History of the famous Norwich Samson and Hercules building
A landmark in Norwich’s Tombland – and for many of them that has changed their lives forever – is starting a new chapter in its history.
The Samson and Hercules House, which dates from the 17th century, has reopened under its new owners.
The building, with its famous statues guarding either side of the front door, has seen many couples meet when it comes to a ballroom and later a nightclub. The building was also famous for having a swimming pool in its basement.
More recently it was a nightclub, and then the famous statues were painted bright red when the building was turned into a lobster restaurant – much to the chagrin of many locals.
It has now reopened under the ownership of the Great Yarmouth-based Mortgage Advisory Office. About five to ten staff are currently based there, with the company hoping to see more of a comeback as Covid restrictions ease.
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Here is the fascinating history of the building at a glance:
1657: Samson and Hercules arrive to support the porch of a newly built property in Tombland for Christopher Jay during his year as town hall.
1789: Samson and Hercules are kidnapped and placed in the backyard for over a century.
1830: They are replaced by two simple pillars. Almost 100 years later, they are restored by George Cubitt but Hercules is in too bad condition and replaced by a replica.
1890 to 1909: Samson is restored to the front of the building with the new replica of Hercules.
1930s: The building opens as the Samson and Hercules ballroom and survives two fires in 1937 and 1944.
1980s: The building becomes the Ritzy nightclub.
1993: Samson’s arm falls. The two statues are removed.
1999: New fiberglass replicas are installed. The building becomes Ikon.
2003: The club permanently closes its doors.
2014: The original carved oak statue of Samson leaves the Norfolk Collections Center for conservation work in London.
2014: Plans are announced to open the building as a lobster restaurant. When the statues were painted bright red, there was an uproar.
2016: Closure of the Just Lobsters restaurant.
2017: The Mexican restaurant Cocina, located in the castle district, opens a second point of sale and repaints the statues in white.
2019: The real statue of Samson returns to Norwich after being restored following a crowdfunding campaign.
2020: A new chapter for the building with plans to turn it into an office for the Mortgage Advisory Office.
2021: Opening of the Mortgage Advisory Office in the building.
What memories do you keep of the building? Please send stories and images to [email protected]