Friday, May 21, 2010

Royal Arcade, Norwich

click photos to enlarge
In a recent post I suggested that the buildings that survive the bulldozer are those built in the right place to high standards. I could have added that structures exhibiting qualities before their time also have a chance of a long life. In that group of buildings stands the arcade, the forerunner of today's shopping malls.

Victorian shopping arcades can be found across the UK. Glass roofed, with rows of small shops, each with an entrance door and window, sometimes single storey, often with two levels, cross-shaped or simply linear, these arcades have seen their ups and downs over the decades, but have sufficient charms and economic attractions that they still exist today.

One of my early posts shows the Leyland Arcade at Southport, Lancashire, a fine example from 1898. Today's photograph shows the Royal Arcade, Norwich, built the following year. What makes this example special is the entrance front at Back of the Inns, and the decorative scheme, which is the closest that English Arts and Crafts gets to the Art Nouveau of Continental Europe. It is by George Skipper, a gifted provincial architect, who went on to design in the Edwardian Baroque style. In this building the arcade's plan is a "T" shape, with a single transept branching off the main thoroughfare. The entrance is a scheme in Doulton-made coloured glazed tiles (faience) by W. J. Neatby. The stylized, inverted heart-shaped flowers, the stained glass flowers/trees and the characteristic lettering are all Art Nouveau in style. So too is the female head framed by elongated wings at the apex of the concave gable. Inside the building are bow-fronted shop windows and a colourful frieze that includes peacocks and flowers. The striking lamp shades and the floor details date from a sympathetic restoration of 1986-91.

The Royal Arcade is a building I have been familiar with through books and photographs for many years. I was pleased to have the opportunity to see it and photograph it even though the dull, damp day wasn't quite what I would have wished for. I was also delighted to find it busy with shoppers, a confirmation of its continuing attraction.

photographs & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 7.4mm (35mm/35mm equiv.) (5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f5.6 (f4)
Shutter Speed: 1/800 (1/1000)
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On