Record Details

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

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 08199
Map Sheet:TG20NW
Parish:NORWICH, NORWICH, NORFOLK

Full description

Dragon Hall, Nos 115 to 123 King Street.

1954. Listed Grade I.
Listing Description Excerpt:
"Former merchants' hall under restoration at the time of re-survey. 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 with south block at right-angles to the street line. Two storeys, jetty at first floor. Seven bays."
Information from (S1).
Please consult the National Heritage List for England (S1) for the current details.
P. Watkins (HES), 29 September 2017. Amended H. Hamilton (HES), 8 November 2019.

July 1980. Building Survey.
Examined as part of Norwich Survey.
See record forms (S2) for notes and photograph of showing roof construction. See also file for various additional notes and plans compiled/collated as part of the Norwich Survey.
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 29 September 2017.

December 1980. Trial Trench.
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 report (S3) for further details.
B. Ayers (NAU) and M. Atkin (NCM).

1980s. Building Survey.
Various phases of repair work were undertaken between December 1980 and May 1986, allowing a detailed examination of the structure by the City Architect's Department.
See report (S4), which was produced in 1988, following the first phase of archaeological work (see below).
P. Watkins (HES), 29 September 2017.

1987-88. Excavation.
Excavations by NAU with MSC team.
The results of this work are summarised in (S5). As no other report was produced the results were incorporated into the report produced following the completion of two subsequent phases of excavation.

Winter 1997/1998. Excavation.
Excavation conducted on behalf of the Norfolk and Norwich Heritage Trust.

October 1999. Excavation.
Site extended to east for new excavation continuing features seen in 1998 excavation.

The three phases of archaeological excavation undertaken between 1987 and 1999 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 published monograph (S6) and assessment report (S7) for full details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S8) and (S9).
The archive associated with both the 1987-1988 and 1997-1998 phases of work has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2012.328).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 3 July 2007. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 16 May 2019.

For additional information on the early history of this property see (S10)-(S13). The building itself is also discussed in (S14) and amongst those considered in detail in thesis (S15).

April 2002. Test Pitting.
Two test pits were excavated by NAU to inform the design of new buildings. Contexts 12637-12661.
Both located wall footings.
See report (S16) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S17).
J. Allen (NLA), 21 August 2002.

March to April 2003. Watching Brief.
Monitoring of test pits within proposed re-development area. Contexts 12662-12687.
Revealed a sequence of Late Saxon to early medieval deposits.
See report (S18) for further details.
J. Allen (NLA), 19 August 2003. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 19 May 2015.

February-May 2005. Excavation and Watching brief.
Excavation of additional areas to rear of Dragon Hall, following the demolition of the modern north wing.
See published article (S19) and NHER 43968 for further details.
K. Ward (NLA) 15 January 2010. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 21 July 2015.

2008.
Norwich HEART:
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.
See (S20) and (S21) for further details.
D. Gurney (NLA) 27 January 2009.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Late Prehistoric - 4000 BC to 42 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Early Saxon - 410 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 16th Century - 1280 AD to 1599 AD)
  • FISH HOUSE (Medieval - 1300 AD to 1400 AD)
  • HALL HOUSE (Medieval to 21st Century - 1300 AD to 2100 AD)
  • KITCHEN (Medieval - 1300 AD to 1400 AD)
  • TIMBER FRAMED BUILDING (Medieval to 21st Century - 1300 AD to 2100 AD)
  • UNDERCROFT (Medieval to 21st Century - 1330 AD to 2100 AD)
  • EXCHANGE (Medieval to 21st Century - 1427 AD to 2100 AD)
  • GARDEROBE (Medieval to 17th Century - 1450 AD to 1699 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WALL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • GARDEN (16th Century to 21st Century - 1550 AD to 2100 AD)
  • BLACKSMITHS WORKSHOP (17th Century to Mid 20th Century - 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 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • BALANCE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BUCKLE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CAME (Medieval to 19th Century - 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 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HORSESHOE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • KNIFE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • LACE TAG (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • LAMP (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LAMP (Medieval to 19th Century - 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 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • MORTAR (VESSEL) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PIN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PIN (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • PLANT REMAINS (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • QUERN (Medieval to 19th Century - 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 19th Century - 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 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • WEDGE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • COIN WEIGHT (Medieval to 16th Century - 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

