Tag Archives: norwich

Saving Samson

samson

Curators at the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell are appealing to people with links to the Samson and Hercules to help them secure the future of the statue of Samson who stood guard outside the city centre property for centuries. The oak carved figure has recently been restored, and it’s been revealed he dates back to the 17th century. Now, the museum wants to display him permanently in their galleries, and is crowdfunding to raise the £15,000 needed for a display case.

The ballroom was hugely popular with American GI’s over 50,000 of whom were stationed in Norfolk, and delighted the local girls, many of whom ended up marrying their wartime sweetheart. During the Baedeker Raids in Norwich, in April 1942, Samson and Hercules maintained their guard over the front door of ‘The Samson’ club. Unable to take shelter, the bombs rained down; narrowly missing them on occasion.

By July 1942 there was a friendlier invasion. Samson would have looked on in wonder as the Liberty Trucks from the local airbases pulled up and disgorged their cargo of young American airman keen to play hard while they could. Up to this point ‘The Samson’ had been a club for our ‘Boys in Blue’ but there was about be a change in the colour scheme. The American uniforms, known as pinks and greens, comprised of an olive drab coloured tunic and pink-brown coloured trousers. The novelty of the new uniforms, plus the fact that they seemed smarter, the fabric of better quality than the RAF Blue, quickly drew both looks of envy and admiration from the locals. Many of the Americans also came equipped with money, access to rare, desirable commodities such as chocolate, tins of food, stockings; plus a confident gift of the gab, all of which they quickly put to use on the local girls.

Samson, standing as doorman with his cohort Hercules since 1657, must still have looked on in wonder as the Americans tried their bold chat-up lines on the war-weary girls with the local boys often taking them to task over it and the American Military Police, nicknamed Snowdrops because of their white helmets, being on hand to break up any fights. The local boys were gradually inclined to avoid the place but the girls knew which side their bread was buttered! By the end of 1942 the number of GIs in the city of Norwich had boomed. Through the Samson and Hercules there now followed a sea of green dancing to the popular Gerry Hoey and his Band.

Disaster struck on 18th March 1944. Despite their resilience to the German arsenal, Samson and Hercules’ long lives were nearly cut short when fire took hold of the building. With determination the fire was put out and Samson and Hercules were saved, however, the lack of building material available due to the war meant the new portal they were guarding was far less impressive. They must’ve felt somewhat overdressed for the occasion!

For the past seventy four years rumours have abounded that Glenn Miller and his dance band were welcomed through the doors of ‘The Samson’. We certainly know that he played at Chapelfield Gardens on the afternoon of the 18th August 1944 but did he ever venture into one of the GIs’ favourite haunts to celebrate his promotion to the rank of Major? If only Samson could talk we would have discovered much earlier that the rumours were indeed true! Samson would have regained his sense of purpose of welcoming the great and the good through his, albeit now depleted, doorway and he must have have felt his feet rock on his plinth as the place erupted with roars and shouts of appreciation as the band stayed up most of the night celebrating their leader’s recent success.

Glenn Miller

Picture from: Glenn Miller in Britain then and now by Chris Way, published by After the Battle in 1996.

As 1945 progressed, the war drew to its end and the American airmen, who had become part of the scenery, gradually returned to their homeland, occasionally taking with them their new English brides, whom they would have met as Samson stood watch. They left behind them not only the odd broken heart and bloody nose, but more significantly an enduring connection to Norwich and fond memories of nights out at ‘The Samson’.

Samson, meanwhile, maintained his position as the decades rolled by until the early 1990s when his arm became detached and it was clear that now it was our turn to guard and protect Samson for the future. In 1993 both figures were removed for their protection, as they were in such a bad state of repair, and replaced by fibre glass replicas. And this is when an amazing discovery was made. Unbelievably, tests revealed that whilst Hercules was a Victorian replica, Samson dated from the early seventeenth century. Over the past couple of years conservators have removed countless layers of lead paint to unveil the most intricate of features, including curly long hair and strong arms bulging with popping veins and muscle.

Working in partnership with the Art Fund through their ‘Art Happens’ platform, the museum of Norwich at the Bridewell aims to raise £15,000 by 22nd March to Save Samson and proudly place him on permanent display, protecting this fragile and precious piece of the City’s heritage for the future. Now the conservation work is complete the museum wants to create a breath taking new display featuring a bespoke, state of the art, environmentally controlled case. Within the case, the very fragile figure of Samson will be supported by a new custom made, conservation grade mount. What’s more, specially designed lighting will enable visitors to see every curl and sinew in tantalising detail. Meeting the highest conservation standards, this new display will not only present Samson at his very best, but more importantly, will ensure this city icon remains in peak condition.

