The two principal Norwich architects at the end of the nineteenth century were Edward Boardman and George Skipper. For the most part Boardman's buildings tended to be rather austere by comparison with Skipper's more flamboyant work. But Boardman was versatile and there were pleasing exceptions. During a long career he was the architect of some of the most important buildings of the period in Norwich.
He was born in Norwich in 1833, but did his architectural training in London with Lucas Brothers. He was articled to John Louth Clemence of Lowestoft before returning to Norwich to set up his own practice in 1860. He was accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA) on 20 November 1871.His son Edward Thomas Boardman (born 1862) joined the firm in 1889 and virtually took over after 1900.
He had his offices at Old Bank of England Court off Queen Street Norwich from 1875. On the wall outside is a personalised terracotta name plate with his initials and the date set under a panel with a diamond brick pattern. Inside several styles of geometric tiling and tile mosaics decorated the different areas of the offices.
During a prolific career Boardman did lots of official work, such as the major city improvements of the 1870s, but was never appointed city surveyor. His work included both civic and ecclesiastical buildings as well as private works.
In 1866 he designed the formal garden at Crown Point (Whitlingham Hall) and completed the splendid aisled conservatory probably designed by H.E. Coe.
In 1868 he built St Mary's Baptist Church, Duke Street and added lecture rooms in1868. This was destroyed by bombing during World War Two.
The first Congregational Church on Princes Street was built in 1819. Because there were serious problems with the building Boardman was engaged to redesign it. The chapel was heightened and extended with a new frontage of yellow brick with four giant pilasters and an elaborate pediment. There is spectacular plasterwork on the ceiling and bold decorative ironwork round the balcony in an otherwise simple interior. The work was completed in 1869. The quality reflected the increasing prosperity and influence of many in the congregation, of which Boardman himself was a member. (His father was one of the first members of the church). Next door is a large school building of 1879-80 also by Boardman which was built as a school to offer learning opportunities to working men and children.
In 1869 he designed villas and a terrace on Chester Place, Norwich for Henry Trevor, for whom he also did work on the Plantation Gardens. Among Boardman's papers, a survey drawing is preserved of the area where the Palmhouse was built in 1871. The drawing shows the Rustic Bridge, and a winding path descending from the Plantation House to the fountain. This presents virtual proof that Boardman supervised the levelling of the area and the erection of the Palmhouse in 1871. It is possible that Boardman was involved in the building of the house and the fountain. Henry Trevor's Plantation house shares some features with the houses in Chester Place and the pedestals around the fountain, which are of very unusual design, are almost identical to those in front of the Chester Place houses.
The 1870s was a busy time for Boardman. In 1872 he built 12 Gentlemen's Walk for Barnard's (now Halifax), in 1873 the congregational chapel in East Dereham in a second pointed Gothic style and in 1874 Castle House for Fletcher's Printing Works. Another example of his church building was the Early English style Baptist Church on Unthank Road which was opened in July 1875. Unfortunately there was insufficient money to complete the tower as he had designed it. The church was demolished in 1955 to make way for Fielden's Trinity Presbyterian church.
During the latter part of the decade Boardman was involved in the London Street improvement scheme (1876-1880), but still had time to be involved in enlarging Coltishall Primary School (1875-7), in building a Gothic piano warehouse on Gentlemen's Walk, later to become Burton's (1876), in building Norvic Shoe factory in Colegate for Messrs Howlett and White, to which he added a tower in 1894. In 1877 he designed Castle Chambers on Castle Meadow, an office block in pale brick and terracotta and in the same year designed a speculative terrace on Unthank Road for builders Lacey and Lincoln.
Away from Norwich he designed the wings for the library and service areas for Alexander Peckover in 1877-78 as part of his extension and remodelling of Peckover House in Wisbech.
Considered by some to be his finest work is the impressively ornate Gothic mortuary temple that he designed in 1879 for the Rosary Cemetery.
In 1879-84 he almost completely rebuilt Ivory's Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (with TH Wyatt) in Jacobean revival style and gave it a porte-cochere as if it were a town hall. When Wyatt died in 1880 Boardman continued the work alone. His achievement was acknowledged in an anonymous booklet.
Boardman continued his prolific output in the 1880s with the Venetian Gothic building now Stead and Simpson, in London Street (1880), Chapelfield Methodist Church (1880-1) and the restoration of several churches: St Mary and St Margaret in Sprowston (1889-90), St Ethelreda (1883) and the furnishings in St Edmund on Fishergate (1882).
Perhaps his major work of this period was the conversion of Norwich Castle from a prison into a museum in 1887. His adaptation of the building is often taken for granted, but he is to be credited not merely for what he did but for resisting the temptation to re-create what was long gone, as other Victorian architects might have done. Instead he interpreted accurately the archaeological remains, whilst at the same time creating a building admirably fitted for its new purpose.
Other work during the 1880s included his design for the Norfolk Club coffee room (1888) and the building of Caleys Factory on Chapelfield, now sadly gone, in 1889. His design was a variant of the one he did at Norvic more than ten years earlier.
During the 1890s he designed Alexandra Mansions in Prince of Wales Road, perhaps the first residential flats in Norwich, but probably his finest achievement was the Royal Hotel in 1896-7 which he designed in a free Flemish style with plenty of ornate brickwork and Cossyware.
He continued to work until just after the turn of the century and his later works included the ashlar faced office block at 5 Bank Plain (now William Brown), the extension of Bethel Hospital (both in 1899) and the former Eastern Daily Press Office at 57 London Street.
In 1901 Boardman drew up plans for John Pollock's new veterinary premises on Red Lion Street. It was built of red brick banded with artificial stone and had a carriage entrance to the left of the office entry and over the whole there is a huge Dutch gable.
He lived at 91 Newmarket Road Norwich until his death on 11 November 1910. He was buried at the Rosary Cemetery. The firm that he started in 1860 was continued after his death by his son (who married Florence, daughter of Jeremiah James Colman and built the house at How Hill) and carried on until 1966.