As the weather hasn’t been conducive to photography recently, I decided to find and use some more of the pictures I have taken over the past year on my walks through Norwich.
Next to the Guildhall (mentioned in my recent Norwich post) is Norwich Market and on the further side of the Market Place is Hay Hill.
Sir Thomas Browne, born 19th October 1605 in London, lived and worked in Norwich from 1636 until his death on 19th October 1682. He was a polymath; a physician, a botanist and a writer. He was well-educated, well-travelled, religious and very well-liked and respected in his time. He wrote several important books and in doing so, coined many new words in the English language.
ambidextrous, antediluvian, analogous, approximate, ascetic, anomalous, carnivorous, coexistence, coma, compensate, computer, cryptography, cylindrical, disruption, ergotism, electricity, exhaustion, ferocious, follicle, generator, gymnastic, hallucination, herbaceous, holocaust, insecurity, indigenous, jocularity, literary, locomotion, medical, migrant, mucous, prairie, prostate, polarity, precocious, pubescent, therapeutic, suicide, ulterior, ultimate, veterinarian.
Sir Thomas Browne lived in the Hay Hill area nearly 400 years ago. His house (which no longer stands) was in Orford Yard and he is buried in St Peter Mancroft church. Both these places are next to Hay Hill. He lived and worked slightly earlier in the same century as Samuel Pepys, who lived in London.
In 1671 King Charles II came to Norwich and viewed the city regiments from the balcony of the Guildhall. Whilst he was in the city he knighted Thomas Browne and then dined with him on the first dolphin to be caught off the Norfolk coast. This dolphin had been sent to Sir Thomas for his interest and dissection.
The statue of Sir Thomas Browne (see photo above) is by Henry Albert Pegram and it was commissioned to celebrate the 300th birthday of Sir Thomas. The statue was unveiled on 19th October 1905 and huge crowds turned out to witness the ceremony. Pegram was also commissioned to make the memorial to Edith Cavell which stands outside the gate of Norwich Cathedral.
In the early years of this century the Hay Hill area of the city was looking a little run-down and untidy. The authorities had wanted Anne and Patrick Poirer, a French husband and wife team of artists, to create a sculpture for the Marketplace when it was renovated but this hadn’t worked out. They were therefore then asked to consider a commission for a sculpture on Hay Hill. The couple researched the area and decided on a homage to Sir Thomas Browne. This was a major public art commission, paid for by The Arts Council England East and Norwich City Council with a contribution from Norfolk County Council. It was commissioned in 2005 and installed and opened officially in 2007. The work was intended to be a set of street furniture; a living room for the city.
The sculpture was made in Pietrasanta in the foothills of the Carrara mountains in Tuscany, Italy. This area is famous for it’s beautiful white marble; the granite used in this sculpture came from Zimbabwe. (We visited Pietrasanta a couple of years ago while on holiday and enjoyed the best pizza and bruschetta we have ever tasted in a little café in the market place.)
There are twenty pieces of sculpture and twenty-two lights and all the pieces relate in some way to Sir Thomas. Some of the pieces are made of marble and some of granite. Some are polished and shiny and some are rough and matt. All are intended to be sat upon.
These pieces are arranged in a pattern known as a quinconce or quincunx, a five-pointed diamond shape which Sir Thomas believed existed throughout nature. The pieces are also arranged in line with his home in Orford Yard and the place of his burial in St Peter Mancroft church. Many of these pieces are inscribed with quotes from Sir Thomas using the original spelling. At night the sculptures are lit with coloured lights set in the ground and which are part of the art-work.
The largest pieces are a marble brain and an eye carved in the classical style and refer to Sir Thomas as a thinker and to his approach to philosophy, religion and science. There are five granite chairs, two benches, three tables, six conical seats and two smaller pod seats which represent Sir Thomas’ interest in Botany. The gold design on the back of some of the seats is the artists’ interpretation of the rooms of the brain – memory, creativity and intellect and the way they are linked together.
This area is well-used and in the summer many people sit here and eat their lunch or rest after doing their shopping. Sadly, not many people understand its relevance or know who Sir Thomas Browne was!
Thanks for visiting!