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St James the Less, Norwich
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the Less, Norwich
Until the 1930s, this was a densely populated area of terraced streets and small factories. Virtually all of this has gone today; firstly, Barrack Street was widened in 1938 for the inner ring road, and then the entire area was almost completely destroyed by German bombs one night in January 1942, St James miraculously escaping. St Paul, 50 metres to the west, was burnt out and has today completely disappeared. In the photographs below, you can see George Plunkett's view in 1931 - apart from the church, every single other thing in this photograph has gone today. The second photograph, taken in 1938, shows the church after the widening of Barrack Street - the new flats beyond the church on Wroxham Road also escaped the blitz, and survive today. The last picture, in the weeks before the war, shows the north side, with roadworks going on. The spot this photograph was taken from is now within the four lanes of the modern inner ring road.
For a couple of reasons, St James is now one of the best known of Norwich churches, despite having been redundant for half a century. Firstly, it sits on a mound right beside a roundabout on the busy inner ring road. But secondly and more fondly, it has been the home since the early 1980s of the Norwich Puppet Theatre.
They have converted the interior into an auditorium with banked seating with space beneath for workshops. The south aisle is now a reception area. The chancel forms the stage and back stage area. The seating climbs up to the top of the tower arch, where there is a door from a stairway inside the tower.
Simon Knott, November 2005
You can see thousands of George Plunkett's other old photographs of Norwich on the Plunkett website
you can also visit the website of Norwich Puppet Theatre
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