The whole idea of 'Heritage Week-end' is that places of historic interest they cannot normally visit are open to the public. Having lived in Norwich all our lives, my wife and I had visited, or at least knew of the existence of all the other venues, but as to the 'Georgian Cottages at John Lewis' we could not even guess their whereabouts. All became clear when we, and four other people, met at 11.00 a.m. in the Gardening Department in September 2008 to be given a most interesting tour by Mr. David Wood, a member of staff.
The tour was especially interesting as Mr. Wood had actually lived in one of them as a young boy. When we were on the first floor, we could see exactly where we were on All Saints' Green, and I realised we were opposite the site of the house where I had spent the first five years of my life - 34, All Saints Green. Memories of that time came back to me, and even more so, when shown photographs of premises no longer in existence, but which I remembered, and later found that several of my relatives had lived or worked in them.
|James Pond A.R.C.M.|
Mr. Wood thought my personal description of this part of Norwich in the mid-nineteen twenties and thirties was of great interest so I wrote this article originally for the John Lewis archives. So, let us go back some 85 years.
My parents were married on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1923. Their first house was 34, All Saints' Green. A brass plaque beside the front door announced that 'James Pond A.R.C.M.Cellist' lived there. There were many people playing in the professional music world at that time, but to have the qualification, Associate of the Royal College of Music was very rare indeed. The house itself was double-fronted and of the same period as those opposite, but of two floors and not three. My father taught pupils during the day and played at the Thatched Theatre during the evening. For some reason he was presented with a barometer engraved "Presented to Mr. J. Pond from Manager, Orchestra and Staff, Thatched Theatre, Norwich. Sep 30 1922".
The Thatched was almost opposite our house, and I think was at various times also known as the Thatched Restaurant, Thatched Ballroom, and later became a cinema. My mother was a very fine pianist and played for the silent films. This was an occupation requiring skill as a sight-reader of music, as there would have been a rehearsal on Monday morning, when the pianist was given a pile of music of all types with instructions on each one as to when and for how long it was to be played. At times there would be an instruction to play in a different key to the one written. This all had to taken in while the projectionist ran the film through. I presume 'The Thatched' as it was generally known, was amalgamated into Bond's shop.
|Photograph of my mother holding me|
I was born on 9th July, 1924, and from an early age was able to look out of our windows and see all the activity on All Saints' Green. Many vehicles were still pulled by horses, and there was a drinking trough for them on the road near the lower end of Bond's shop. There were no parking restrictions, no yellow lines, no traffic lights, and the few privately owned cars could easily park on the slightly raised ground in front of the shop. (The horse trough is now on Castle Meadow).
Most people stopped to look in Bond's windows, and no window-shopping was complete without walking through Bond's arcade. My father's two younger sisters, Auntie Alice and Auntie Win, both worked in Bonds. Later in my life they told me that Ernest Bond was a great one for chasing the girls in the shop. I do not think his father would have approved.
On Saturdays, cattle and sheep were brought in to the Market (now the site of Castle Gardens) 'on hoof'. After being bought by their new owners they returned along All Saints' Green or Ber Street on their way back to the country. It was quite a job controlling a herd of cattle or flock of sheep on such wide roads. Sometimes a little bit of havoc ensued if one or two animals decided going down Westlegate looked more interesting. Young boys could earn the odd penny or two by 'bullock whorping' i.e. helping the herdsman to keep the animals from straying.
The public Houses around the Market area were given special dispensation to remain open on Saturday afternoons as the farmers did not have time for a drink in the morning.
The first building on the right hand side going down Westlegate has in recent years been refurbished and used for a variety of purposes, including being a branch of a bank. However, in the 20s and 30s it was a rather run-down house, and the ground floor was a shop selling linen props, a whole array of domestic utensils (mainly second hand), but the shop sign announced that the proprietor (whose name I have forgotten) 'Repaired Umbrellas'.
Further down was Charles Watling's Depot for furniture removals. Most of his vehicles were horse drawn but motorised vans were beginning to appear. Charles Watling became Lord Mayor in 1936, and welcomed the King and Queen at the opening of the new City Hall. Beyond this at the end of the street was Deacon's Fish Restaurant. An intriguing place, the outside wall was a type of marble and as there were no windows you had no idea what the interior was like.
Ber Street and the area down to King Street was a different world to All Saints' Green. It was the 'Italian Quarter'. Occupations included making and selling ice-cream, selling hot chestnuts from barrows equipped with small stoves, and playing barrel organs. Eventually, most became absorbed into the main industry of Norwich - boot and shoe making. I remember once counting thirteen public houses side by side on the right hand side of the street. One being 'The Jolly Butchers', owned by the famous Black Anna, a well known folk singer.
Bonds eventually extended to Ber Street, starting with a small shop, which developed as more properties became available. Much of this area was destroyed by incendiary bombs during the last war. I was on duty at Thorpe Station on the night of the 'Blitz', and it looked as though the whole city was being destroyed by fire.
We left 34, All Saints' Green when I was five years old to live in Bury St. Edmunds for two years. We then returned to Norwich and lived with my maternal grandparents for a few months at 3, All Saints' Green. This was a very complicated building as my grandfather was a pawnbroker. The entrance to the house and living quarters was up a flight of steps, with the entrance to the pawnbroker's shop a little further along.
This would have been where people could take in clothing, shoes, jewelry, etc. to pawn, i.e. to hand them over for a sum of money. These articles would be wrapped up and stored in a large warehouse on the top floor. If not reclaimed after a year and a day, they could be sold. These articles were displayed in the 'Corner Shop', which had a door literally at the corner of All Saints' Green and All Saints' Street. Both shops were accessible from within the living quarters of the property. Profits were really quite small as the amount chargeable for reclaiming property was limited by law, and the license itself cost £19 per annum.
This property was taken over by Bonds during the war, and later the whole property rebuilt as we know it today. We were shown two photographs on our visit to the 'Cottages' of the lower end of the 'Green'; one long before my time there, and the other at the time when Bonds had actually taken over number 3, although my grandparents were still living there.
At some time in the 1930's 34 All Saints' Green and the neighbouring houses were pulled down, and in their place appeared 'The Carlton Cinema'. A huge block of concrete. Surely the most ghastly monstrosity ever erected in Norwich. Number 3, All Saints' Green also disappeared, and the new Bonds Shop took over the whole area.
Do I regret the passing of these two places on All Saints' Green? No. I have happy memories of both but there were houses there before them, and others before that. It shows that Norwich is alive and developing. There is nothing wrong with that.
The undulating surface of All Saints' Green provides a sea for the huge ship of Bonds (sorry John Lewis it will always be Bonds to me) to sail on. Quite a sight!