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Returning to the lost “village on the hill” in old Norwich. | Derek James | Norwich Evening News

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Returning to the lost “village on the hill” in old Norwich.

PUBLISHED: 09:42 19 November 2012 | UPDATED: 09:58 19 November 2012

Derek James

Archant

Pictures which remind us of the way it was in the community which existed between Ber Street and King Street in Norwich of more than half a century ago.

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<DJ double Nov 12 with selection of pics taken in the Ber Street/King Street areas during the re-development in the 1950s/60s>

Join me on a journey around the “village on the hill” in Norwich of half a century as a community was disappearing in the name of progress.

These pictures, from an Evening News reader, give us a glimpse of what parts of it looked like in its final months. Before long this part of the city centre, between historic King Street and Ber Street would be gone forever.

These two roads are the oldest in Norwich but they have been treated with little respect or dignity over the decades.

Ber Street was said to be a Roman way while King Street was described a Saxon route by the river.

From the Middle Ages to the 18th century they were streets of great dignity and opulence.

It was the swarming Victorian growth of Norwich which turned their houses into crowded tenements, filled their courtyards with rows of insanitary cottages, built little terraced houses all over the steep slope from Ber Street to the river.

Slum clearance and wartime bombing added to the decline.

Walking around the area half a century ago, in 1962, Jonathan Mardle said the historical buildings along with the churches needed new life and use before they succumbed to the surrounding decay.

“The Corporation promises that rescue and rejuvenation are at hand. At one end of the district tall blocks of flats, rising out of slopes that will in future be green, will grace the skyline of Ber Street with new towers.

“At the other end, new offices and works, descending in steps from the top of the cliff towards Mountergate and the river, will make a clean modern industrial landscape, still diversified by the old church towers,” he wrote.

“Given a guiding architectural vision to weld the whole into one picture, this could be something magnificent for the 20th century to add to the prospect of Norwich.”

But he warned: “It needs however, the eye of faith to see it - all the more so because this is a city that has hitherto defeated planning, and planned its modern colossi as higgledy-piggledy as its Victorian cottages.”

I wonder what our Jonathan would made of the area today? Sliced in half by Rouen Road. Dominated by Normandie Tower.

Small segments have survived along with some of the churches. Dragon Hall is a gem, historic Howard House looks sad and is shackled by red tape. A victim of civic vandalism.

Some may think a few of the new developments are acceptable while others have been described as bland and ugly. A blot on the landscape.

It could, it should, have been so much better.

<t> If you have any memories or photographs of life in the “village on the hill” I would love to hear from you. Write to me at [email protected] or write to me at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE,

Yes, we were, part of that village

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The area between King Street and Ber Street covered around 56 acres.

There were nearly three miles of existing streets and passages, narrow and steep.

These figures were produced in 1958 by which time the whole area was in decline and the city fathers were determined to pull it down and start again.

It was made up of 833 dwellings, of which 612 were considered unfit for human habitation, 42 shops and four offices, 22 public houses, 25 industrial premises, 27 premises used for warehousing or storage, two schools, and seven places of assembly.

There were several buildings of architectural and historic value and more than five acres of disused or derelict land or buildings.

It was said that a survey indicated 486 families would like to be re-housed in the same area once the new building was completed.

photo gallery: Village on the Hill

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