About Us
News and Events
Community Issues
Local Directory
Handy Links
History of the Area
Photo Archives
St Augustines Area in the News


6. The Twentieth Century and Beyond

During the 20th century, the parish suffered the twin calamities of war and economic depression. Before the First World War (1914-1918) large numbers of its young men emigrated to North America, Australia and New Zealand seeking work and a new life. Tragically, many were to die when they returned to defend the motherland in the Great War. The loss of life was almost unimaginable. The combined parishes of St Augustine’s and St Mary's Coslany lost about one in ten of its men of service age (i.e. roughly between the ages of 18 and 30) in the war: on the Western Front, Gallipoli, Iraq, Palestine and other theatres of war.

St Augustine’s church has the largest collection of First World War memorials of any church in Norwich, other than the cathedral. In 1920, an oak screen was erected under the chancel arch to the memory of 79 men of the combined parishes of St Augustine’s and St Mary's Coslany. The Roll of Honour includes the names of three officers, each one a local man promoted from the ranks, as well as several sets of brothers, a soldier who served in the US Army and, unusually, the name of one soldier, Private John Henry Abigail of the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment who has the dubious distinction of being the only member of his regiment to have been shot for desertion during the First World War. He was officially pardoned by the Government, along with 304 other British servicemen of the First World War, in 2006. Individual memorials to six First World  War soldiers can also be found within the church. St Augustine’s Hall, currently used for worship and social functions, was also built as a memorial to the lost generation of young men who perished in the Great War. Given that St Augustine’s was one of the poorest parishes in the city it is all the more remarkable that its citizens managed to raise, both individually and collectively, the not inconsiderable funds needed to build these memorials to the lost.

The inter-war years saw much slum clearance in the parish, but little new housing was built locally to replace it. While the number of servicemen from the parish killed during the Second World War (1939-1945) was considerably less, the horror of war was brought home by enemy bombing raids in which several parishioners were killed. Much property was also damaged or destroyed, including St Augustine’s School in Aylsham Road and the Friends’ Meeting House in Chatham Street. Luckily St Augustine’s church escaped damage. A simple, wood and copper monument to the parish’s losses in the Second World War is located on the south-west wall of the nave, near the porch (see right). In addition to the names of local servicemen, it includes a poignant list of civilian casualties – four from the same family killed during the devastating ‘Baedeker Blitz’ of April 1942. Electric light was also installed in the church for the first time in memory of the parishioners lost during the Second World War at home and overseas. In the post-war period, the parish saw continuing economic decline and urban decay. Moves to remedy this were controversial. The completion of the inner ring road in the early 1970s, effectively cut off the parish from the rest of the city centre, further emphasising the area’s marginality, while the opening of a brutalist concrete shopping precinct known as Anglia Square, obliterated large portions of the area’s ancient streetscape and retail character.

By the early 1990s St Augustine’s church was becoming unfit for worship, as its fabric, in particular, the tower, was considered to be in a dangerous state. In July 1996 the Eastern Evening News reported that St Augustine’s was in need of a friend. There was concern that the weight of the bells was endangering the tower and so in November 1996 its three 17th-century bells were taken down and removed to Carelton Rode church in south Norfolk. On 26 November 1997, the church was officially declared redundant and on 19 April 2000 placed in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The Trust then undertook an extensive scheme of restoration; the tower, in particular, being made safe once again. Work was completed in 2002 and a commemorative service was held in the restored church on 16 June 2002. The HERS (Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme) Northern Gates project, operated and funded by Norwich city Council in cooperation with English Heritage, was initiated in 2002 to improve the condition and appearance of historic buildings in the St Augustine’s Street and Magdalen Street areas by offering grants. During 2002–2003 City Works with the financial help of Norwich City Council and English Heritage undertook a major programme of maintenance work inthe churchyard.

St Augustine’s Community Together Residents’ Association, founded in 2003, seeks to improve the local environment and the quality of life of those who live, work and play in the area by addressing the problems of crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as campaigning for the provision of better social amenities and economic sustainability. In so many ways it is remarkable how the concerns of
St Augustine’s 21st-century residents parallel those
of its earlier parishioners. 

Return to Home page
Return to History of the Area Home page
Return to History of
St Augustine's Church Contents page
Go to next section













Above: Second World War Roll of Honour in
St Augustine's Church, Norwich





website sponsored by

© St Augustine's Community Together Residents' Association
All rights reserved

website design software
website design software