Twelve Surprising Facts about St Augustine's
St Augustine’s church has a single surviving fragment of its medieval rood screen (‘rood’ is derived from an Old English word for a cross or crucifix). It depicts St Apollonia, a 3rd-century Christian deaconess from Alexandria in Egypt now regarded as the patron saint of dentists! For more information click here.
The Gildencroft was once used by Norwich’s knights for jousting practice. Edward III may have attended a tournament here in 1340. An area immediately to the south of the city wall opposite Bakers Road was marked ‘Jousting Acre’ on some early maps of Norwich. For more information click here.
A local weaver, Robert ‘Gaffer’ Watts, who had been found guilty of murdering his wife in fit of jealous rage, was publicly hanged outside his own house in Botolph Street on 30 August 1701. His wife's ghost was said to haunt the Old Globe inn in Botolph Street (today located somewhere underneath Anglia Square) near where she was so brutally slain.
Until 1925 tram cars of the Norwich Electric Tramway Company rattled up and down Sussex Street on their way between Aylsham Road and City Station (once one of Norwich's three railway stations). The tram route opened on 1 August 1900 and operated for 25 years.
Gurney brothers John and Henry, both Quakers, opened their first bank in Tooley Lane (near present-day Pitt Street and Cherry Lane) in 1775, a business that eventually grew to become the international financial institution known today as Barclays.
Until the early 1970s Malzy Court off Chatham Street was known as Cooke’s Hospital, a charitable almshouse which relocated there from Rose Lane in 1892. It was renamed by Norwich estate agent Frank Potter after his grandfather, whose ancestors came from Malzy in northern France.
St Augustine’s parish once had at least 17 public houses in the late 19th/early 20th century: the Boatswains Call, Britannia Tavern, Bushell, Catherine Wheel, Duke of Sussex, Free Trade Tavern, Globe, Kings Arms, Prince of Wales, Queen Adelaide, Rose Inn, Royal Oak, Shuttles, Spread Eagle, Staff of Life, Sussex Arms and Wine Coopers Arms. Today there are just two still open – the Catherine Wheel and Spread Eagle.
The Lathes housing estate, managed by Broadland Housing Association, got its name from a farm on the same site which was owned by the Great Hospital in Bishopgate. ‘Lathe’ is a dialect word for a type of barn or grain store, similar in derivation to 'larder'. There were still some old farm buildings near here as late as the 1940s.
It isn’t know for certain which St Augustine is remembered in the name of the parish church: St Augustine of Hippo or St Augustine of Canterbury. However, it is known that in the 12th and 13th centuries its priests were appointed by an Augustinian priory in Gloucester, followers of a monastic rule based on the teachings of St Augustine of Hippo.
Norwich’s oldest surviving cemetery specifically for its Jewish citizens was established on a small plot of land in the Gildencroft leased by the city’s Hebrew Congregation in 1813. It ceased being used for internments in 1854. Its founder, Barnett Crawcour, a dentist, is buried there. For more information click here.
Executed for desertion in France in 1917 aged just 20, Private John Henry Abigail of the 8th Battalion Norfolk Regiment is remembered along with 78 other local men on St Augustine’s Great War Roll of Honour screen, one of very few such executed British servicemen so commemorated. He was officially pardoned in 2006.
St Augustine’s unique orange-red brick tower was completed in 1687, earning its parishioners the nickname ‘Red Steeplers’. Its builders placed the date of its completeion on the east parapet. This was only rediscovered in 2002 when 200-year-old cement rendering was removed during restoration work on the tower undertaken on behalf of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Text © S. J. McLaren, 2006-8