Norfolk Architects

Section 1; Of local origin or domicile

BELL, Henry (1647-1711)

A leading provincial gentleman architect, Bell was a King’s Lynn merchant who worked as an architect for the love of the thing. Having reconstructed Northampton after the fire of 1675, his Norfolk works are all in the King’s Lynn area, principally the Customs House of 1683 designed as a merchants’ exchange (altered in 1718) (NHER 5479; part open to public as an information centre). He also rebuilt North Runcton church in 1713 after its collapse, adapting the base of the medieval tower, although the present chancel is 19th century (NHER 3369). The rebuilding of Stanhoe Hall in 1703 is also attributed to him (NHER 13203; not open to the public but façade visible from road).


Barn that once stood near the ruined Priory of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, Thetford.

 Barn that once stood near the ruined Priory of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, Thetford. (© NCC)

BOARDMAN, Edward  (1833-1910) 

The most successful Norwich architect of the late 19th century, Boardman was responsible for many of the urban improvements in the city. He restored churches and built nonconformist chapels including Chapel in the Fields Methodist church, Norwich (1880) in Classical style (NHER 26029) and the Cowper Memorial Church at East Dereham (1874) in Gothic Revival with Kentish rag façade, brick carcass and internal marble columns (NHER 46191). Of his Norwich secular buildings, the best known is the Royal Hotel of 1897 dominating the approach up the hill from Thorpe railway terminus (NHER 26002).

BRETTINGHAM, Matthew (1699-1769)

The foremost of the early 18th century Norwich-based architects, Brettingham began life as a bricklayer apprentice to his father. He was in charge of the building of Holkham Hall to the designs of William Kemp in 1734-64, a building described as the supreme achievement of the Palladian style in England (NHER 1801; open to public at stated times). He probably designed the Doric temple at Blickling Hall in the 1730s (NHER 45934; open to public). In the 1740s he altered the façade of Norwich cathedral and in 1742-6 rebuilt the nave of St Margaret’s church at King’s Lynn (NHER 1026). He was responsible for the older section (1742) of Gunton Hall (NHER 6815; not open to public but visible from drive to the church), Hanworth Hall 1743 (NHER 6636 visible from road) and Langley Hall 1730 (NHER 10362, open to public on special occasions). 


Holkham Hall and grounds.

Holkham Hall and grounds. (© NCC)

BROWN, John  (1805-76)

John Brown has been called the most successful Norwich architect of the early 19th century. The Diocesan and County Surveyor, he restored or rebuilt 25 churches in the county, of which may be selected as an example the neo-Norman church at South Runcton of 1839 (NHER 2432). He constructed a number of workhouses on the model of existing Georgian examples; that at Swainsthorpe is perhaps the most complete although converted to residences (NHER 9770 visible from public road). He designed the unusual polychrome brick corn hall at Swaffham in 1839 (NHER 34727 open to the public).  He may have been the designer of the St James’ Yarn Mill in Norwich, now Jarrold’s printing works, intended in 1839 to stem the flow of weavers to Lancashire (NHER 26226; visible from road). His additions to Thorpe Asylum (NHER 9693) have however been demolished, leaving only the foundation stone incongruously standing in front of the older building.


Henstead Union Workhouse, late Vale Hospital, Swainsthorpe.

 Henstead Union Workhouse, late Vale Hospital, Swainsthorpe.

COCKRILL, J. W. (1849-1924)

Sometime the Borough Architect of Great Yarmouth, he was known as ‘Concrete Cockrill’ for his use of that material; it was he who replaced the statues on top of the Norfolk Pillar in concrete (NHER 4302). Amongst his Norfolk buildings are the Great Yarmouth Art College of 1912 in concrete and brick on a steel frame (NHER 33475 visible from street) and Gorleston Shelter Hall or Pavilion of 1901, an important building for its early use of terracotta and tiles, imitating St Catherine’s in Brussels (NHER 17974; open for functions).

