Norwich Railway Station, Thorpe Road, Norwich, Norfolk, was built in 1886 to the design of William Ashbee (1852-1919), working with the chief engineer of the Great Eastern Railway, John Wilson (1846-1922), and with the contractor (and man of many other parts) Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809-1889). This impressive Grade II listed station is one of Simon Jenkins's "100 best railway stations" and one of the few to have four stars — the only one to be so designated in East Anglia. Built of red brick and stucco, with slate and lead roofs, it has a dome with a decorated and pedimented clock front, with ball finials either side; a lantern capped by a tall finial; and an array of slender chimney stacks. [Click on this and the following images to enlarge them.]

Left: The balustraded porte-cochêre at the central bay. Right: Looking along the left side of the station building, showing the decorative moulded surrounds of the ground floor window arches, and the way the arches over the first floor windows alternate between rounded and pointed.

The two storied station building stands on a rise, and is wide and distinctive. The five bays have double pilasters in between, while the central and end bays are marked by the way they project, the higher central bay being more obviously marked by its wide entrance portico. This has an arrangement of wide and narrower arches.


Left to right: (a) The booking-hall. (b) The booking-hall ceiling. (c) Looking back into the booking-hall from the concourse.

Described succinctly in the listing text as having "[c]lassical decoration' with "pilasters, decorated frieze cornice and plasterwork ceiling," this fabulous booking-hall has been beautifully restored, its features picked out by the paint scheme. Little wonder that Simon Jenkins applauds the decor, even going as far as comparing it to a Versailles ballroom.

Left: Looking down Platforms 1 and 2 towards the concourse, on arrival. Right: Approaching Platform 2 after the barrier has been opened, on departure.

The platforms have pairs of cast-iron columns with blue bases and capitals supporting the decorative cast-iron brackets that, in turn, support the cast-iron arches holding the roof before leading away, as seen above right, along the canopied platforms. The designs were by Wilson and Ashbee, and the foundry was the local one of Barnard, Bishop and Barnards (see "Architectural decoration").

Bust of Peto by contemporary artist John Pooler, installed on the centenary of Peto's death in 1989, above the station concourse (not seen to its best advantage at this height, unfortunately).

Overlooking the concourse of this splendid station is John Pooler's bust of Sir Samuel Morton Peto. He was not just the local contractor. He was famous for having had "[i]n the 1840s ... thirty-three railway contracts worth £20 million, the largest number held in the kingdom," and in fact he was probably the greatest contractor the world had ever seen. He was a fervent Baptist and a major benefactor too: it was he who came forward in 1850 "as guarantor of the £50,000 required for the Great Exhibition of 1851" (Pont). Peto's fortunes eventually declined, but he was remembered with gratitude by the people of Norwich: he had built the Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft lines, which came into the earlier station here, and had represented the constituency as an MP from 1847-1854. He was elected in other constituencies later, featuring prominently in public life for many years. He was the father of Harold Ainsworth Peto of the architectural partnership Peto and George.

Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.


"Architectural decoration on Thorpe Road Station." Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk & Suffolk. Web. 19 October 2018.

"Bust of Sir Samuel Morton Peto." Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk. Web. 19 October 2018.

Jenkins, Simon. Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations. London: Penguin. 2017.

"John Wilson (1846-1922)." Grace's Guide. Web. 19 October 2018.

"Norwich Railway Station." Historic England. Web. 19 October 2018.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, and Bill Wilson. Norfolk 2: North-West and South (The Buildings of England). New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.

Port, M. H. "Peto, Sir (Samuel) Morton, first baronet (1809–1889), contractor for railways and public works." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 19 October 2018.

"Samuel Morton Peto." Grace's Guide. Web. 19 October 2018.

"William Neville Ashbee." DSA (Dictionary of Scottish Architects). Web. 19 October 2018.

Created 17 October 2018