Anglia Square, A Love Story

Since writing this passionate piece about Anglia Square back at the end of 2018, I’ve spent about a year of my life involved with another Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project as a citizen researcher; delving into the history of, photographing and writing about our most infamous literal shopping corner (well four corners to be precise). The concrete-clad space-ship from the future of post-war Britain which crashed into Norwich-Over-The-Water. The not-quite-completed and misunderstood building project that people tend to either love or hate – Anglia Square:Sov17

If a few years ago you’d asked me how I felt about Anglia Square, I would have probably – and rather dismissively – said: “Tear it down, replace it all quick-sharp” and I would have arrived at this rather blunt conclusion, not because I’m ignorant, but because I’d never been pushed into thinking about it too much. Nor was I yet to fully appreciate the historical and cultural significance of the whole area or how it came to be.

Back then, had my wife insisted we’d take a trip ‘down the square’ (as she often likes to do) I’d have most likely sighed and then said: “Oh alright then, if we have to” before reluctantly driving us down there. Whilst there I would have probably acted like a petulant child for the entire trip (I can be a bit like that if I don’t get my own way) and only pausing between rushing her round the shops to pick up on the perceived-negatives of the Square: The wolf-fleeces, Iceland as the Supermarket choice, the pound shops, Gregg’s, the countless charity shops, the greasy spoon café, pigeons mistaking cigarette-ends for scraps of food and the general windy dankness of it all (in the colder months at least).

In doing so I was turning my nose up at the working-classed-ness of it all and rather ironically, turning my nose up at myself, and it took a good while for that particular penny to drop in my tiny mind. Here was I, a low-earning, working-class lad from Mile Cross turning my nose up at other people who were most likely from similar backgrounds and in very similar boats to me. What a prune. If I can pick up on one thing that I’ve learned from the last decade (well, the last two to be fair), it’s that I’ve had to take a long, hard look at myself and finally come to terms with who I am and where I fit in to this seemingly-bonkers world. All I can say is that inside this tiny mind of mine it’s been a heck of journey – which has mostly been enlightening – and that it has helped me on my way towards being a 40-something year old ‘adult’. Some people may disagree with the adult bit…

But that’s enough about me, let’s look at what Anglia Square is, and what it represents to the people living in around the area on which it crash-landed onto back in the 60’s and 70’s. As a nation, a battered and bruised Britain was emerging from the still-smouldering rubble (literally) of World War Two and the Town Planners and Architects were now trying their very-hardest to look forward to the future and to be positive. Seemingly, there was a massive appetite for change and a craving for a creative vision of the future; however, with this insatiable desire to run open-armed towards tomorrow, the planners and architects were being a little short-sighted about yesterday. Looking back on that era with a little hindsight might be a bit cheap now, but in my humble opinion I think they were all too hungry to sweep away elements of our past in their pursuit for their sparkly and somewhat naïve vision for the UK’s future.

It seems obvious now that the town planners had seen an opportunity to use the recent destruction to start completely afresh, almost continuing what the now-silent German bombers had started. Now, as I started typing this I wasn’t expecting Jeff Wayne’s: ‘Brave New World’ to start playing on that random juke box we all seem to have hidden in that dusty corner of our minds, but a few of the verses seem very apt, I’ll drop just the one in below:

Now our domination of the earth is fading fast,
And out of the confusion a chance has come at last,
To build a better future from the ashes of the past,
In a brave new world, with just a handful of men,
We’ll start all over again!

Here in Norwich and almost as soon as the war had ended the Norwich Corporation were floating out ideas for their ‘Brave new Norwich’ in the form on the ‘City of Norwich Plan, 1945’. This fascinating book is really worth a read if you get the chance (Norfolk Library Services hold a couple of copies, one of which you can take home) and what it is is an 11-section survey carried out by City Engineers and planners, looking into the City’s roads, transport, housing, schools and open spaces. All key items that still need looking at to this day, maybe more so than ever, but I digress. The book laid out its vision for the future of our City, and the ideas contained within its pages ranged from the fairly reasonable to the downright bonkers. For example, take a look at this drawing of a proposed flyover crossing the valley from Bracondale and try to imagine how that would look now if it actually went ahead:


