Peter Mancroft & Forum – White Swan Yard Ghost 1960 > 2013. Part of a series I start and stop doing as the desire takes me as you do, featuring the Photography of George Plunkett. I might do some more soon just for the hell of it. The site has seen a fair bit of turmult over the last 60 years, what with the demolition of lots of interesting buildings to make way for the library and the oddly named appearance of Esperanto Way, now only a memory after the previous library burnt down spectacularly in the early 1990s damaging lots of archive items and destroying loads of books and a fair bit of Vinyl that I was still trying to work my way through taping. (Home taping was killing music apparently). And from the ashes arose The Forum, that giant glass thing that looks like the top of a crystalline bass horn, I like it, I like the distorted reflections it makes of that gloriously over-iced Victorian additions to the cake opposite*; St Peter Mancroft with it’s partially buried slightly simpler but no less impressive church dating back to 1430 beneath itself covering a rather smaller Norman church that had fallen into disrepair like some weird centuries built Babushka. The name Mancroft refers to Magna-Croft which is actually the area around the Market place, basically a big field that was part of the land belonging to the Castle.

Mancroft © Nick Stone 2013 2

I shall let Mr Plunkett explain the actual area in the photos in the context that he took them, rather than when I retook them.

“St Peter’s St 31 former White Swan Inn: Immediately within the shadow of St Peter Mancroft’s tower stood No 31 St Peter’s St, formerly the White Swan. Records show it to have been an inn as far back as the 15c, and although during the 20c it was occupied by a firm of wholesale grocers and latterly by motorcycle factors, many of the structural features of the earlier period remained, including the bar parlour, the cellars and a large assembly room. It was in this room that plays were enacted by the Norwich Company of Comedians before Thomas Ivory built his New Theatre in 1757-8, and as late as 1820 a “ballet of action and dance” and a masquerade were being advertised as taking place at the “Little Theatre, Swan inn”. In addition to this it was, during the 18c, one of the city’s well-known coaching inns (it is mentioned several times by Parson Woodforde in his 18c diary); the journey to London was made in one day.”

In 1936 when the future of the old inn was first threatened, Sidney Glendenning wrote to the Press as follows:

“The old White Swan is a more interesting building than the casual observer realises. It is a very substantial oak timber-framed building, probably of about the same date as the Strangers’ Club on Elm Hill… the frontage, which is supposed to look like a brick wall, is simply a covering of hanging tiles, shaped to look like bricks, concealing the brown oak framework and plaster filling of the Tudor house. This was due to a fashion for modernising in late Georgian times. Underneath is one of the best groined cellars in Norwich, belonging to an earlier building on this site and dating from the 15c or thereabouts… It was not until 1961 that the site was finally cleared and a car park established in front of the Central Public Library.”

This is of course now The Forum, our library, heritage centre and a Goth, Emo and skater magnet.

Mancroft © Nick Stone 2013 1

Original Photos used with the kind permission of Jonathan Plunket from the George Plunkett collection.

*I’m alluding to the Victorian additions to the tower, it’s a joke.