Through Ancient Gates...
PUBLISHED: 13:49 19 December 2011
A new book with a difference combines the old with the new, allowing us all to see what the city would look like - if we had kept the gates.
Norwich is a city with an exciting future and an extraordinary past. We have a noble Norman cathedral, a commanding castle, an exceptional number of churches and streets lined with houses full of ancient secrets.
They were built with the finest stone from Normandy in France and from our own English hills, with flints from quarries on Mousehold, and from the rough red bricks kilned here for hundreds of years.
But for all that, we do have good reason to envy places that still have their ancient gates.
Here in Norwich, the second most important city in medieval England, we once had the most extensive city defences, the longest sweeps of wall, the most gates and towers, all enclosing more acres of land than London itself.
Of all these magnificent ancient defences, all that is left is a few stretches of ruined wall and stubs of towers. There are two almost whole towers but no gates.
In the past it has been difficult to imagine where these formidable entrances stood and what they must have looked like – but not any more.
Thanks to the talented Norwich author and artist Leo R Jary, we can look upon these ancient gates, and see for ourselves what they would have looked like in 21st century Norwich.
Through Ancient Gates is one of the most unusual and fascinating local history books to appear on the shelves for some time. It is real eye-opener.
“Here they are, rebuilt and set against our present-day streets,” says Leo.
“I have shown the gates as they were before 1720; they were so much closer to their original state then. Later in that same century they were ‘tidied-up’ and lost a great deal of their character,” he explains.
But what if those ancient gates had survived?
“While most of them had archways wide enough for some modern vehicles to pass through, in reality the roads, the flow of modern traffic and even some buildings would have evolved quite differently.
“With a few exceptions, I have limited the history of the associated streets to the time when the gates were still standing,” said Leo who makes no apology for removing ugly modern street furniture or for measuring the gates in yards and feet.
You may want to carry this book with you and stand where Leo made his sketches – in the neighbouring streets you will find signs of people, places and events that were close to the gates at the time.
In St Benedict’s and St Giles for example, look among the paving slabs for decorative panels by Norwich HEART, and everywhere for the blue plaques remembering famous people.
Open the pages and the gates and towers from the past emerge.
The author tells the complete story of the gates, how they were made, when they were made and the important role they played in the rich story of Norwich.
Through Ancient Gates by Leo R Jary is published by the Larks Press and is in the shops now, priced £9.50. You can also call Larks Press on 01328 829207 or email Larks.Press@btinternet.com
Don’t miss our series of stories all next week as we take a look at the Norwich gates – discovered how they were built and the part they played in the history of the city.