Saturday, 25 March 2017

Some slightly random snippets of Norwich history

Norwich's Thatches

In Tudor times a ban on thatched roofing was brought in because of the extra fire risk a thatch brings. The legacy of this is that there are very few thatched buildings in Norwich - despite there being so many old buildings. I originally read that there were only five thatched buildings, however, I found a sixth!
A) Britons Arms - the only building on Elm Hill to survive the fire of 1507 has had many uses: a house of surgeons, place of weaving and saddle making. It was also - more unusually - a Beguinages which was a female community that was dedicated to religious worship without taking formal vows. These were common in the Netherlands but this was the only one known of in England.
B) Pykerell's House - House of Thomas Pykerell who died in 1545 and was mayor of Norwich three times. This house has a great hall.
C) Hampshire Hog Yard - behind the Arts' Centre. It was a pub for many years.
D) Barking Dicky - . It was once a pub called the Light Horseman but the pub sign was so badly painted that the horse looked like a cross between a dog and a donkey which the locals therefore decided to call 'Dicky'.
E) The Hermitage - found on Bishopgate.
F) Another thatch I found - possibly newly thatched - situated behind the Barking Dicky.

I found this old photo in a book of Westlegate. You can see 'Barking Dicky' at the top of the hill next to the church.
An old drain cover!

A drain cover in Tombland Alley is the only one in the city to bear the name of Thomas Crapper - the company to bring sewage engineering to cities in Victorian times and the origin of the word 'crap'.
Evidence of an old city gate

Bishop Bridge dates from about 1340 and is situated at the point where a Roman road probably entered the city by ford from the east and it is therefore a very old crossing point. It was at the time, the only bridge giving access to the city from outside and therefore had a fortified gatehouse at its western end. This picture shows a half circle protrusion at the west end that would have supported one of the gate's turrets.
Armada House

Officially known as Garsett House, this building became known as Armada House in Victorian times because it was thought to have been constructed with the timbers from a galleon of the Spanish Armada of 1588. This could well be true as some of the galleons were known to have been wrecked off the east coast and 1589 is carved into the building at first floor level.
Also of interest is the sign of Phoenix Insurance on the front of the building from the days when insurance companies organised fire brigades. This symbol was used to indicate that the building was insured and qualified for fire fighting.

The building was truncated on its south side to make way for a new tram-line in Victorian times.

Augustine Steward House
This Tudor house was built for Augustine Steward (three times mayor of Norwich) and was used as a headquarters for the armies sent to quash Kett's Rebellion in 1549. It is also famously haunted by a young girl who is said the be the only one in the building to survive the plague of 1665 but then to starve to death because the house had been boarded up and she was trapped. Augustine Steward was also known for buying Blackfriars and St Andrew's Halls and saving then from destruction during the Reformation.

Boom Towers
These were built in 1334 so there could be control over and tolls issued to vessels journeying into Norwich via the river. Two chains straddled the river from each tower. These were raised and lowered by a winch. They were thought to be named the 'Boom' Towers because a pole or 'boom' once did the same job as the chains. IN 1938 - one of the ruined tops was said to be the shape of a devil with horns and it was known as 'Devil's Tower' then. It has since eroded away a lot more.

St Lawrence church door carvings

The carving on the left shows St Lawrence being cooked to death on a slab. The Roman Emperor Decius ordered for this to happen. It's hard to see but God is striking down the Roman Emperor with a sword for his actions while his soldiers stoke the fire.

The carving on the right shows the martyrdom of St Edmund. He's been shot by many arrows. There is also a wolf who was to guard the saint's body. It's always interesting to have a bit of gore on a church door. Apparently the churchyard of this church used to go right down to the river. I think the following picture is also of the 'grilling' of St Lawrence - but this time found in the cloisters of Norwich cathedral.
Weavers' Windows
In Bridewell Alley there are some fine examples of weavers' windows: windows that are horizontally long and at the top storey to allow as much light in as possible.
Also on the fine knapped flint wall opposite St Andrew's Church is an example of galletting which is the process of putting small pieces of flint between the otherwise perfectly fitting brick. These were to allow for expansion and contraction due to changes in temperature.
An example of a water pump next to a churchyard

Before public health studies helped the population understand how diseases were caused, water pumps were often funded by church parishes and therefore situated close to or next to churchyards. These churchyards were full of decaying bodies and the water was disease inducing. This pump was not only next to St John Maddermarket's churchyard, it was downhill from it. Cholera and typhoid killed many before it was understood that these diseases were waterborne. Fortunatley the brewing process destroyed the micobes of these diseases and accounts for hwy so many pubs existed in medieval Norwich. Beer was considerably weaker hundreds of years ago so perhaps people didn't exist in a permanent state of inebriation - or did they?

