A trip to see Dippy the dinosaur in Norwich

On a recent holiday in Norfolk, I heard that Dippy the dinosaur is on tour in Norwich. Dippy is a plaster cast of a diplodocus that stood for years in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum in London but was replaced by the real bones of a blue whale in 2017.

The cathedral and its close

Dippy’s whippy tail and Norwich Cathedral Norman architecture

Dippy was found in Wyoming in 1899. The skeleton was bought by Andrew Carnegie for a museum he was constructing in Pittsburgh. Carnegie had a sketch of the bones in Skibo Castle, his Scottish residence which were admired by Edward VII. Carnegie offered the king a plaster cast of the 292 bones.

They arrived at the Natural History Museum in 1905 and had been in the entrance hall since 1979. Visitors loved it.

Since leaving the London museum Dippy has been on tour and is in Norwich Cathedral until 30th October 2021 where it looks very much at home.

Norwich Cathedral was begun 30 years after Norman conquest and was completed in 1145. It is built in flint faced with Caen limestone.

The site of the cathedral close is where the original town centre on Norwich had been when the first settlement was built in the 800s. The inhabitants were moved to make way for the cathedral and for a Norman castle. The castle still exists but was heavily restored during the C19th.

Alterations were made to the cathedral including building the cloisters built between 1297-1430 but the style is Norman. The cloister has wonderful ceiling bosses plus C20th sculptures of Kings George V and VI with their wives.

The cathedral close is 85 acres and as well as the church, there are monastery ruins and ancient houses here. Two large gateways mark the main entrances to the close. Pictured is Ethelbert Gate built early 1300s. It had a chapel dedicated to the saint on the upper floor.

Outside the east end of the cathedral is the grave of Edith Cavell (1865-1915). Her body was brought to Norwich in 1919. She was the daughter of a vicar and was born in Norfolk. Her father got sick and she nursed him which gave her the taste for the profession. She then trained at the London Hospital in Mile End Road, London.

In 1907 she became the matron of a new clinic in Brussels opened by Antoine Depage. He was a local surgeon who wanted to modernise hospitals in Belgium. He also founded the Belgian Red Cross and the scout movement there.

At the outbreak of WWI his wife, Marie volunteered to help with the Red Cross and campaigned for funding for a military hospital in de Panne, West Flanders. In 1915 she travelled to the USA to fund-raise returning on the Lusitania. She was one of the victims on when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat.   

Edith Cavell was executed that same year for treason against the German occupiers of Brussels because she had aided the escape to Holland of wounded British and French soldiers as well as Belgians of military age who were liable to be called to serve in the German army.

Close to Edith Cavell’s grave is a plaque and a medallion on the wall to both Cavell and Marie Depage.

The streets of Norwich

Norwich was bombed as part of the Baedeker raids during WWII but the city still has many medieval streets and buildings.  

Close to the castle hill and linking it to the market is Royal Arcade. It opened in 1899 and was designed by a local architect George Skipper. It is a wonderful shopping mall. The shop fronts have elegant curved windows. The arcade walls are decorated with Art Nouveau style tiles designed by William James Neatby. He also designed the tiles in Harrods food-hall and you can see a similarity between them. They were made by Doulton. The magnificent Edwardian looking lanterns date from the 1980s.  

Norwich is not a place that I guide but it has many links to London. If you are plan to staycation and you want to find the links to London of your home town on a private guided tour

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About the author: Gail Jones

Tourist Guide

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