Norfolk boasts a rich architectural heritage spanning centuries of history. From Georgian townhouses to Gothic Revival churches, the county has diverse architectural styles created by the architects, builders, and patrons who shaped its landscape. By exploring some of Norfolk’s iconic buildings, we can trace the evolution of architecture and design in the area.
Prominent Local Architects
Matthew Brettingham supervised the construction of the Palladian Holkham Hall in the early 18th century, overseeing both design and brick working. A century later, John Brown travelled across Norfolk restoring and designing churches in various revival styles, his dedication helping to preserve Norfolk’s abundance of medieval religious architecture. In the 20th century, George Skipper helped shape the Edwardian cityscape of Norwich with his striking office buildings and hotels, notably the marble-decked Norwich Union building. Through such works over three centuries, we can see shifting trends from Classical symmetry to Gothic texture to sleek Art Deco lines.
Visiting Historic Houses
Jacobean Blickling Hall impresses visitors with its elegant brickwork and imposing silhouette. Nearby, Holkham Hall shows the clean lines and refined symmetry of Palladianism in its spacious halls and airy saloons. Contrast these with distinctive 20th century houses like the Arts & Crafts style Voewood in High Kelling, with its eye-catching butterfly layout crafted by architect E.S. Prior. Preserved through generations and open to the public, these properties offer up many architectural tales - from the grandeur of empire to the warmth of arts and crafts.
With over 650 medieval churches dotted across rural landscapes, Norfolk boasts an impressive religious architectural heritage. Famed architects like George Gilbert Scott and his sons descended on Norfolk in the Victorian era, restoring and refashioning decaying churches and leaving their mark through embellished spires and soaring naves. Later modernists like Eric Gill brought 20th century abstraction to the county, designing St Peter’s starkly simple Roman Catholic church in Gorleston.
Beyond the big names, Norfolk’s churches reveal localised stories in their changing styles and forms across parishes, from rounded Saxon towers to the fan-vaulted splendour of the Perpendicular style. Tracking architectural features across the ages allows us to traverse the county’s landscape from the Middle Ages onwards, appreciating each church’s unique contribution to this rich legacy.
Norwich city centre boasts architectural landmarks spanning seven centuries of building innovation. Tombland’s Maid’s Head hotel reveals mock-Tudor brickwork additions by Victorian architect Herbert Green, who worked to embellish existing buildings as preservation efforts gained momentum. Just down the street, Jarrold’s Department Store incorporates Skipper’s early 20th century London Street offices, the exterior detailing the workings of Skipper’s architectural practice through intricate brickwork.
The city centre also features the Swedish-inspired clean lines of City Hall, constructed in the 1930s - a decade marked by global artistic exchanges. This stands in contrast with the concrete megastructure of Anglia Square, encapsulating the grand infrastructure visions of the following decade. Together these landmarks trace Norwich’s emergence into the modern era, revealing changing attitudes to heritage, urban planning, materials and form.
For over 300 years, Norfolk has attracted ambitious architects eager to shape its landscape. By exploring the buildings left behind in manor houses, churches and city centres, we can experience the architectural history of Britain, and appreciate the ingenuity and artistry that created this rich tapestry. Whether your building in Norfolk is new or old, learn more here about RICS building surveying.