A look inside one of Norwich’s most historic homes

Howard House, Norwich. Project manager Max Barnes.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Howard House, Norwich. Project manager Max Barnes.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

It's regarded as one of Norwich's most historic sites, but it has been vacant and derelict for a quarter of a century. That is, until now. LUKE Powell reports

It is hard to imagine that Howard House was once the treasured home of the Dukes of Norfolk.

The building, situated on King Street, has been vacant for over 25 years and boarded up for around a decade.

And what was once a grand summer home for Henry Howard in the late 16th century, is now a crumbling ruin that has been ravaged by rot.

But yesterday the Norwich Society was given an opportunity to look inside the property after a 10-year wait.

Rory Quinn, the group's conservation committee chairman, said: 'We were quite shocked by the state of it, because we had reassurances from the city council that it was in a good condition, but there has been damp penetration and damage to the interior.

'I last went inside over 30 years ago and it was in quite a different condition. It is a wonderful building and will be a tremendous asset when it is restored.'

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While much of the building's interior has fallen apart, various period features are still in place.

The original white 'egg and dart' moulded cornices still exist and are believed to be date back to the 18th century. Meanwhile, the bizarrely designed stair case, which is thought to be from the 1630s, is still standing after years of neglect.

Elsewhere in the home, floorboards have collapsed and parts of the ceiling have fallen through.

Over the years Norwich City Council has made efforts to secure the site, by asking developers to cover the roof and board up its windows.

But damp and rot still managed to weaken the structure, and it is now held together by scaffolding.

The visit was made possible by Orbit Homes, which is looking to develop the overall St Anne's Wharf site into housing.

Howard House, meanwhile, will be restored and turned into an office.

Ruth Brennan, a conservation architect employed by the company, is hoping to preserve as much of the building's features as possible.

She said: 'It is quite a fiddly job as there is quite a lot of fittings that have been damaged by damp over the years.

'But we are lucky that we still have some of the original features we can use. The staircase is one of them.'

Any features that cannot be restored will be collected and catalogued.

Orbit's £70m project could see 437 apartments constructed on St Anne's Wharf, which was once the garden of Howard House.

It is expected to take around five years to complete and commercial planning permission has already been granted for the home.

Bert Bremner, city hall's cabinet member for environment and sustainable development, said the authority will work with developers to oversee the building's restoration.

What do you think about the restoration project? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684.