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East Anglia Future 50

What's going to happen to this intriguing mural on a historic Norwich building?

PUBLISHED: 14:02 23 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:14 23 April 2019

Rory Macbeth's art work on the side of a derelict commercial building in Norwich could be under threat 

Pic: Archant

Rory Macbeth's art work on the side of a derelict commercial building in Norwich could be under threat Pic: Archant

A question mark hangs over the future of a Norwich warehouse bearing a mural depicting an entire novel at the centre of a site earmarked for development.

The Warehouse on Duke Street is for sale. Pic: ArchantThe Warehouse on Duke Street is for sale. Pic: Archant

The site, currently used as a car park off Duke Street, is being developed into a £30m scheme to provide new homes and student accommodation as well as shops, restaurants and cafes.

But it includes a building designed by famous Norwich architect Edward Boardman and his son, a former city mayor, which bears an intriguing mural.

The building was for sale with property investment and development firm Targetfollow for a price on application. However, chief executive Corin Thoday told this newspaper today that the 13,000 sqft property was no longer on the market.

Mr Thoday could not confirm that the building would be saved from demolition but did state that the mural was never intended to be a permanent fixture.

The Warehouse on Duke Street is for sale. Pic: Rightmove.The Warehouse on Duke Street is for sale. Pic: Rightmove.

“It is at a sensitive stage right now but we should be able to say more about the exciting plans of the site imminently.”

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The entire words of Sir Thomas More's 'Utopia' were written on the building in 2006 as part of an art project by Rory Macbeth.

The artists said: “I am really please the mural lasted as long as has – but it was supposed to be demolished shortly after I finished it. It is great that it has been able to take on a new life for so many years.

Artist Rory Macbeth's 40,000 word work was painted on the commercial building close to Duke Street, Norwich, in 2006 
Pic: ArchantArtist Rory Macbeth's 40,000 word work was painted on the commercial building close to Duke Street, Norwich, in 2006 Pic: Archant

“At first people didn't like it but it did, in the end, get a lot of support.”

The building was earmarked for demolition but saved because of its history. It was designed during the Victorian era as part of the Norwich Corporation Electricity Works by Boardman, who created the original Norfolk and Norwich Hospital,

Targetfollow, in its marketing details, states: “We have currently obtained planning permission for the comprehensive and high quality residential-led redevelopment of this city centre riverside site comprising both reuse of existing buildings and new-build.

“Having secured this, we are now seeking to add further value through an alternative comprehensive demolition and redevelopment of a student and residential-led scheme together with retail, restaurants and cafés, and an exciting riverside public realm.

“We aim to open up and regenerate this key city centre brownfield site in order to create a highly desirable place to live and study and for the public to enjoy.”

The redevelopment, adds Targetfollow, also includes the reinstating “in modern form” of what was the UK's first commercial water source heat pump, installed in the River Wensum in the 1940s, to “provide highly efficient renewable energy to heat and cool the buildings as part of our sustainability strategy”.

Permission for the revamp of Duke's Wharf, including more than 150 homes, was granted by councillors back in 2014.

It once was the location for a grand 16th century palace owned by the Duke of Norfolk with two courtyards, a fountain, tower, a tennis court and the earliest documented example of a bowling alley.

In 1966 the Anchor Brewery vacated the site and the buildings were home to a bottling plant until 1969. Local artist Rory Macbeth painted his favourite novel on the walls for the EASTinternational art exhibition.

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