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D: Dragon Hall

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Dragon Hall.
Dragon Hall, Norwich

The secret of hidden Dragon Hall in Norwich was revealed during work in the late 1970s.

What had appeared to be three properties was in reality a single medieval hall.

Medieval craftsmanship, mercantile trade and the Norwich Cloth Manufacture were all central to the birth and life of this building.

Dragon Hall on King Street - one of Norwich's oldest streets - consists of a magnificent 15th century merchant's hall at first floor level.

timber frame.
Medieval crown-post roof

Described as 'the secular equivalent of East Anglia's great medieval churches', the timber-framed Great Hall with its outstanding Crown Post Roof and intricately carved and painted dragon is a monument to medieval craftmanship.

Built for the sale and display of cloth, a staple of the Norwich economy from the 15th century until the early 19th century, the hall is a legacy of the early days of the Norwich Cloth Manufacture.

As the only medieval merchant's trading hall known to have survived in Europe, Dragon Hall is unique.

Although a handful of guildhalls remain, most were built for a group of merchants, whereas Dragon Hall was built for one merchant alone - Robert Toppes.

dragon carving.
Carved and painted dragon

Toppes' magnificent trading hall was a visual manifestation of his wealth and social standing.

The decorative scheme was even more elaborate in his time than it is today: the beams and timbers were stained with red ochre and each spandrel contained an intricate carving, which like the single remaining carving, was probably a dragon.

Knowledge of Robert Toppes is sketchy. Enormously wealthy he exported woollen cloth to the continent.

Described as a citizen of both London and Norwich, in his will he bequeathed money to many churches in the major wool centres of East Anglia, including Worstead and every church in Norwich.

Among these, Toppes left money for the rebuilding of St. Peter Mancroft, his own parish church.

Dragon Hall is the only property that he did not will to his family. Instead, he ordered that it should be sold and that the proceeds used to pay two priests of St Peter Mancroft Church to pray for his soul.

Copyright of all pictures on this page: The Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust. Text courtesy of Sarah Knight, Director Dragon Hall.

Internet links:
Dragon Hall


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Sense of Place
Weird Norfolk
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Norfolk traditions





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