Averil's Blog

Research, musings and finding inspiration.

Tales from Norfolk – Day 3

Signing books at Waterstones Norwich

Okay so I am not going to mention getting lost in Norwich any more. Let’s just say it took us longer than expected to follow the ring road north west around the city to Gildencroft. And the walk in the sunshine was very welcome for half an hour or so until we discovered we had parked the car right beside the Quaker burial ground and Meeting house we were looking for…

Gildencroft Meeting House was larger than the one at Upper Goat Lane. Elizabeth Fry attended evening Meeting here with the travelling preacher William Savery. In the morning, she had attended morning Meeting at ‘Goats’ and was admiring her purple boots with the red laces until Savery’s astonishing words changed the course of her life. She accompanied Savery here in the evening where a huge crowd attended to hear him speak.

Sadly the original building erected in 1698 was destroyed in an air raid in 1942 and a more modest building replaces it. It is still used for Meeting but also hosts the Treehouse Children and Families Centre which would greatly please EF.

The Gildencroft Quaker Burial Ground is a corner of tranquility next door where you can hear the children’s laughter as you walk among the ancient graves in the dappled light. EF found it a sad place because it is where both her parents and many of her family and friends [including Amelia Opie] are buried. She was only 12 when her mother died.

I would love to have brought in some gardening tools and just removed fallen branches and cleared some ivy. I hope very much that this historic place will not become derelict. There is a thin line between charmingly overgrown and neglected.

The Boss and I then had a major success – we found our way back to the Castle Mall car park without a problem. We returned to Waterstones where our book had arrived and I signed some copies and met a charming lady from nearby Worstead who not only bought a copy but sketched a map to help us on our way home – and it worked a treat. Thank you, Carrie.

While I was signing books, The Boss went up to Norwich Castle to see if we had time to visit some embroidered squares from EF’s day and also the bench from Earlham where Joseph Fry proposed to her. Alas no, this will have to be a treat for our next visit.

Before leaving, we popped in to the amazing Dragon Hall, a Grade 1 listed medieval merchant’s trading hall which is being lovingly restored and is the new home of the Writers’ Centre Norwich. We were given a quick tour of the Great Hall and were in awe of the whole place as research has shown evidence of 1000 years of human habitation on the site. We are but specks of dust in time.

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