But the museum needs your help to make this happen.  By donating to this project, you can ensure Samson’s future will be secure for years to come and the story of this much loved Norwich night club can be celebrated and enjoyed by everyone.

What’s more, as a thank you to donors, the Art Fund offers desirable rewards for set price donations, such as exclusive campaign tote bags, limited edition signed prints by Leanda Jaine Illustrations and a behind the scenes conservator led tour to see Samson up close.

Find out more and join the campaign to Save Samson! www.artfund.org/saving-samson #savingsamson

Leave a comment

Filed under Local Interest, World War 2

Baedeker Raids and Norwich – 75th Anniversary

By Danielle Prostrollo

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the first Luftwaffe raid of Norwich, part of the Baedeker raids that also occurred over Canterbury, Bath, Exeter, and York. The raids got their name from the Baedeker guidebooks which noted that these cities were of great cultural and historical importance. It is commonly accepted that it was from these guides that the Germans decided which cities to strike.

In honor of the anniversary we revisit a book review written by a former American Scholar. Snelling’s book is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about the raids and their effect on Norwich.

 

Norwich: A Shattered City by Steve Snelling

This highly informative and richly illustrated new book tells “the story of Hitler’s blitz on Norwich and its people” in 1942.

The book offers detailed accounts of the Baedeker raids that destroyed sections of Norwich, claiming 200 civilian lives. The images of the city’s familiar corners, parks, and streets register as shockingly unfamiliar in photographs from the time. Walking the beautiful, safe streets of our city today, it is hard to imagine other times.

Snelling’s book encourages Norwich’s modern citizens to pause and appreciate the city we might usually take for granted.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Local Interest, World War 2

Join us if you dare, for a Halloween scare!

 

MemHalloween

Halloween is one of the largest secular holidays celebrated in the U.S. Although officially celebrated on the 31st of October, most Americans are spellbound by the frightful festivities come October 1st–pumpkin patches begin to sprout in the parking lots of local grocery stores, spiderweb decorations begin to deck the hallways of homes and weekly television programs honor viewers with a Halloween special. This year the Memorial Library is also getting into the Halloween spirit so come trick or treating to the Memorial Library on Halloween and design your own pumpkin, listen to some spooky stories, and write your own ghostly poem.

For those looking for more frightful fun and folly in the city, here are some other ways to get involved in the bewitching season. Remember, it’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus!

1. Enjoy Spooky City Halloween Fun at the Forum

In the run up to All Hallow’s Eve there’s plenty of half-term fun available for families at both The Forum and Millennium Library. Inside The Forum, children are invited to join free craft workshops and hear a traditional story teller tell spooky tales. Also watch our artist work wonders on some large pumpkins, grown here in Norwich by White House Farm. The Spooky City parade on All Hallow’s Eve is your chance to dress to impress – or to terrify! Enjoy the dancing, live music, street entertainers and the ghostly surprises lurking in the shop doorways! The parade starts at Norwich Castle at 6.30pm on Fri 31 Oct and makes its way to The Forum via Castle Green, Farmer’s Avenue, Timberhill, Red Lion Street, Gentleman’s Walk and Hey Hill. More information can be found on the website.

2. Take a Norwich Ghost Walk

The Norwich Ghost Walks take you to many famous places around the city noted for their strange events. Apart from experiencing first hand the amazing architectural elements and history of this fine city, you will be regaled with its more macabre side of tragic events & local stories. There is even a Halloween Special for those of the more brave-hearted nature. The Ghost Walks have been happening since 1998 and the Man in Black, the tour guide, is a true Norwich gem.  All tours start from the Adam and Eve Pub. See the website for more details. http://www.ghostwalksnorwich.co.uk/first.html

 3. Decorate a Pumpkin

9781859673058

Pumpkin carving or decorating is a staple part of the Halloween experience.The pumpkin, or Jack-O-Lantern—the name for a carved pumpkin—has become one of the more familiarized symbols of Halloween. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded as early as 1837. You can collect a pumpkin at your local shop or the Norwich Market and browse some of our craft books for some inspiration. Here’s one to get you started. You can reserve a copy on the online catalog here.

