Cat no. 304

The Story of Magdalen Street

Running time14:11 Colour Sound c.1960 Norwich, Norfolk

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The redevelopment of Magdalen Street.



A film sponsored by The Civic Trust to record the redevelopment of Magdalen Street, Norwich. It provides a record of Magdalen Street before Anglia Square was built and before many buildings, including the branch of Barclays Bank at Stump cross, were demolished to build the flyover for the inner ring road.

The film begins with an introduction from Colonel Post, Director of the Civic Trust, explaining the project and its impetus. Colonel Post is filmed speaking on a balcony overlooking the City. The Guildhall and the Cathedral are in the background. The film shows stills of Magdalen Street before the redevelopment scheme. These highlight some of the architectural features of the street and emphasise the haphazard development. Mr. Duncan Sandys, President of the Civic Trust, declares the new Magdalen Street open in May 1959. Mr. Sandys tours the street with the Mr. Norman Tillett, the Lord Mayor of Norwich. At one stage he emerges from the Kings Head with a pint of bitter. The party is filmed walking along Princes Street and into St. Andrews Hall. Here the audience includes Sir Gordon Russell of the Council for Industrial Design and Miss Sylvia Crowe, President of the Institute of Landscape Architects. They listen to speeches by Basil Spence, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Misha Black, the co-ordinating architect of the scheme and John Peyton, the M.P. for Norwich North.

The film returns to Magdalen Street and shows detail of the redevelopment. There are shots of the newly painted shops and stills showing the progress that has been made. The repainted Barclays Bank at Stump Cross features. The film shows how the scheme went beyond the facade of the street to include repainting the courtyards that lead off Magdalen Street and features Gurney's Court, a courtyard of Georgian appearance. Doorways and carvings are highlighted. A series of stills and static shots show before and after effects. The street lights previously free-standing in the narrow pavements, have been bracketed onto buildings and their numbers increased. Traffic signs have been redesigned, often amalgamated and placed in more suitable positions.

The Magdalen Street Traders association, reformed since the scheme began, offer their views on the development. Mr. Cross and other traders explain the benefits that have been brought to the street. The commentary emphasises that the cost of the redevelopment to the traders was £6,000 or £80 per business. The film ends by tracking up and down the street, showing the overall effect of the scheme.

Background Information:

The town improvement schemes started around 1959. It all began in Magdalen Street, Norwich - almost by accident. One of Norwich's MPs happened to be Duncan Sandy's Parliamentary Private Secretary, Geoffrey Rippon. And he was keen to see the Trust make an impact on the place. We did think that we might be able to come up with a scheme to revitalise a particular street, recalls Michael Middleton. We wanted people to become more aware of their surroundings, to make them realise that they could be changed if they wanted them to.

The Story of Magdalen Street: Accordingly, the Trust descended on Magdalen Street, enlisting the co-operation of the local council as well as 80 shopkeepers and tenants in the street. It designed a facelift for the street, stripping away what it called 'unnecessary clutter'- advertising signs, road signs, brash fascias and cables - and picking out the buildings in pastel shades that came to signal gentrification in progress in countless suburbs. Today, however, Magdalen Street looks sadly dated. The fact that a road was pushed through the area, pulling down many buildings, hasn't helped, but the colouring and lettering that are left have a fey, insubstantial look, the before and after photographs which the Trust used to publish with such pride now tell another story. The mellow brick which disappeared beneath the paint looks as if it would have been best left alone, and the signs which gave the buildings much of their charm have been vacuum-cleaned away in the interests of tidiness. (From 'Monuments to 25 Years of Muddle' by Deyan Sudjic. Published in the Sunday Times Magazine, April 25th 1982.)


Although of Georgian appearance, Gurney's Court is a medieval structure. Both Elizabeth Fry and Harriet Martineau have lived there.

Featured People:

Misha Black, co-ordinating architect of the scheme; Mr. Cross, spokesperson of the Magdalen Street Traders Association; Sylvia Crowe, President of the Institute of Landscape Architects; John Peyton, M.P. for Norwich North; Colonel K.G. Post, Director of the Civic Trust; Sir Gordon Russell, President of the Institute of Landscape Architects; Duncan Sandys, President of the Civic Trust; Basil Spence, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects; Mr. Norman Tillett, Lord Mayor of Norwich

Featured Organisations:

The Civic Trust; The Magdalen Street Traders Association; The Council for Industrial Design; The Institute of Landscape Architects; The Royal Institute of British Architects; Barclays Bank

Featured Events:

The opening of the Civic Trust redevelopment of Magdalen Street

Featured Buildings:

Cathedral; Guildhall; St. Andrews Hall; St Saviours' Church; Gurney's Court; Barclays Bank, Stump Cross

The Civic Trust

Pamela Wilcox Bower

Ken Morgan

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