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 History of Strangers hall.

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lee
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PostSubject: History of Strangers hall.   Sun Jul 13, 2008 10:02 am

The traditional explanation for the name Strangers’ Hall is that Dutch refugees, locally known as Strangers, met or lodged here during the second half of the sixteenth century. Documents do show that the Sothertons, who lived here at the time, took in Dutch tenants.

The Sothertons had been keen to encourage skilled Dutch and Flemish weavers to settle in Norwich in an attempt to revive the textiles industry, although some saw the Strangers as a threat to the livelihood of local weavers.


The Great HallLong before the time of the Strangers there was a building on this site. The undercroft or vaulted cellar dates from the early fourteenth century, and was probably built for a merchant named Ralph de Middilton. The house stood well back from the street, which was fronted by a row of stalls or shops. The original upper storey of the house ran at right-angles to the street, following the line of the undercroft. A later owner, William Barley, rebuilt the hall in about 1450, turning it round by ninety degrees to run parallel with the street, as it does today. At this time the living quarters could only be reached via a passageway and narrow staircase at the back of the undercroft. It was Nicholas Sotherton, the wealthy merchant grocer and Mayor of Norwich, who added the present front door, porch and steps in the 1530s.

Francis Cock, a grocer who lived here from 1612 to 1628, added the hall staircase and the window that lights it. These were built in 1627, the year he became Mayor. In 1659 the house was bought by Joseph Paine, a Norwich hosier. As Mayor in 1660 he went to London to present the newly restored King Charles II with one thousand pounds in gold from the citizens of Norwich. He was rewarded with a knighthood.


Sir Joseph PaineThe structure of the house has changed little since the seventeenth century. The most significant eighteenth-century alteration was the panelling of the room now known as the Georgian Dining Room. This was installed by William Wicks in 1748. Not all of the present panelling is original, the room having suffered bomb damage in 1942.
When the house came up for sale again in 1797 it was bought by local Roman Catholic priests and served as their presbytery until 1880. It was a convenient location for them, next to the Roman Catholic Chapel of St John Baptist, which stood on the site of the Maddermarket Theatre.


Strangers' Hall in the 1900sBy the end of the nineteenth century Strangers’ Hall was standing empty, neglected and almost derelict. In 1896 it fell into the hands of a property speculator who planned to pull the building down and redevelop the site. Leonard Bolingbroke, a local solicitor and for many years treasurer of the Norfolk Archaeological Society, bought the house in 1899, saving it from demolition. His family had been silk mercers, and he was the grandson of James Stark, the Norwich School artist. He was an enthusiastic collector, and furnished the house with his own collection of antiques. He appointed a caretaker and in May 1900 he opened it to the public as a folk museum, one of the first of its kind in Britain.

Leonard Bolingbroke and his familyBolingbroke wanted to display objects used in everyday life as an alternative to the stuffed birds and fossils on show in most museums at that time. When the museum failed to pay its way Bolingbroke moved in with his wife and family of five children. He continued to admit the public to some rooms and in 1922 presented Strangers' Hall and its contents to the City of Norwich as a museum of domestic life. In 1974 the museum was incorporated into Norfolk Museums Service.

Since then Strangers’ Hall has continued to expand its collections, mainly through the generous donations of individual members of the public. The museum now has one of the largest domestic life collections in the country, encompassing everything from jelly moulds to jigsaw puzzles, from vacuum cleaners to Valentines. Museum displays evolve and change, and there is a wide range of educational activities for all age groups.
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