The Royal Arcade in Norwich

Squeeeee!!  Art Nouveau!!  If you remember my post about Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover, or the Glasgow School or Art from our trip to Scotland last summer, then I’m sure you’ll remember my enthusiasm for this architectural and design style.  I was pretty excited when we reached the main area of Norwich and stumbled upon this little arcade, which is quite a gem. These arcades were really popular in Victorian times (there are ton of them in Leeds) and were basically a pre-cursor to the modern shopping mall.

Norwich’s arcade was designed by local architect George Skipper in 1899. It’s quite small (only 274 feet long), but packs a punch with all the intricate tile work and bright colors. Each of the 24 shops has a bow window in front, which is similar to a bay window but the corners are rounded in a rather sleek style. For the first 50 years of the Arcade’s existence there were no internal lights — only the natural sunlight (and since Norwich has lots of rainy days, I’m sure there were times when it was quite glum inside). The lovely lights that are currently in the arcade were only added in the 1980s, but they did a great job of matching the style and decor of the original fixtures.

Speaking of cool fixtures, I was totally in love with the tilework, which was designed by W.J. Neatby and made by Doulton. The designs are of flowers, fruit, and peacocks! The floor even has the very familiar rose of C.R. Mackintosh, although apparently it’s not an original feature and was added later.

This sign for the Conservative Club was once the entrance  to a gentleman’s club (but not the dirty kind!), and while the ceiling can still be seen from inside Waterstones, we didn’t get a chance to peek inside.


Posted on 19/05/2011, in Exploring the UK, travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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