to make way for the flyover and Anglia Square.

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