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The holy place that rose from the site of a prison

PUBLISHED: 16:30 13 February 2010 | UPDATED: 08:08 02 July 2010

From gaol to cathedral: The magnificent St John’s, built on the site of the old city gaol, pictured, is celebrating its centenary with an appeal for your memories.

From gaol to cathedral: The magnificent St John's, built on the site of the old city gaol, pictured, is celebrating its centenary with an appeal for your memories.

Derek James

From a place where lives were taken to one where souls are saved…this is the story of the grim old city goal which was pulled down to make way for a magnificent cathedral.

From a place where lives were taken to one where souls are saved…this is the story of the grim old city goal which was pulled down to make way for a magnificent cathedral.

And you can help to bring it alive with your memories and photographs.

It was a centenary ago that the finishing touches were being made to one of our great landmarks and a building which plays a leading role in so many lives.

St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral.

Today, as the cathedral plans its centenary celebrations, the search is for your photographs, memories and stories from the last 100 years.

Many visitors can't quite believe it when they discover the church is only a century old and was built on the site of the former city prison. It looks as if it has been there for hundreds of years.

Because the building is so young there will be people around who will remember family or friends who were involved with building the second largest Catholic cathedral in the UK.

The formal opening took place on December 8 1910 and throughout this year a number of events are planned to celebrate the 100 years of worship and community life.

The church was a gift to the city of Norwich from the 15th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan Howard (1847-1917) and the site chosen was the one which had been occupied by the old city gaol just outside the city walls.

According to Percy Lubbock, a relation of the Gurney clan, it was “a terrific old place of black gates and bulging towers and high blind walls” which made him shudder when he passed it.

Work started on the massive project in 1882 and it was finally completed by the end of 1910.

I will be telling the story of the cathedral over the coming weeks but I need your help with any memories or photographs you may have.

Did a member of your family help to build the cathedral? Do you have any photographs of the builders or of events at the church over the years?

If you do then I would love to hear from you and you can write to me at the Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE. You can also email me at derek.james@archant.co.uk

The church would also like to hear from anyone with special memories to share. Perhaps you or members of your family were married, confirmed or baptised at the church? Do you have memories of special events in the life of the church? Can you write a brief description of life in the parish in days gone by?

If you can help, please leave contact details with the cathedral office (01603 624615) for the attention of Stephen Slack.

Did You Know?

On this day in 1554 the “nine days queen,” Lady Jane Grey, lost her head at the Tower of London. She was 16. The execution was ordered by her cousin Mary Tudor. Lady Jane was described as beautiful and intelligent and had ambitions plans to restore the economy and return land to the farmers.

On this day in 1831 J W Goodrich of Boston invented the rubber galosh.

On this day in 1898 a Brighton resident became the first British motorist to die in a car crash.

On this day 1948 the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were placed in the holy waters of the Ganges in Allahabad.

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