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My Norwich

The city celebrates group’s centenary of cultural contribution

Published on Wednesday, 17th November 2021

On Friday (12 November), The Lord Mayor, as first citizen of Norwich, hosted a reception to thank Friends of the Norwich Museums for its considerable contribution to the city’s heritage over a 100 year span.

Norwich is fiercely proud if its three museums – Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery and Strangers’ Hall – home to unrivalled collections such as the world’s largest teapot collection (the castle), what was the country’s first museum of rural life (Strangers’ Hall) and artefacts demonstrating the city’s industrious heritage (Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell).

However, without the generous contribution by the Friends of the Norwich Museums, the city would not have these treasures at all.

John Walter of Drayton Hall founded the group, which was subsequently called Friends of the Norwich Museums, on the very last day of 1920; and from its inception, it set about working to preserve some of the city’s finest cultural assets.

One of the founding friends – Leonard Bolingbroke, who had rescued Strangers’ Hall from dilapidation – gave the hall and a major portion of its contents to the city in 1922, followed in 1925 by Sir Henry Holmes who gifted the Bridewell. 

To this day, the friends work tirelessly to raise funds to help purchase objects and artefacts to enhance the collections across the three sites. 

Lord Mayor of Norwich, Cllr Dr Kevin Maguire said:

“Founded three years after the war to end all wars, the friends’ group must have formed with great hope and sense of duty. They saw the importance of heritage, the opportunities available, and the need to encourage them.

I am proud that this city has such a forward-looking body, so many firsts – including the country’s first rural life museum and first national conference on museums – and proud and privileged to have been able to host a reception for the Friends of the Norwich Museums.”

Councillor Jacob Huntley – Norwich City Council, chair of Norwich Area Museums Committee said:

“This civic reception is a recognition of the Friends of the Norwich Museums’ support for the artistic and cultural heritage of Norwich. 
It’s great to have this opportunity to offer the friends our sincere gratitude for the exceptional contribution they have made to the cultural life of the city through their generous philanthropy. 
The richness of the cultural fabric of Norwich is in no small part due to the substantial and sustained efforts woven through the last one hundred years by Friends of the Norwich Museums.” 
Councillor John Ward – Norfolk County Council, chair of Norfolk Joint Museums Committee said:

“We’re here to celebrate a cherished friendship founded on generosity and a shared passion for the history of this city. A friendship that has endured for a remarkable one hundred years. A friendship which has played a vital part in creating the museums which we know and love today.

All of us at the museums service are incredibly grateful for the friends’ ongoing support. We congratulate them warmly on their centenary and look forward to their next hundred years.”

Charles Bingham-Newland, chair of the Friends of the Norwich Museums said:

“The Friends of the Norwich Museums are greatly honoured to have been given a Civic Reception by the Lord Mayor of Norwich to celebrate and acknowledge the work and support given by the friends to Norwich's Museums over the past 100 years. 

The Castle Museum, Strangers' Hall and the Museum of Norwich are some of the  cultural gems in our great city and county, and the friends have played a significant role in their success over the past century.”


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