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St Saviour, Norwich
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As if this wasn't bad enough, St Saviour is such a sweet little thing, not an urban church at all. It looks for all the world like a village parish church that has come to the city and got lost; it now sits shivering, far from home, while the metropolitan whirl goes on around it. Somewhere along the way it has lost the top third of its tower, and the 19th century parapet replacement is small recompense. But all is not as it seems, as we shall see.
The medieval dedication of the church was to the Transfiguration of the Holy Saviour. In Victorian times this church was host to some fairly muscular low church worship, and the Rector seems to have been quite a character. On one occasion, a group of Anglo-catholic monks settled themselves down here to stare him out at evensong, only to be chased out of the church and back to St Laurence by the irate minister.
St Saviour survived the blitz; its near neighbour, St Paul, was completely destroyed, but this little church soldiered on, covering St Paul's parish as well as that of the former parishes of St James and St Edmund, which were by then both redundant. This was a fairly run down area in the 1960s - God knows, it is bleak enough now - and once the flyover had cut St Saviour off from the houses of north Norwich there was not much chance of a future. The Brooke Report recommended its closure, and it was stripped bare, the font going to St George Colegate.
The pretty gallery had been moved to All Saints, but the King's Church put in a new, larger gallery. This was screened off beneath to make a cafe/bar area, and the upper storey forms a meeting area and is the location for the light and sound equipment. The chancel was also screened off about half way along, and the easterly part divided into two storeys, the upper an office and the lower a backstage area.
All of this is designed so that it can be taken out if ever it becomes necessary. The plaster ceiling was removed, revealing an intricate scissor-brace roof. The interior was painted throughout in green and orange, which is more effective than it sounds, as I hope you can see in the images below. The monuments are all still in situ.
Originally called the Sanctuary by its new owners, St Saviour was renamed the Gate, and today hosts weekly youth club sessions called GateCrash, and regular youth worship called HardCore. There are also opportunities for groups to take part in discussions, counselling and so on. I think this is a perfect reuse of an urban medieval building which might be otherwise left to fall down; a vital facility for this part of Norwich, and still a spiritual touchstone.
Simon Knott, December 2005
You can see thousands of George Plunkett's other old photographs of Norwich on the Plunkett website
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