DONTHORN, William J. (1799-1859)

A Swaffham man who was trained under the great Wyatville, and who was noted especially for his Italianate mansions and his Tudor Gothic-style houses and workhouses. Time has not been kind to him and few of his buildings survive.  The magnificent Gothic Hillington Hall has gone, as have his workhouses, and the Greek Pickenham Hall. However, a small cottage at the crossroads east of the present Hall was recognised as his work in recent years and has been restored (NHER 41127; visible from public road). The Old Rectory at Great Moulton, constructed in 1832 in Italian style, also survives, albeit lacking its internal decoration (NHER 13117), and Cromer Hall of 1829 in Gothick (NHER 6476; both visible from the road) as well as the stable block of 1831 at Felbrigg Hall (NHER 6633; National Trust). The Coke Column of 1845 dominates Holkham Park  (NHER 39800; open to public). He also reconstructed the churches at Stoke Ferry (NHER 4798) and Bagthorpe (NHER 1725).


Felbrigg Hall.

Felbrigg Hall. (© NCC)

GREEN, Herbert J. (1850-1918)

Sometime Diocesan Architect, Green was responsible for many church restorations and partial rebuildings throughout Norfolk, of which the reclamation from dereliction of St Swithin’s church in Norwich in 1908 may be taken as an example (NHER 576). His most visible secular works are the mock-Tudor portion of the façade of the Maid’s Head in Tombland, Norwich, of 1889 (NHER 602) and the small Venetian guildhall in Thetford of 1902 (NHER 13262; both exteriors visible).

IVORY, Thomas (1709-91)

A Norwich builder and timber merchant who with his sons William and John also designed houses. He is best known for the Octagon Chapel in Norwich of 1746 (NHER 26087; exterior visible to public, interior open at times), the remodelling of the Assembly House together with Sir James Burrough in 1755 (NHER 618; open to public) and the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital of 1771 (NHER 26203, 26204 and 26205; now being converted to residential use). The Ivorys also designed a number of Norwich town houses including St Helen’s House, Bishopgate (NHER 26023) and Ivory House, All Saints Green (NHER 26007; both visible from the street). Thomas remodelled parts of Blickling Hall in the 1760s (NHER 5115; National Trust, open at stated times) but of his Thrigby Hall only the summerhouse remains (NHER 17378; Now in the Thrigby Wildlife Gardens).

JEKYLL, Thomas (1827-1881)

What one nowadays sees of the exterior of Elsing Hall, NHER 3009), often portrayed as a medieval mansion, is almost entirely the work of Jekyll from 1852 (grounds occasionally open to the public). He was also a designer of monumental ironwork, such as the Norwich Gates at Sandringham House (NHER 3274 visible from road). Jekyll also restored a number of churches and built new ones such as Great Hautbois in 1864 (NHER 7677); the Methodist Church at Holt (1863) a most unusual confection of coloured brickwork (NHER 18894); and Thorpe St Andrew (1866) (NHER 4653) externally redeemed by a picturesque silhouette due to its tower of 1881, but with an interior of overpowering ugliness.


The ruins of St Theobalds' Church, Great Hautbois.

 The ruins of St Theobalds' Church, Great Hautbois. (© NCC)

PHIPSON, R. M. (1827-84)

Another Diocesan and County Surveyor, but with a national reputation and a huge practice restoring churches – for example Ickburgh (1865) (NHER 5048) which he rebuilt except for the tower. New churches constructed by him include Harleston in 1872 (NHER 11092); and Whittington in 1874 (NHER 4799). The latter, designed as a memorial, has evidence of restricted funding in the difference between the south and north sides.


Christ Church, Whittington.

 Christ Church, Whittington. (© NCC)

The chapel at Gressenhall workhouse, added in 1868 (NHER 2819;now Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse) is remarkable in the slate soldiers to its apse, although these have had to be replaced in replica. 

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and Union House. Now Norfolk Rural Life Musuem. 

Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and Union House. Now Norfolk Rural Life Musuem. (© NCC)

PRATT, Sir Roger (1620-1685)

One of the most important architects of the 17th century, whose name is nowadays overshadowed by those of his friends Wren and Jones. His houses at Coleshill and at Clarendon House, London were the most influential of the time. He rebuilt his own house, Ryston Hall in 1689-72 and it remains, though altered by Soane (NHER 2461; occasional public access to exterior).

