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Do you remember the extravagant two-storey pagoda which was in a busy park?

PUBLISHED: 19:45 14 November 2019 | UPDATED: 19:45 14 November 2019

The Pagoda or wrought-iron pavilion in Chapelfield Gardens, pictured in 1934. Photo: George Plunkett

The Pagoda or wrought-iron pavilion in Chapelfield Gardens, pictured in 1934. Photo: George Plunkett

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Today, it is an island of green in the middle of the city centre - and its wooden bandstand is a popular spot for concerts and events.

A Jarrold postcard dating back to 1904 of the Chapeldield Gardens pagoda. Photo: Norwich SocietyA Jarrold postcard dating back to 1904 of the Chapeldield Gardens pagoda. Photo: Norwich Society

But several decades ago Chapelfield Gardens boasted another larger, more extravagant park feature.

The Norwich Society has taken a look back at the history of the park in an autumn report, and shed light on its lesser-known pagoda, which was built in the late 19th century.

Constructed in 1876 by Thomas Jeckell, it was designed for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, and made at the iron foundry of Barnard Bishop and Barnard in Norwich.

Two storeys high, nine metres long and five metres tall, the structure weighed 40 tonnes, while the silk cloths used to cover the walls were delicately embroidered with horse chestnuts and birds.

A photo of the Chapelfield Gardens pagoda being assembled in the Norwich works of Barnard Bishop and Barnards. Photo: Norwich SocietyA photo of the Chapelfield Gardens pagoda being assembled in the Norwich works of Barnard Bishop and Barnards. Photo: Norwich Society

Dubbed The Pagoda, it was toured around exhibitions in Paris, London and Buenos Aires, before it was bought by the Norwich Corporation for £500 in 1880.

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It was officially opened that year, though initially it was thought to be out of keeping with the rest of the area.

As the Second World War broke out, and the gardens were used for training the armed forces and teaching people how to grow vegetables, the pagoda was temporarily closed for repairs but later reopened, with an old army tank placed there providing an ideal climbing frame for children.

Eventually, the pagoda was damaged, some say by a bomb although it has not been confirmed, and was dismantled in 1949.

Some of its sunflower railings were kept, and later turned into gates for Heigham Park.

It was in 1853 that a bill was passed enabling Chapelfield Gardens to become a public pleasure garden, at the time including a small lake, tower and promenade.

Before that, it had been used as a military training ground where archers practised their aim, and a grazing ground for sheep and cattle.

After the Great Blow, in 1648, a confrontation in Norwich which led to the largest explosion of gunpowder in 17th century England, it was used as a field hospital, with casualties and fatalities laid out there.

For more information, visit www.thenorwichsociety.org.uk



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