Barrack Street lies in the former hamlet of Pockthorpe to the north of the Cathedral. The street had many names included Barregate, Bargate Street, Pockthorpe Street and St James Street. The road was originally divided into two separate streets when the city walls and gates were in use, the city side known as St James Street and that outside of the gate as Pockthorpe Street. Barrack Street was so-named after the barracks built in 1792 and was originally the section running east from the bottom of Silver Road to Kett's Hill.
St James' Street was very narrow with two long rows of terrace properties, some with gabled fronts and others with timber and beamed woodwork. By the 1920s these houses had become overcrowded and run down in what was one of the poorest parts of Norwich. Most of these families were moved out to the new housing estates that were being built on the edge of the city as part of a massive re-housing programme in which Norwich was a pioneer.
On the south side of Barrack Street, a short distance from St James Church, is a row of seven small cottages. They were spared in the large clearance scheme of the late 1930s and on a clearance map of 1936 every building to the sides and rear of these seven properties was marked for demolition to make way for the widening of Barrack Street when it became part of the new inner ring road. These cottages still stand today although the middle three have been altered to accommodate the RSPCA.
On the north side of Barrack Street at the junction of Silver Road are the remains of a tower which formed part of the city wall which once circled the city apart from where the river provided a natural barrier. The tower is in good condition and on the north side is almost of full height. The south side has suffered a partial collapse - possibly in the late 1800s. The main Pockthorpe gate was fifteen metres from the tower - about where the pedestrian crossing stands today.
Building of the walls and gates began in 1294. It must have been a major undertaking with the wall in some places being as much as 1.9 metres thick. An investigation by Robert Finch in 1861 suggests that the Pockthorpe gate and walls were amongst the last to be completed due to a dispute over ownership of the land and ditches involved. Most of the other gates were built by 1330 but evidence shows that Pockthorpe was still under construction in 1338 and finished in 1346. The gateway suffered damage in July 1549 during Kett's Rebellion as Barrack Street was a route from the rebel camp at Mousehold to the city centre. Damage was widespread in this area during the rebellion but the gateway was repaired after the rising was crushed by the Earl of Warwick.
The Pockthorpe gate and walls stood until 1792 when, following an order from a Quarterly Assembly held on September 21st 1792, they were demolished.
On the opposite corner of the Silver Road/Barrack Street junction to the tower stands one of only two public house buildings still standing on Barrack Street. This corner building was the Windsor Castle at 68 Barrack Street which was a pub for 108 years until it closed in 1964. There were as many as twelve pubs in the length of Barrack Street during the early 1900s. The Windsor Castle was a Steward and Patteson Pub which is not surprising as it was adjacent to the S&P brewery office. The office dates back to 1928 and there are still two large metal gate posts in the courtyard which are the main gate-posts of the grand entrance to the Pockthorpe brewery.
The brewery covered twelve acres containing building of all shapes and sizes including a large chimney. It dates back to the 1780s when it was owned by Charles Greeves. He sold out to John Patteson in 1793 when the business started to grow. The history of the brewery is dominated by four prominent families; the Pattesons, Stewards, Morses and the Finches. All played major parts in establishing the brewery industry in the 1800s and were active in the political and business life of Norfolk. As time went on they purchased many smaller breweries and public houses and by 1938 had branches in Great Yarmouth, Kings Lynn and Ipswich.
A major event took place in 1820 when John Staniforth Patteson took over the business and with the Steward family formed what we know as Steward and Patteson and Stewards. They employed hundreds of people across the county and continued to expand. In 1964, 1,200 properties were said to be controlled by Steward and Pattesons. In 1963 the firm was the object of a take over offer from Watney Mann and was finally sold in February 1967 for £7,666,270. The last beer was brewed on site in January 1970 and all the buildings except the brewery office were demolished in 1974, including the landmark chimney.
Beyond the brewery were twenty three different properties including four houses with yards. One such yard was George Yard at 92 Barrack Street which took its name from the George and Dragon public house. The pub closed in 1869 but the name carried on. This yard was in between Green Yard and Robin Hood Yard and appears to have been a large yard containing at least ten properties. Another building that we come across is the Sportsman Public House at 108 Barrack Street - which was a pub from 1937 until 1992.It was later used by an insurance broker but currently stands empty. The original Sportsman was on the other side of the road at no 139 and was a public house for 115 years.
After what was number 128 Barrack Street was the Cavalry Barracks which covered ten acres of land surrounded by a large brick wall. The wall extended along Barrack Street to the junction with Gurney Road where a remnant can still be seen. The Barracks were built by the Government in 1792 on the site of an old manor house called Hasset's Hall at a cost of £20. It was a substantial building of red brick and consisted of a central building facing south with large wings on the east and west forming three sides of a square. It held accommodation for up to five hundred soldiers, stables and offices with a large training area in the middle.
Many regiments were stationed here over the years, including the Scots regiment and the 7th (Princess Royals) Dragoon Guards. Many formed strong connections with the City of Norwich and there is evidence of this in memorials which can be seen at the Cathedral. The barracks later was renamed Nelson Barracks after our great sea hero. It was closed in 1973 and redeveloped as housing and open space. At the turn of the 1900s the view of the barracks from St James Hill must have been a real sight to see with the number of horses and men involved in the day to day activity of the barracks.
Many street marches have taken place on Barrack Street including the Snap the Pockthorpe Dragon and in 1951 the Norwich Festival procession was held which celebrated everything English, including Ketts Rebellion which had taken place in this area 400 years earlier. Barrack Street has seen many changes over the years, going back to the 1300s and there are changes happening today with the redevelopment of the south side of the street. A large area called St James Place is being redeveloped through the Jarrold estate which will include office space, a hotel, a gym, a new bridge and some new walkways. I think this will open up Barrack Street to a new generation and bring this street back to a time when it had a large population and was very active with large marches and celebrations.