First look at the history of Norwich in Bridewell Museum

A museum telling the social history of the people of Norwich last night opened its doors for the first time since a major revamp was completed.

The Bridewell Museum will open again on July 3 after a three-year refurbishment costing �1.5m.

Last night, around 50 selected guests were given the chance to get an early look at the refurbished 14th-century building, formerly a shoe factory, tobacco factory and prison, which is home to exhibits charting the history of the people of Norwich over seven centuries.

Project manager Jenny Caynes said the new-look Bridewell was 'somewhere people can come to find themselves and their ancestors'.

She said: 'The museum tells the story of Norwich and its people – it's social history at its best.

'The museum was previously about trades and industries in Norwich, and now we are putting it in context, explaining how Norwich became wealthy and powerful.'

Staff worked to get the public involved in the new Bridewell, finding out what they liked, what they didn't and what they could contribute – including their own belongings.

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Access curator Ruth Burwood said: 'People in Norwich have a very strong sense of ownership of their museums, and they've told us what they wanted in the Bridewell.

'They are proud of their history and they didn't feel it was being represented elsewhere, so that's what we have tried to do.'

Among the new attractions are a fully working 19th-century Jacquard loom, a history wall made up of thousands of submitted photographs of city residents, and Rumsey Wells hats never before exhibited.

A new room, dedicated to Norwich since the war, features the Norwich City FC mascot Canary, recordings of 1960s Norwich bands, and even 1950s gladrags worn by Saturday-night revellers at the Samson and Hercules nightclub.

One display features the voice of Ethel George, a Cavalry Street resident born in 1914, whose book The 17th Child captures her childhood experiences in mid-war Norwich.

Her daughter Judy Lumsdaine, surrounded by her family, cut the ribbon to officially open the museum.

Mrs George died in January, aged 97, but her daughter said she would have been proud of the Bridewell, which last night contained five generations of her family, down to three-week-old Eva.

She said: 'She was really interested in what they were doing here and wanted to play her part.

'I'm really pleased that they've done this display, because she will live on now.'