Time of change: Chapply Field House

After the dissolution the destruction of chapels like St Mary de Campo across the country gained pace with an explosion in demolitions. As the church shifted so did how it viewed and managed properties. This resulted in the deconsecration and sale of various buildings. In Norwich St Mary was just one loss in a long list that included St Olaves, St Mary Unbrent, St Crouch, and St Vedast, along with Whitefriars and Greyfriars and a huge number other ecclesiastic buildings priories and friaries.

Subsequently as these were dismantled building work also started to take place; consolidation and expansion of other churches, such as St Andrew and St Clement, and development or rebuilding of notable properties such as Augustine Steward House, Suckling Hall, and Samson and Hercules House mortared these buildings so firmly into the street pattern of the city for centuries to come.

After Miles Spenser’s death in 1569 what remained of the property on the site was left to his nephew William Yaxley. He in turn sold the property to Thomas Cornwallis of Suffolk, the eldest son of Sir John Cornwallis a steward to the household of King Edward VI.

Speed 1616 map

Thomas, an MP for Suffolk was directly involved in the suppression of Kett’s rebellion of 1549 on the side of the Crown. He was captured by the rebels and only released when the Earl of Warwick’s forces quashed the revolt. Cornwallis’ support for Queen Mary saw him appointed to the Privy Council and eventually he became Comptroller of the Household before being relieved of his post when Elizabeth I, whose sympathies lay elsewhere, came to the throne.

Between 1573 and 1586 a wealthy and now retired Sir Thomas set about converting and rebuilding what was now known as Chapel of the Field House He created a new hall and gallery, and added a kitchen stables, tennis court and formal gardens were laid out. The house passed to his son Charles for £1000 in 1603. Charles an ambassador in Madrid probably never lived here and in 1609 Chapply Field House was sold.

The property was bought by Sir Henry Hobart, Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and also the MP for Norwich. Such was his influence and eminence nationally that the corporation saw fit to gift back parts of the site to him. They also leased the original croft and fields back to him too, forming the site into an impressive estate. Part of the croft now forms what we know as Chapelfield Gardens. It was a prudent move given his stature at the time. Henry is probably most famous for initiating the rebuilding of Blickling Hall on the original site of the Falstaff and the Boleyn house using the beautiful designs of Robert Lyminge.

On his death in 1625 the lease passed to his son Sir John Hobart the 2nd Baronet, who represented Norfolk in Parliament. He was also a member of the much vaunted Long Parliament of 1640 to 1660 and another eminent character in the human landscape of both the county and the country. Sir John married twice. He and his second wife Frances employed John Collinges a nonconformist theologian and had a Chapel created in the house for him.

After Sir John’s death Frances continued to live in and look after the house and grounds, Collinges continued to lecture in the chapel whilst being the vicar of St Stephens until being removed at the restoration in 1660 and was banned from using the Chapel at Chapply Field House when an act was passed restraining religious meetings. He continued to lecture independently from the old granary behind Blackfriars and a building in Colegate which was eventually replaced by the Octagon Chapel one of the earliest Methodist Chapels in the world.

The house passed to Sir John Hobart the third baronet on Frances death. Sir John was a staunch Parliamentarian and became High Sheriff of Norfolk, a much respected man under whom Chapply Field House became a headquarters for local Whig activity in the city. The Hobarts at this point moved themselves back to Blickling Hall.

Under John and his son Henry the house was leased out with an agreement that the Hobart’s could still enjoy a very limited use of two chambers when required. The site falls into historical silence. Animals grazing on the croft again and lodgers staying quietly within the walls.

Feature image: Detail from Cleer’s map of Norwich 1696.
Map: Speed’s map of 1616.

Inset portrait: Chief Justice, Sir Henry Hobart. Public Domain – Wikipedia/National Trust Collection.
Inset portrait:
John CollingesGustavus Ellinthorpe Sintzenich, Mansfield College, University of Oxford


By | February 28th, 2017|heritage blogs|0 Comments

The Noverre Cinema: Some Like It Hot

SOME LIKE IT HOT, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, 1959

This Spring the ballroom of The Assembly House will once again become the Noverre Cinema, holding a public screening for the first time in over twenty years.

