Oral Histories

Collecting oral histories was a key element of our project. A group of researchers were trained in oral history skills and ethics by BBC Voices.

Vox pops in Anglia Square

Our oral history researchers conducted ‘vox pops’. They spoke with members of the general public visiting Anglia Square and elsewhere in the city to find out their opinions about the Square. Listen to an edited selection of these.

Vox pops recorded by Ruth Katra, Isaac Scoulding, Hugh Mcglyn & Allie Musgrove

More than thirty people were asked to share their stories about living or working in the Square. These interviews are being stored in the Norfolk Sound Archive who use sound recordings to ‘capture personal memory and give a sense of local identity’. A sample of the interviews are available below:

Tony Cooper, recorded by Amanda Colman

Born in Norwich in the early 40s, Tony Cooper was brought up in the city and was first drawn ‘over the water’ to the Magdalen Street area through his involvement with the legendary Jacquard Club.  In the 60s, Tony and his brother, Albert, set up their traditional English folk and American blue grass club in the backroom of The Mischief pub and this later evolved
into a jazz and blues club with its own premises on Magdalen Street. The Jacquard hosted many iconic American artists such as the singer/pianist Blossom Dearie, guitarist Barney Kessel and the last great Blues shouter, Jimmy Witherspoon.

Tony talks about their club, wine bar and tap room. He explains the origin of the club’s folk heritage name – the ‘Jacquard Loom’, brought over from France by the persecuted Huguenots weavers which transformed the weaving industry so important to Norwich and Norfolk.

Tony describes and gives his opinion of the Magdalen Street area, past and present, comparing it to other parts of the city.  He talks about it being full of local shops for local people with a nice community, and latterly, multinational feel and appeal.  He mentions Frank Price’s department store which people used to flock to specifically. Tony talks about the Odeon cinema and describes what is was like in the days before smoking was prohibited. He gives his opinion of the 60s civic plan and development, the splitting of streets and brutalist architecture, such as Sovereign House and the Anglia Square development.
Residents of Doughty’s Hospital, recorded by Lee Nairn & Amanda Holland

Doughty’s (Hospital), situated in Golden Dog Lane, is an alms house, founded in 1687 which provides modern, self-contained flats for older people.  A variety of support services are on offer to residents, to enable them to live independently for as long as possible.
Doughty residents, Maureen Barber and June Nicholson, both aged 84 and Kathleen Harper, aged 98 and Vera Cary, aged 92 were interviewed in early February 2019 by researchers Lee Nairn and Mandy Holland.

In two delightful interviews they were asked about what the area means to them now, how they use the area, whether they feel safe and why they think it’s a good place to live etc.  They were also asked about what the area was like in the past in comparison, what changes they have seen and their opinion of those changes, how they used it socially, employment in the area, what it was like during the war etc.

The Doughty ladies talk about the changes in the shops and how the shops used to be so much a part of their lives compared to now.  Woollies, of course is mentioned but also Rosiers, Homes and Ketteringham’s fish shops, Maces, Looses china shop and Peacocks. They talk about jobs at Jarrold’s printing works, MacIntosh’s, Gunton’s Ironmongers, Mansfields the box factory, Turners and other shoe factories. They talk about the Doll’s Hospital, the cinemas, some of the pubs and dancing at Samson and Hercules with the American GIs and youth clubs.  

They offer us some lovely little details, for example, how, even as children, they would be allowed to take empty bottles for refilling from port and sherry barrels. One resident recalls early memories of large groups of people coming out to support a female parliamentary candidate (Dorothy Jewson) in her general election bid by parading in the streets, hitting dustbin lids with sticks and chanting.

Pupils at Wensum Junior School interviewed Daniel Swift Gibbs, an architect who designed an alternative vision of Anglia Square. Edited excerpts of his interview are below, thanks to Rob Whalen:

Daniel talks about what he would do if he was in charge of Anglia Square.

Daniel talks about his thoughts when designing the alternative plans for Anglia Square

Daniel discusses what he would choose for the area of Anglia Square

Daniel talks about his views on the cinema

Daniel talks about his thoughts of living in the area

 Daniel talks about what Anglia Square means to him

Daniel talks about the style of buildings in Anglia Square

Daniel talks about what he likes about the plans for Anglia Square and the future

Daniel shares his first thoughts about the Anglia Square project and why he likes it

Daniel talks about his opinions on Anglia Square and the redevelopment plans