Thankfully, most of the ideas never made it out of the pages of the book, however; some of the ideas did manage to take a foothold in the minds of planners and architects, slowly lingering and evolving in their psyche for over a decade, and by the 1960’s some warped versions of those original ideas had started to become reality. The 1945 plan’s heavy emphasis on sweeping aside heritage to cater for the increasing desire for the nation to own a personal motor car was bang on the money. The original plans had ringed the city centre with a four-lane ring road, following the outside path of the city walls, the plan being to keep away invaders with clouds of Carbon Monoxide as opposed to thick walls of flint – ok maybe I’m being a little facetious – but the major difference between the 1945 plan and reality was that the finished ring road didn’t quite finish following the route of the wall, instead it took a somewhat disastrous short-cut as it got to Norwich over the Water.

Instead of cutting through the remains of the soon to be defunct City Station goods yard and crossing the river a few hundred meters further upstream at Oak Street so that it could follow the outside of the City wall along Bakers Road, Magpie Road and Bull Close Road, it reached the station yard and took an abrupt right-hand turn across Station Bridge and straight like an arrow, right through the heart of Norwich Over the Water.

blog17The later ring-road as it bounces off the former City Station and ricochets east across Norwich North in a seeming act of friendly fire, highlighted by the road sign.

The architects were to get a less-bold version of their futuristic flyover – but at a cost – and instead of a tall and slender viaduct strategically traversing a river valley in a more affluent part of the city, reality gave us an almost pointlessly-low, thick-set and seemingly stumpy bridge that went right for the jugular of Norwich North, destroying it’s cultural centre in the process. The ancient heart of Norwich Over the Water; Stump Cross, was dead, swept away for concrete beams, second-hand fumes, oppressive shadows and dead space. The flyover was here to stay and it was more purgatory than visionary.

MC9Replaced by shadows – bulldozed to make way for the future.

It was also at about this point that Anglia Square had also arrived on the scene, it had lost its battle with gravity and it’s degrading orbit finally ending with a crash-landing into, onto Norwich North. The looming shopping-centre-cum-space-station was fairly slow to arrive though and a whole quarter of Norwich was vacated before impact, giving Sovereign Securities, a 1960’s Weyland-Yutani (obscure 1980’s kids joke alert!) the time to purchase most of the properties and homes in the area so that the bulldozers could move in and have a go at clearing the landing area. Gone were Botolph Street, Calvert Street, St Georges Street, Pitt Street along with everything else in between and on top of all this carnage a 30m wide corridor directly east and west of the area was cleared to make way for the inner ring road, sweeping away even more history, homes and businesses as it went and only narrowly avoiding taking the fascinating 17th Century Doughty’s hospital with it.

MC3Doughty’s in all its splendour, although Anglia Square dominates the skyline.

MC4A mock-up of how the proposed redevelopment would impact Doughty’s sky.

Other prominent buildings weren’t so lucky, take the early 19th century Calvert Street Methodist Chapel for example. This fantastically-unique chapel still had a large congregation and was deemed to be as historically significant and important as the nearby Octagon Chapel. Sadly, neither of these facts were enough to save it and the congregation were evicted so that it could be torn down to make way for the future.

MC5Calvert Street Methodist Chapel, where it was/isn’t.

What I hadn’t really considered when looking at the maps and poring through the old images of how it all looked is that it wasn’t just history, shops and factories being swept aside, it was the people too. People of Norwich over the Water who had been here since before the birth of what we now call Norwich. People have been here since at least the 9th Century and these people and their dwellings are what technically what gave birth to the famous City that we now inhabit (or visit). When the buildings were being bought up and vacated, people were having to relocate and find new homes for themselves and for their businesses, some of which were literally having to adapt or die, some disappearing for good. Now I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in 1960’s economics, but the change here undoubtedly put an end to a fair few local enterprises, gone were the likes of Woodruff’s Doll’s Hospital, Frank Price’s Department Stores, The Norvic Dairy, ancient pubs, newsagents, a fairly crowded manufacturing quarter and various printing firms, one of which resisting demolition until the very end as Sovereign House was built up around it.

MC1The printers, on what remains of Botolph street, defiantly staying put until the very end.

