The Halls, Norwich
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The church was rebuilt on a grand scale, and the friary buildings were ready to move back into by 1449. The entire rebuilding process was not completed until 1470, however. It is this mid to late 15th century complex of buildings that we see today.
The friary was forced to close when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. Most monastic sites closed durring the Dissolution became ruins, or were scavenged for building materials. How, then, did The Halls survive?
The nave of St Andrew's was paved and renamed The New Hall. Its first recorded civic use was for a Mayor's Feast for Henry Fuller in 1544. The Halls have not always been used for dignified civic functions, however! In 1549 the Earl of Warwick stabled his horses inside the hall when he came to Norwich to deal with Robert Kett's rebellion. Blackfriar's Hall became the official chapel for the City Council and Guilds. It was used as a school for King Edward VI's Grammar School, which is now located in the Cathedral Close.
From 1712-1859 the complex served as the city Workhouse. The Halls continue to be used for a variety of civic functions, and they now hold the largest collection of civic portraits in England. There are over 127 portraits, including Sheriffs, city officials, and mayors from the 16th to the 19th century. One of the most impressive portraits in Blackfriars is not a civic official, but a full-length painting of Admiral Nelson, painted in 1802. This is thought to be one of the last portraits of Nelson painted before his death at trafalgar three years later. The artist is Sir William Beechey, a friend of Nelson and a member of the Royal Academy.
The most impressive feature of St Andrew's (the nave) is a 15th century hammerbeam roof. This was a gift of the powerful Paston family, who maintained a townhouse residence in nearby Elm Hill. The Paston's also gave money for the great 15th century doors in the south porch.
The earliest part of the complex however, is the Thomas a Becket Chapel and the Crypt Coffee Bar. These date from the late 13th century. The chapel is a delight with beautiful brick vaulting rising from a central rounded pillar of stone. The effect is like a brick and stone tree with spreading branches.
The Halls is usually open during daylight hours, but exact times depend on event schedules. Groups can also pre-book tours through the local tourist information centre. There is no charge to see the interior.
About The Halls
Address: St Andrew's and Blackfriars, St Andrew's Plain, Norwich, Norfolk, England, NR3 1AU
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: At the junction of Princes Street and St George's Street, 3 blocks north of the castle parking area
Website: The Halls
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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