Opened in 1899, the 247 foot long covered avenue was designed and built by Dereham-born architect George Skipper and today it houses a wonderful mixture of shops and restaurants – plus the famous Colman’s Mustard Shop!
Art Nouveau was so-called from Samuel Bing’s art shop “Maison l’art Nouveau” an international movement to bring together the finest designers and craftsmen to unify the designs of buildings, furnishings and decorative arts within.
Influenced by Japanese art and the Arts and Crafts Movement, the English Art Nouveau used flowing lines and symbols from nature.
The peacock used in the Arcade frieze was a common feature. And stained glass was widely used.
The original design of the arcade and its decorative features show that George Skipper was experimenting with Art Nouveau influences. He was aware of the work of the leading architects of the day; Victor Horta in Belgium and Hector Gimard in Paris. According to Sir John Betjamin “he was to Norwich what Gaudi was to Barcelona”.
The beautiful stylised patterned floor, the curved wooden-framed shop windows, the use of colourful tiles and the wonderful luxurious lighting make this shopping mall so much more than a sum of its parts. It took me back to the arcades of Paris and in particular the very elegant Galerie Vivienne
The entrance from Castle Meadow opposite the castle is hidden behind an ugly facade so easy to miss, or you can approach it from Castle Street.
At the far end of the arcade the opening is through a pair of tiled archways which lead on to Gentleman’s Walk and the Market Place.
Source: Information plaques in the arcade and Royal Arcade of Norwich website.