 

4. Eat, Drink & Be Scary with a Haunted Pub Crawl

Norwich boasts being one of the most haunted cities in England. Conveniently for the pint enthusiast, many of these spectral sightings have happened at many of the local pubs. Why not organize a pub crawl around the cities most famously haunted pubs. Here are a few to get you going:

  • The Adam & Eve Pub. Located on Bishopbridge, the Adam and Eve is dated at 1249, making it “probably” the oldest pub in Norwich. The pub has been known for its ghosts, since 1549. The main ghost,  nicknamed Sam, is thought to be Lord Sheffield. Sheffield died during Robert Ketts rebellion. Unaware of the ritual of surrender–of which Sheffield did–Ketts men fatally wounded Sheffield with a cleaver.  He was immediately taken to the A&E, or the Adam and Eve Pub, where he died.
  • The Maids Head Hotel. There have been numerous spooky sightings at the Maids Head Hotel, which has a history dating back to the 13th century. A woman dressed in grey, believed to be a former maid, has been seen roaming the hotel hallways followed by the smell of musty lavender, a scent often used to hide the smell of the plague or buried.
  • The Gardener’s Arms/ Murderer’s Pub. Dating back to 1696, the Murderer’s Pub, also known as the Gardener’s Arms, boasts two tales of murder.  Philip Cutter, the pub’s owner discovered that the pub earned its gruesome nick-name from a murder that was committed by an ex-cavalryman, Frank Miles, who killed his estranged wife, Mildred (Millie) in June 1895 upon seeing her enter the pub with another man. Frank was tried and convicted to hang for his crime. Contemporary newspaper articles from 1895 are available on the walls of the pub for further reading. Learn more by visiting the pub’s website. http://www.themurderers.co.uk/norwich-pub-history.html
  • Lollards Pit Pub. Located on Riverside and built between 1620 and 1670, the pub was the site of execution for heretics and other offenders during the 15th and 16th Centuries. The pub’s cellar was a holding cell to hold prisoners (recently discovered) before they were burned at the stake. The bodies were put into the pit, which is located in the garden. Screams have been heard in the pub and are thought to be of the prisoners, witches and heretics.

5. Treat Yourself to Some Horrifying Tales!

There’s nothing quite like reading a great scary story. From Edgar Allan Poe to Bret Easton Ellis, the Memorial and Millennium Library has a spectacular selection of America’s greatest horrifying tales. Beware however, for it is not all concentrated in the fiction section. Come and explore the bizarre, the unexplained and dare we say supernatural side of American literature, film, crime and history. Here are just a few to get you started, all of which can be found and reserved on our online catalog:

 

If the horror genre is not quite right for you, you can still get into the Halloween spirit by reading about the masterminds behind some of America’s most famous fright fest films and novels.

9781906779085

9782866428068

Hitchcock,_Alfred_02

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under American Culture, Books, Local Interest, Memorial Library, Online Resources, Public Events

Celebrating Black History Month 2014 at the Millennium Library

Three events and an exhibition for Black History Month 2014 – presented by the University of East Anglia Department of American Studies, the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and the Millennium Library in Norwich. Come and join us !

Maya AngelouThe Life and Legacy of Maya Angelou – 9th October, Vernon Castle Room, Norwich Millennium Library (6:30-7:30pm)
This event will commemorate the life and work of the African American writer Maya Angelou, who sadly passed away in May of this year. This roundtable discussion will feature contributions from staff from the Department of American Studies at UEA who will discuss various aspects of Angelou’s career and reflect on what her writing means to them.

The Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain: A Roundtable Discussion – 22nd October, Vernon Castle Room, Norwich Millennium Library (6-7:30pm)20 years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, academics and former activists will lead a general discussion reflecting on anti-apartheid activism in Britain. To coincide with the ‘Forward to Freedom’ exhibition based at the Millennium Library, this roundtable will provide a general overview of the anti-apartheid struggle as well as reflecting on the activities of local activists in Norfolk.

anti-apartheid event

Exhibition: Forward to Freedom: The History of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1959-1994 – Norwich Millennium Library (20th-31st October)
A pop-up exhibition telling the story of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement and its campaigns to support the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. The AAM also campaigned for freedom for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola, and against South Africa’s attacks on its neighbours.

12 years a slave

Film and Black History: 12 Years a Slave and Belle – 29th October, Vernon Castle Room, Norwich Millennium Library (6:30-7:30pm)
A discussion of recent films that document black history and the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Lectures and postgraduates from UEA will examine how Hollywood has dealt with black history and discuss the ongoing political significance of films such as Belle and 12 Years A Slave in terms of how we remember and debate the issue of slavery today.

Contact the 2nd Air Division Library on 01603 774747 or email: 2admemorial.lib@norfolk.gov.uk to reserve your free place.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Culture, Books, Current Events, Public Events