A Journey from the Royal Hotel to Dereham Road

By Wayne Kett

We have these tram lines in our store, salvaged from the days when Norwich operated a tram service. This inspired me to write a brief history of Norwich’s tram network, however I soon discovered this has been more than adequately covered elsewhere.

Instead I thought it would be interesting to imagine a journey in one of Norwich’s trams, so for this blog I will attempt to recreate as accurately as possible one of the seven routes.


2 Tram lines from the now defunct Norwich tram network

But first, a little background information:

  • Norwich’s tram network, operated by Norwich Electric Tramways Company opened on the 30th July 1900.
  • The tram network was extensive with 7 routes in total. Stretching as far as Mousehold Heath to the North, Trowse to the South, Earlham Road Cemetery to the West and then only as far as Norwich train station to the East.
  • After 35 years of operation, it closed on the 10th December 1935.
  • Its demise was the result of being purchased by the Eastern Omnibus Company, who bought the network simply to close it down and thus clear the way for their new bus service.

A tram journey through Norwich…..

The year was 1900, the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil was prime minister, Queen Victoria was still on the throne and it was long enough ago that nobody alive today was alive then.

Our journey starts at the Royal Hotel which sits at the top of Prince of Wales Road across the road from the Shirehall, then a court, now the home of Norfolk Museums Service. In 1900 the Royal Hotel was a new building, just 3 years old and already established as the hotel of choice for the good and great to stay, when visiting Norwich.


The Royal Hotel (on the left) in 1905. It closed its doors as a hotel in the 1970’s

Next our tram travels down Bank Plain, and swings round onto St Andrew Street, passing St Andrews Hall on the right, and Suckling House on the left. Suckling House is the current home of Cinema City, in 1900 it was separated into several private residences that were in a state of disrepair.

As our tram passes along Charing Cross a glance to the left reveals Strangers Hall, a brand new folk museum opened to the public as of May 1900 by Leonard Bolingbroke, a local solicitor who saved the building from destruction.


Strangers Hall, today

Many building were demolished or altered to make way for the new tram system. Norwich’s narrow, winding medieval streets were simply unsuitable for a mass transit system like a tram network. This is aptly demonstrated by the next segment of our tram journey from Charring Cross onto St Benedict’s Street.

The image below shows the approach to St Benedict’s Street just before the construction of the tram network.

The building in this image is the pub ‘The Three Pigeons’, demolished to make way for the tram network, this pub was re-built across the street and became the Hog In Armour (now the Mash Tun).

This next image shows the same view just a few years later. The difference is stark, the whole area has been opened to the sky, and the old, dark, narrow, cramped streets have given way to space, light and of course, trams.


The image above shows our tram about to head down St Benedicts Street, we will pass the Vine Tavern on the left hand side. Were we to look towards our right we would see the site of Bullards, brewer of much of Norwich’s beer. Some of our fellow passengers would likely vacate the tram on their way to work at the brewery.

St Benedict’s Street now houses an eclectic mix of alternative shops, restaurants, venues and pubs. In 1900 it was rather more conventional, but still housed a vast array of business’s. Bear in mind that St Benedicts Street is just 500m long, then consider that we would pass a total of 14 pubs, 6 butchers and 3 tobacconists.

As we travel those short 500 meters we might notice Frank Kirby’s bicycle shop at number 5 St Benedict’s Street, Brett’s furniture shop at number 12 (opened in 1870 by my great, great, great uncle Jonathan Thomas Brett!). Number 19 was a musical instrument seller by the name of Cooke’s (they still have a shop on St Benedict’s), at number 56 was Hugh Manes umbrella repair shop, 63 was Edward Making, chemist and druggist. And at number 98 was William Burtles coffee rooms (14 pubs and only 1 coffee shop. How things have changed!)


Number 92 – H. Read English & Foreign Fruiterers

As we neared the end of St Benedict’s Street and the end of our journey, we may have seen St Benedict’s Church, which was still a thriving local Church. It was of course destroyed beyond repair in World War Two, during the Baedeker raids that hit Norwich in April 1942.

As we venture onto Dereham Road, probably the biggest difference we would note between then and now, is the lack of cars. In 1900 fewer than 1% of the population has access to a motor car. Those not traveling by tram or by horse would likely be walking, the pavements were busier places in 1900!

Our journey reaches its end about half a mile along Dereham Road, just before Merton Road.


