People enjoy a glimpse of one of Norwich’s hidden gems

People have been enjoying having a festive glimpse of one of Norwich's most historic hidden gems.

The Great Hospital, in Bishopgate, opened its doors to visitors yesterday and about 80 people enjoyed having a look around the beautiful architecture that dates from 1249.

The site is also open to the public today.

Niki Tansley, executive assistant at the Great Hospital, said: 'Based in the Cathedral Quarter, The Great Hospital is a wonderful and historically significant gem in the heart of Norwich.

'We welcome people on these open days to come see some fascinating medieval buildings including St Helen's Church, the cloisters and Eagle Ward.'

The Great Hospital has been caring for people for more than 760 years.

It was originally established to care for retired clergy, poor scholars and sick and hungry paupers, and has been expanded and developed over the centuries.

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The site – which includes 15 listed buildings – is now a sheltered housing and care village with nearly 100 residents. Eagle Ward – which used to be part of the chancel of St Helen's Church and which has a ceiling featuring 252 eagles painted on chestnut panels – is one of the hospital's architectural highlights.

The lavish ceiling was thought to have been painted in honour of Anne of Bohemia, who visited Norwich in 1383 with her husband, Richard II.

The Great Hospital also has one of the smallest monastic cloisters in England.

The Great Hospital is open to the public today from 10am until 2pm. Entry is free and donations are welcome. Further open days will be planned for 2013. For more about The Great Hospital visit

Are you organising a heritage project in Norwich? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email