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St Mary Magdalene (Lazar House), Norwich, Norfolk

(52°38′42″N, 1°18′8″E)
TG 235 104
medieval Norfolk
now Norfolk
  • Jill A Franklin
  • Jill A Franklin
July 2012

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Feature Sets

This remarkable buiilding, located at the corner of Sprowston Road and Gilman Road in Norwich, is now part of a modern care complex. The remains of the infirmary hall of a hospital founded by the first bishop, Herbert de Losinga (1096-1119) to the north of the city beyond the Magdalene Gate, its east end was demolished after the Dissolution. Its two carved doorways probably survive from the original structure. Badly weathered, apparently reinserted in their present location, restored and partly reassembled, they bear the only Romanesque sculpture at the site. Their significance resides in their dated context and their ornament, for they are decorated with distinctive geometric motifs also occurring on voussoir fragments found to have been re-used when the original 12thc cloister of Bishop Herbert's cathedral was rebuilt in the 14thc.


Founded as a leper hospital for men by Bishop Herbert de Losinga before his death in 1119, and served by a master and brethren, it was sold in 1547, after the Dissolution, to John Corbet, member of a local family, and came to be used for some time as a barn. From 1923-2003 it housed the Norwich Local Studies Library.


Exterior Features



Distinctive carved motifs on the arch of the doorway in the S wall - on the second and third order - also occur on reused Romanesque voussoirs recovered from the walls of the existing Gothic cloister of Norwich Cathedral. Jambs with elevated plinths, usually with a pseudo-colonnette on the leading edge, are a feature of doorways in the region, seen also at Ashby St Mary, Chedgrave, Clippesby, Hales, Heckingham, Hellingham, Kirby Cane, Mundham, Thurton and Thwaite St Mary.

Pevsner records two orders on the S doorway instead of three.

CRSBI is most grateful to Di Wuest for her assistance on site with recording this sculpture.

  1. J. A. Franklin, ‘The Romanesque Sculpture of Norwich and Norfolk: The City and its Hinterland – Some Observations,’ in Norwich. Medieval and Early Modern Art, Architecture and Archaeology, British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions vol.38 2015, 135 -161, 144, 150, 151, 160 n.

R. Gilchrist, Norwich Cathedral Close, Woodbridge 2005, 35, 168.

  1. D. Knowles and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses in England and Wales, London 1953/1971, 381.

T. Nuthall, The Lazar House Norwich, Norfolk County Council and Assist Trust, 2005.

N. Pevsner and Bill Wilson, The Buildings of England, Norfolk: Norwich and North-East, Harmondsworth 1962, 2nd edn 1997, 1: 333.

C. Rawcliffe, The Hospitals of Medieval Norwich. Studies in East Anglian History 2, Norwich 1995, 163.

H. W. Saunders, The First Register of Norwich Cathedral Priory. Norfolk Record Society, 11 (1939), folio 7, lines 33-36.