Anglia Square was now here whether the City liked it or not, squatting on Norwich over the Water like a growing cuckoo chick in a sparrow’s nest. It didn’t really fit but it was here to stay until it matured, which it did, somehow. The wounded city slowly accepted it for what it was, healing around it as best it could and getting on with 20th century life. Some of the old roads and buildings were gone forever but the people moved on, businesses evolved and Anglia Square became part of the fabric of the City, ingrained even. It wasn’t until being involved with the project as a researcher was I reminded that people even liked it. One particular comment from a fellow, similar-aged researcher who grew up with the square hit me the hardest: “It may be a shithole, but it’s our shithole“. It was almost profound.

Even though Anglia Square was never really finished and was obviously ill-conceived, It was futuristic in its era, it was fresh (in a grey kind of way) and it had become important in its own way. The following generations grew up with it being their place. The 70’s, 80’s and 90’s kids identified with it and welcomed the Square as part their evolving culture and the many busy clubs and pubs were to become very relevant in the ever-evolving music scene, giving a home to the emerging punk, reggae, roots, ragga, rave, jungle, drum and bass and even the rock music scenes. Because of this vibrant culture the Square (and it’s surroundings) was the place to go. It had become home to the cool kids, the arty kids, the junglists and the ravers, and even somewhere different for the pissed-up Ben Sherman shirted masses to go for a fight instead of Tombland.

Now remember how at the start I recalled being flippant about the existence of Anglia Square? Well it seems that in a decade I’d somehow managed to forget that even I was a regular visitor to the Square’s nightlife in the 1990’s, particularly drawn to Rick’s Place, often walking past all the other pubs and clubs closer to the city centre to get there (I was living in a maisonette at Suffolk Square at the time). The place just seemed to transform once the shops had shut their doors for the evening and the sun had dipped behind the HMSO. The atmosphere seemed better here, over the water than it did closer to the city centre. Perhaps being a Norwich North boy I was naturally drawn back to my spiritual roots; you could take the boy out of Norwich North, but you couldn’t take Norwich North out of the boy.

What confused me the most is how I had managed to forget this important part of my journey into adulthood and why? Well the memories of a drunken youth are always fairly hazy, but the decades-long, trickling stream of bad press and negativity about the old place seemed to have worked on me, eroding away at those distant memories – for a while at least – and I was only considering the negative aspects. Coupled with the loss of the vibrant nightlife it had also almost lost its relevance to my generation. Until we started to talk about it and remember it again.

Which moves me on nicely to how I became involved with the “Anglia Square, A Love Story project”. I was alerted to the HLF project by my friend Reg, who I’d met way back in 2012 due to my fascination with abandoned buildings, particularly Sovereign House. Reg Walker moved to Norwich from London in the late 1960’s because Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (The H.M.S.O.) was relocating to Norwich as part of the new Anglia Square build and their job was to man the bridge of the ship that was planned to crash onto Norwich Over the Water, Sovereign House.

MC7Reg’s now-abandoned space-cruiser, the HMSO, slowly sinking into the very history it helped sweep away.

Reg, myself and a few other local photographers had been invited into the now-abandoned HMSO by a young film-maker friend of mine named Chris who wanted to record the building’s fascinating decay with the guidance of an ex-employee to share his memories and bring the empty corridors back to life. Not only was Reg the perfect ex-employee and a true gent, he also runs a website called “HMSOldies” to help keep former staff who’d worked for the HMSO over the years in contact with one another. The rest of us were invited along because we were seen at the time as relevant Norwich Photographers and/or people with an interest/knowledge of local social history. It was a fascinating few days which I’ll never forget and even though is was the the best part of a decade ago now, people still contact me to ask how I got into Sovereign House (The answer being, we asked and were just lucky).

MC8Reg, looking at some blueprints we found whilst filming in Sovereign House.

Fast forward to December 2018 and dear old Reg had kindly messaged me to let me know that the HLF-funded “Anglia Square: A Love Story” project was about to happen and that they were on the lookout for people to join a choir or a citizen research team. Now anybody who knows me will understand that I’m very much not the singing type, but getting involved in historical research on a local scale is right up my street, so I instantly got in touch with the project leader to put my name forward. The project was going to be run by a local Theatre Company named “The Common Lot” and in conjunction with the Anglia Ruskin University they had been granted £51,800 to “investigate and celebrate” the heritage of this fascinating part of our City’s heritage.

