Record Details

NHER Number:449
Type of record:Building
Name:Dragon Hall, formerly the Old Barge, Nos 115-123 King Street

Summary

Dragon Hall is situated in King Street, though it was originally entered from the south in Old Barge Yard. Beginning life in the 14th century as a hall house, this land was bought by one of the city's greatest merchants, Robert Toppes, in 1450. The 15th century rebuilding and alterations are thought to be his, creating a massive hall space. Although the space was predominantly unheated, light would have flooded into the impressive interior of carved and painted timbers, including the fine surviving dragon spandrel from which the Hall derives its current name, suggesting Toppes used the building as an opulent showroom.
The hall itself is largely of flint rubble with a brick ground floor and timber-framed first floor, and was originally orientated towards the river. Unfortunately the hall's heyday was over in 1467, when Toppes died and the building was sold and divided up. By the 19th century the area had fallen far from fashion, and the river front surrounding the hall was crammed with low-quality housing and minor industry, and the building itself split into shops, flats, and pubs. By the 20th century it had become a public house, remaining so until 1969, when it closed. In 1979 it was sold to Norwich City Council, and in 2006 was completely restored and is now open to the public. Extensive excavations since the 1980s are continuing to reveal more of the history of this area, including the pre-Conquest and early medieval occupation of this site.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TG 23593 08200
Map Sheet:TG20NW
Parish:NORWICH, NORWICH, NORFOLK

Full description

Dragon Hall, Nos 115 to 123 King Street.

Former merchants' hall. 14th century with 15th century rebuilding and additions. Late 15th century onwards alterations.
Flint rubble and brick ground floor and timber framed first floor. Pantile roof. Originally orientated towards the river. Two storeys, jetty at first floor. Seven bays. Impressive crown post roof with one remaining finely carved dragon spandrel.
See sources (S1), (S2) and (S3).

1980. Small trial excavation (machine trench) to investigate possibility of medieval canal leading to Old Barge.
Several phases were discerned, but no large-scale work was undertaken.
Series of yard surfaces at rear of Old Barge.
See (S4).
B. Ayers (NAU) and M. Atkin (NCM).

1980. Norwich Survey.
Former merchant's house, 14th and 15th century.
See (S5), includes (S6).
T. E. Miller (NLA), 31 March 2004.

1987-88. Excavations by NAU with MSC team.
See plans, details and documentary sources in file.
Description and survey (S1) by [1] in file.
E. Rose (NAU).

Winter 1997/98. Excavation conducted on behalf of the Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust.
Excavations revealed a complex series of deposits dating from the pre-Conquest to the post medieval period.
Three adjoining properties were established on the site in the period 975-1025. Simple timber posted structures were erected against the street in at least two of these, and the third had a building set back from the street. An oven lay behind one of the buildings, and sand and gravel was extracted to the south, close to the river. The contents of refuse pits from this period indicate an economy based on a local trade in finished metalwork, ceramic goods, querns, antler-working and perishables. Evidence of a freshwater fishery emphasises the importance of the nearby river.
During the late 11th to late 12th centuries a shift in the settlement occurs as new buildings are established nearer to the river. These buildings were accompanied by agricultural activity on the site, coupled with the widening of trade networks, as indicated by changes in the ceramic assemblage. New building techniques are visible, and one building is suggested to have formed part of a larger Norman holding.
The late 12th to late 13th centuries saw the site evolve, with the main changes being the appearance of roads from King Street to the river. This indicates a change in the economic basis of the settlement, and suggests that activity was moving from a semi-agricultural base to one exploiting a developing commercial waterfront.
Changes in ownership of this land during the 1280s triggered extensive redevelopment. The land was divided into holdings belonging to the Abbot of Woburn and John Page, both of whom built stone buildings on their property. Page's L-shaped holding originally included a timber hall house with a partially walled courtyard set behind street frontage development. Woburn's property had a stone building and a long thin structure which may have been used as a kitchen or a fishhouse. By this time, the block was flanked by roads leading to the river. Page's hall house underwent alterations during the 1330s when the stone service block and undercroft seen today were added, and the timber range underpinned with flint rubble.
During the mid-14th to early 15th centuries the Page and Woburn holdings were combined to create a single property. The hall-house was further improved by the provision of a garderobe, and a road was reinstated. Evidence of a timber building beside the street suggests that it may have been at this time that the spine wall in Dragon Hall was erected.
In 1427 a coordinated campaign of renewal and construction began with the construction of the trading hall, at the behest of Robert Toppe. The main changes between then and the middle of the following century were the construction of the hall, alterations to the form and function of the hall house, the demolition and replacement of Woburn's former kitchen or fishhouse and the careful regulation of space and access within the block.
The commercial aspect of this site was almost over by the mid-16th century, and consequently the buildings on the site were either demolished or extensively remodelled by a succession of owners. Dragon Hall was gradually subdivided into a series of separate dwellings over cellars, and a terrace was created behind the building. A rear wing was built over the former road and a metalsmithing shop built on gardens which had formed on the lower terrace.
The subdivision of land and buildings which had marked the start of the post medieval period continued into Georgian times. The block was largely residential although cottage industries might have flourished and several of the buildings acted as inns. The layout of the site after 1750 was to change little until demolition took place in 1937.
See (S7) for further details.
See also (S33).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 3 July 2007.

