IT WAS the first working day for the newly opened Lady Julian Bridge in Norwich and a steady trickle of pedestrians and cyclists were crossing as I walked by early this morning.
The idea is to help connect a rejuvenated King Street to Riverside, with many of the developers contributing towards the £2.5 million cost. But it also struck me that the bridge will also help King Street reconnect with the river, and in doing so, turn back a page in its own history. Because in many ways King Street was the first Norwich street. The city grew up from the river and it is only in recent years that the two have started to turn their back on each other. The first thing you notice as you cross the bridge from Riverside is the magnificent Dragon Hall (pictured right) - a recently-restored medieval merchant's hall.
But as late as 1900 King Street was home to two breweries, six malthouses and numerous wharves. It teemed with activity. A tram ran the length of the street and there were three separate ferries. A quick flick through Kelly’s Directory - the 1900 equivalent of Yellow Pages - reveals tailors, butchers, boot makers, fishmongers, bakers, the Jenny Lind Steam Boat Company, a cowkeeper, corn merchants, the city mortuary, tobacconists, a lime burner and several hairdressers. Among the 19 pubs, you could choose from the Nags Head, the Boiler Makers’, The Cellar House, The Old Barge, The Green Man, The Music House and the Elephant and Castle. All that new housing has encouraged a newsagent and a cafe to open their doors in recent months, so maybe history will repeat itself - although I think a cowkeeper might struggle.