Strangers Hall, Norwich
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Unaltered medieval Great Hall
Though the house as we see it today is a product of the Tudor period, the building dates back to around 1320 and may have been built for a merchant named Ralph de Middleton. Around 1450 William Barley rebuilt the 14th century hall, turning the structure on its axis to run parallel to the street, as we see it today. The arrangement of rooms in Barley's building were quite odd; the living quarters could only be reached by a narrow stair at the back of the undercroft.
At the heart of Strangers Hall is the Great Hall, the centre of communal life. From the Hall, passages lead through a warren of dark, panelled bedrooms to a later Georgian dining room, the table set for a meal. Other rooms showcase historic objects including shop signs (look for the gilded sheep) and toys. Below ground level is a medieval barrel-vaulted storage chamber.
In the late 16th century the civic government of Norwich wanted to revive the floundering local textile industry. To that end they invited Flemish and Walloon refugees to settle in Norwich. These refugees, most fleeing religious persecution in their homeland, were called Strangers by the local inhabitants. Some of these newcomers lived in what is now Strangers Hall, a timber-framed complex of buildings about 10 minutes walk west of the Cathedral. Curiously, though the term 'Strangers' was used frequently to refer to these newcomers, the name was not applied to the Hall until the 19th century, when the house was a residence for Catholic priests.
By 1896 the priests had left, and Strangers Hall was derelict. A local developer planned to pull it down and develop the site, when Leonard Bolingbroke, a solicitor and member of the Norfolk Archaeological Society, stepped in and purchased it. He filled the house with his own collection of antiques, and opened it to the public as a folk museum in 1900. At a time when most public museum were filled with rather dry displays of fossils and stuffed animals, the Strangers Hall museum was unusual; it featured objects from everyday life. Bolingbroke presented the Hall to the City of Norwich in 1922.
About Strangers Hall
Address: Charing Cross, Norwich, Norfolk, England, NR2 4AL
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: On the south side of Charing Cross, 1 block south of the river. Paid parking nearby but easily reached on foot from the city centre.
Website: Strangers Hall
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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