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A viaduct and city centre dual carriageway: What did 1945 Norwich report propose - and how much came true?

PUBLISHED: 11:58 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:06 25 September 2018

The impression of the Bracondale viaduct from the City of Norwich Plan 1945 report. Photo: Archive

The impression of the Bracondale viaduct from the City of Norwich Plan 1945 report. Photo: Archive

Archant

The war had ended, communities were being rebuilt and a new chapter had started. In 1945 Norwich City Council published its 50-year vision for Norwich, giving a blueprint for a future fine city. But how much was achieved, and how much remains a pipe dream?

The proposed Bracondale viaduct in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: ArchiveThe proposed Bracondale viaduct in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: Archive

Bound, filled with photographs and written in often flowery prose, the City of Norwich Plan 1945 isn’t a typical council report.

But, inside, its authors, consultants CH James and S Rowland Pierce and city engineer HC Rowley, cover areas which remain key today - roads, transport, housing, schools and open spaces.

In their introduction, they said: “If Norwich is to be re-established as a fine city, there is much to do and much to be undone, during the period which we have reckoned as the time in which our proposals should ripen to maturity.”

But what exactly did they have in mind for our fine city - and how much of it has become reality?

The proposed Bracondale viaduct in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: ArchiveThe proposed Bracondale viaduct in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: Archive

Bracondale viaduct

Perhaps the most significant feature of the plan is a viaduct across the river at Bracondale, to complete the inner ring road.

It would be at such height to “give 70-foot clearance over the river at high water”.

A photo of how Orford Place could have been rebuilt after the war in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: ArchiveA photo of how Orford Place could have been rebuilt after the war in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: Archive

The goal was to help drivers avoid queues at Carrow Bridge, which remains a traffic hotspot today.

“On the south-east, no attempt was made in the 1936 plan property to complete the ring – the lift-bridge at Carrow with its tortuous approaches being relied upon to serve that purpose,” they said.

But the planners were hopeful the major project would be popular with people in the city.

“The viaduct, apart from its utility, could be a light and elegant structure of great beauty, and would command a wonderful view of the old city, from which it would be seen as a terminating feature and a break between it and the commercial and industrial zone farther down the river valley,” they said.

Orford Place and Red Lion Street as pictured in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: ArchiveOrford Place and Red Lion Street as pictured in the City of Norwich Plan 1945. Photo: Archive

St Stephen’s Street dual carriageway

Much of the report is focused on road changes, with an introduction saying high crash statistics “demand considerable improvement”.

“For this purpose there must be two major ring roads, a viaduct to complete both as well as various road adjustments, widening and roundabouts,” they said.

Sketch looking up Bethel Street from the market - St Peter Mancroft on the left. Photo: City of Norwich Plan 1945/ArchiveSketch looking up Bethel Street from the market - St Peter Mancroft on the left. Photo: City of Norwich Plan 1945/Archive

There is particular focus on St Stephen’s Street, today a key shopping area for Norwich and a bus-only route.

But ahead of the war, popularity of the area as a shopping zone was “waning”, the report said.

Elsewhere in the plan, it says: “One of the most important entrances should not be lined by shops, with customers’ cars and delivery vans impeding the traffic - it is recommended that no more shops should be allowed to be built on this street and that those already established there should gradually be replaced by offices.”

It was instead proposed that the road become dual carriageway, with 15-foot wide pavements.

The proposed new Duke Street bridge. Photo: City of Norwich Plan 1945/ArchiveThe proposed new Duke Street bridge. Photo: City of Norwich Plan 1945/Archive

• New bridges - and more on the river

The plan put forward three new bridges - firstly, at the inner ring road to the north of the old city station, near to St Cripsin’s bridge, which became part of the inner ring road and saw a new bridge built parallel to it in the 1970s. Secondly, off Westwick Street leading to Colegate, to replace the existing Coslany Bridge, and, finally, on Duke Street.

It was hoped to build a new bridge linking to Exchange Street, but was superseded by a desire to preserve much of the city’s historic centre. In 1972, though, a new and wider one was erected in its place.

The planners are critical of the use of River Wensum, saying it was “looked upon chiefly as a commercial utility, providing a cheap form of transport”, which had “encouraged the evil of an ugly spread of unsightly buildings and ramshackle sheds along its banks”.

They suggest creating a riverside walk from Foundry Hill to the Gasworks site, where, today, there is one.

But there are still calls, and a strategy, to make the most of the River Wensum.

• Other points

• Orford Place would have become a widened plaza as opposed to a cut-through.

• Magdalen Street would have been closed to vehicles, to remain as a shopping precinct and stop busses squeezing past. A by-pass route, immediately to the east, would be built with a 30-foot carriageway, footpaths, bus stops and a large car park.

• Dereham Road would have been made into a dual carriageway from the city boundary to St Benedict’s Gate.

• London, Redwell, St Andrew’s and Exchange Streets, along with Gentleman’s Walk and Castle Meadow, would have been closed to traffic. In 1967 London Street became the first in the UK to be closed to traffic.

• A large sports stadium was proposed at the old Mousehold aerodrome site.

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