Friday, 17 March 2017

40 quirky bits of Norwich Cathedral that you can find

OK - I am not in the least bit religious and if I am honest, up until recently, religion has deterred me from exploring the wealth of quirky history that is to be found in - say - a cathedral that is more than 900 years old! I have always loved Norwich Cathedral as it is beautiful and atmospheric. But it turns out that it is also loaded with a hotchpotch of history as building started in 1096.

The more I learn about it, the more fascinated I become. So here are my recommendations for what to look out for should you ever visit the cathedral.

1) The Elizabethan grave of Thomas Gooding

Thomas was a mason of the cathedral. He paid a fair amount of money to be buried upright because he believed this would give him an advantage come judgement day. At the base of his memorial is a typically Elizabethan, poignantly death-focused inscription,

'All you that do this pass bye
Remember death for you must dye
As you are now even so was I
And as I am so shall you be
Thomas Gooding here do staye
Wayting for God's judgement day,
2) The grave of the baby that died before she was born.

I have been told that this is because of the shift from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian one but I have yet to stumble across something that explains this fully. However, the dates certainly show a death date (February 20th 1736) before the birth date (April 13th 1736).
3) The musket ball still lodged in the side of a grave.

This is said to be from the civil war (1642 - 1651) when in 1643 a mob of city folk broke into the cathedral and removed pictures, books and statues, took them to the market place and burnt them. The effigy on the tomb - along with the font in a nearby chapel - were also vandalised at this time. The grave is of Bishop Goldwell (bishop from 1472 until 1499) and he was responsible for some significant rebuilding of the cathedral.
The bashed up effigy...
....the smashed up font.....things did well to survive the Civil War!
In a rather old book, I found this description of the unrest of the Civil War in the cathedral written by the bishop at the time: Bishop Joseph Hall. '....what clattering of glasses, what beating down of walls, what tearing down of monuments, what pulling down of seats and wrestling out of irons and brass from windows and graves; what defacing of arms, what demolishing of curious stonework, that had not had any representation in the world, but the cost of the founder and the skill of the mason.....the cathedral was filled with musketeers drinking and tabacconning, as freely as if it had turned alehouse.

4) The steps worn down

- by many, many years of use.
5) The four corbels
These are found decorating one of the book cupboards in the cloisters. Their faces are full of character! There is a hooded man with extraordinarily large nostrils, a king, a mitred ecclesiastic and a bare-headed man.

6) The bosses in the cloisters.

There are loads of bosses decorating these monks' corridors. They vary from pagan to completely bizarre. For example - from the green men.... strange goings on.... the downright bizarre.
I like the bosses along the south (and to some extent the west) side of the cloisters best as they seem to particularly unworldy. I think it's because they are meant to be depicting scenes from Revelations which (without much knowledge of the Bible) I understand to be one of the more sensational books in the New Testament! This first one is supposed to be a horse riding out of hell. The last one is heaven fighting with hell. Smashing stuff.
Lions were as mythical as dragons to the medieval person.
There are even two naked men who look to be defecating.
7) The graffiti.

There is a lot of graffiti and a guide told me he was still discovering more. The medieval attitude to graffiti did not replicate our modern approach to it and it was far more usual and acceptable to carve your initials into a cathedral wall.

Here are some examples. There is the Elizabethan man - with ruff, buttons and doublet. (You need a torch to be able to see it).
...the North Sea cog (boat)...
...a music stave...
... many initials and dates...
....churches or houses?...
This is a curse apparently.
And some more modern graffiti (from 1968)
8) The copper font

This is a relatively modern addition. It was once used in the process of toffee making in the Norwich Rowntrees factory before it closed down.
9) The most 'bitty' stained glass window

- put together with 'important medieval glass' from the cathedral that survived the Reformation, patchwork style. It commemorates Sir Thomas Erpingham who fought at the Battle of Agincourt. I wonder if he would have liked it.
10) The 'off' pillars

I was told years ago that these were not centralised but that I cannot see as wonky - despite looking many times. I put it in here so it can torment you too! The arches themselves are much older than the chapel they form the entrance to.
11) The new stained glass windows.... abstract painter John McLean and installed in 2014 (so the newest of all the windows), I rather like them because they cast a strange light down this part of the aisle.
12) The shrine to William

A 12 year old Christian boy was found murdered on Mousehold Heath. There was much controversy at the time and the local Jews were ultimately blamed for the murder. It is an interesting story that appears to be mostly about anti-semitism. This part of the cathedral is know as the 'Chapel of the Holy Innocents' - a space dedicated to the victims of cruelty, persecution and intolerance - which you could argue William was - though whose intolerance it was is not certain.
13) The pretty weird carvings

There are many strange carvings dotted around he place. There are some great faces high up in the Presbytery near the alter - one of a really happy face and another, opposite, of a tragically sad face. (I have merged the two photos of them together here - they are actually on separate pillars). Please forgive the poor quality of my photos - I ran over my camera with my car.
These animal-like heads (eating other heads) are very odd. They are found in the north transept. They (and another one like them) are particularly significant because they go against the Norman principle of using carvings to support and complement architecture - thus it represents that fact that Christianity reigned strong long before the Normans arrived.

14) The misericords.

These were merciful ledges upon which monks could surreptitiously perch for some relief during sustained periods of prayer in a standing position! They can also be lowered to create full seats. Below the ledges are lots of exampled of beautiful carvings. As one depicts a griffin being speared and another of the local football team - I am guessing they are quite varied in age.
I read somewhere the speculation that the owl surrounded by smaller birds was making fun of a bishop who tended to over-share his wisdom.

15) The bosses in the nave.

And although they are too far away to be photographed well with my camera, the bosses in the nave tell the story of the bible - starting with the old testament at the altar end, with the birth of Christ just over halfway as you travel backwards. There is a book with photos of all the bosses on sale in the cathedral gift shop (see below). I love the fact that to medieval man - a lion was just as mythical as a griffin or a dragon - on account of them being equally unlikely to have been actually witnessed. There are also several medieval 'interpretations'. Without knowing what an Egyptian chariot looked like, for example, the local carver represented one as medieval Norfolk farm cart.

Other things I have learned about the bosses include:
• There are unicorns on Noah’s ark
• The red sea is actually painted red. (This is clearly visible without binoculars)
• The serpent’s tree in the Garden of Eden is in a pot. This is a clue to the fact the masons based their carvings on the Medieval Norwich Mystery Plays – which would have travelled around Norwich’s Street on a cart – thus the pot!
• Noah plants a vineyard to celebrate dry land after the flood and then proceeds to get drunk
• Jacob has a lot of roof dedicated to him probably because 15th Century Norwich’s wealth came predominantly form the wool trade – so local people would have identified with rural depictions of sheep care!
• The Tower of Babel looks remarkably like one of the medieval city gates of Norwich!
• The current roof was built in 1463 to replace the wooden one destroyed by fire and the spire collapsing onto it.
• Bishop Lyhart sold some of his estate to fund the roof. Medieval stonemasons were in high demand at the time – so there might have been considerable search for the right person to lead the project.
• The bosses were painted over during the reformation (probably too ornate for those lot!) and then uncovered in 1870.
Just three of my favourites from 'Norwich Cathedral Nave Bosses' by Paul Hurst ARPS
The Tower of Babel
The creation of light
The flooding of the Red Sea
The roof of the nave.

While we're in the nave - I like this snippet: the nave would have been overwhelming to the folk of the middle ages. In the eleventh and twelve centuries naves were the only large indoor places and were used for more than just worship - e.g. gatherings on feast days, processions and meetings. They would not have had the seating in place as it is now for these occasions. The cathedral was built as two churches - the nave for the public and the other end for the monks.

16) The censing angel hole!

The bosses are interrupted by a hole. As early as 1401 - an angel was hung from here. Apparently it would have been swung over the heads of the congregation. It was also used for releasing doves - apparently!
On a recent visit around Easter - such an angel was hanging from the hole.
17) The casual approach to inscriptions

The earliest examples of floor monuments show a very casual approach to letter carving - as replicated in hand-written works of the time. This example shows how there was little forethought to letter placement. See how the word 'departed' is split and the 'th' of the date put over the number.
18) The (illusive) Bishop's Ceremonial Door

This was the door that took the bishops from the palace to the cathedral via the north transept. Originally the effigy of St Felix was positioned outside this door and the strange non-Norman beasts are found above the door inside. This is not coincidental. It was to make a clear statement to the bishop that Christianity predated the Normans. While I was hanging out with clergy and cathedral guides I heard the bishop mentioned twice. 1) It was mentioned how infrequently the bishop could be found in the cathedral (apparently a similar complaint is made about the bishop at Ely Cathedral and 2) there was some laughter about how the bishop was wary of the climb to his throne in the presbytery (at the high altar - boy did I learn a lot of new terms) because it was rather high and he was - in effect - wearing a long skirt when he climbed it.

