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Buyer snaps up city’s historic Samson and Hercules building

PUBLISHED: 07:12 29 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:21 29 August 2020

The statues returned to white when the building most recently became a Mexican restaurant. Pic: Archant

The statues returned to white when the building most recently became a Mexican restaurant. Pic: Archant

Archant

One of Norwich’s historic buildings which boasts famous ‘doormen’ at its entrance has been snapped up by a firm.

The building when it was a ballroom. Pic: Archant libraryThe building when it was a ballroom. Pic: Archant library

Bosses of the Great Yarmouth-based Mortgage Advice Bureau (MAB) are aiming to relocate from their second office in Palace Street in Norwich to the Samson and Hercules House in Tombland.

A planning application has been submitted to Norwich City Council on behalf of Mortgageseeker, the franchisee firm of MAB Norwich, to make some minor alterations to turn the building into an office.

The firm has taken over ownership of the entire building, including the vacant ground and lower ground floors as well as the freehold of 125 flats which also form part of the property.

If the council approves the plans, which involve the installation of some new windows, in keeping with existing ones, as well as putting up signage for MAB on the front of the building, the office should be open by December.

The brightly coloured statues when the building was taken over by Just Lobsters. Pic: ArchantThe brightly coloured statues when the building was taken over by Just Lobsters. Pic: Archant

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Stephen Alger, one of the directors of MAB, said the statues would be remaining in their current neutral white. He said: “The building is in a great location, it’s a beautiful building which is very well known so we won’t have to tell people how to find us. But it didn’t work as a restaurant.

Stephen Alger, one of the directors of MAB. Pic: submittedStephen Alger, one of the directors of MAB. Pic: submitted

“Our business has expanded, we’ve just had the busiest July we’ve ever had because of the pent up demand from lockdown and Brexit. We weighed up moving out of Norwich to a cheaper unit on Broadland Business Park but we decided the right place for us was in the centre of Norwich, in an iconic building that will be the hub of our business in the city.”

About seven to eight advisors will be based in the new office. The business deals mainly with people looking to get a residential or buy to let mortgage.

Originally built in 1657 as a home for Christopher Jay in his mayoral year, Samson and Hercules House is probably best known for bringing many couples together when it was turned into a dance hall hundreds years later.

More recently it was a nightclub and then it saw the famous statues painted bright red when the building was taken over as a lobster restaurant. When this closed in December 2016 it later became a Mexican restaurant.

The old Samson and Hercules building. Pic: Archant libraryThe old Samson and Hercules building. Pic: Archant library

MAB’s main office in Hall Quay, Yarmouth, will remain open. The Palace Street office will, however, close for the move to Tombland which, at 2,500 sqft, is a much larger space.

You may also want to watch:

History of Samson and Hercules

The Mortgage Advice Bureau which is aiming to convert the Samson and Hercules building in Tombland into their new office by December. Pic: Websters of NorwichThe Mortgage Advice Bureau which is aiming to convert the Samson and Hercules building in Tombland into their new office by December. Pic: Websters of Norwich

1657: Samson and Hercules arrive to support the porch of a newly built property in Tombland for Christopher Jay.

1789: They are removed and placed in the rear courtyard for more than a century.

1830: They are replaced by two plain pillars. Nearly 100 years later they are restored by George Cubitt but Hercules is in too poor a condition and replaced by a replica.

1890 to 1909: Samson is restored to the front of the building with the new Hercules replica.

1930s: The building opens as the Samson and Hercules ballroom and survives two fires in 1937 and 1944.

1980s: The building becomes Ritzy’s nightclub.

1993: Samson’s arm falls off. Both statues are removed.

1999: New fibre glass replicas are installed. The building becomes Ikon.

2003: The club closed its doors permanently.

2014: The original carved oak statue of Samson leaves Norfolk Collections Centre to undergo conservation work in London.

2014: Plans are announced to open the building as a lobster restaurant. When the statues are painted bright red, there was an outcry.

2016: Just Lobsters restaurant closes.

2017: Mexican restaurant Cocina, with a venue in Castle Quarter, opens a second outlet and repaints the statues white.

2019: The real Samson statue returns to Norwich after being restored following a crowd-funding campaign.

2020: A new chapter for the building with plans to turn it into an office for the Mortgage Advice Bureau.


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