Bridewell Museum, Norwich
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 14th century undercroft and flint exterior
Around 1325 a wealthy merchant named Geoffrey de Salle built a house here, near St Andrew's church. In 1386 the house was enlarged by William Aoppleyard, who went on to become the first mayor of Norwich (1403-1435). Very little of the original 14th century building survives, save the flintwork facade facing onto Bridewell Alley. This is one of the earliest - and finest - examples of secular East Anglian flintwork in England. Under the building is another 14th century survival; the vaulted undercroft, used for storage and to hold inmates when the house became a prison.
The Bridewell must have been a very desireable property, as by the 16th century it was owned by another Mayor of Norwich, Robert Gardener. Then in 1580 it was sold to the Corporation of Norwich by John Sotherton. You see, the Corporation had a problem; the city was bursting with transient beggars and poor residents, drawn by Norwich's reputation as a bustling centre of commerce. But these beggars and poor people relied on the city for charity.
But this was not an Elizabethan job training programme, it was a house of correction, and the 'correction' was furnished by stocks, whippings, and shackling the inmates. It was not a place you wanted to spend time.
Except, perhaps if you were Peter Wildman. Wildman was an inmate in 1751, when a fire broke out and destroyed most of the site. The prisoners were rushed to safety, but Wildman refused to leave.
The Bridewell stands in a narrow alley just north of the medieval market place, a short stroll from the Norman castle at the heart of historic Norwich. The museum tells both the history of the building itself, and the history of Norwich.
But history doesn't stop when it gets close to the modern era, and neither do the displays, for there are exhibits showing how Norwich has changed following the Second World War, with a recreated 1950s sitting room, swinging 60's fashions, and the growth of housing estates in the second half of the 20th century.
About Bridewell Museum
Address: Bridewell Alley, Norwich, Norfolk, England, NR2 1AQ
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: In Bridewell Alley, just north of the market place and castle. Nearest car park is at St Andrews, Duke Street. Currently open Tuesday-Saturday. Fee charged.
Website: Bridewell Museum
Phone: 01603 629127
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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