Rare outing for Norwich’s civic coach

It is a stunning gem in the city's regalia and an example of the history and tradition which inhabits every inch of Norwich.

In recent years, the horse-drawn civic coach has become an increasingly rare sight after an infestation of moths led to its withdrawal from the spotlight.

But yesterday, as a return to tradition saw it once again transport a visiting judge to the annual Justice Service, he did not seem to notice as he declared it 'very tastefully upholstered'.

The black horse-drawn carriage was given to the city 100 years ago to the month by Sir Eustace Gurney and was once used for a visit to Norwich by King George V.

The coach, built between 1830 and 1838, became a regular participant in official events, including the Lord Mayor's procession, and each year would be used to transport key figures to the Justice Service in honour of a visiting High Court judge.

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Following the discovery of the moth infestation a couple of years ago, it was taken out of action, but a concerted effort by High Sheriff of Norfolk Georgina Holloway ensured it was once again seen in all its splendour at the weekend.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Justice Service she said: 'I have always wanted to go in that coach, having watched it come out for so many years.'

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The coach, which is funded thanks to the sponsorship of a local business, made its journey from City Hall along Exchange Street, St Andrews Street, St Andrews Plain and Queen Street, before heading through Tombland to the cathedral.

Pulled by four Hungarian Greys and driven by their owner John Parker, it carried High Court judge The Hon Mr Justice Christopher Clarke, Mrs Holloway, Jenny Lay, Lord Mayor of Norwich, and Chris Higgins, Sheriff of Norwich.

As she waited to take part in the procession, the Lord Mayor said many people had stood along the route to see the civic coach pass by. 'It's wonderful to have it out again,' she said. 'We have really enjoyed it and the people love to see it done in style – we have done that very well today.'

The Justice Service saw the visiting judge greeted by a number of key Norfolk figures and dignitaries including Norfolk Police chief constable Phil Gormley, Norfolk County Council chairman Shelagh Hutson and Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson, before heading into the cathedral.

Simon Wright was among a number of MPs attending yesterday's service and waited outside the cathedral to watch the coach arrive.

The Norwich South MP said: 'It's tremendous to see it out today. It's a gem within our cultural heritage, which, sadly, we have not seen out in recent years. It's fantastic to get a good look up close on this occasion.'

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