The Norwich Magdalen Street Massacre


Norwich is one of the most beautiful cities in England - or so it likes to think. Sadly much damage was done by bombing during the war, but what followed in the 1960's made Hitler's efforts pale into insignificance. Here's a look at a part of the city of Norwich not featured in too many tourists guides.

Magdalen Street is one of the ancient roads in Norwich, it runs north from the cathedral and was, for many years, one of the main shopping streets in the city and it still contains a wealth of old buildings. However, these days it's got a run-down feel to it and it's surrounded by vacant unused land.

The Norwich Inner ring road and associated redevelopment plans of the 1960's are to blame for this situation. Before this time the area around Magdalen street was a warren of small court yards housing people in overcrowded conditions. The solution was typical of the time - sweep it all away and rebuild, hundreds of years of archeological remains were simply wiped away and long established communities dispersed.

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On this map the area involved is bounded by St Crispins Road (the ring road), St Saviours Street, Peacock Street, Magpie Road St Augustine’s Street and Pitt Street. Properties were left untouched in the north-east corner and along Magpie Road and St Augustine’s Street, although those on St Augustine’s Street remain largely boarded up to this day. The area to the South East is boarded by St Saviour Street and the industrial unit along Whitefriars. Some of the old Magdalen street north of the flyover remains, but was badly damaged and much was lost

Central to this regeneration was the inner ring road, designed to carry traffic around the centre of the city on a dual carriageway. As with many of these grand projects of the 1960's however, the plan was never carried through to completion. For most of the route in the south of the city, the inner ring followed existing streets and was able to take advantage of areas of bomb damage during the war. However, the problem came in the north and in particular, where it crossed Magdalen Street which was something of a showcase for the city, having had a big make-over in he 1950's.

The road was eventually built on a flyover crossing Magdalen street and large areas were cleared to the north west and south east of the new road. The area to the north west was earmarked for the massive Anglia Square development - what today would be called a "shopping mall", the area to the south east was simply cleared and left vacant.

So in the late 60's a huge swathe of old Norwich was destroyed, the flyover was built over Magdalen Street and phase one of Anglia Square was started. It was downhill from then on. The ring road was built as far as the roundabout at the end of the flyover and the plans sat on ice for 20 years, being finally abandoned in he early 1990's. Phase one of Anglia Square was never finished and the swathe of land cleared for it was left as scrubland, the urban blight is still apparent on St Augustine’s Street. The land underneath the flyover to the west of Magdalen street is still undeveloped - bare mud - and is used as an unofficial car park The area to the South east is now a surface car-park

Magdalen Street before the massacre - Photographs of old Norwich on the George Plunkett website The following photos were taken by me in early 2005, some thirty years after this shameful act of urban vandalism.

Magdalen Street in 2005

Anglia Square

The flyover

The North West area of devastation


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