REPTON, Humphrey (1752-1818) with John Adey (1775-1860) and George Stanley (1756-1858)

Humphrey Repton is best known as one of Britain’s greatest designers of landscape parks, of which there are several early examples in Norfolk, but as an architect his works here are confined to minor alterations. His tomb at Aylsham, on the south side of the chancel of the parish church, attracts many visitors. His eldest son John Adey constructed Hoveton Hall around 1812, and an original greenhouse also survives (NHER 8297; gardens at times open to public). Sheringham Hall of 1817 is his best-known work (NHER 6297; park open to visitors) and he also made alterations to Barningham Hall (NHER 6569; no public access). In all three cases it has been claimed that his father worked with him on the designs, but this is disputed. John also constructed The Orchards in Norwich Road, Aylsham for his brother William in 1847; it has recently been restored after damage (NHER 31591; exterior visible from road). George Stanley, Humphrey’s fourth son, built Burgh-next-Aylsham Hall (NHER 12838) but this was demolished in the 1980s.


Burgh Hall, the section built in the 1860s.

 Burgh Hall, the section built in the 1860s. (© NCC)


A noted architectural firm of the early 20th century, they constructed Templewood at Northrepps in 1938 as a Palladian shooting box for Lord Templewood, utilising architectural salvage from Nuthall Temple, the Bank of England and other sources. After the death of Lord Templewood the house was acquired by Paul Paget who added wallpaintings (NHER 6804; no public access).

SKIPPER, G. J. (1856-1948)

Born at East Dereham, Skipper was a brilliant architect of the Edwardian era.  Famous for his Norwich buildings such as the 1904 Norwich Union head office with its marble hall constructed with stone originally intended for Westminster Cathedral, and believed by some to be the finest Edwardian Baroque structure in Britain (NHER 26206); the Royal Arcade of 1899, a unique concoction of coloured tiles in Arts and Crafts style NHER 26009); and his own office in London Street (now part of Jarrolds)  (NHER 58), the exterior of which depicts in moulded brickwork the workings of an architect’s practice (all exteriors visible from street). He rebuilt Sennowe Hall at Guist in 1905-7, following the style of Sir Arthur Blomfield with interiors in the Jacobean and Rennaissance manner – the older building, by Decimus Burton was disguised in mathematical tiles to match (NHER 7157; grounds occasionally open to public). Cromer town hall and many of the seaside hotels are his; he also built council houses in clay lump in southern Norfolk.

WILKINS, William the elder (1751-1815) and the younger (1778-1839).

The elder William worked mostly on repairs and alterations to existing buildings but at Stanfield Hall, Wymondham, in 1792 he designed a wonderful Gothick staircase hall with fan vaulting (NHER 9457; no public access). He is also credited with re-fashioning Beeston St Lawrence Hall as a Gothick building, but whether this was a remodelling of the existing house or a reconstruction on a new site is disputed by historians (NHER 8288; occasional public access). The younger William became nationally famous as a leader of the Greek Revival Movement and is best known in Norfolk for the Norfolk Pillar or Nelson Monument at Great Yarmouth of 1817-9 (NHER 4302; tours available). In Norwich he constructed the prison blocks that radiate from the Castle, but his most visible building is the Shirehall of 1824, which although refaced in brick in 1914 retains the original form (NHER 26141; now Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service offices and Study Centre).

Section 2; Other important architects with buildings in Norfolk

ADAM, Robert

Together with his brother, possibly the most famous architects of the late 18th century; yet he had only one commission in Norfolk, the rebuilding of the church at Gunton in 1767 in the form of a Greek temple (NHER 6819; in the care of the Historic Churches Trust). 

Gunton Church.

Gunton Church. (© NCC)


An architect of the Late Victorian-Edwardian period, the design of Sea Marge, a neo-Tudor black and white mansion at Overstrand, may have been his, although he died in 1899 and it was not actually built until 1912 (NHER 25396; visible from road). He reconstructed the east end of Cromer church and provided the hammerbeam roofs in 1889, the church having partly fallen into ruin (NHER 6475). He also rebuilt the church at West Newton in 1881 amongst other works in that area under the patronage of the Prince of Wales at Sandringham House (NHER 3278).

BLOW, Detmar 

Blow constructed the mansion of Happisburgh Manor or St Mary’s (NHER 14148), together with the adjacent St Anne’s in 1900. It is laid out on a X-plan with what the Listed Building Description calls a romantic forest of chimneys and pattresses forming the letters AVE MARIA STELLA MARIS.  Blow also supervised the work of E. S. Prior, noted for his 'butterfly-plan' houses, at Voewood (Home Place) in High Kelling in 1903 (NHER 6489; open to pre-booked groups).  Blow also rebuilt Old Buckenham Hall in 1911, but only the entrance gates on the road now survive (NHER 46410).


