The oldest and one of the most significant buildings saved by the Trust, this is the most important house in Elm Hill, itself one of the best-preserved Tudor streets in England. Reputed to be the sole surviving house in the area after the fire of 1507, it is a mediaeval structure of three stories, with a high masonry plinth. The original highly-pitched roof, timber frame, stairs, fireplaces and floor plan all remain intact.
At present used as a café restaurant, the Briton’s Arms was passed to the Trust on a twenty-one year lease by the City Council following a public campaign to prevent its sale by auction.
Given the importance of the building, extensive architectural and historical research was commissioned. This showed an earlier building date than expected (records date back to 1347) and a very close association with the adjacent church of St Peter Hungate. Archaeological evidence showed that the chimney stack was integral to the whole building, proving that in cities buildings were constructed with brick chimneys from a much earlier date than generally recognised.
After extensive repairs to the steeply-pitched roof timbers the building was re-thatched and original historic earthen plasterwork between the roof rafters carefully conserved. The kitchen and interior rooms were completely renovated.
Financed by a grant of £172,000 from English Heritage and a three years’ loan of £77,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund, the first stage of this work was completed in August 2013, with a second and final stage due to start at the end of that year.
Following the successful completion of the work in 2015 the Trust was awarded a Norwich Society Design Award, the Bernard Fielden Conservation Architecture Award. Norwich Society acknowledged the research, skill, time and endeavour involved in retaining the building as a ‘beacon of conservation in the city’.