The secret of
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.
'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.
handful of guildhalls remain, most were built for a group of merchants,
whereas Dragon Hall was built for one merchant alone - Robert
and painted dragon
trading hall was a visual manifestation of his wealth and social
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
of all pictures on this page: The Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust.
Text courtesy of Sarah Knight, Director Dragon Hall.
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