Stories from Bracondale, a village in a city
PUBLISHED: 15:56 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:48 19 December 2017
As you open the pages of this new book you step into some of the finest homes in Norwich and meet the people who lived there. Men and women, boys and girls, who have helped to shape the 21st-century city. Derek James visits Bracondale.
For most of us it is just a road...and when we stop, usually to wait for the lights to change, we get a glimpse of some of the houses which line one of the busiest gateways to Norwich.... Bracondale.
These stylish buildings all have a story to tell and they have been home to some fascinating families over the years. Behind the front doors have lived merchants and manufacturers, priests and politicians, writers, composers, artists, bankers, doctors and engineers.
And now they are the stars of a fascinating new book produced by the thriving Bracondale History Group.
Edited by Pam Fielder, Lesley Whitby, Ed Bulpett and Rosemary Duff and published by the residents’ association, this is an offering which can be enjoyed by people across the county and region who have never stepped foot in Bracondale or even past through the village within the city.
The drovers herding cattle from Trowse Station, up and down Bracondale to the market, may well have felt this was a “village within a city” but today’s commuters perhaps do not understand the analogy, as they wait in traffic jams.
But, as it clear from this book, there is a strong community spirit in these parts and it has been passed from one generation to the next over the last couple of hundred years.
Situated just outside the old city walls, to the south-east of the city, it expanded rapidly from the early 19th century when the gates came tumbling down.
Artists and writers, business owners, those from the professions and from politics of a more radical bent were all well represented. The streets also boasted a wealth of education establishments including the famous Bracondale School.
For some, this was a place to retire to; others spent their early years there and then moved away from Norwich to mark their mark in the world; but many lived in Bracondale throughout their lives.
The book covers residents over 200 years from the early 1800s to the present day.
Many well-known Norfolk names can be found in Bracondale over the centuries – Colman, Jarrold, Jewson, Cozens-Hardy, Harvey (of banking renown), Youngs, Southwell. The families are closely connected by marriage, business association, and socially, a tight-knit community in this part of the city.
There was John Sheepshanks, the larger-than life Lord Bishop of Norwich in the 1890s, an explorer who travelled the world and father of no fewer than 17 children. A man worth a book in his own right.
Egbert Napier, Chief Constable of Norfolk, Alfred Warminger (who opened a cinema aged 13), Herbert Witard, Norwich’s first Labour Lord Mayor, Dorothy Jewson, one of the first women to be elected to Parliament and so many more.
One of our most talented writers, Ralph Hale Mottram lived at Bracondale and his daughter Sophie Hankinson, who until recently lived at Brackendon Close, provided photos and background for the book which includes his own recollections of the place.
Then there was the renowned Alfred Wilson McKenzie, known and loved as Freddie, who was a consultant dermatologist of international repute.
He was responsible for creating revolutionary method for assessing and quantifying anti-inflammatory activity through the application of steroids to the skin, which became known as The McKenzie Test.
In 1963 Freddie was appointed Consultant Dermatologist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, where he was the single specialist covering the county.
Away from work he loved cars and his 1936 Rolls Royce was his pride and joy.
Immaculately dressed, often smoking a cigarette, he was one of life’s optimists who never let adversity get the better of him.
Even after a stroke, which prevented him from playing his violin or driving, he remained cheerful and positive, interested in everything and everyone around him. He lived at Bracondale for more than 40 years and died in 2016.
And then there was.... sorry, run out of room, you will have to buy the book.
Bracondale, a village within the city, is published by Bracondale Residents Association. It costs £14 and is available from Jarrold, City Books in Davey Place, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org