See also (S8) by City Architect.
T. Sunley (NLA) 5 November 2007.

October 1999.
Site extended to east for new excavation continuing features seen in 1998 excavation.
E. Rose (NLA), 20 October 1999.

April 2002. Two test pits were excavated by NAU to inform the design of new buildings. Contexts 12637-12661.
Both located wall footings.
See (S9).
See also (S32).
J. Allen (NLA), 21 August 2002.

March-April 2003. NAU evaluation. Contexts 12662-12687.
Test pits revealed a sequence of Late Saxon to early medieval deposits.
See (S10) and (S11).
J. Allen (NLA), 19 August 2003.

See press cuttings (S12) to (S29).
T. Sunley (NLA) 5 November 2007.

2008. Norwich HEART (S30, S31).
A magnificent medieval merchant's trading hall, unique in Europe. Dragon Hall is a Grade I listed medieval trading hall. It is the only known surviving building of its type in Western Europe, built by one man for his own use. The centrepiece of Dragon Hall is the impressive 27m long Great Hall which Toppes built as a showroom. The Great Hall has an outstanding timber crown post roof and originally had several beautifully carved and painted dragons along the length of the hall. Today only one dragon survives.
D. Gurney (NLA) 27 January 2009.

2005. Excavation.
See (S32) for further information regarding the excavations undertaken by Wessex Archaeology following the demolition of the modern north wing of Dragon Hall in 2005.
K. Ward (NLA) 15 January 2010.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 411 AD to 650 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • BOUNDARY DITCH (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • BUILDING (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • DITCH (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • EXTRACTIVE PIT (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • FENCE (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • FLOOR (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • GULLY (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • OVEN (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • PIT (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • RUBBISH PIT (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1099 AD)
  • POST BUILT STRUCTURE (Late Saxon - 975 AD to 1025 AD)
  • BEAM SLOT (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • BOUNDARY DITCH (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • BUILDING (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • FLOOR (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • GULLY (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • HEARTH (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • OVEN (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • RUBBISH PIT (Late Saxon to Medieval - 1050 AD to 1199 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HOUSE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1280 AD to 1599 AD)
  • FISH HOUSE (Medieval - 1300 AD to 1400 AD)
  • HALL HOUSE (Medieval to Modern - 1300 AD to 2050 AD)
  • KITCHEN (Medieval - 1300 AD to 1400 AD)
  • TIMBER FRAMED BUILDING (Medieval to Modern - 1300 AD to 2050 AD)
  • UNDERCROFT (Medieval to Modern - 1330 AD to 2050 AD)
  • EXCHANGE (Medieval to Modern - 1427 AD to 2050 AD)
  • GARDEROBE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1450 AD to 1699 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WALL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GARDEN (Post Medieval to Modern - 1550 AD to 2050 AD)
  • BLACKSMITHS WORKSHOP (Post Medieval to Modern - 1650 AD to 1937 AD)