Initial meetings were set up in the fantastic Octagon Chapel, not only because it makes for a great meeting space but also because of the wonderful acoustic properties the place has to offer a choir. Thankfully, the project had attracted a large crowd to both sing and conduct research. From the point of research we were given a brief which was to conduct thorough, historical research into the area’s past with the hope of finding stories to inspire the Street Theatre Performance and to dig out relevant history to create a website and a limited edition book that aimed to take a slightly different look at the history as well as to add a physical legacy to the whole project. This book would not be for sale but would be given to everybody involved in the project and donated to the city’s Libraries and local schools (a handful of which were also involved in the project, including Mile Cross).

MC10The Octagon Chapel, a perfect place to both plan research and sing.

Because of the large numbers the project had attracted we had to be split into smaller citizen research groups and each of these groups were given a particular era or subject to focus on. Because of my curious nature and because I’m quite knowledgeable about every era of our local history I begrudgingly opted for the one most relevant to me and to the Anglia Square development, the era covering 1959-1971. Thankfully this particular era had more than enough to keep me interested and I got well and truly stuck in. As it turned out, the more we researched, the more fascinating history and stories we were uncovering, easily more than enough to fill a book and and to inspire a performance. In fact we were discovering so much interesting material that we could have easily written a comprehensive volume of books and a number of different performances (which they did) but at the end of the day there was only so much time and so much money.

MC11One of our research boards, coming together nicely.

MC13Some of the other researchers were also here to sing, giving me the chance to explore the fantastic Octagon Chapel.

MC12An inquisitive photographer and an interesting old building only means one thing.

Another part of the research phase was also dedicated to conducting recorded audio interviews and oral histories with people historically-connected to the area, including some locally-famous names such as local musician, Albert Cooper. People were also interviewed, ‘vox-pop’ style in Anglia Square, the plan being to get a range of personal opinions about Anglia Square and what it meant to the people. Let’s just say people had a lot to say on the subject and these recordings will be available at the Sound Archive of the Norfolk Record Office. This was one of the funnier elements of the project as some of the comments were hilarious, honest or just plain random. A few of my favourites included: “It’s too much like Barnsley. I moved here to get away from Barnsley“, “I love how grimy it is, it’s nostalgic.“, “This area has an invisible magic” and my personal favourite: “I don’t come here if I can avoid it, but I was bursting for a wee.

An added-bonus for me is that I was given a photographers pass by Anglia Square’s security team for the day to capture it all. It was great to be down the square armed with a couple of cameras and not having to play ‘cat and mouse’ with the security guards. Some of the Vox-pops sound-bites were then printed off and bill-posted, (along with some historical facts) about the area to raise awareness for the project and some of them can still be spotted about Norwich over the Water.MC17Someone said…

Having already stated that I had no real interest in singing or getting involved with the performance side of the project I must admit that I did start to notice that the music and song coming from some of the other parts of the project were beginning to sound a little infectious and I was excited to see the outcome of their tuneful practice sessions. These weren’t professional singers and performers, they were just enthusiastic volunteers being quickly trained by a handful of people who knew what they were doing and to my uncultured ears it was sounding very good. Thankfully I would not be proved wrong.

The plan for the performance was to turn a large section of Norwich into a moving theatre production, the first act opening at the wonderful Garth, hidden behind the Norwich University of the Arts before being lured in a procession over the river and into the ‘rough and ready’ Norwich Over the Water to the tune of ‘Come if you dare!’ The crowd being advised against making the transition by actors portraying some of the City’s more central players, such the Mayor and the Canon of Norwich Cathedral: “Stay this side, it’s dangerous over there”, “I’d hold on tightly to your purse over there!” and “they don’t even wear shoes over there!”.

The procession then stopped on the other side of the river at a large stage erected in St George’s Green, opposite the Playhouse for another large performance of history and song, covering the arrival of the Strangers to Norwich (there were two actors portraying ‘strangers’ who literally arrived to the scene in a rowing boat, emerging from the nearby Wensum complete with a canary, European beer, knitted turnips a sign that read: “we int from round here”)  highlighting what our European ancestors brought with them to help shape the culture and future of the growing Norwich, touching upon the subsequent rise and fall of the various industries in the City’s northern engine room and right up until the point where the poor weavers were replaced by mechanical looms and mostly ending up in the Victorian workhouses.