19) The effigy of St Felix

It was originally believed that this was an effigy of Herbert de Losinga - the bishop who founded the cathedral. However, turns out - it wasn't and it is in fact St Felix: the chap who converted East Anglia to Christianity in the seventh century. It is thought that Felixstowe might have been named after him.
I found this picture of St Felix in his original position: on the outside above the Bishop's ceremonial door when it was still believed to be the effigy of the founding bishop. It was moved to its current position in 1968 to protect it from the elements.

20) The founder's tomb and commemorative slab!

This was made in 1996 to commemorate 900 years of the cathedral. Situated at one end of Herbert de Losinga's tomb it depicts 1) the devil running off with the money de Losinga paid to secure the post of bishop (this 'sin' is called simony - he later asked for the Pope's forgiveness for this) 2) someone carrying the bishop's throne in front of him 3) Norfolk Broads reeds 4) a mason and 5) (I think) a boat carrying the stone than came from Caen to build the cathedral.

21) The raredos that survived the Civil War and Reformation

This is found in St Luke's chapel. It survived the Civil War and the Reformation (when under the Protestantism of Edward VI, images, altars and stained glass were ordered to be destroyed) because it was turned upside down and used as a plumber's table. It remained 'lost' for 200 years and rediscovered in 1847.It includes the colour 'Norwich Red' (like a lot of old paintings from the city)- a pigment that made the city famous until the early 1800s.
This was given to the 'warrior bishop' Henry Despenser as an act of gratitude for his part in quashing the local version of the Peasants Revolt in 1381. This not only included capturing the leader John Litester, it also included sitting in judgement of him, condemning him to death for treason, hearing his confession, absolving him of his sins and accompanying him to the scaffold to administer a last blessing. It seems a bit two-faced to me!

22) The Reliquary Arch

This arched over the ambulatory on the north side and was accessed by the tiny spiral staircase and you now climb a modern replica of these to the treasury. It was was built in 1424 to house the cathedral's relics for pilgrims to visit. The space itself is more interesting than the contents of the newly added treasury in my opinion. The arch to the north shows the door of the Relic Chapel where the relics would have been stored and/or displayed. I am sad that the Cathedral's Seal box is not on display here - which is a two compartment box that was the home of two seals that needed four separate keys to open each side - to prevent anyone acting without consensual agreement.

23) The 'Jacks'

Two 'Jacks' in Jacobean clothes stand over the south door. They once used to sound each hour on the clock (there is another clock that can be seen in this position outside the cathedral) until complaints forced them to be disconnected because they were disturbing the devoted congregation! It is reputed that they were also once stolen and retrieved from a stall on Norwich Market.

24) The story carved in the bosses of the Bauchun Chapel
This story is told through the bosses on the ceiling in Bauchun Chapel. It was a popular medieval story linked to Chaucer's Canterbury's Tale, 'The Man of Lawes Tale. It tells the story of an Empress who, abandoned while her husband travelled abroad, refused the inappropriate advances of her brother whose care she had been left in. However, she was still falsely accused and sent to the forest for execution. A knight rescues her and takes her to his home. Again, she is falsely accused by another brother of murdering a child. As punishment this time, she is sent to a desert island where the Virgin answers her prayers and gives her the gift of healing leprosy (don't we all pray for that?). She is then rescued by a passing ship and she is not recognised by anyone on her return - and goes about healing lepers that include one brother when he admits to falsely accusing her and the other accusatory brother. She then enters a convent!

The Bauchun Chapel was once used as the cathedral court but the notorious case of the Vicar of Stiffkey (and his link to prostitutes) in the 1930s drew so many people it has to be moved to London. The Vicar's ceremonial de-robing still happened in this chapel though.

25) The scandal of the pregnant nun.

Or so I was told! When I originally posted this I received feedback that the pregnancy was nonsense and that she wasn't a nun! However, what I find fascinating is that such a rumour existed, that I heard it from a choral scholar at the cathedral and looked at and believed the subtle 'pregnancy bump'! This rumour might have come about by the fact that this young woman had affection for the Bishop Bertram Pollock (1863–1943) (as demonstrated in several poems she wrote about him) that caused him some embarrassment. Things get twisted! Her name was Violet Vaughan Morgan and she died of Spanish flu in 1919 aged just 20. Her parents commissioned the statue two years after her death.
A map of the cathedral drawn about 1948

26) The stained glass window in the Bauchon Chapel

This was fitted in 1964 and shows significant players in history from East Anglia of the religious sort. You can spot Herbert de Losinga with his completed cathedral behind him, William Bauchun - a monk who helped with the building and he holds his chapel in his hands and St Julian of Norwich with her crucifix and her book; Revelations in Divine Love.
The Benedictine Window
The founder of the cathedral

27) The depiction of Henry II that survived the Reformation
In the reformation Henry VIII ordered that all images of St Thomas A Beckett be destroyed as this saint was very much a symbol of the church opposing the monarchy. Luckily this 'royalty humbling' boss survived showing Henry II in just under-garmets, penance being taken by monks and his servants holding his clothes.

