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The man who helped make the Chapelfield pagoda

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The pavilion or pagoda made by Norwich foundry Barnard, Bishop and Barnards was the one that got away – a masterpiece of Victorian engineering that stood in Chapelfield Gardens until just after the war.

The pavilion or pagoda made by Norwich foundry Barnard, Bishop and Barnards was the one that got away – a masterpiece of Victorian engineering that stood in Chapelfield Gardens until just after the war.

It is said to have been demolished because of damage from bomb blast but general deterioration and expense of repair probably played a part – its destruction was later described as “absolutely scandalous”. Designed by Wymondham man, Thomas Jeckyll, the pagoda was a technical showpiece, a demonstration of the Barnards’ skills, and it was in this context that it was exhibited in Philadelphia and Paris to great acclaim before being bought by the city council.

In design terms it also helped make Jeckyll’s reputation. In London, Jeckyll was member of an avant-garde circle including Rosetti, Swinburne and Whistler. There he was immersed in the mania for the woodblock prints, fabrics and porcelain emerging from a Japan forced to trade by American gunboats. It was Jeckyll’s japonaise motifs that helped Barnards sell their now-iconic Aesthetic Movement cast-iron fireplaces and it was this oriental influence that emerged strongly in the design of the pagoda.

In researching the pagoda, Jonathan Plunkett – who maintains his father’s invaluable archive of Norwich photographs (http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk) – mentioned that his father’s great uncle had been involved in the lengthy manufacture of the Chapelfield Pavilion. Aquila Eke, son of a Drayton blacksmith, became a blacksmith himself and is said to have made much of the bas-relief work when working for Barnards at their Norfolk Iron Works at Norwich-over-the-Water. The family’s archive provided this photograph, taken in 1937, of the man who helped make one of Norwich’s lost treasures.

Courtesy of Jonathan Plunkett and the Plunkett family archive

Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition 1876 (c) georgeplunkett.co.uk