Associated Finds

  • MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • POT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • POT (Early Saxon - 411 AD? to 650 AD?)
  • POT (Middle Saxon - 651 AD to 850 AD)
  • POT (Late Saxon - 851 AD to 1065 AD)
  • KEY (LOCKING) (Late Saxon to Medieval - 950 AD to 1299 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BALANCE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CAME (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CAULDRON (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHISEL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • COIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DAGGER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FISH REMAINS (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HORSESHOE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • KNIFE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • LACE TAG (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • LAMP (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LAMP (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • LEASH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LEASH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LINEN SMOOTHER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • METAL WORKING DEBRIS (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • MORTAR (VESSEL) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PIN (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • QUERN (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • REAMER (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ROWEL SPUR (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP END (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • STRAP FITTING (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TENTERHOOK (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • THIMBLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TRIVET (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • VESSEL (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WEDGE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • COIN WEIGHT (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1400 AD to 1599 AD)
  • BARREL PADLOCK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BOTTLE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BRICK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BUTTON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BUTTON (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CHESS PIECE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • COIN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CROTAL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • DOMINO (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • DRILL BIT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • FILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PADLOCK (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PUNCH (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PUNCH (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • ROOF TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SCISSORS (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • SLAG (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TILE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • TOKEN (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • VESSEL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WEIGHT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WIND INSTRUMENT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2005. Dragon Hall yields secrets.. 21 March.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. The Norwich 12. 2 February.
---Photograph: 1987. ECB-ECK, ECM-ECN.
---Photograph: 1988. EJC-EJJ.
---Photograph: 1997. HWA-HWP, HWR-HXK.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. Dragon aided.. 21 December.
---Leaflet: Dragon Hall. 2006. Discover 1,000 years of history in the heart of Norwich.. 2006.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2011. Norwich: A city of Heritage.. 1 September.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2012. Going underground to find city's hidden assets -picture of undercroft. 9 July.
---Article in serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 1998. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1997. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt I pp 193-210. p 202.
---Unpublished document: NCM Staff. 1973-1989. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card - Norwich.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Norwich - Post Roman.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Fiche: Exists.
<S1>Unpublished document: Smith, R.. Dragon Hall (The Old Barge)..
<S2>Unpublished document: 2006. Dragon Hall. Discover 1,000 years of history in the heart of Norwich. Newly restored and reopened for 2006..
<S3>Unpublished document: Heywood, S.. Historic building report for Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich..
<S4>Unpublished document: Ayers, B.. Dec 1980. Excavation at rear of Old Barge, King Street, Norwich.. 17-18 December.
<S5>Unpublished document: Carter, A.. Building Survey.
<S6>Graphic material: Various. Various. Architectural plans..
<S7>Monograph: Shelley, A.. 2005. Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich: Excavation and Survey of a late Medieval Merchant's Trading Complex.. East Anglian Archaeology. Vol 112.
<S8>Unpublished document: City Architect. Feb 1998. Dragon Hall/The Old Barge: Report for the HBMC of work carried out and interpretation of the building..
<S9>Unpublished document: Adams, D.. 2002. NAU Report No. 696. Report on test pitting at Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich..
<S10>Unpublished document: Moss, N.. 2003. NAU Report No. 828. An Archaeological Watching Brief at Anne's Wharf, Mountergate, Norfolk..
<S11>Unpublished document: Adams, D.. 2003. NAU Report No. 830. Report on an archaeological watching brief at St Anne's Wharf, Norwich..
<S12>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2000. Historic hall in line for extention.. 27 June.
<S13>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. Dragon is revealed.. 14 January.
<S14>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. Dragon Hall.. 20 March.
<S15>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Watching history from the window.. 21 October.
<S16>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Grants for excavation.. 5 November.
<S17>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Lottery grant helps open up city history.. 21 May.
<S18>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. Cash gift for Dragon Hall restoration fund.. 30 March.
<S19>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. Dragon Hall excavation. 14 January.
<S20>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Secrets in the walls of the Hall.. 21 November.
<S21>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Digging into a city's history.. 28 October.
<S22>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1993. New fire breathes life into Dragon hall.. 14 April.
<S23>Newspaper Article: Evening News. 1997. Hsitoric Hall scoops windfall.. 1 October.
<S24>Newspaper Article: Norwich Advertiser. 2006. Heriatge hall reopens after £1.8 million facelift.. 17 March.
<S25>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2005. New look of medieval Dragon Hall is unveiled.. 15 December. p 19.
<S26>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2005. Dragon Hall to get a full makeover.. 5 February. p 19.
<S27>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2005. High point in Dragon Hall revamp.. 16 November. p 27.
<S28>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. A Dragon that makes you draw breath.. 31 January.
<S29>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. 'Time peels back' as hall is restored.. 2 July.
<S30>Monograph: Sheehan, B.. 2008. Norwich 12: A journey through the English city..
<S31>Projected and video material: Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART). 2008. Norwich 12. A journey through the English city.. DVD.
<S32>Article in serial: Evans, G. and Thorpe, R. 2007. Further Excavations at Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich, 2005. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt II pp 176-187.
<S32>Article in serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 2003. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk, 2002. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt II pp 368-384. p 377.
<S33>Article in serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. (eds). 1999. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1998. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt II pp 369-387. p 379.

Related records

Site 2520Parent of: 115-123 King Street (The Old Barge public house) (Monument)
Site 1572Parent of: 115-123 King Street (The Old Barge) (Monument)
Site 2544Parent of: 115-123 King Street (The Old Barge) (Monument)
Mon 571Parent of: 115-123 King Street, The Old Barge (Dragon Hall) (Monument)
26506Parent of: 16th to 17th century robber trenches, St Anne's Lane (Monument)
Site 2010Parent of: Dragon Hall (The Old Barge) (Monument)
Site 2452Parent of: The Old Barge (Dragon Hall) King Street (Monument)
Site 3549Parent of: The Old Barge, King Street (Dragon Hall) (Monument)

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