From here you were then encouraged to make your way to Anglia Square via various routes where there were further historically-relevant street performances (14 in total) to take in as you made along the various roads and alleyways, leading you further into the future (Anglia Square). These performances ranged from a crazy geologist (Matt Williams) shouting from the raised graveyard at St George’s Church about the underlying chalk and streams that shaped the evolution of the City, a pair of nattering housewives with baskets on strings performing from the balconies of houses along Calvert Street, a woman dressed as a Royal Mail postal van handing out letters, School choirs, Lost retailers in period clothing wandering the streets looking for their missing shops, Wartime dancing along St Georges Street, The Norwich moneyers: Eadbald, Eadger and Elfric who ran the early Norwich mint telling the tale of the very real possibility of them having their hands amputated and pinned to their own mint, performing from various nooks and crannies along the way, there was even a punk rock band playing live and loud from underneath the flyover.

So varied were the routes and locations leading the crowds through to Anglia Square for the finale that I went to three separate performances and witnessed something different on each occasion and even then I still managed to miss out on some of them.

And on to that finale… After the large crowds had finally made their way through the streets and alleyways of Norwich over the Water, often collecting unsuspecting members of the public with them as they went, they arrived into the surprisingly-natural amphitheatre of Anglia Square itself. Another stage was waiting under the gazebo (grubby, glass canopy) and carpet tiles were laid-out across the normally unlikely place on which to park your bum, the slabbed floor floor of the square.  The concrete and glass theatre quickly filled with the audience who were then treated to the grand finale of the show. What can I say about the finale? In my humble opinion I found it to be a brilliantly-written, emotional roller-coaster; a witty, thought-provoking, often touching, and beautifully-sung and acted take on the history and destiny of Anglia Square, and let’s not forget, mostly all performed by dedicated amateurs.MC38Anglia Square, literally packed.

To compliment the atmosphere (on the shows I witnessed) the late evening summer sun slowly disappeared behind Sovereign House, scattering the light in ways you won’t normally witness during the daytime opening hours, completely transforming the normally-grey colour-palette of it all and giving it all an unusually-warm feeling. It was almost as if it was part of the act itself and to me it seemed like an accidental, yet striking metaphor for a goodbye from Anglia Square. As I stood there witnessing the final show, I got a feeling as if the there was closure at last and as the choir sang their ‘Final Lament’, the Square gave out a sigh of relief as it resigned itself to its own fate, a gloriously-colourful, last-hurrah from the cold, grey brutalism of it all.

In my 43 years I’d never seen the Square so full of people and more bizarrely full of raw emotions, no doubt fuelled by the choir’s moving songs about very relevant aspects about the future of Anglia Square – and indeed the country itself – and it made me think long and hard about where Anglia Square, Norwich over the Water, and us, as a nation were headed, and to my great surprise as I scanned the heaving crowd there weren’t many dry eyes in the house. It also dawned on me whilst looking at all these people huddled together under the square’s class canopy, why hadn’t it been used like this before? It seemed like the perfect place for such a show and that maybe this is what we should have been using it for all along. It then dawned on me that this was a one-off, a unique moment in Norwich over the Water’s long and complicated history so far and that it would never be used like that again. It really struck me how powerful it all was.

For me on a personal level, Anglia Square: A Love Story, is a story of a break up and reconciliation, it made me realise that I’d somehow fallen out of love with a little part of myself and my roots and that I’d forgotten about how important this part of the city was (and still is) to me, my friends, my family and my City’s deep and diverse past. I’ve now well and truly fallen back I love with it – warts and all – and I no longer need to be coerced to visit a place I had unwittingly started to turn my nose up at. Since being involved with this project I’ve spent more time than ever in Anglia Square in the full knowledge that this is the end of an important and somewhat confusing era. I’m now taking in as much of it in as I still can before this particular part of the city’s ever-evolving story turns a page and moves on to its next chapter.

Whether you love or hate Anglia Square as it is now, or if like me, you’re not a great fan of what it is apparently about to become, it literally does matter to all of us; those who live near it, those who rely on it and even those who may think it won’t affect them in the more affluent and far-flung suburbs of this ever-sprawling City. The various mock-ups show us that the proposed tower will now be visible from places where you couldn’t previously spot the already fairly-tall complex, even down in the southern, ‘posh’ areas of the city. Most importantly, it matters to the very fabric of Norwich.