28) A break in building because of the plague

The present cloisters took a long time to complete (from 1297 until 1430). In the north walk of the cloisters there is an abrupt change in decoration that occurs because of the plague of 1349. The time gap this change represents is actually about 60 years. The plague - not being in any way discriminatory - significantly reduced the population of craftsmen including masons. When the work was eventually returned to, the perpendicular style was adopted because it required less skill and labourers could be shown how to complete such decoration.
The two arches on the left of the north walk are in the earlier, 'Decorated' style. Those on the right are the 'Perpendicular' style. Furthermore the window int eh north-west corner is the only one made out of wood. This was meant to be temporary measure with a plan to replace it with stone. This never happened.

29) The monks played Nine Men Morris

Carved into the seating in the cloisters are what is left of a few games of Nine Men Morris. This is even more entertaining to imagine because it would have been played without speaking because of the monks' vow of silence. Further along the same walk are the three doors to the no-longer-there Chapter House where monks would have held meetings and therefore certainly did speak. However, there is a slight possibility that the holes post-date the monastic years - even so, they are still interesting!
30) The Carnary Chapel

After death, the poor people of medieval Norwich would have been simply wrapped in a woollen shroud and buried in a shallow grave. This often meant a skeleton would reappear a few years later. As bones were believed to hold the soul and therefore considered sacred, Bishop Salmon founded the Carnary Chapel in 1316 so that such bones from the overcrowded churchyards of Norwich were placed in the undercroft. It's now part of the Norwich School.
31) For the monks' ablutions

In two bays of the cloisters can be found the troughs for the waste water that would have been used by monks in ritual washing. There would have been pipes and taps and relatively sophisticated plumbing.

32) The monument to Osbert Parsley
The tomb itself is not anything out of the ordinary but the profession of the man that is buried here was! Osbert Parsley was a singer in the cathedral for fifty years (1535 - 1585) which spanned the reigns of four monarchs who, at the time of the Reformation, declared that services be held in different ways. He started in the latter part of Henry VIII's reign when services were held in Latin, he would have sung in English during Edward VI's reign, back to Latin for Mary I and a return to English for Elizabeth I. He actually sang when Elizabeth worshipped in the cathedral in 1578.

33) The pelican that does not resemble a pelican
Much of the decoration in the cathedral is prone to medieval interpretation. The pelican that pecked the blood from its own chest to feed its young is appropriate as a symbol of Christ, however, the person who made this clearly did not know what a pelican looked like.

34) A wonderful epitaph
It says, 'HERE LYE Y CORPS Y GHOST IS GONE TO JOY Y WHICH IN LIFE IS SOVGHT AT LENGTH IS FOVND IN CHRIST ALONE SEE WHAT ADVANTAGE DEATH HATH BROUGHT GEORGE MARCH VERGER OF THIS CHVRcH 1640. The 'c' in the church is above the rest of the word - presumably added when the mistake was realised.

35) A slightly more egocentric bishop

After Bishop Lyhart's admirable work in 1463 of replacing the wooden roof (damaged by a lightning strike) with a stone roof, his successor: Bishop Goldwell completed the repair work. He rebuilt the spire (it is the one we seen now) and he also vaulted the presbytery in stone. However, unlike Bishop Lyhart's nave bosses that mostly tell the story of the bible, Goldwell made 97 of the 135 carvings in the presbytery his rebus: a golden well!

36) The alter slab for relics

Called a 'mensa' this slab of Barnack Stone (the stone from Northamptonshire that was used in the cathedral but was cheaper than the lighter stone from Caen) has a small hollow in it for the containment of relics. it was originally found in the floor but now sits in the altar of the Jesus Chapel.
37) A boost in holiness

Another place for relics is a little square hole in which relics were placed to give the bishop, sitting on the throne above, extra religious power!
38) A kiwi

A kiwi in the sail represents the fact the Earl of Orford (who this window is a memorial for) died on his way to New Zealand. I was origianlly looking for a fruit when I read this!
39) The old chapel ruins
Outside the cathedral to the east, you can see the remains of part of the Lady Chapel - which was larger than the more modern one that now sits in its place. It is a reminder that the cathedral has changed over the centuries.

40) Another reminder of death
Extremely feint but still visible is the thrice repeated word ,'morieris' (you will die) and three skulls above the tiny chantry of Prior Bozoun who died in 1480. Thanks prior.