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Old Norwich - Museums

The city's past can be explored in museums housed in a variety of historic surroundings, from the Norman Castle to a medieval church.

The Bridewell Museum is devoted to local trades and industries and stands next to St Andrew's Church in Bridewell Alley. Displays cover the food industries of Norwich, including flour-milling, brewing, mustard production and chocolate-making. There are items produced by the city's iron foundries, textile and footwear industries, examples of early fire appliances, and reconstructions of a smithy and the interior of a pre-war pharmacy.

The Mustard Shop, also in Bridewell Alley, has a small, well laid out exhibition of the history of Colman's mustard manufacture in Norfolk.

The Castle Museum is the largest local authority museum in East Anglia. The stone keep, which has dominated the city centre for over 800 years, was built by the Normans and is one of the finest secular buildings of its period anywhere in Europe. It was later used as the County Gaol, and was converted to a civic museum in 1894. Picture galleries and a rotunda have since been added.

Exhibits show aspects of life at different periods over the last 250,000 years, and include tools, weapons, pottery, jewellery and luxury items that were traded in Norfolk, from far and near. Dioramas show natural history and archaeological scenes, and there are displays of ceramics, glass, Lowestoft porcelain and Norwich silver. The museum is the home of Mrs Langton's amusing collection of ornamental cats, and the Twining Teapot Gallery, which contains the greatest specialist collection of British ceramic teapots in the world.

Displays covering the history of aviation in Norfolk can he found at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum at Horsham St Faith, near Norwich Airport. Visitors can look round the cockpits of a number of aircraft, including a Vulcan bomber from the Falklands Task Force.

Dragon Hall (in King Street) was used by a 15th-century cloth merchant to display his wares. The timber framed great hall contains the intricately carved and painted emblem of a dragon among its roof beams. The building was a honeycomb of apartments and shops for many years and has served a variety of purposes, including as a pub. It has a vaulted under croft where the merchant's wares were stored. There are plans to make Dragon Hall a local heritage centre.

Part of the John Jarrold Printing Museum in Whitefriars is displayed in a 13th-century friary crypt. The museum celebrates the local printing industry, and is named after a pioneering figure in British printing. The core of the collection is made up of equipment used by Jarrold Printing during the last 150 years. It includes a working hand-composing room, a collection of printing presses and bookbinding materials and machines.

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Bridewell Museum
Bridewell Alley
Norwich NR2 1AQ

Believe it or not in 1845, there were 505 pubs in the fine city of Norwich. Step into this fourteenth century merchant's house and step back into the history of trade and industry in England's most esoteric city. Walking through thirteen jam-packed rooms, you discover what has kept Norwich alive since the beginning of the seventeenth century. Its role as an important agricultural hub is seen alongside its history as a centre for the textile and shoe trades. Not forgetting, of course, mustard. Admission is £2 for adults, £1 for children, £1.50 concessions and £5 for a family. Tours are extra. wheelchair accessible is impossible.

The Bridewell Museum stands next to St Andrew's Church in Bridewell Alley. This former merchant's house, part of which dates to 1325, became an ‘open’ prison for vagrants, children and women (a Bridewell), before becoming a museum focusing on Norwich life and industry.

There are lots of things for children to do and the museum regularly promotes holidays workshops. Join one of our guided tours to find out more about the Bridewell’s history and some of the characters that have been ‘housed’ there.

Displays cover the food industries of Norwich, including flour-milling, brewing, mustard-production and chocolate-making. There are items produced by the city's iron foundries, textile and footwear industries, examples of early fire appliances, and reconstructions of a smithy and a 1930s pharmacy containing over 5,000 items, making it one of the most complete examples in the country. Allow 2hrs to see everything.

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The Mustard Shop
3 Bridewell Alley

The Victorian-style Mustard Shop displays a wealth of mahogany and shining brass. The standard of service and pace of life reflect the personality and courtesy of a bygone age. The Mustard Museum features exhibits on the history of the Colman Company and the making of mustard, including its properties and origins. There are old advertisements, as well as packages and tins. You can browse in the shop, selecting whichever mustards you prefer, including the really hot English type. The shop also sells aprons, tea towels, pottery mustard pots, and mugs.