Are we (as a City) about to make the very same mistakes we made back in the late 1960’s when the Square was first dropped onto the City? Is a shiny new shopping centre going to work when we already struggle to fill the two (already one too many) we currently have in the City Centre? Are we about to fall, ignorantly, into the very same trap again? I fear we will and there’s a very real possibility that my grand-kids or great grand-kids and their generations will have to go through the very same processes and emotions (including further apathy) we are going through right now.

As it stands we await the outcome of the looming 3-week public enquiry, starting on January the 28th with great interest (and a little bit of dread). The current plans for 1,234 homes and a 20-storey tower are threatening this tight little quadrant of Norwich North with a population density higher than anywhere else in England, including London as well as threatening to completely re-draw the City’s iconic Skyline for good, especially when you consider that the tower will be an additional 13 storeys higher than the top of Sovereign House is now. Norwich City Council seem hell-bent on helping to get it resolved and out of their hands (remembering that the site is privately owned) and moving on and I’m sure the prospect of all that extra council tax is helping to paper over the cracks. They themselves have even admitted that it will cause some harm to the city, just like they did back in the 1970’s when they admitted that the building of ‘May Gurney’s Flying Circus’, otherwise known as that grotesque flyover would be a massive mistake but let it go ahead anyway.

This doesn’t seem like a solution to a shortage of homes to me, it strikes me as a blatant money-making opportunity, especially when you consider that the 120 homes set aside as an ‘affordable’ option will only have to be built if the developer deems they’ve made enough profit from the private sales first. (Now breath in) On top of this the developers would also avoid paying the £8.8 million Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – an unprecedented move – and stacked on top of that is the recent news that the Council are spending £350,000 out of their ever-dwindling budgets on Lawyers to help get the deal done, AND on top of all this is the very recent news that the Government’s “housing accelerator”, Homes England have just granted the Council £15 million, up from the original £12.2 million – if the project finally gets the nod, even though the owners of Anglia Square, Columbia Threadneedle have stated that they will not necessarily comply with the government’s condition that they will not then just simply sell the site off again if they don’t then get their way. To me the whole thing stinks like the Dalymond stream (that ran through where the Square now stands) probably did as it was slowly in-filled with rubbish centuries ago.

As for my part in all this; the research and of course the book, we researchers had gathered so much material that is was proving to be difficult to create something that wasn’t a 300 page history book that nobody would have the time or inclination to read. Unless you’re like me of course. We wanted to include every researchers input in some way or another, so it was decided that we would create an easy to pick up and read miscellany; an A-Z of the history of the Square and it’s surroundings named: “Anglia Square, Love Letters. An a-z miscellany“. Considering the amount of information we had to try and cram in and that none of us (aside from Matthew Williams) had ever created a book, I think that what we created collectively in such a short time-frame and with limited funds is a beautiful thing, something to cherish and something I’m quite proud to have my name on. CAN_8219

If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of our book they should now be available in the local Libraries. I donated two of my copies to the Mile Cross Library and I also sent a copy to Jonathan Plunkett, son of everybody’s favourite local photographer, George. And he emailed me to say that he really enjoyed it. If you can’t be bothered to pick up a copy from the library, a PDF copy can be found (and downloaded) on our website by clicking the Anglia Square: Love Letters link below. You’ll need to click on the individual letters to read the articles, however, I think it really has to be held to be appreciated properly.

Anglia Square: Love Letters

As well as all the research and writing I’d put into the book I was also tasked with creating various A3 foamex flyers to be put on display in various shop windows throughout the square, advertising the project and to grab people’s attention. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to see them all in situ as Anglia Square’s security were very quick to throw them all in their compactor after the last show, which is a bit of a shame as we wanted to keep or donate them. Never mind, such is life. I’ll add a few of them below:

Seeing as I was also on board to help photograph the project throughout I’ve also added a gallery of a few of my favourite shots below:

I’ll finish this long entry with one of the pieces in the project’s book, written by myself, and heavily inspired by my original post about Anglia Square that had gotten me involved with this project in the first place, back at the arse end of 2018. A post that after the Anglia Square: A love Story’s project leader had read, said to me “If we get nothing out of the research phase, you’ve already covered it all in that one blog entry”. Obviously our brilliant team of researchers found far, far more than my little mind could have possibly managed, but that comment still makes me smile when I look back on it, anyway that’s almost enough of my ramblings, It’s time for some vision…

V is for Vision:

To some, Anglia Square is viewed as an ugly and unloved eye-sore. For others it’s seen as a symbol of a rapidly-disappearing and misunderstood era of culture and brutal architecture that should be celebrated.

