Step inside the Norwich office of NW Brown and you find yourself in a beautifully restored period house with an illustrious history and a surprise in its back garden.
When you walk through the doors at NW Brown on Unthank Road in Norwich, you are stepping inside much more than an office. This is because a restoration project spearheaded by NW Brown’s chief executive Marcus Johnson is nearing completion at the smart period house which boasts an illustrious history as a well reputed ladies college.
Pembroke House is believed to date to the mid 1800s although is built in the gentrified Georgian style. Many of its beautiful period features are intact and have been restored such as the most gorgeous original Victorian tiled floor and fanlights over the doors. However, Mr Johnson also ensured its ambience has also been restored so insisted on the removal of some rather functional doors which separated the hall; now these have gone you have the view the architects intended of being able to see right through from front to rear.
Rooms have been decorated tastefully in period colours; I loved the powder blue which is so elegant and there are fireplaces and sash windows aplenty. So, although this property is now
a thriving office for NW Brown, which offers services in financial planning, investment management and insurance, it looks elegant and has a really tranquil atmosphere.
Mr Johnson. Pictured right, said: “I think this property gives a sense of permanence, stability but also modernity which is very fitting for our business.” There is a super original staircase with a large window half-way up and the work is near completion on the first floor. However, this house has a surprise at its rear where you will find a very different structure, called the Pavilion which was originally built as a temporary classrom by Boulton and Paul. NW Brown has also restored this, taking back its ceiling to the original vaulted structure
and putting a woodburner in the corner. The firm now uses it for board meetings and events but would also like to invite charities to use it for functions.
The properties boast an incredible history as a school which Mr Johnson showed me, documented in many census lists. The first mention dates to 1854 when the school was founded by a Henry Ling. He had been a schoolmaster in Pottergate, Norwich and moved to Unthank Road to start his own school. He, aged 56 and his wife Joanna, 51 are listed in the
1861 census and after she died seven years later, Henry remarried an Eliza and in 1871 they expanded the school and ‘Mr Ling’s Academy’ as it was known was created. He was said to be
“extremely selective of his clientele.” After Mr Ling died in 1882, aged 76, the school passed to a Mary Ann Steel, 75, who was the headmistress until she died, aged 80 and the school passed to her sister Clara. By 1911 the school was in the charge of a Rosa Girling as the principal. The school now had 15 girls boarding ranging from the age of 13-17, with tw
o assistant mistresses, a matron/housekeeper and an assistant mistress in music all under Ms Girling, who hailed from Calcutta. Interestingly, one of the girls who boarded the
re until 1912 was a Rachel Stone and her name can be clearly seen etched on an exterior brick alongside other girls’ names. The school then passed in 1925, to a Mary Elizabeth Kitchener, London-born, and it was said to be: “assisted by a qualified staff…the house is well situated and the sanitation is excellent…due attention is paid to physical exercises with tennis, cycling and swimming in the summer term and hocke
y in the winter.” The school closed in 1938 and the local health authority took it over before it finally passed to NW Brown.
■ NW Brown, 36, Unthank Road,
Norwich is on 01603 661156.