THE AIR RAIDS OF 1942
LION AND CASTLE YARD is off Timber Hill near the centre of the city; the Lion and the Castle are the motifs which appear on the arms of Norwich, and the name was used for three or four public houses in the city. There is now none left. The Lion and Castle pub at 27 Timber Hill closed in 1925 and the building was gone by the time I first remember things. Was it a victim of Hitler’s bombs? On the 27th to 29th of April 1942 two 250 kg bombs fell in Timber Hill, damaging the Particular Baptist chapel, and Valori’s fish and chip shop, also the Gardener’s Arms. This bomb may have damaged the row of houses numbers 22-29 Timber Hill as well. These were later demolished anyway. This space which was used as a car park for decades has now, after 70 years, been purchased for redevelopment.
Lion and Castle Yard extended south from this block of properties, and the only surviving buildings in this yard are the row of 17th century cottages that are pictured above. These are currently (2013) used as a beauty salon. The further one of these cottages (number 4) is one of the few properties in the City to retain a thatched roof. (When the buildings were listed in 1972 the roof had been replaced by corrugated iron, but it has since been re-thatched.) Apparently there are three other thatched buildings in Norwich; the “Barking Dickey” in Westlegate is one of them and it is only a few yards away from Lion and Castle Yard, down All Saint’s Alley. This was formerly pub called the Light Dragoon, and it got its nickname because the dragoon’s horse on the signboard looked like a donkey! (In Norfolk dialect a ‘barking dickey’ means braying donkey.) At the licensing sessions held Monday 23rd August 1858 renewal of licence was refused on the grounds that the house was devoted to immoral purposes. The building was the local branch of Deacon’s Bank back in 1969, and more recently it has been Casaccio’s Coffee Shop, until that was forced to move. In 1912 it was the shop of Arthur Kemp, greengrocer. Before the Second World War there were two other thatched buildings nearby, the Thatched Theatre in All Saint’s Green and the Boar’s Head pub in Surrey Street, but these were both also bombed out of existence in the 1942 Blitz.
These are pictures of Lion and Castle Yard which I took in 1969. Nobody appeared to take any interest in the place. The whole area was very neglected right up until the Norwich Preservation Trust restored the buildings in 1996. There is a plaque which reads: This small building is formed from two of the very few surviving cottages built in the 17th century and once common in the city. One has been restored with its original roof of reed thatch. They may have been lived in by weavers. From the 14th to the 19th centuries Norwich was famous for its textiles – “Norwich Stuffs” – of woollen cloth worsted and silk made on looms in the weavers’ own houses.
The end cottage was a warehouse belonging to the ironmonger Harry Tyce, way back in the early years of the 20th century. “Tyce, Harry, bar iron & steel merchant, wholesale and retail ironmonger, saddlers’ & coach ironmonger & oil and colour merchant, 19 St Peter’s street, Mancroft; Davey steps, 18 Davey place & Castle st. T.N. 397 ” [From Kelly’s Directory of Norfolk, 1912.]
Although it had long been empty in 1969, the building still had Tyce’s old signboard on the wall. The name on the door was slightly more recent, because not only was it in better condition, but the name of the firm had been changed to H. Tyce and Son. In fact the shop in Davey Place finally closed as recently as 1959 with the retirement off Harry Tyce’s son. (I ought to remember it but I don’t.) The business was started in 1750 by John Browne (mayor of Norwich in 1798) and descended to the Tyce family. It was, when it closed, the oldest firm of ironmongers in the city. His stock in trade in 1912 was principally bar iron, oils and colours. Bar iron (in other words wrought iron) has been replaced by mild steel in general use. All ‘wrought iron’ gates and fences are today actually made of mild steel. But whether it is iron or steel it isn’t the kind of thing you buy in a city centre shop any longer. Oil and colours referred to the ingredients for mixing you own paint from linseed oil and pigments. This before tins of paint appeared on shop shelves at first in about 1880. The sign must have been at least fifty years old when I took the picture fifty years ago. Harry Tyce used to have larger premises in Lion and Castle Yard before most of the properties there were demolished.
In 1912 two of his products were saddles and coach ironmongery. There was still good business to be done in such equestrian equipment, and Harry Tyce was by no means old-fashioned before the First World War. In fact he was up to date enough to have a telephone; number 397.
To have a phone in 1912 marked you out as someone special. Norwich Union had a telephone of course but just one – number 52. The total number of instruments in the city only ran to three figures. In that year the Post Office became the monopoly supplier of telephone services in the UK, a position it retained for 70 years. The overwhelming majority of businesses had neither a telephone nor even a telegraphic address. There has been a tremendous increase in telecommunications in the past hundred years. I wonder how many internet connected computers Aviva ( Norwich Union as was) now has? At least one for every employee, and each of then has a mobile.
Bonds of Norwich is a name which even now echoes down the years. Although this is now the Norwich branch of the John Lewis chain it retained its old name for some time after John Lewis took over, finally losing it in 2001. I have already referred to the Thatched Theatre in All Saints Green; this later became the Thatched Restaurant belonging to Bonds. The Thatched Restaurant was destroyed along with the rest of Bonds department store during an air raid in 1942.
Bonds was started in the 19th century just round the corner in Ber Street when a family from Ludham bought a draper’s shop. It grew and grew with its reputation for quality goods; it soon spread into All Saints Green, where John Lewis still stands. It remained a family firm with the Hindes, a name from the female side of the Bond family. The family remained in control until finally selling out some thirty years ago. Eric Hinde, the husband of Marjorie Bond, was Lord Major in 1951 following on from my Aunt Ruth. I was at school at Farfield (Gresham’s) with Eric Hinde’s youngest son Stephen. He was a year or so older than me and did not stay into the 6th form. In 1962 the Hindes opened a branch of Bonds in Dereham. This was not included in the sale of the Norwich branch to John Lewis in 1982. It remained independent for a few years more, although the name was changed to Hindes, and it finally left the family when Nicholas Hinde retired in 1989. CLICK HERE for more details on Bonds.
In about 1865 three Curl brothers from East Winch arrived in Norwich to set up in the drapery business. East Winch is a small village near Kings Lynn. To begin with they were in partnership with another name from Norwich’s retail past, Mr Bunting. The establishment was at the corner of St Stephens where Marks and Spencer now have their store. The partners split up, and while Buntings store developed on the St Stephens site the Curl brothers expanded onto the opposite side of the road. This was Rampant Horse Street, the site of the historic Rampant Horse Inn until Curls occupied almost the entire block.
Curls is another name from Norwich’s past. The store is now a branch of Debenhams, and although it was originally in the same place as it is now all through my younger days the whole block was a car park as another casualty of the blitz. Earlier, during the war, it had been a static water tank for use by the firemen in case of incendiary bombs; Curl’s shop had burned down in a particularly heavy raid in 1942 –the same raid that had destroyed Bonds and damage the shops in Timber Hill. Curls was finally rebuilt in 1956, when it could move back to its old position. From 1942 for 16 years it had been reduced to a much smaller but highly regarded shop in Westlegate.