The view back towards the city as our tram journey comes to an end

Footage of a tram journey in Norwich in 1902 from the East Anglian Film Archive

Whilst researching this blog I consulted Kelly’s Norfolk guide of 1900 which lists which shops, pubs and other businesses were operating on St Benedict’s Street in 1900. For anybody that may be interested, here is the complete list:

1 – Mapperley colliery company
2 – Vine Taven (PH)
3 – Joseph Crossfield & Sons soap manufacturers
4 – Alexandra (PH)
4 – Joshua Webster – Book retailer
5 – Frank Kirby – Bicycle dealer
6 – George Ashfield – Baker
7 – Herbert Mutimer – Dairyman
8 – Arthur Sulivan – Wholesale confectioner
9 – Lewis & Emmanuel Ecker – Outfitter
10 – Walter Cox – Provision dealer
11 – Frederick Fitt – Corn merchant
12 – John Brett – House furnisher (Jonathan Brett and sons)
13 – Albert Golding – House furnisher
14 – George William & Sons – Curriers, Lord Howe yard and shoe warehouse.
15 – John Brett – House furnisher
16 – Home & Colonial Store Ltd
17 – Issac Leverton – Picture frame maker
18 – John Yallop – Greengrocers
19 – Arthur William Cooke – Musical instrument seller
20 – Charles Hansell – Fish & Chip Shop
St Lawrence Church
21 – W Moore – Draper
22 – Mary Ann Mitchell – Greengrocers
23 – W Moore – Draper
24 – Arthur Loker – Hairdresser
25 – Arthur Gardinier – Tobacconist
26 – George Cooper – Dining rooms
27 – Robert Boast – Working jeweler
28 – Christopher Martins – Butcher
29 – Alice Sussams – Greengrocers
30 – Stead & Simpson Limited – Boot and shoe warehouse
31 – Joshua Calver – Baker
32 – Frederick Newby – Butcher
33 – Thomas Cooper – Pork butcher
34 – Prince of Wales (PH)
35 – Susannah Borking – Shopkeeper
St Margaret’s Church
36 – Saunders shoe manufacturers
37 – W Moore – Draper
38 – George Loynes – Greengrocers
39 – James Tate – Confectioner
40 – Charles Barnett – Draper and house furnisher
41 – Charles Lindsey – Pork butcher
43 – George Kidd – Tobacconist
45 – Henry Coldham – Pork butchers
46 – Three Kings (PH)
47 – Frederick Wiley, Greengrocers
48 – Benjamin Olley – Tinplate worker
49 – Daniel Drake – Mineral water manufacturer
49 – Queen of Hungary (PH)
50 – Annie Holland – Fishmonger
51 – Albert Farrow – Greengrocers
52-54 – Walter Mace – Boot and shoe manufacturer
53 – Maria Powell – Hairdresser
St Swithins Church (Closed)
55 – Curl Bros – Drapers
56 – Hugh Manes – Umbrella repair
57 – William Smith – Ironmonger
58 – Plough (PH)
59 – William Adams – Butchers
60 – Alfred Ketteringham – Greengrocers
61 – Danish Dairy Co
62 – William Robert Rose – Newsagents
63 – Edward Making – Chemist and druggist
64 – Margaret White – Fishmongers
65 – Stag (PH)
66 – Eliza Bird – Fruiterer
67 – Beehive (PH)
68 – W Hinds – Rope and twine manufacturers
69 – Colman & co ltd – Wine merchants
70 – Henry Sutherland – Newsagents
71 – The Crown (PH)
72 – George Douglas – Grindery dealer
73 – G Gamble – Pawnbroker and clothier
74 – George Blower – Marine store dealer
75 – Wallace King – Ironmonger
76 – Thomas Gooch – Tobacconist
77 – Barclays Bank
78 – 10 Bells (PH)
79 – Walter Nickalls – Fishmongers
81 – James Cowling – Butcher
80-82 – Scott & Cousins – Boot & Shoe Factory
83 – William Bilby – Hairdressers
84 – George Lawrence – Basket maker
85 – Robert Baldwin – Newsagents
86 – Cardinals Cap (PH)
87 – Valentine Luscombe Narracott – Baker
88 – Leach & Tooley – Decorating supplies
89 – Fountain (PH)
90 – Walter Browne – Lithographer
91 – Harcourts (PH)
92 – H. Read English & Foreign Fruiterers
St Benedicts Church
96 – Arthur Lemmon – Baker
98 – William Burtle Coffee Rooms
100 – Scott & Cousins – boot & Shoe Factory
102 – Thomas Dunmore – corn and flour merchant
104 – James Fletcher – confectioner
106 – White Lion (PH)
108 – John Palmer – Saddler
110 – Charles Pimm – Greengrocers
114 – Edgar Banger – Photographer

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2 Responses to A Journey from the Royal Hotel to Dereham Road

  1. jennygladstone@aol.com says:

    Typo I think. But article is great fun thanks. Jenny

    Norwich’s tram network, operated by Norwich Electric Tramways Company opened on the 30th July 1990.


  2. Thanks for the heads up about the typo! Has now been corrected 🙂


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