The designer of a number of Neo-Tudor country houses around Britain, his remaining Norfolk work is Taverham Hall of 1859, a spiky concoction of coloured brickwork (NHER 7903; distant public views). His Stow Bardolph Hall has been demolished (NHER 3430).


The designer of St Catherine’s, Mile Cross, Norwich, in 1935; a remarkable massive building with a fortress-like brick exterior and concrete arches on the interior, which rises above the surrounding council estate like a battleship.

CAROE, W. D. (1857-1938)

An important church architect who carried out renovations and alterations to several churches in Norfolk. His most distinctive design is the cruck-like chancel arch inserted in West Barsham church in 1935 (NHER 2111) and the rebuilding of the chancel at West Lynn of 1934 (NHER 5557).


A Gothic Revival architect noted for the solidity of his buildings. He refaced Pynkney Hall at Tattersett in 1880 (NHER 2381) and rebuilt Docking Hall in 1858 (NHER 1656; visible from road).


Cooke designed Anglia Square in Norwich and the associated Sovereign House and Cinema in 1968-1971; concrete with red tiles in the family of the Cambridge History Library, although since altered. This massive conglomeration, which arouses extreme emotions in both directions, was hailed by the Norwich-born architectural critic Reyner Banham as Britain’s first megastructure (NHER 45467).


The firm founded by Sir Bernard Feilden and David Mawson has been responsible for many alterations and additions to historic buildings. In Norwich their most prominent new work is Friars Quay of 1974, an estate of riverside dwellings. At Ranworth Broad they designed a floating conservation centre.  Sir Bernard was also the architect of the Unthank Road Presbyterian church in Norwich (1954) but his alterations to Stiffkey hall have recently been removed.

GILL, Eric

Gill was a world-famous sculptor but it is less well known that he designed buildings. His only church is in Norfolk, at Gorleston; St Peter’s Roman Catholic church of 1939. Gill designed it with a central altar so that the nave is little longer than the chancel and transepts, and with a Functionalist limewashed interior (NHER 12031).

HOPKINS, Michael

The designer of the recently completed Millenium Forum in the centre of Norwich and the rebuilt Norwich Anglican cathedral refectory.

JAMES, C. H. and PIERCE, S. R.

Between them they designed Norwich City Hall in 1932-8 which some have described as Britain’s foremost building of the inter-war period. Its Scandinavian design dominates the centre of the city (NHER 26201).


Lasdun was the designer of the original buildings of the University of East Anglia (which was completed by Feilden and Mawson and David Luckhurst). This was Britain’s first and most successful expression of a university as a small city rather than a dispersed campus, showing the influence of the architects Luis Kahn, Marcel Breuer and Sant’Elia, and which went on to become an international model through Team Ten. (NHER 40079; public access).

LUTYENS, Sir Edwin

An architect whose name is synonymous with the height of the British Empire.  His Norfolk major works are all in the village of Overstrand. The Hall, 1899-1901, is his most remarkable building, a riot of half-timbering and carved stone, out-Tudoring the Tudors (NHER 6478). The Pleasaunce nearby of 1899, which incorporates older houses, is noted for its gardens (NHER 6477; visible from road).  In 1898 Lutyens built the Methodist chapel in an odd box-like structure of pebble flint (NHER 25395).


The architect of Blickling Hall (NHER 5115), Norfolk’s most outstanding Jacobean mansion, from 1618 until his death in 1628. He had previously designed Hatfield House.


A view of Blickling Hall.

Blickling Hall. (© NCC)

MAUFE, Edward

An architect of national standing. He rebuilt Kelling Hall in 1905-13 on the butterfly-house plan; small bricks were brought from Holland for the purpose (NHER 24101; no public access).

SCOTT, Sir George Gilbert 

Sir George Gilbert Scott, Godfather of the Gothic Revival, is represented in Norfolk only by restorations of churches; but his sons George junior and John Oldrid were responsible for one of the county’s most important buildings, the Roman Catholic church of St John at Norwich 1894-1910.  This was built for the Duke of Norfolk with the intention that it should be a cathedral, although this was not achieved until 1976. This building represents the acme of Victorian Gothic and dominates what was known as the New City, though recent road widening has lost some of the grandeur of its rising among narrow streets (NHER 26095; public Access). Another member of the Scott family, Sir Giles, has an unusual early work in the form of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic church at Sheringham, 1908 (NHER 47376).