The Assembly House Trust are teaming up with Cinema City Education to revive one of Norwich’s long-lost cinemas for a special screening of Hollywood classic ‘Some Like It Hot’ starring Marilyn Monroe.

The event also marks the opening of a new exhibition charting the history of The Assembly House, as part of a year of events celebrating the history of the building.

Audience members are encouraged to arrive early to browse the exhibition and enjoy a selection of local archive films.


Event information:

Some Like It Hot (PG)

Exhibition opens from 6pm

Archive Films from 7pm

Main Feature 7.30pm

Tickets £8

Tickets are available online or by calling 01603 625 145


Some Like It Hot (PG) 1959

Director Billy Wilder’s Hollywood classic, featuring an iconic performance from Marilyn Monroe.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play jazz musicians on the run after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day massacre, masquerading in drag as members of an all-girl band to escape the clutches of Chicago mobster George Raft.

Each man has his own problems; one falls for another band member but can’t tell her his gender, and the other has a rich suitor who will not take “No,” for an answer.

By | February 28th, 2017|Event, Heritage|0 Comments

The early site: The Chapel and college of St Mary in the Fields

One of the most remarkable things about any landscape urban or rural isn’t so much what you can see as what you can’t, and how what is there covers up what was. The Assembly House sits in an area of the city which would have been just on the edge of the Norman settlement, and would have been crofts and fields on the edge of the as yet unwalled settlement of Norwich.

In 1248 the land was granted to John Le Brun, he was the founder of the hospital of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the site. His brothers gave the advowson or legal right to their churches; St Mary Unbrent, St George Tombland and St Andrew. In 1278 Le Brun became the Dean of what was now a secular college, it contained quite a large and community with a Chancellor and a Treasurer, a Precentor to lead the singing, Prebendaries who effectively administered it as an entity and drew a stipend from its endowments, plus lay-clerks who formed the choir.

The Assembly House - Glass Plates

The Chapel of St Mary in the Field was important, It grew out of a time of tension between the people of the growing city and the power of the cathedral; The dedication to Mary and the foundation of the Guild of Corpus Christi may relate to Le Brun’s possible involvement in the riots against the cathedral in Tombland, and his trying to curry favour with the Pope. As an entity the chapel and college provided a bridge with the cathedral associating with the people and the city. As a result it received civic funds, bequests and support from the city. In addition in 1388 the college acquired the advowson to St Peter Mancroft, then in a particularly poor state. It also held several other churches in Norfolk, bringing the total including the Chapel in the fields to nine.

The college chancel was rebuilt between 1425 and 1435, with other areas restored from 1444 a rood loft built in 1501. During this period before the Guildhall was built it had come to be used as a meeting place for the corporation, so there is a longer tradition of assemblies hidden within this previous use of the site.

The College ceased to be at the dissolution in 1544 under the last Dean,  Miles Spenser, when it was surrendered to Henry VIII. Two year later the site was granted back to Spenser now the Archdeacon of Norwich, the chapel was demolished as was his legal obligation. The remaining buildings were slowly demolished and sold while part of the college was turned into his residence.

The Assembly House - Glass Plates

The streets and places around it echo with memory of the site, Chapelfield Gardens was originally part of the precinct and close which originally stretched back to the city wall and the Chapply Fields or Chapelfield stretched almost as far as St Giles Gate, and the name Chapelfield is synonymous with the area still, Lady Lane, now under The Forum was the processional way to the Church. The Chantry and Chantry Road both remember an aspect of it too.

