Coslany is a village within the city of Norwich; it is only just across the river from the bustling centre and is well within the walls of the medieval city. Yet this is part of “Norwich Over the Water” is a distinct part of the urban landscape even today. In the past it was even more self sufficient. In this respect it reflects the very earliest days of Norwich. This was before it was made a city ; and before Norwich even existed, there was an Anglo-Saxon village there. The ancient nature of Coslany can be appreciated best in the church of St Mary, whose round tower is in a style that dates from before the Norman Conquest.It was at St Marys in Coslany that the painter John Crome married Phoebe Berney in 1792. Some years later he became a subscriber to the new Baptist church which was being built on the site of its predecessor just to the right of the Anglican church.
St Mary’s was one of the first Norwich churches to be made redundant, a fate which had not yet overtaken the nearby church of St Michael’s (St Miles Coslany) at the time this picture was taken in 1969. That was still to come. It has since 1995 been the Inspire Discovery Centre, a place where children are introduced to the wonders of science by participating in hands-on activities. As Coslany is so close to the city centre this is not hard to find.
The church of St Miles is a particularly fine example of late medieval architecture and is Grade I listed. The south aisle (shown here) has exquisite flushwork, where the white of the freestone contrasts with the black flint of the walls to echo the intricate tracery of the windows. This was finished in about 1514. The chancel has some equally well done flushwork, only this dates from the 19th century. Before then the east end of the church looked relatively plain. It is a fine piece of work, and if I did not know I would have put it down as contemporary with the rest, of the early 16th century..
At one time traffic went down Oak Street right through to Westwick Street, and the west end of St Miles was on a busy thoroughfare. The Anchor brewery belonging to Bullards was just across the river on this road. The closure of the brewery in 1963 (it was used for bottling until 1969) and the subsequent pedestrianisation of St Miles bridge has made this area a quite backwater. The conversion of the brewery site, and other industrial buildings to housing, together with the regeneration of many old properties has changed Coslany once more into an attractive place to live.
Back in the days when Norwich had a shoe industry this was an area of factories. It was a trade with its own arcane language of “clickers” and “skivers”. The red brick building to the left of St Mary’s church (first picture) was SEXTONS shoe factory which stretched along Oak Street. It was one of many then well known names in the footware industry. NORVIC SHOES was another firm with a large establishment (now flats) on Colegate. START RITE is the only factory left in Norwich, now located on the outskirts of town.
This view of Rosemary Lane looks as if the houses on St Miles Alley lie around a village green; in fact the lawned area is the churchyard of St Miles. To get an idea of just how close some of the churches of Norwich can be, the east end of St Miles is just to the left, while you can see the top of St Mary’s tower beside the gabled warehouse in the centre. The whole area has been done up in the last forty years and the boarded up windows to the right have long since been restored. You never think that such a peaceful scene in fact lies within the busy inner link road.