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Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA
Earlham Rd

The center was the gift of Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury, who, in 1973, contributed their private collection to the University of East Anglia, 3 miles west of Norwich on Earlham Road. Together with their son David, they gave an endowment to provide a building to house the collection. Designed by Foster Associates, the center was opened in 1978 and has since won many national and international awards. Features of the structure are its flexibility, allowing solid and glass areas to be interchanged, and the superb quality of light, which permits optimum viewing of works of art.

Special exhibitions are often presented in the 1991 Crescent Wing extension. The Sainsbury Collection is one of the foremost in the country, including modern, ancient, classical, and ethnographic art. Its most prominent works are those by Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, and Henry Moore.

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Shirehall - Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
Market Avenue
Norwich NR1 3JQ

The Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum is situated in the Shirehall; which dates from the early 1830s. The displays are themed and set out chronologically, with excellent interpretative panels; designed for those with no military knowledge as well as the military historian.

The Regiment was formed in 1685 and served around the world. The museum tells its story and the part that Norfolk's soldiers, and their families, played in shaping three centuries of global history.

The troops brought back some fascinating things from their various campaigns, some with obvious military use and some that are much more bizarre. There’s an important photographic collection which has been drawn upon for both the displays and a video about the Regiment in India. The extensive medal collection contains examples of every campaign medal and gallantry medal awarded to a Norfolk Regiment officer, including two Victoria Crosses.

It's an inspiring history lesson for visitors of all ages, and a fascinating insight into life in the ranks. Allow 1 – 1½hrs to see everything.

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Strangers Hall
Charing Cross, Norwich, NR2 4AL

Strangers' Hall is one of the oldest and most fascinating buildings in Norwich. It is typical of houses occupied by the well-to-do city merchants when Norwich was in its heyday.

Mayors and Sheriffs of Norwich once lived here, and left traces of their occupation in the fine rooms and fittings which survive. Particular highlights are the stone vaulted Undercroft, dating to 1320, the Tudor Great Hall with its stone mullioned window and screen, and the fine Georgian Dining Room.

The house is set out as a series of interlinked rooms with period settings showing how people lived in the past.

The museum is open on Saturdays between 10.30am and 4.30pm. Guided tours are run on Wednesdays and should be booked in advance - tour times vary.

General Enquiries: 01603 493636

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Castle Museum & Gallery
Castle Meadow, Norwich NR1 3JU

See information on previous page...

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Norwich Castle Study Centre
Next to RNRM,

The creation of a new Norwich Castle Study Centre in the splendid Shirehall (next door to the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum) has been a major part of the overall development project.

Most of the reserve collections once stored in the Castle are now in the Study Centre. Here we are able to provide appropriate storage and environmental conditions for our internationally important collections.

We can also provide better public access to the stored collections in our new study rooms.

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Dragon Hall
Dragon Hall
115-123 King Street

The City of Norwich is renowned for its wealth of historic buildings from the Norman Castle and Cathedral to the Victorian railway station and Shire Hall to name but a few.

Dragon Hall was discovered in the 1970s. What appeared to be a range of properties was in reality one single medieval hall. Medieval craftsmanship, the mercantile and textile trades were all central to the life of this building.

Dragon Hall consists of a magnificent 15th Century merchant’s hall at first floor level running parallel to King Street. This was built above earlier building and at right angles to a smaller 14th century living hall, which still remains.

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City of Norwich Aviation Museum
Old Norwich Road
Horsham St. Faith
NR10 3JF

Aircraft and memorabilia showing the aviation history of Norfolk. The collection features a massive Vulcan bomber and some of the military and civil aircraft which have flown from Norfolk airfields. Indoor exhibitions recall the local presence of the American 8th Army Air Force. The RAF 100 Group Association collection is presented in a special section devoted to bomber Command. Other displays show the history of RAF Horsham St Faith, the role of women in aviation and tell of the heroes and pioneers who have made local aviation history.

Aircraft on display: Avro Vulcan B2 XM612, Dassault Mystere IVA 121, Gloster Meteor F8 WK654, Gloster Javelin FAW9 XH767, HP Herald G-ASKK, Hawker Hunter F51 E-409, Lockheed T-33A 16718, WS Whirlwind XP355.

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Did you know... The city of Norwich is twinned with Rouen in France, Koblenz in Germany, Novi Sad in Serbia, and El Viejo in Nicaragua.