Opinion: Norwich eyesore? Other’s may hate it, but I love Sovereign House - but what is your hidden gem of Norfolk?

Sovereign House, Anglia Square, is to be demolished Sovereign House, Anglia Square, is to be demolished

Nick Dixey
Friday, January 17, 2014
11:24 AM

For many it is regarded as one of Norwich’s worst eyesores, but as far as Nick Dixey is concerned Sovereign House, near Anglia Square, is a great piece of architecture. Tell us the buildings in Norfolk that others hate, but you love by using the comments section below.

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More great Georgian terraces were destroyed by 1930s property developers than Second World War bombing. With hindsight, it should not have been allowed.

However, I believe we are about to make the same mistake with Anglia Square in Norwich.

There’s a mindset abroad in Norfolk that if something is old it’s good, and the reverse. At Anglia Square most see cruel Brutalism where I see successful Modernism.

Sovereign House is so sadly run down that it will take a Herculean effort to restore it to its proper condition.

This is such a shame as it, too, has tremendous architectural quality. The spiral stairway turrets at its corners appear to balance on a pin of concrete; I enjoy this every time I see it.

As a whole it reminds me of Marineville from Stingray. The brick battlements of its central tower reflect the castle beautifully; it’s an asset to the city.

If only people could look beyond the poor reputation of architecture from this era they might see something outstanding. Convert it to flats and I’ll be in the queue to buy one.

Even the car park at Anglia Square displays aircraft carrier-like majesty, it’s a magnificent edifice, sadly crumbling due to cheap construction, a lesson we don’t seem able to learn.

My view will not change anything, though. Sovereign House will be demolished to make way for cheap, mediocrity, probably accommodating another Tesco superstore. See the grey sheds of 
wasted opportunity at Riverside for a preview.

The loss of Sovereign House, a piece of architecture of character and confidence, will actually diminish our city and make it less fine than it is now.

Or dare we show some of the same vision that built it?

Nick Dixey is an amateur writer and casual observer.

12 comments

  • I quite like it. If it was located in London it probably would've achieved listed building status like the Trellick and Balfron towers from the same era.

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    Greg F

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • Oh! someone else likes Sovereign House as well, I thought it was just me. I think the main problem with this building is that it was too much like change for Norwich, I have been told by hundreds of local people now that Norwich does not like change, and from my own observations I believe this is true. Just how many other building have you seen with spiral staircases on the outside? Not just in Norwich. Years after this building has gone I think Norwich will regret it, as it has done in the past, all for a lack of foresight, understanding, and of course that all important imagination.

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    COLD

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • "De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est". I think so much brulalist modernism (cirtca 1965-75) is ugly. Ugly, for me, is not a term of approbation.

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    peter blyth

    Saturday, January 18, 2014

  • I'm sure that I read somewhere that this building won an award for architecture when originally built - anyone know if that is true? According to some of the people who worked there that I know, the building itself never did work - either freezing cold or too hot, with windows leaking if it rained, other issue perhaps too? Pity, as it 'could' have been could be a good building. But as other commentators have said, we really ought to see it replaced by something quality if it is to come down.

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    lockers

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • Save Sovereign House!

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    Mr Rationality

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • I would also join the queue for buying a flat in this building, if only that was likely to happen! One of the few examples of brutalism in our fine city, it's bold and dramatic and that's why people have an issue with it and would rather replace it with something bland and modern. This was built to last AND it has bags of character. It obviously had it's design flaws (from day one) and is in disrepair but I'm could be restored (like Westlegate Tower) with the right investment.

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    Keith Brown

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • Sovereign House is a prime example of a building built during one of the worse periods of building design and quality of construction. Bring on the bulldozers!

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    Norfolk John

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • Perfectly summed up by Norfolk John

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    Longsufferingpublic

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • I agree that recent developments in Norwich have not been so good - the uninspiring Riverside leisure district is a prime example, what an opportunity lost! Let's hope for a replacement of quality architecture. Whatever your opinions of the architecture of Sovereign House it is empty for a reason; it is no longer fit for purpose. Personally I am not a fan of it and hope for something much better. You ask for buildings in Norfolk that others hate. Well, the EDP offices at Rouen Road are on my hit list! In general I'm no fan of 60s or 70s architecture although there are a few exceptions. Around the county those I hate include the various 'shopping precincts' of Dereham, Watton and North Walsham (this last one really is appalling next to the tower ruin) also the middle north side of Church Street Cromer. Marina Centre, Market Gates, and Haven House at Great Yarmouth are also ghastly.

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    Walsham Boy

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • @ Norfolk John - I'd agree with you, when considering the buildings it replaced. The only problem is that whatever replaces Sovereign House in its turn may well be even worse; especially, as the author notes, when we look at the abysmal architecture and wasted opportunities of recent new building in Norwich.

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    T Doff

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • It was my understanding that it had received an architectural award after opening. People used to say how absurd it was that such an ugly building had been commended. Myself, I used to hate it, but over the years I've grown to be quite fond of it's bold futuristic look. That said, by all accounts it was awfully dysfunctional as a workplace. I can't see how, with the vast acreage of unshielded and presumably single glazed glass, it could be made thermally efficient. So whilst I will miss it when it's gone I think it's time to say goodbye. Sadly though the drawings of the proposed replacement development look absolutely awful.

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    Cyril the Canary

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • I live right near this building I don't really have a problem with the building. Its just that is has been left empty with no purpose looking sad and unloved. Which I think is the real problem! The areas surrounding it are not very nice gravel car parks etc.. which doesn't help. It would be great to see some TLC spent on this area of the city.

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    Rae

    Friday, January 17, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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