SMITHSON, Alison and Peter

Known as the enfants terribles of the architectural world in the fifties, their Smithdon High School at Hunstanton (in Old Hunstanton parish) of 1954 was a pioneering design of international importance. It was the forerunner of all late 20th century school designs and though since modified it still attracts visitors from all over the world (NHER 29696; visible to public from road).

SOANE, Sir John

The most famous of the English architects of the Classical revival of the late 18th century. His largest Norfolk work is Shotesham Park, a massive mansion on a new site of 1784-9 (NHER 10114; no public access). Another striking and more visible building is the Old Rectory at Saxlingham Nethergate (NHER 16529) whose bow front dominates the village when seen from the south (1784-7). A mature work is Letton Hall, 1783-9 (NHER 2775; visible from road). Soane also designed the lodges to Langley Park, well-known landmarks on the Beccles Road (NHER 10463 and 13864) and a music room at Earsham Hall, recently restored (NHER 16275; no public access).


Another of the Greats of the Gothic Revival, he virtually rebuilt the churches at East Wretham in 1865 (NHER 9019) and Roydon-near-Lynn in 1857 (HER 3344).  In the latter case, because original Norman doorways survived, he was forced to use a neo-Norman design which was out of character for him. He also added the tower and porch to Blickling church (1876)(NHER 7412), rebuilt the chancel at Garboldisham (1862) (NHER 5570) and added the distinctive gabled top to the church tower at Castle Rising (1860) to match the forebuilding of the castle (NHER 3309).


These two are known for their high quality local authority housing schemes of the 1950s in south Norfolk, several of which are now Listed Buildings including Kenyan Row at Gillingham (NHER 40818), Windmill Green at Ditchingham (NHER 34127) and Davy Place in Loddon (NHER 44604). They were also the architects of Cringleford Primary School and the tower block of Yarmouth House in Great Yarmouth, both in 1970.


A Victorian architect of the Gothic Revival. He rebuilt Shadwell Court 1856-60 as a Gothic extravaganza with turrets and pinnacles disguising the older work, and a Romantic gateway. The future of the building is now uncertain (NHER 6090;no public access). He also reconstructed the nearby parish church of Brettenham in 1852 imitating the Decorated style (NHER 6093).  His work can also be seen at the former Vicarage made from the medieval college at Rushford in 1855 (NHER 6092), the former rectory (now Bressingham Lodge) at Bressingham, 1842 (NHER 41263) and the Old Rectory at North Creake of 1845 (NHER 28466), these latter two being very early works.


An early 20th century architect. He designed St Alban’s church at New Lakenham and its adjacent vicarage in 1938 (NHER 49862) and (with A J Lacey) in 1911-4 reconstructed Overstrand church within the ruined shell of the medieval building, a work that caused disquiet in conservation circles (NHER 6479).

VOYSEY, C. F. A. (1857-1941)

A designer of Arts and Crafts houses for the middle classes, his only Norfolk work is a monument in Ludham churchyard, to F. H. Chambers, 1912, a slender column (NHER 8457).


The architect of the Natural History Museum in London, he has been credited with the design of Crimplesham Hall in 1881. Although Pevsner would not believe this and dated the building to 1850, recent cleaning of the exterior suggests there is no reason to challenge the date or attribution (NHER 2457). Nearby is a folly tower clearly by the same hand; it is in the form of a battlemented tower and courtyard which formerly stood on the edge of the lake and made a Romantic backdrop to an approach by water (NHER 2458; no public access). 


An influential architect of the early 20th century, known for his massive country houses, his work can be seen in Norfolk at Pickenham Hall in South Pickenham of 1902-5 (NHER 4710; visible from road). 

WELLS, Randall

An Arts and Crafts architect who worked with Detmar Blow at Home Place, High Kelling, and designed the chapel of the nearby sanatorium, now the parish church of High Kelling.

WYATT, Samuel

An important late 18th century architect, best known in Norfolk for his work for the Holkham Estate. His best building in this sphere is Leicester Square Farm at South Creake (1791-9), laid out on a grid pattern as if it were a barracks (NHER 12175; no public access).

Edwin Rose

Norfolk Landscape Archaeology

August 2007



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