Norwich Part II: The Royal Arcade

Opened in 1899, the 247 foot long covered avenue was designed and built by Dereham-born architect George Skipper and today it houses a wonderful mixture of shops and restaurants – plus the famous Colman’s Mustard Shop!

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Art Nouveau was so-called from Samuel Bing’s art shop “Maison l’art Nouveau” an international movement to bring together the finest designers and craftsmen to unify the designs of buildings, furnishings and decorative arts within.

Influenced by Japanese art and the Arts and Crafts Movement, the English Art Nouveau used flowing lines and symbols from nature.

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The peacock used in the Arcade frieze was a common feature. And stained glass was widely used.

peacocks

pattern

The original design of the arcade  and its decorative features show that George Skipper was experimenting with Art Nouveau influences. He was aware of the work of the leading architects of the day; Victor Horta in Belgium and Hector Gimard in Paris. According to Sir John Betjamin “he was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona”.

lady-and-ball

The beautiful stylised patterned floor, the curved wooden-framed shop windows, the use of colourful tiles and the wonderful luxurious lighting make this shopping mall so much more than  a sum of its parts. It took me back to the arcades of Paris and in particular the very elegant Galerie Vivienne

The entrance from Castle Meadow opposite the castle is hidden behind an ugly facade so easy to miss, or you can approach it from Castle Street.

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At the far end of the arcade the opening is through a pair of tiled archways which lead on to Gentleman’s Walk and the Market Place.

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Exit on to the Market Place

Source: Information plaques in the arcade and Royal Arcade of Norwich website.

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Published by

Heyjude

I now live in the UK, but spent several years travelling and then living in South Africa. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

40 thoughts on “Norwich Part II: The Royal Arcade”

  1. I have walked through this arcade, and admired it at the time, but it is wonderful to now see all the particular details so well captured here. The tiles are fabulous. Am wondering if they’re Minton or Maws/Jackfield. It’s also sad to think how many of these lovely arcades were flattened across the country.

    1. I don’t think I have seen one quite like this. There is the Victorian Quarter in Leeds which is very ornate, but I haven’t been there for years and have no photos of it. Cardiff too has Victorian arcades and I always meant to take a train down there to have a look. I imagine Liverpool and Manchester should have some too, but not necessarily in the Art Nouveau style.

        1. I shall have to look out for those if I ever get to London again. I am beginning to feel an “arcade tour” of the country could be a good excuse for another trip…

        2. One in Birmingham, called Piccadilly Arcade too.
          Leeds Grand Arcade. (Not as stylish, but a good roof)
          Great Western Arcade, Birmingham.
          Get the car filled up, Jude. Looks like you are off on a trip! x

  2. There are quite a lot round and about, Jude, but it’s always a joy to come upon one. This is a beauty and you have some lovely shots. I hadn’t thought particularly of Galerie Vivienne but it’s a nice comparison. Brussels- now there’s a thought 🙂 🙂

      1. Nope! Never thought much about it other than as a political hubbub (ugh!) but I have seen a few articles with a beautiful old quarter. We did Bruges one November when we were young and daft, in freezing fog 🙂 Ghent looks lovely too.

    1. AND I managed to stay outside the chocolate shop!! I would have imagined Exeter to have arcades, but I suppose much of the city was destroyed by bombing in the war.

  3. Loved seeing a little of Norwich in a completely way Jude . I’m not quite sure what impression or knowledge I had of it really except Colman’s Mustard of course and Delia Smith waving the the local football flag ! Always been interested in Art Nouveau style and The Arts and Crafts Movement , those tiles make such an impact . I imagine there’s considerable footfall through that arcade just now 😉

  4. Wow this is so incredible and beautiful! I would love to visit this place.
    I’m also doing a part to tell people about the art and crafts of my area. Do check it and I hope you’ll like it. 🙂

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