Exhibition showcases living history of Norwich’s King Street

A living history exhibition telling the personal story of one of Norwich's most diverse and vibrant streets has been thrown open to the public.

The King Street Community Voices project has been two years in the making, while volunteers collected memories from people who have known the area over the past 100 years.

From those who saw wartime planes flying overhead, to others who recalled seeing Pink Floyd play at the Lads' Club, the memories form a 'patchwork quilt' of living history, said project manager Natasha Harlow.

'You can tell the whole history of Norwich with a walk round King Street.

'There are remains of something from every period – there's a mix of religious houses, factories, housing, the roads, the river.

'It's transformed even in the past 20 years, and this is a chance for current residents to find out about the long history of the place.'

Two rooms at Dragon Hall have been given over to the exhibition, with a display of period items, archive photographs, audio interviews with former residents and video footage.

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As well as hosting the exhibition, 15th-century Dragon Hall is also a sign of the constant evolution on King Street.

By the early 1900s, the former trading hall had been split into 'beef, beer and Bibles', incorporating a butchers, a rectory and the Old Barge public house.

Slum clearances and wartime bombing changed the face of King Street in the 1930s and 1940s, and was followed by the loss of the breweries and the mill.

Nearly 100 interviews were conducted by dozens of volunteers as part of the project, which was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund.

Ms Harlow said: 'Some of the things that really chill you are the wartime stories: people talking about being machine-gunned in the street as they ran for the air-raid shelter.

'Someone else told us of being able to look into the face of the rear gunner on a German plane as it passed overhead.

'It's fascinating to hear from people who have had personal contact with something as momentous as that.'

Some of the wartime pictures are being shown in public for the first time, as the wartime ban on photographing bombing damage meant their display was illegal at the time.

Ms Harlow added: 'Others are more light-hearted, like the Argyle Street squatter community in the 1980s, or people's memories of Pink Floyd at the Lads' Club or the Manic Street Preachers at the Waterfront.'

A community group, the King Street Cultural Quarter, has also been formed to represent residents.