---Drawing: Various. Various. Architectural plans.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2000-2006. [Articles on the £1.8million restoration and refurbishment of Dragon Hall].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997-1998. [Articles on the work undertaken at Dragon Hall in 1997-1998].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. [Articles on the 1992 restoration work at Dragon Hall].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Secrets in the walls of the Hall. 21 November.
---Newspaper Article: Evening News. 1997. It was them! Historic hall and watermill scoop windfalls. 1 October.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1992. A dragon that makes you draw breath. 31 January.
---Unpublished Contractor Report: Moss, N. 2003. Report on an Archaeological Watching Brief at Anne's Wharf, Mountergate, Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 828.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 271-272; Pl 42.
---Unpublished Document: Carter, A.. Building Survey.
---Unpublished Document: 2006. Dragon Hall. Discover 1,000 years of history in the heart of Norwich. Newly restored and reopened for 2006..
---Unpublished Document: Smith, R.. Dragon Hall (The Old Barge)..
---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.
---Unpublished Document: Heywood, S. Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich [fragment of larger document].
---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.
---Record Card: NCM Staff. 1973-1989. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card - Norwich.
---Record Card: 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.
---Illustration: Smith, R. pre 1990. Reconstructed ground floor plan of The Old Barge. Publication illustration. Film.
---Illustration: Smith, R. pre 1990. The Old Barge. Plan of undercrofts. Publication illustration. Film.
---Article in Serial: Knights, S. 1989. Dragon Hall: The Discovery, restoration and rebirth of a medieval merchant's hall. Norfolk Research Committee Bulletin. Series 3 No 2 pp 13-16.
<S1>Designation: Historic England. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1051236.
<S2>Recording Form: Norwich Survey building record forms.
<S3>Unpublished Report: Ayers, B. 1980. Trial Excavation at Rear of Old Barge, King Street, Norwich. 17th-18th December, 1980. Norfolk Archaeological Unit Report.
<S4>Unpublished Contractor Report: Doonan, R. 1999. An Assessment of Metallurgical Debris from Dragon Hall, Norfolk. Ancient Monuments Laboratory. 65/1999.
<S4>Unpublished Report: City Architect's Department. 1988. 115-123 King Street, Norwich. Dragon Hall/The Old Barge. Report for the Historic Buildings & Monuments Commission for England of work carried out and interpretation of the building. Building Report.
<S5>Publication: Ayers, B. 1987. Digging Deeper: Recent Archaeology in Norwich. pp 27-28.
<S6>Monograph: Shelley, A. 2005. Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich: Excavation and Survey of a late Medieval Merchant's Trading Complex. East Anglian Archaeology. No 112.
<S7>Unpublished Contractor Report: Shelley, A. 1998. An assessment of excavations and surveys at Dragon Hall, Norwich. Norfolk Archaeological Unit.
<S8>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.
<S9>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.
<S10>Unpublished Report: Rutledge, E. 1987. Dragon Hall. Interim report September 1987.
<S11>Unpublished Document: [Unknown]. 1987. [Notes on Robert Toppes (who built Dragon Hall) and other '15th-century King Street people'].
<S12>Unpublished Document: [Unknown]. [Annotated sketch plans indicating the changing ownership of the properties adjacent to Old Barge Yard].
<S13>Unpublished Document: [Unknown]. Dragon Hall [notes on enrolled deeds of 1289 and 1307].
<S14>Article in Serial: Carter, A. and Smith, R. 1983. Function and Site: Aspects of Norwich Buildings Before 1700. Vernacular Architecture. Vol 14 pp 5-18.
<S15>Thesis: Smith, R. 1990. An Architectural History of Norwich Buildings, c. 1200 - 1700. Unpublished Thesis. pp 161-173, 329, 409-410.
<S16>Unpublished Contractor Report: Adams, D. 2002. Report on test pitting at Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 696.
<S17>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.
<S18>Unpublished Contractor Report: Adams, D. 2003. Report on an Archaeological Watching Brief at St Anne's Wharf, Norwich, Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 830.
<S19>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.
<S20>Publication: Sheehan, B.. 2008. Norwich 12: A journey through the English city..
<S21>Moving Image: Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART). 2008. Norwich 12. A journey through the English city.. DVD.

Related records

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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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