December 7 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 18, 2013
The Royal Arcade has been at the heart of Norwich’s shopping district for more than 100 years and now it is looking back to its all-time best.
The Royal Arcade in Norwich was built on the site of an old inn, the Royal Hotel.
Its avenue of shops stretches between Gentlemans Walk and the Back of the Inns lane, which was so named because there were several inns on Gentlemans Walk in the 19th century.
The yards of those inns ran through to the lane now known as the Back of the Inns and Castle Street and it was the yard of The Royal Hotel, which had previously been named The Angel, which was transformed into the Royal Arcade.
In 1846, Joseph Stannard rebuilt the Gentlemans Walk entrance, creating the current three-arch entrance still used today. The inn’s main building still stands above the entrance as well.
The Royal Arcade was then designed by local architect George Skipper in 1899, creating the 247ft-long Art Nouveau avenue which still stands today.
It initially contained 24 shops, a pub and a club room and still retains many of its original features, despite several renovations through the years.
An example of this can be seen at the Back of the Inns entrance, which had previously been the entrance to the Royal Hotel and been accompanied by a Bullards pub, The White Rose.
Remnants of the pub’s style can still be seen in what is now the entrance to Jamie’s Italian restaurant, with its curved shop frontage, although the ground floor of the pub was demolished in the 1960s.
In recent years the arcade has often had empty units, but is now on the brink of returning to full capacity.
The 19th-century arcade, designed by local architect George Skipper in 1899, has seemingly been given a fresh lease of life ever since celebrity chef Jamie Oliver opened one of his restaurants there in July 2012.
Now the arcade’s iconic and established shops, such as Langleys toy shop and the Colman’s Mustard Shop and Museum, have been joined by an influx of new independent shops. The likes of Marmalades cafe and Tim Kinnaird’s Macarons & More shop have bolstered the historic shopping arcade and are set to be joined by a successful independent homeware company from Cornwall, Berrys & Grey.
Adrian Fennell is the partner in charge of retail for the arcade’s letting agents, Roche Chartered Surveyors, which manages the historic shops for owners Legal & General.
“Over the last few years we have had a policy to upgrade the tenant mix in the arcade,” Mr Fennell said. “It has been a conscious decision to reallocate asset management so it remains one of Norwich’s primary retail destinations, and also a great tourist location, with the added advantage that it links Gentlemans Walk to the Back of the Inns and Castle Street.
“We have worked hard to get the right retail mix as we have been selective. We prefer to be selective and take the right tenant, rather than take any tenant, and it’s very important that everyone feeds off each other.
“I think it’s one of the best arcades I’ve ever seen in the country and I think we should all be very proud.”
Roche have ensured black and gold shop frontages are maintained throughout the arcade and have also had new lighting fitted at the entrances to White Lion Street and Gentlemans Walk to brighten up the inside of the arcade, with a caretaker on patrol to ensure the smooth running of the arcade.
The addition of Berrys & Grey will fill two units, after the relevant permissions were gained to knock through the two units into one. The new shop is currently being fitted out and has signs saying “magic at work, your patience is requested” hanging in its windows.
It leaves just one unit needing a tenant, with Mr Fennell saying there is “plenty of interest”. He added: “What we have done is mix quality independents and regional multiples.
“Some of those retailers have units elsewhere in Norfolk; The Tannery are in Holt, Digbys chocolates in Cromer, Gallyons have two others in Norwich and Artique is a national chain.
“Because we have a good mix we have a good variety of customers. Marmaldes is a strong independent brand as well, so we are catering to a wide cross-section of people who want to go to independents instead of nationals.
“Soon we will have Berrys & Grey, which I think is fantastic and a big show of faith in Norwich and the Royal Arcade. We really have a special mix.”