The Assembly House - Glass Plates

Bits of the building live on; some of the fabric of the building still exists in the current Assembly House, the footprint of the music room, tea room and ballroom match the original Great Hall and Parlour and some material exists in that building fabric including a Tudor window frames bricked into a wall. When you walk through the gates and cross to the steps you walk across the original Aisles and Nave of the church, walk past the tower of the chapel now buried under the gallery and theatre. Once inside you are standing in the the cloisters. The bells from the church now live in St Lawrence. Part of the crypt still exists under the east wing with an impressive vaulted ceiling and an area of floor which appear to be original tile and dates back to the foundation of the college. In the corridor you will find a stone plaque, the merchant’s mark of the Browne family of Norwich. It was excavated in 1901 from the North Aisle of the Church. It is also worth noting that Browne rebuilt the Nave of St Stephens in 1550, is it quite possible this was done using material from the College and Chapel. Two Brownes were mayors of Norwich and are both believed to be a descended from the original le Brun family.

The Assembly House - Glass Plates


St Mary de Campo.

St Mary Conjectured drawings from 1950 based on 1902 archaeological dig, dissolution survey and earlier writing – S Rowland Pierce.

Remains of 12 light window found in North Wall of West Wing 1948/49 (Glass plate)

Inset: Stone shield with merchant’s mark found in the ruins of the Chapel in 1902 believed to belong to the Browne/le Brun family. (Glass plate)

Overlain plan of The Assembly House pre-1950 showing the position of the original college of the Chapel in the Fields – S Rowland Pierce.

Thanks to Dr Nicholas Groves for his assistance with this post.

Sources: Blomfield, Groves and Stephenson.

By | February 22nd, 2017|heritage blogs|0 Comments

The Noverre Cinema returns to The Assembly House

Noverre Cinema 3

The Noverre Cinema returns to The Assembly House

On Friday 21st April the ballroom of The Assembly House will be once again become the Noverre Cinema and will hold a public screening for the first time in over twenty years.

The Assembly House Trust is teaming up with Cinema City Education to revive one of Norwich’s long-lost cinemas for one-night-only.

The much-missed cinema is returning as part of a year of activities celebrating the heritage of one of Norwich’s most beloved public buildings. The event will be accompanied by a special exhibition charting the history of The Assembly House.

Noverre Cinema

The title of the film and ticket details are still to be announced but we are keen to collect memories of the cinema for as part of the event.

What are your memories of the Noverre Cinema?

Get in touch by emailing info@assemblyhousetrust.org.uk or tweeting @AHHeritage

Noverre Cinema 2

About The Noverre Cinema

For more than 40 years, the Noverre served as a popular city cinema which screened a diverse range of films including non-commercial and arthouse releases.

Located in a former ballroom at the Assembly House in Norwich, the cinema took its name from the Noverre family who taught classical dance there during the 18th Century.

Prior to the Noverre’s opening, the Assembly House underwent extensive restoration work between 1948 and 1950 for a cost of £70,000. When it re-opened in November 1950 the building was complete with music rooms, a banquet room and exhibition room, in addition to the arts cinema.

A raked floor was installed which accommodated 272 seats. The cinema was well equipped with two 35mm projectors, two 16mm projectors and modern sound installation.

The Noverre is fondly remembered for its Saturday morning kids’ club, seating with plenty of leg room, showing no adverts before films and for not selling ice creams or popcorn. The most popular film it screened was Cabaret, which was shown on 11 different occasions.

The Norfolk & Norwich Film Theatre began showing films at the Noverre in 1966 before moving into their permanent venue, Cinema City on St Andrews Street, in 1978. The NNFT screened a variety of, sometimes controversial, foreign and arthouse pictures that were otherwise unavailable to view in Norfolk.

The Noverre closed its doors on 23 December 1992.


By | February 22nd, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Phoenix Heritage Project

Assembly House - George Plunkett 1935

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of The Assembly House’s re-opening following a devastating fire in 1995.

To celebrate this regeneration, The Assembly House Trust are organising an exciting programme of events exploring the heritage of this landmark building.

Keep an eye on our Heritage Project page for regular updates as we trawl through The Assembly House archive.

Do you have memories of The Assembly House?

Send your stories to info@assemblyhousetrust.org.uk or tweet @AHHeritage


Exhibition: The Assembly House

Friday 21st April – Saturday 27th May

The Phoenix Heritage Project begins with an exhibition charting the history of The Assembly House and the thriving community that uses it.

Beginning on 21st April, the exhibition will share previously unseen archive material related to the heritage of the site and its place in the city; stories of the building, its history and people including previously unseen and archived photographs and documents.

By | February 22nd, 2017|Exhibition, Heritage|0 Comments

Coming Soon: Norwich Makers Market

NMM Flyer

Norwich Makers Market at The Assembly House

Saturday 8th April, 10am until 4pm

Norwich Makers Market is a unique event, dedicated to housing the very best hand-picked designers and illustrators in Norwich and surrounding fairytale wilds of the East.


Expect to find bespoke homewares, gifts, jewellery, textiles, stationery, prints, clothing and many more individual products.


Supporting independent designer makers, enjoy shopping with a twist away from the mass-produced high street, this ever-popular market has something for everybody! nipper_and_moo

With support from The Assembly House Trust, the Noverre Ballroom will play host to this event for the very first time.

By | January 26th, 2017|Event|0 Comments

The Noverre Cinema

Noverre Cinema

Do you remember the Noverre Cinema? We’re collecting your memories for an exciting new project.

Get in touch and send your memories to info@assemblyhousetrust.org.uk

Watch this space for more information!

By | January 24th, 2017|Heritage|0 Comments

Read all about it! I ❤ Norwich featured in local press


Absolutely fantastic to see our new exhibition featured in the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.

You can read the article online by clicking here.

I ❤ Norwich is open at The Assembly House until Saturday 8th April.

By | January 20th, 2017|Exhibition|0 Comments

I ❤ Norwich Exhibition


Our new exhibition is now open and looking fantastic!


Supported by The Assembly House Trust, this exhibition features a collection of unique artwork by three local artists.


The exhibition is a combination of linocut prints by David Jones, Screen prints by Leanda Jaine Hughes and paper collage by Soodle Street.


The exhibition is a great opportunity to celebrate the architecture of our city as well as supporting three local artists.

I ❤ Norwich is open at The Assembly House until Saturday 8th April.

By | January 19th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

I ❤ Norwich

AH I love Norwich Invite-1

A new exhibition at The Assembly House

Friday 20th January to Saturday 8th April

The Assembly House is celebrating the heritage and architecture of our fine city with a new exhibition.

This vibrant collection of artwork features a range of original prints and collages by three local artists.

The show features new work by Leanda Jaine Hughes, David Jones and Soodle Street.

I Norwich is open every day from 10am to 6pm at The Assembly House.


This exhibition is supported by The Assembly House Trust

Leanda Jaine Hughes

Leanda Hughes 02

Leanda Jaine is a Norwich based Illustrator who has recently graduated from NUA (Norwich University of the Arts) with a first class honours degree in Illustration. Inspired by the Norfolk and Norwich area, Leanda uses screen-printing, linocuts, etching and embossing to create her distinctive and original artwork.


Soodle Street

13417652_583536998474667_3247420449109158039_n IMG_7517

A collection of handmade recycled paper illustrations, inspired by architecture, culture and place.  A collage series of dwellings from around the world, created to explore design, history and diversity.

Soodle Street aims to reinvent the everyday; collecting forgotten and unwanted papers and reviving them into new and unexpected visual designs.


David Jones


David is a Norwich-based printmaker with a reputation for capturing the beauty of our fine city:

“Evidence of the past is all around us if we look closely enough. Modern streets follow old tracks and many of today’s buildings stand on lines fixed hundreds if not thousands of years ago. I am particularly interested in architecture, though many of my prints are about people. They may well depict contemporary life but in fact they are still concerned with history since I am recording what will in time become history.”


By | January 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments