BEFORE AND AFTER: Regeneration of St Stephens Street in the 1960s

st stephens street norwich redevelopment

St Stephens Street had a radical redevelopment in the 1960s. What have you seen change in the street over the years? - Credit: Archant

St Stephens Street has been one of the main roads into Norwich for hundreds of years.

In fact, Queen Elizabeth I once rode down the street in 1578, with crowds of people lining up to cheer her arrival. 

Despite its long history, WWII bombing and planning decisions have changed much of the street's identity. 

Yet change is inevitable, and St Stephens Street had a radical regeneration in the late 1950s and 60s.

These picture from our archives show how the street was transformed and brought into the 20th century by 1960s developers.

NORWICH SCENEST STEPHENS STREET BOARS HEAD PUBLIC HOUSE ON CORNER OF SURREY STREET BURNED OUT

The Boar's Head public house on the corner of Surrey Street, 1942 - Credit: Archant

In the 1940s, St Stephens Street was a very different place. It retained some of the medieval architecture that can be found elsewhere in Norwich, such as in Elm Hill or Tombland. 

Norwich - StreetsSt. Stephens StreetPhotogragh C0757 EDP Staff picture

People walking along St Stephens Street before the regeneration - Credit: Archant

The street was also lined by grand Victorian buildings and shop front awnings. They were a number of fine historic buildings of real character.

NORWICHST. STEPHEN'S STREET, LOOKING NORTH.DATE ?PLATE P1507

Looking north along St Stephens Street - Credit: Archant

Most Read

But planners at the time did not see the importance of maintaining architecture of the past. They were instead keen to modernise areas of Norwich, including Elm Hill and the Guildhall. 

Norwich --- Streets -- SSt. Stephen's Street before redevelopmentDated -- No date given but

St Stephens Street taken at some point in the mid-1950s - Credit: Archant

The Baedeker Blitz of 1942 destroyed much of the area, and gave developers an opportunity to reimagine the important street.

NORWICHST. STEPHENS REDEVELOPMENT, SUBWAY ENTRANCE.DATE ?PLATE P1521

The subway entrance during the reconstruction - Credit: Archant

At this time, older buildings were considered dated and modern, futuristic architecture was considered good. This was the period of brutalist design, which, while popular at the time, has become a visual sore-point across many urban areas. 

NORWICHST STEPHENS REDEVELOPMENT.DATE ?PLATE P1522

Mid-construction looking towards the city centre - Credit: Archant

Love it or hate it, 1960s architecture certainly had a unique character and it had a big impact upon city skylines to this day. 

IMAGES OF NORWICH BOOKChapter The Changing Face Of St Stephen's , Page 100.REDEVELOPMENT OF ST S

WH Smith was one of the first businesses to move into the street - Credit: Archant

WH Smiths was one of the first businesses to move in to the new buildings, and there remains a post office and WH Smiths store in St Stephens today.

NORWICHLOOKING DOWN ON ST STEPHEN'S PLAIN, PRIOR TO THE ST STEPHEN REDEVELOPMENT, THE POLICEMAN

Marks and Spencer's remains popular today with shoppers - Credit: Archant

Formerly home of Bunting's department store, the Marks & Spencer remains a focal point in the city, and is one of the largest stores in Norwich.

In recent years, the decline of department stores has left few remaining. Thankfully, the likes of Jarrold, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer continue to draw shoppers into the city today.

Norwich -- Streets -- S / Public HousesJunction of St Stephens Street and Queen's Road with the

Public Houses Junction of St Stephens Street and Queen's Road with the Great Eastern Public House on the corner. Dated June 7 1961 - Credit: Archant

There used to be a number of public houses on St Stephens Street but they have since disappeared. The Great Eastern made way for a multi-storey car park, one of the first in the city.

NORWICH/STREETSST STEPHEN'S STREET REFURBISHMENTDATED 26/07/63PRINT C0186

A woman cycles along the street during the refurbishment - Credit: Archant

The new multi-storey car park did allow for some great views of the area though. This following picture shows buildings that had been demolished to make way for the St Stephen's Gate roundabout.

Norwich - StreetsDemolition work in progress on the remainder of the old buildings at St. Step

Streets Demolition work in progress on the remainder of the old buildings at St. Stephen's Gate, which is now a roundabout. This view was taken from the then new multi - storey car park. Dated October 15 1963 - Credit: Archant

While the below photo was taken in the 1960s, the sight of a number of cranes in action along St Stephens remains a common feature, as there are regularly developments taking place around the area, with many being new student housing.

NORWICHST. STEPHENS REDEVELOPMENT.DATE ?PLATE P1520

Work in progress during the construction of a multi-storey building on St Stephens - Credit: Archant

The road was widened during the development, allowing more traffic to flow through what is one of the major roads into Norwich city centre.

NORWICHST STEPHENS STREET.DATE AUGUST 1964PLATE P1513

St Stephens Street in 1964 - Credit: Archant

By 1964, St Stephens Street had begun to take shape and much of the characteristics we know today were formed. 

NORWICHST STEPHENS STREET.DATE AUGUST 1964PLATE P1515

Further down the street in 1964 - Credit: Archant

This wintry shot of the street gives a great sense of how the skyline of the city was changed following redevelopment of St Stephens, with the addition of a number of high-rise buildings.

Weather / Norwich StreetsSnowfall in Norwich looking up St. StephensDated 15 February

Snowfall in Norwich looking up St. Stephens Dated February 15 1979 - Credit: Archant

After 50 years, it seems St Stephens is due for its next round of regeneration.

Norwich City Council plan to make some big changes to the street, hoping to improve pedestrian access and adding extra bays for buses. 

Artist's impression of St Stephens Street Norwich revamp

An artist's impression of what the revamped St Stephens Street could look like. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Work for the £6.1m revamp began in September this year, and has been funded through some of the money given to the council through the Transforming Cities scheme.

In total, £32m was awarded, which will be used for a number of changes to the layout of Norwich's streets in over forthcoming months. 

What do you remember about St Stephens Street over the years? Are there any buildings or businesses that have come and gone that you know miss?

Let us know on our Norwich Remembers group on Facebook


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter