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Red Lion Street.

An artery connecting St Stephen's Street and Theatre Street/Rampant Horse Street to Castle Meadow. It is presumably named after a public house, but try as I may, I can't find any information on the original Red Lion, suggesting it was gone by the end of the Middle Ages. Today the road is only open to buses, taxis, cyclists and delivery drivers, which has done nothing to lessen the pall of carbon monoxide in the air — although it must be said this has probably improved since the Fifties. Victorian redbrick and limestone buildings rise steeply on either side of the road. On the corner with Castle Meadow is Orford Hill, a small plaza dominated by the Bell Hotel.

The Bell dates back to pre-Tudor times, when it was the Blue Bell. Like the Rampant Horse Inn round the corner, it has a long colourful history as a city-centre pub full of troublemakers. In the 1750s, a Methodist preacher came to Norwich and was met with violent opposition from 'indolent, rich young men with principles inimical to government, and a determination to crush Methodism.' The rich young rakes identified themselves as a 'Norwich Hell-Fire Club', and met regularly to stir up trouble at the Bell. Later the 1793 'Revolution Club' also met there, presumably to plot some kind of Bastille-inspired Norfolk uprising.


Swinging back to the right wing, the inn was a favourite haunt for fascists in the 1930s, with adherents of Oswald Mosley organising regular meetings. The British Union of Fascists opened its offices round the corner on Rampant Horse Street in 1934. During the 1980s the landlord of the Bell was an avowed National Front member, and although Norwich at that time boasted several gay-friendly pubs, the Bell was a no-go zone for the queer community, or indeed anyone non-white English, anyone communist and anyone belonging to a trade union. Today the Bell is owned by a certain national mega-chain, run by a certain ardent Brexit supporter. According to the blue city heritage plaque on the side, the Bell 'retains the character of an 18th-century coaching inn', which seems to suggest that such establishments had lots of microwave food, diluted cocktail pitchers, chips squashed into the carpet, transphobic hi-vis-jacketed bouncers, and anti-European propaganda (the last one admittedly might apply to the Georgian era).


Corporate graffiti bombards us from the side of a bus, in the shadow of a 30s department store, now closed.


Ornate sculptural ornaments on the front of no. 11, a former bank. Designed by George Skipper, who was also responsible for the Royal Arcade.

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