Due to flaws in its design demolition is inevitable, but will we look back and rue the hastiness to sweep away the past’s vision of the future?

During its construction in the 60’s and 70’s it must have seemed like a bold vision of the future, but it was at least a courageous attempt by the City to crawl its way out from the gloom of post-war austerity, aiming for that glimmer of a brighter future seemingly just over the horizon.

With time the sparkle of the future soon faded to grey as Norwich North slowly taking back control of the once-new structures that weren’t built to last as well as the buildings they had uncompromisingly replaced.

It appears we have now come round full circle. Once again it’s time once again for the architects and developers to pen their new visions for our area, but they need to be wary, for ‘Norwich over the Water’ has proved time and time again that it can’t – and will not – be gentrified.

For centuries it has been the engine-room of the very City it gave birth: home to the workers, the artists and the dissenters. The architects scratching their heads at their desks would be foolish not to bear this in mind.

Their vision for our Anglia Square needs be a completely different kind of bold and it needs to reflect upon and remember the fact that the area IS the ‘real’ Norwich, where the roots of our city and its important and diverse history run deep, to drink from the lifeblood of the Wensum (see Dalymond).

I say to the developers/architects: We, the people of Norwich North are waiting with anticipation and trepidation and will be watching you closely. Don’t fuck it up (edited to ‘screw it up’ for the book) this time or you’ll be forced to watch Norwich North turn their backs on your seemingly bright ideas.

Norwich over the Water will not accept anything less than what it truly deserves. As it always has done. As it always will.

Be bold and be brave, and most importantly, have vision.

Thanks once again for reading.


8 thoughts on “Anglia Square, A Love Story

  1. Thank you Stuart. A really good and heartfelt article about an interesting area and a great project. Thank you too for the latest on the shenanigans of the developers to get their towerblock through. If it does get permission it’ll be a blot on the skyline. Like an awful lot of new developments in the city ( eg Riverside) it isn’t even interesting architecturally.

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  2. I grew up on Colegate (we lived in the Caretaker’s house for the Old Meeting House) and walked past Anglia Square everyday on my way to school in the 1970s. Our weekly shop was done in the Sainsbury’s in Anglia Square, school shoes were purchased from Clarke’s just across from Sainsbury’s. As a child Anglia Square fascinated me; flights of stairs that lead to who-knows-where, interesting levels that mean you could look over on levels below, the car park for the cinema that was on it’s own level and looked like you were parking on a roof, the entrance to the car park that meant you had to cross a bridge from the flyover. As as adult I see the dankness, it’s a place I wouldn’t chose to walk through at night – you can’t see what or who is round the next corner. I accept that it probably does need to go, but my childish heart still loves it and I still want to explore. If we must replace it, could we not leave a better legacy than the one we’ve been left?


  3. Oh dear Oh dear….You can see it happening all over again. A city council with pound signs in it’s eyes, developers who don’t care about the area they plonk their creations on. First time around, important history was swept away. And now what? Well, Brutalist architecture I care not a fig for, but this new development will do nothing for Magdalen Street. Absolutely nothing. I like Magdalen Street the way it is, thank you very much.It’s rough round the edges, but I like it like that. Great shops, variety, new, second hand ,cafes, butchers, fishmongers, curry shops, vintage tat, vinyl records…I could go on, but that’s enough. I rarely shop anywhere else. I never go to Chapel Field. You can buy the same item in any other faceless shopping centre in the UK. When will Norwich City Council realise that Magdalen Street is unique and it will be a grave mistake to gentrify it. God help them if this plan goes ahead. Like the song says ” Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. They should remember that, before they sign our lives away and bank their bonuses.

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  4. I thought I had already commented…..memory going!
    An excellent contribution to the history of an area that has been a large part of so many people’s lives.
    Thank you for your considerable efforts, Stuart.

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