top of page

Prince of Wales Road.

Cast yourselves back to the Victorian Age, dear drifters. Norwich had just built its first railway station. The city had been the second-most important in England for centuries, but now it was being eclipsed by the industrial heartlands of the North and the Midlands, and it needed to harness itself to the national rail network. The station was unveiled in the 1840s, but unfortunately it had been plonked down in a spot where no roads could get to it. It was near Bishop's Bridge, but that led into the Cathedral Close, and running a new road through there was out of the question. Similarly a new road could not be cut through the Castle mound, whose earthworks were designed to block movement as far back as Roman times.


So a new road had to follow a downhill slope, in a slim gap between the Close and the Castle. The location of the street was determined by the Romans and the Normans, rather than the Victorian engineers, and it also had the inadvertent effect of producing a massive boom in commerce around the adjoining backstreet of Cockey Lane, which upgraded itself into the new, prestigious London Street.

The grand, sweeping boulevard was unveiled around the time of the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales, to Alexandra of Denmark, and so was named after the heir apparent, later King Edward VII. Edward's seedy reputation—this was the man who built a sex chair for having his many mistresses on—is perhaps appropriate, given the street's own reputation nowadays. It is infamous in Norwich. For instance, here's a few select quotes from TripAdvisor reviews of Prince of Wales Road:

Avoid......this place is absolutely vile!!Walked down there during the day and it highlights the grotty street ladened with drunks begging for money. This road is an embarrassment to Norfolk. Do not walk down here at night time.

Poor first time visitors to Norwich who arrive by train. To walk out of our lovely train station and having to make their way up Prince of Wales Road by foot must make them feel like turning back and getting the next train home.

Or take some comments from this Reddit thread, asking if anyone has had experience living on Prince of Wales:

Not necessarily unsafe, but certainly loud as fuck and full of drunk idiots, from the times you mentioned right through to the early hours, every Friday and Saturday for the rest of eternity. Pls don't move there lol

[...] every now and then some grubby cunt will leave half a kebab on the front steps.

I used to live on Rose Lane and, besides a couple of murders outside my apartment, I also witnessed a few assaults. If you work weekends too, sleep is not an option

Although Prince of Wales is certainly the hub of the city's nightlife, with multiple strip clubs, more dance clubs and bars than you can shake a kebab at, and a plethora of greasy late-night eateries with suspect food hygiene ratings, its reputation as the most dangerous street in another famously safe city is another matter. There are certainly fights on a Friday night, there is certainly lots of cocaine being inhaled, and as the TripAdvisor lot so insistently remind us, there are lots of homeless people—although I must say that this is the case everywhere in Norwich and in England generally nowadays, and it is not their fault they have to beg, nor is it some sort of psychic malevolence, inherent in the street itself.

What is true, is that the walk from the station, over Foundry Bridge, down Prince of Wales into the city centre, is an illuminating experience. You will pass last night's vomit, broken bottles and splattered kebabs in the gutters. You will pass a strange sheltered urinal thing which, if you need to pee but don't own a penis, will make you glad for once that you don't own a penis. The titular pub at the top of the street was closed a few years ago, and its decaying sign now reads THE PRI C OF WALES.

Even in its heyday, Prince of Wales had a certain reputation. Ralph Hale Mottram, in 1953, describes its architecture:

[...] replete with areas and attics that must have shortened the lives of a whole generation of maid-servants [...] the worst style of Islington architecture [...] dismembered gardens, behind rusty-coloured palings.


[...] Yet Norwich was proud of Prince of Wales Road [...] People who had been born in the 500 yards and courts of Norwich, who never had any certainty of health or employment, among whom an eighteenth-century fatalism lingered and who took refuge in rivers of cheap and good beer, came out, in the late evening, after work, and especially on Sundays, and sauntered, giggling and chattering, from the new iron bridge [...] It was a portent, the new Prince of Wales Road, little as its originators dreamed it.


[...] The houses on Prince of Wales Road have an air of being built in a hurry, by people who did not expect them to last. As late as 1923 numbers 47–51 on the south side did, in fact, collapse.

[...] It was not merely in plan that Prince of Wales Road stood at right angles to the older streets of the family. It stood at right angles socially, morally, spiritually.

Reading Mottram's distasteful analysis, the seedy vibe here may seem to have actually been baked into the stones by occult means when the street was  built. But being on the social margins of the city has its benefits. Prince of Wales has long been host to Norwich's gay clubs and bars. Studio Four was situated at the top of the street on Bank Plain, next door to Anglia Television, and so named because the adjacent building had three TV studios. The Bangs lesbian disco club upstairs was apparently affected by fights, and a reviewer in the 1970s lamented: “It used to be nothing but girls here but now it is 90 percent men!"

bottom of page