Norwich in the rain - a Norwich day out, 2015
Not the best of August weather, but Ann our guide strode boldly through the drizzle whilst we all scurried along behind, just about keeping in touch but seeing parts of the city centre that we had never seen before. Buildings constructed of square flints, blue plaques on walls and multi-coloured plaques in pavements suddenly became strangely interesting.
We stood briefly at the highest point in the city, and later passed along London Street where, in the past, goldsmiths had contrived to make Norwich the second richest city in the land. There are still jewelers on that street, and a place where you can sell your spare gold, should you be lucky enough to have any. Narrow lanes abound, with overhanging buildings, at least one still thatched, and a remarkable range of small and unusual shops. With so little traffic able to penetrate you can easily imagine yourself in the Middle Ages.
This walk had a target – The Guildhall, on the market square. It is much bigger than you might expect from the outside, round which we were led by a guide, learning a great deal more about flint on the way. Inside we crept down into the forbidding dungeons and then gladly climbed to the upper floors where we sat grandly in the Sherriff’s and Lord Mayor’s Courts. On the ground floor was a pleasant café where we lunched. Two things about the café stick in my mind: the best ever cherry liqueur chocolates and a very public entry to the toilet!
After lunch, another slightly damp walk included a visit to the church of St Peter Mancroft – an impressive city centre parish church. There are ambitious plans to alter the bell-tower and to develop as a bell-ringing education centre. There are no fewer than twelve bells, and are or will be some “dumb bells” – an interesting term.
On our final trek we stopped off at Marble Hall, the astonishing entrance hall of Surrey House. This is, in fact, the old head office of Norwich Union (now Aviva) and is quite impossible to describe. Try “marble” - everywhere, above, below, and on the stairs and all around. It has to be seen to be understood. We sat proudly and slightly pompously in the magnificent Board Room for the last part of our tour, and then left to walk our final few yards; wondering quite how the bus station and Marble Hall came to be such close neighbours.