Royal Arcade, Norwich


The Royal Arcade in Norwich is beautifully designed, with lots of original features still visible today. From the frontage, with its ornate script welcoming the visitor over the entrance, up to the smiling face up in the gables high above; there are peacock designs in the decorations above each shop and art nouveau paintings high up towards the glass dome. A cross-section runs towards the special entrance for the Conservative Club, its ornately carved name dating from 1899 still standing over the entrance door. On opening day in June that year, the local newspaper described the arcade as the ‘prettiest spot in the city, by long chalks.’ Today it still manages to combine high-end shops with places accessible to all.

My favourite shop today

The place we visited on our trip to Norwich was Marmalades Café, with really friendly service and great for people-watching as shoppers sat for a cuppa before heading to the market across the road.

If I was a few years younger my choice would have been Langley’s toy shop, in business since 1883, with its vintage shop front full of delights to draw in a child’s eyes.

My pick of the arcade’s past

In 1906, the photographer based in the arcade, a Mr Wilkinson, was called upon to help police in their enquiries into a fire and death at a house in the northern part of central Norwich. The death of Joseph Kowen in a street now demolished and under a present-day car dealership became one of the UK’s most renowned unsolved murders at the time. The arcade photographer was brought in to take photos used at the trial and inquest, as probably one of the few professional photographers in the city at the time.

Albert Ransom ran an insurance broker’s out of Number 1, Royal Arcade for many of the early years of the building. He was so well-respected locally that he had a regular column updating readers of the local newspaper on financial market matters. Just after the outbreak of World War 1, though, Mr Ransom was forced to file for bankruptcy, with his liabilities suggesting his problems must have extended back to well before the start of the war. And he was later called on to give evidence against another member of his staff up before the courts for defrauding several locals over sales of various stocks and investments.

Information here courtesy of The British Library Board; 1. Eastern Daily Press, Norwich, 17 January 1906; 2. Evening Star, Ipswich, 18 December 1914.

This arcade in films or books

The Royal Arcade, Norwich featured in a 2015 film called In Another Country starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney.

  • What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?
  • What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?
  • Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?
  • Have you seen the Royal Arcade in any other film or book?

Is there a website for this arcade?

The Royal Arcade in Norwich has its own website. Click the link to view.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *