Museums in Norwich
Norwich Castle is the county’s principal museum, displaying outstanding archaeology, natural history and fine art collections. Built by the Normans as a Royal Palace, it later became the city’s prison in the 14th century, and was converted to a civic museum in 1894. Within the keep, there is video and computer animation, and a giant model showing what life was like in the keep at the time of the Normans. There is a display detailing the history of the Castle when it was a prison, and impressive displays of Norwich silver and civic regalia. For the younger visitor, there are hands-on exhibits and games demonstrating the challenges that faced the Norman masons and architects.
There are displays of typical Norfolk scenes with animals, birds, insects and plants that would be found in the different local habitats. The museum houses many English watercolours of the 18th and19th centuries, as well as work by the Norwich School of Painters. There are many collections of ceramics, glass, Lowestoft porcelain and English silver. The Twining Teapot Gallery contains the greatest specialist collection of British ceramic teapots in the world.
On display are many minerals, including gold nuggets, a variety of fossils, and a slab of limestone with the footprint of a dinosaur. Exhibits show aspects of life at various periods over the last 250,000 years, and include tools, pottery, jewellery and weapons. Items of metal-work from late Saxon Norfolk and Viking times can also be seen. More information about the Castle can be found within our Norwich Castle section.
The Bridewell Museum is situated next to St Andrew’s Church in Bridewell Alley; it is devoted to local trades and industries, and is contained in part of a 14th century merchant’s house. This later became a bridewell, or prison, for tramps and beggars. The building was also used as a factory before becoming a museum in 1925. The displays cover the food industries of Norwich, including brewing, mustard production, flour milling and chocolate making. There are also items produced by the textile and footwear industries, early fire appliances, and one of the most complete examples of a reconstructed 1930’s pharmacy in the country.
The City of Norwich Aviation Museum can be found at Horsham St Faith, near Norwich Airport. It has an outside display of static aircraft, both civil and military, and visitors can view some of the aircraft cockpits including that of a Vulcan Bomber.
The Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum is situated next door to the Norwich Castle Museum, and dates from the 1830’s. It details the story of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, with displays of weapons and badges, and also two of the six Victoria Crosses awarded to members of the Regiment.
Strangers’ Hall is a classic example of a wealthy merchant’s house, and is one of the oldest buildings in Norwich. There are nineteen rooms, each demonstrating how its occupants lived at that time, from early Tudor to late Victorian. On display are Norwich shop signs, costumes, domestic objects, and an interesting collection of toys.
Dragon Hall is the only medieval merchants’ trading hall known to exist in Western Europe. Built in the mid 15th century for a wealthy cloth merchant, the hall is of timber frame with a crown-post roof and an intricately carved and painted dragon.
The Guildhall is a 15th century building, situated in the centre of Norwich. The seat of local government for over 500 years, it now houses Caley's tea-room. The grade one listed building is a traditionally styled tea-room with the history of Caley’s (chocolate manufacturers) depicted around the walls.
The John Jarrold printing museum is staffed exclusively by retired volunteers from the printing industry, and charts the history of the printing industry over the last 160 years. There is an impressive collection of printing machines, including 19th century hand-operated printing presses and lithographic hand presses.