Last week’s cultural treasures included a visit to Dragon Hall, although I am sorry to say I missed the City Boats trip.
It’s a bit late but here’s a few of the pictures I took on my guided tour (my picture on the right is from the same angle as the poster, taken round the back on the river side of the hall, and you can just about see the big arch that allowed carts to drive straight into the storehouse under the merchant’s hall upstairs):
Unfortunately over the years the grand hall had been sold, messed about with and re-used for a long time as several separate houses. You can see here what it looked like in the 1930’s, when it was split into a butcher’s shop, a priest’s home, and a pub.
For a long time no-one was aware of how important this building was – they only started to realise it when work was done on removing some of the more recent additions, and they saw how grand the roof beams were. It was named ‘Dragon Hall’ quite recently, in honour of the little carved dragon you can see here (one of many that would have been part of the roof beams) and the importance of the image of the dragon in Norwich history.
It took some major restoration to uncover what you can see today. Take note that chimneys had been added over the years, and these have been taken out to restore the building to its former glory. I don’t know if that is why the roof is so wibbly. Most of the windows are later additions:
Robert Toppes had actually built his grand merchant’s hall on top of an earlier building, and you can see that he intended for it to impress his visitors – the earlier small doorway you can see below was obviously not grand enough, so he had an even larger archway built around it. He was incredibly successful as a merchant, and became one of the richest people in the county. Typical of his time, he was also very religious, so vast sums of money were spent on his death so that prayers could be said for his soul, and he paid for a very splendid stained glass window which can be seen today in St Peter Mancroft.
Anyhow, that was last week.
This week I thought I would tackle one last tough subject (for me). You might think this is trivial, but for me, it is huge. I am spending the entire week doing housework with pleasure. Well, ok, with an attitude that is as far removed from ‘sod it, life’s too short’ as I can muster. It is seriously one of my least favourite things. It’s not as though I live in squalor, but I can’t say I do it without being driven by necessity – thankfully, people come to stay with me now and then, so that is usually my driver.
I read an article recently that was about encouraging creativity in children, and it made the point that creativity generally creates mess, and that it is important to spend 15 minutes a day clearing up on account of ‘when we clear the physical space, we literally make room for clarity and inspiration’. I also like the idea of doing these tasks ‘mindfully’ – this is a Buddhist concept I know, and I am not a Buddhist, but there is something to be said for paying attention to doing something willingly and well. The hardest thing by far is getting started,
So I’m trying to do these things with a certain intensity and regularity. I do love being in a clean, uncluttered environment. Usually I just wish that someone would do it for me. Doing it myself makes me feel incredibly virtuous.
The other good thing about housework is that it can be as energetic as you want it to be. I really liked my week of physical exercise, and I have continued going out walking two or three times a week. I really got into walking after dark – not something I would be able to do if I lived in the country, but here in the city it is great. It makes me feel more alive. And I go round all the posh bits of my local area and daydream about what it must be like to live in a house like that. Seriously, there are some amazing houses here!
That house on the left might be absolutely horrible inside, but don’t you just love the idea of having a house with a turret? It would make me feel as though I was living in a fairy tale. I haven’t yet dared to go up those side roads that are marked ‘private’, but I do plan to uncover ‘hidden Norwich’, so watch this space.
I think next week I will come down to earth, and write something on that wonderful but unappreciated street in Norwich – Magdalen Street.