This outstanding Tudor Hall was built by Robert Toppes; the Richard Branson of the 15thC. Books are available locally for more details of the history and about Toppes.
The Hall is located a 10 minute stroll from the city centre in a very pretty historic part of Norwich by the lovely River Wensum. To arrive by boat in the 15th century and see the Hall from the river would have been an impressive experience to customers and visitors.
Though tiled today, the building's roof would have been thatched originally impressing any businessmen arriving to inspect the merchandising contained within.
Inside the Hall Toppes spared no expense. Sadly much of the splendour has faded; only one painted wooden dragon in the main hall survives. Originally, there would have been 8. The dragon is a significant icon in Norwich dating back to an ancient annual event organised by the city elders for the celebration of St George & his slaying of the dragon. There is still a celebration in Norwich every St George's Day.
It was rumoured that some of the other wooden dragons were removed by patrons when it was used as a pub during the 2nd world war. Some serving US men at the time may have taken a few back to the States. Underinvestment in the Hall means that no one has been commissioned to re-create those missing iconic dragons.
Visits are advertised on the Norwich Writers' Centre website and our visit, lasting about an hour, cost just £2.50. It deserves more publicity.
What saddens us so much is that the Hall is not supported by enough ongoing investment and Norwich City Council in its 'wisdom' gave approval for the redevelopment of the surrounding riverside land with new buildings which will not be in sympathy with this Grade 1 listed Hall. Worse again is that once new housing goes up, the lovely view of the river from the Hall will be gone forever.
Soon that vista created by Robert Toppes will be destroyed. Shame on Norwich City Council for crass unsympathetic planning!
So, if you love Tudor architecture and medieval history the time to visit Dragon Hall is now! Enjoy.
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