Norwich Cathedral

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February, 2017

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Norwich Cathedral Close is one of the largest of any English cathedral. There are two main gateways giving access to the Close, the Ethelred and Erpingham Gates.

The southernmost gate is the Ethelred Gate. This dates from the late C13th following riots between the townsfolk and the church. St Ethelred’s Church was burnt down and the Priory and Cathedral buildings looted and damaged. Henry III had to intervene and executed the townsfolk ringleaders, ordering the city to replace St Ethelbert’s church with a new gateway into the Close which would have a chapel on the upper floor. The result is a splendid gateway of Medieval flint flushwork with decorative panels of knapped flint separated by dressed freestone. It is thought this is the first example of flushwork in England.

The side facing the town is the more ornate. On either side of the gateway arch are carvings of a figure with a long sword and a dragon or serpent. The side facing the Close is plainer with a large window letting light into the chapel above. The underside of the archway is covered with beautiful lierne vaulting with bosses, including a green man.

The Erpingham Gate to the north was built of flint in the early C15th, by Sir Thomas Erpingham. His kneeling figure is in an arch above the gateway facing the city, placed here in the late C17th. He was a very influential figure in the late C14th and early C15th. He was Chamberlain to Henry IV and guarded the deposed Richard II in the Tower of London. He was commander of Henry V’s archers at the Battle of Agincourt. He was buried in the cathedral and the Erpingham gateway was part of his legacy to the city of Norwich. His arms are on the side of the gateway facing the Cathedral.

Immediately inside the Erpingham Gate is the C14th Chantry Chapel of St John the Evangelist, which was built above an old charnel house. The undercroft of the chapel continued to be used as a charnel store and the building was designed with low round windows that allowed people to look into the undercroft and view the collection of bones. This is now the chapel of King Edward VI school. When I visited in February 2017, the undercroft was open with a small exhibition of metal sculpture.

Although only a short distance apart, the two gateways have slightly different post codes. The nearest post code for the Ethelbert Gate is NR1 4DJ. The nearest postcode for the Erpingham Gate is NR3 1HF. There is no car parking by the gates.


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