Manual Ref* NFnrNOR012 Show 7 images 11

St Ethelbert's Gate

County Norfolk   District Council Norwich City Council 
Civil Parish or equivalent Norwich City Council  Town/Village* Norwich - Cathedral Close 
Road Tombland 
Precise Location Gateway to Cathedral 
OS Grid Ref TG234087  Postcode NR3 
Previous location(s)  
Setting Walls of Cathedral close  Access Public 
Artist/Maker Role Qualifier
Unknown  Designer(s)   
Norwich's citizens as a penance for the riot of 1272  Builder(s)   
Frank Beverley  Sculptor(s)   

Commissioned by

Cathedral Priory 

Design & Constrn period


Date of installing


Exact date of unveiling



Abstract Animal Architectural
Commercial Commemorative Composite
Free Functional Funerary
Heraldic Military Natural
Non-Commemorative Performance Portable
Religious Roadside, Wayside Sculptural
Temporary, Mobile Other  

Object Type

Building Clock Tower Architectural
Coat of Arms Cross Fountain
Landscape Marker Medallion
Mural Panel Readymade
Relief Shaft Sculpture
Statue Street Furniture War Memorial
Other Object Sub Type: Gate(way)

Subject Type

Allegorical Mythological Pictorial
Figurative Non-figurative Portrait
Still-life Symbolic Other

Subject Sub Type

Bust Equestrian Full-length
Group Head Reclining
Seated Standing Torso
Part Material Dimension
Gate  Ketton stone  Approx. H. 12 W. 8 metres 
Virgin and Child  Ketton Stone  Approx. H. 1.4 metres 

Work is

Extant Not Sited Lost


Dean and Chapter of Norwich Cathedral 

Listing status

Grade I Grade II* Grade II Don't Know Not Listed

Surface Condition

Corrosion, Deterioration Accretions
Bird Guano Abrasions, cracks, splits
Biological growth Spalling, crumbling
Metallic staining Previous treatments
Detail: Restored by William Wilkins in 1815 and Feilden and Mawson 1964

Structural Condition

Armature exposed Broken or missing parts
Replaced parts Loose elements
Cracks, splits, breaks, holes Spalling, crumbling
Water collection Other
Detail: The sculpture is entirely modern, having been restored in the 1960s by Feilden and Mawson


Graffiti Structural damage Surface Damage

Overall condition

Good Fair Poor


No Known Risk At Risk Immediate
Inscriptions Two inscriptions: RGC.FEC Restoration 1964; t. S.G. 1828 

Description (physical)

The external elevation is divided into three storeys in the lowest of which is the gateway with flat buttresses on each side carried up the height of two storeys and enriched with pediment niches in both stages. The upper chamber over the arch is decorated with flush work and seven niches under step gables; four are pierced with narrow windows. This was a chapel dedicated to St Ethelbert. The upper stage is decorated with three flushwork rose windows - the result of the restoration by Wilkins in 1815. The stonework and carvings were replaced under the supervision of Sir Bernard Feilden in 1964 including the man fighting a dragon - and the Virgin and Child by Frank Beverley, following Cotman's etching of 1817, published in the Architectural Antiquities in the following year.  

Description (iconographical)

From around 1200 until 1538 control of the Cathedral, originally in the hands of the Bishop who was also prior, became the responsibility of a separate prior, in charge of priory and Close. When in 1272 the citizens erected a quintain (a target for lance practice) on Tombland a quarrel broke out with servants of the Priory. After an inquest, the city coroners arrested two priory servants, following which the Prior excommunicated and interdicted the citizens. By August things had reached a state of siege, with the Priory gates closed and its servants taking potshots at citizens from behind the walls. An attempt to negotiate a peaceful settlement failed when the Prior brought in three barges full of armed men from Yarmouth. Together with Priory servants they sallied forth into the city at night: killing one man, wounding others, robbing, looting and burning. Despatching a complaint to the king, the city authorities called for a muster of citizens in the marketplace the following morning and attacked the Priory; one of its gates was burned down and the fire spread to other buildings, even to the cathedral; 13 defenders were killed – some in formal execution style. The following day the Prior, William de Brunham, himself killed one of his opponents. Investigation in December reached the conclusions that the fault in the affair lay with the Prior's violence against the city, and that the fire in the church had been an accident of smiths employed by the Priory; Brunham was arrested and turned over to his bishop to be tried (but his punishment was light). In 1275 the affair was finally settled through arbitration by the king, who set damages payable by city to Priory at £2000, in return for which the excommunication was lifted from the city. Veronica Sekules has summed up the original state of the Ethelbert Gate, rebuilt some twenty years after the disturbance as 'a highly decorative building presenting a façade rich in images, which the cathedral otherwise lacked. In a sense it would have operated as a principal façade and, in as far as one can glean from the remaining images, it communicated a strong message designating the gate as the opening to hallowed ground beyond.' The choice of subject for the cathedral's main gateway, and its use elsewhere in Norfolk noted below, must reflect the association of dragons with the devil, driven out of heaven by St Michael according to Revelations 1 27-9, a defeat mirrored in the legends of a wide range of early Christian saints and priests. The imagery of the man fighting the dragon was repeated later in the century on the main gateway to St Benets Abbey, on the spandrels above the west door to St Anne, Caswston, from the 1402s,, where a wildman fights the dragon with a long wooden branch, and in the 1890s as St George and the Dragon on the consoles of the George Hotel, Cley. 


Date taken:  26/4/2006
Date logged: 

Photographed by:
Sarah Cocke

On Site Inspection

Date:  24/4/2006

Inspected by:
Liliana Erichsen and Yurika Konuma

Sources and References

Veronica Sekules 'The Gothic Sculpture', in Atherton, I.,Fernie E, Harper-Bill E. and Hassell Smith. Norwich Cathedral. Church, City and Diocese. 1096-1996, London and Rio Grande, 199-201; BOE I 225-226; Medieval English Urban History, Alsford S., History of Medieval Norwich accessed 30/01/2010; Cotman, J.S., Architectural Antiquities of Norfolk, Norwich, 1818 pl. 55 


Date entered:  27/6/2006

Data inputter:
Richard Cocke