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The Duke of Norfolk's Palace


Click here to see a short video of the palace site (193kb). Requires RealPlayer to view.

Howard House stands on the modern site Built between 1561 and 1563, the Duke of Norfolk's Palace was said to be one of the finest town houses in England. Unfortunately it suffered greatly by its location. As the only available building plot in Norwich at the time, the Duke had little choice but to erect his town house in the middle of Norwich's cloth and dying industry. It was hemmed in on all sides by the dyers houses and the river was said to stink from the smell of dyes being washed down river.

Thomas Baskerville, writing in 1681, described his visit there: "We rowed under 5 or 6 bridges, and then landed at the new-built house not yet finished within, but seated in a dung-hole place, though it had cost the Duke already 30 thousand pounds on building . . . for it hath but little room for gardens and is pent upon all sides both on this and the other side of the river, with tradesmen's and dyers houses."

When the Mayor refused the Duke permission for a "company of comedians to enter the city with trumpets &c," the Duke "defaced" his palace and abandoned it. In 1711, demolition began.

In 1764, Charles Howard, the tenth Duke of Norfolk, built a Roman Catholic chapel on the site of the Duke's Palace. By 1794, it, along with a remaining wing of the old palace, were being let out as the Norwich Subscription Library. It remained there until 1839 when it became the Norfolk and Norwich Museum. The museum stayed there until moving into its current home in the Castle in 1894. From then until 1938 the site housed the offices of the Corporation of the Guardians of the Poor as well as the Corpoartion baths, prior to the opening of City Hall. To the rear of this stood the Norwich tramways electric power station. The old palace wing housed the Duke's Palace Inn (pictured below) for a while before it, the chapel and the adjoining priest's house were demolished and cleared in the late 1960's to make way for the widening of St Andrew's Street.

Duke's Palace Inn
Photograph by G.A.F.Plunkett

In 1974, the site was excavated and mapped prior to the building of the multi-storey car park and the Howard House telephone exchange. The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England note that: "Excavations on the site of the Duke of Norfolk's Palace in 1974 identified four buildings in addition to the palace. These buildings included a mid-16th century outhouse, possibly part of the pre-1563 palace, a bowling alley constructed 1602-40 and a staircase tower of circa 1672. The palace was found to have several phases of construction, the earliest pre-1563. The palace was demolished in 1711."

Between 2003 and 2005, the existing car park (which you can see in the short video clip) was pulled down for structural reasons. Since then, a new multi-storey car park has been put up on the site and a Travel Lodge hotel opened up on the opposite bank of river.

Duke's Palace Bridge's new home
The Duke's Palace Bridge (pictured right) crosses the River Wensum just behind Howard House alongside the car park on Duke Street. The original bridge was built in 1822 and to pay for construction, foot passengers had to pay a toll of d. The toll was scrapped in 1855 when the City purchased the bridge for 4,000. When the bridge was widened in 1972, the iron arches were sold off to the Norwich Society for 400 and kept in storage until they were given over to the Castle Mall development in 1992. They now form the roof supports to the entrance of the Castle Mall car Park by the Shirehall.


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