In 1404 Norwich gained its charter granting it status as a county in its own right. As part of the civic elites' ambitions for the city construction of the guildhall began soon after this date.
Although it had key civic functions - for instance hosting the Mayor's Court and the Common Council - as you can see from this excerpt of a transciption from the city's 1449 'Ordinances for Crafts' (shown below) it was also used by the craft guilds.
A few things we note from this:
1. As with our apprenticeships, in the medieval city it was recognised that there are no short cuts to mastering one's craft ie seven year terms are stipulated.
2. It is interesting to note that the role of women in the crafts was expliciltly recognised. We are very proud that we are training female apprentices in what is still a male-dominated industry.
3. Upon completion of their apprenticeship craftspeople were ceremonially enrolled within the chamber of the Guildhall. This is a tradition we would be very keen to re-establish. After all, our guild is founded in traditions going back to 1096 and beyond. In other words, we are not re-enactors: the Guild of St Stephen & St George brings genuine authenticity to this guild hall.
Moving on, let us take a look at some of the techniques used in the building's construction...
Working with flint is immensely difficult. This silica-based material is incredibly had to shape by hand. Here, flints have had their faces flattened but retain their round shapes. To prevent ugly great expanses of mortar distracting from the glassy black flint finish the builders have used flakes of flint as a filler - a traditional technique known as galletting.
In some sections of the wall (which are most probably nineteenth century restoration work) the flint is flattened and squared leaving very fine joints. Impressive and expensive work!
Moving around to the side facing the market - quite literally, the business end of the building - there is a lovely nineteenth century tympanum with female angels supporting the city's coat of arms. With some careful conservation this would clean up a treat!
Likewise, the drinking fountain, bequested to the city by Charles Pierre Melly in 1859, would greatly benefit from sensitive conservation. We assume that the water source for this is the well that is now culverted (covered up) and was located near the nearby taxi ramp.
Finally, here is the doorway that was relocated to the guildhall having once been the entrance to a house on London Street (formerly, Cockey Lane) owned by goldsmith, John Bassingham. He lived during Tudor times and, as with many merchants during the period of the Reformation of the 1530s, it is likely that he came into possession of this from an ecclesiastical building that was 'dissolved' at the time. Certainly, the late perpendicular style of the 'four point' arch suggests a fifiteenth century date, whilst the (now empty) statue niches would be typical for a door of a church, monastery or friary.
Whatever it's provenance, however, the work pictured her, replete with civic heraldry, belongs to a later period - most likely, the nineteenth century.
You sometimes hear people plaintively say, "if only stones could speak." Well, as you can see from this, to us they do.