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Berstrete Gates pub restored with help from a briliant community

PUBLISHED: 19:07 17 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:16 18 November 2019

Looking good. The renovated mural on the Berstrete Gates

Looking good. The renovated mural on the Berstrete Gates

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It is a wonderful piece of work, a restoration and community project in Norwich which people took to their hearts. Join Derek James on a visit to the Berstrete Gates public house

The mural on the Berstrete Gates in Norwich. Left to right: Izzy Edwards, Keri Williams and Dave Plummer of the Bracondale Residents Association, Tom Humphrey and Sophie BarrettThe mural on the Berstrete Gates in Norwich. Left to right: Izzy Edwards, Keri Williams and Dave Plummer of the Bracondale Residents Association, Tom Humphrey and Sophie Barrett

This is a story about artists today honouring an artist from yesterday in the best possible way....by bringing his work back to life.

And the joy of it is that it is there for all of to see and admire on side of the public house at the entrance to historic Ber Street illustrating so well this ancient gateway to the walled city.

The mural was created by the eccentric, hugely talented and still rather mysterious John Moray-Smith who worked in Norwich from the early 1930s until his death in 1958 and it has been brought back to life by the talented Tom Humphrey of the Fairhurst Gallery in Norwich with help from Izzy Edwards and Sophie Barrett from the gallery.

Time has taken its toll and the mural, high on the side of the public house, was looking sad and neglected.

A year ago I told how the Bracondale Residents Association was reaching out to the people for their support in adding to their own money so the work, which cost around £5,000, could be carried out.

Now I am delighted to report that, thanks to YOU, the work has been completed and just look at how the artwork looks now. "The mural was a joy to restore," said Tom.

"Moray-Smith was a clever artist whose work treads the line between realism and naive art so beautifully," added Tom.

He explained that people rarely get to appreciate the works close up due to the nature of their locations so they felt very privileged to be able to get to work restoring them.

How did he go about it?

"When carefully peeling back 
the layers of additional over-painting (of which there were a great many) we exposed some of the original colours which in some places are quite vivid," said Tom.

"This gave us a great basis for colour matching and we hope the finished article is as close to how it would have originally looked as it's possible to get.

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"We hope visitors and residents of Norwich, and the Bracondale area in particular, get to appreciate the mural for many more years.

"And we would really like to thank the Bracondale Residents Association, the Norwich Society and others for their support in funding the project," added Tom.

Keri William, who spearheaded the project for the residents association, who told me: "It is wonderful to see this splendid Moray-Smith panel fully restored to its former glory and there for us all to enjoy.

"We are so grateful to everyone who added to the association's own contribution to allow us to reach our target of £5,000 and get this job done," said Keri.

They had support from the Norwich Society and from the John Jarrold, Paul Bassham 
and R C Snelling charitable 
trusts.

Mine hosts Bill and Lynn Loader and the customers at the pub along with the locals all came together to help support the campaign to give the mural a new lease of life...and that is just what they have done.

This is an example of community spirit at its very best.

It was the King's Arms, one of more than a dozen pubs in a busy and bustling Ber Street, which has been knocked to pieces over the years as the "village on the hill" between Ber Street and King Street was destroyed.

They have been lost over the years but the King's Arms changed its name to the Berstrete Gates in 1937 after the portal in the big City Wall which once enclosed Norwich.

And it was then that Moray-Smith, painter and sculptor, with Morgans Brewery, went to work....I think he would be pleased if he could see what it looked like all these years later.

If you want to get a close-up look at Moray-Smith's work head to the historic Maids Head Hotel where his 3D panorama of Norwich - also restored by Tom Humphrey - is now on display next to the entrance of the restaurant.

And a fascinating £3 booklet telling the story of the mysterious genius that was John Moray-Smith, written by Paul Burall and published by the Norwich Society, is on sale in Jarrold and City Books.



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