This jolly-looking butcher stands outside a shop in Harleston, Norfolk.

Here is a blacksmith with his anvil busy at work.  He is perched on top of the village sign at Palgrave in Suffolk.  Emblems of other trades are carved on the post that supports him.  The villagers here are proud of their old village crafts.  The sign was designed by Tony Lees, carved by Mr. Goater and painted by Mrs. Goater.  It was erected in 1985.

This is Thomas Paine on the left.  He was a political writer and radical thinker who lived from 1737 to 1809.  It is because Thetford was his home town that his statue has been erected here.  He left Norfolk after losing his job and sailed to America where he became editor of a Pennsylvanian magazine.  He wrote articles on the abolition of slavery and the evils of duelling.  He went on to campaign for America’s independence from Britain.  Eventually he returned to England, but when he advocated the abolition of the monarchy, his works were banned here and he was forced to sail back to America, never to return.

The town sign in Wymondham in Norfolk, depicting a wood-turner, demonstrates the fact that Wymondham was once renowned for its wood-turning industry.  The sign was made by Harry Carter and given by the Women’s Institute in 1969 in commemoration of their Golden Jubilee year.

The town sign in Swaffham, Norfolk, depicts John Chapman who was a pedlar.  He lived in the fifteenth century and after becoming very wealthy donated a great deal of money to the local church.  The sign was made by Harry Carter.

Harry Carter, who made both the signs above, made many others in the region.  He taught woodwork and art at the local school at Swaffham.  The Swaffham sign was the first one he made.  He retired in 1982.

The town sign at Fakenham in Norfolk, which shows a printer at work, celebrates the fact that Fakenham is well-known for its printing industry.

The Butter Cross in the Market Place in Bungay, Suffolk, is topped by this figure of Justice.  She is not blindfolded, as is usual elsewhere, but she holds her scales exactly like ones at the Old Bailey in London.

Here we have a very fine monument to a local tanner and haberdasher by name of Jeffrey Pitman - he’s the one on the top.  In the middle are his two wives and at the bottom are his two lawyer sons.  Made in painted and gilded marble, it has flanking pilasters with ribbon work designs and bunches of fruit.  It may have been made at Southwark by Gerard Janssen, whose father, a Dutch stonemason, came to

England in 1567.  It was the Janssen family who constructed the monument to William Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon.  There are similarities of style between the two monuments.  This one is in St. Mary’s Church in Woodbridge, Suffolk, where Pitman was a liberal benefactor.  He became High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1625 and died in 1627.

Meet the Right Reverend William Talbot D.D.  He was Bishop of Oxford and founder of the Amicable Society.  He stands in a niche in one of two single-storied wings of a very grand Edwardian office building, the home of Aviva (formerly Norwich Union) in Surrey Street in Norwich.  In the other niche there stands Sir Samuel Bignold, who was one of the founders of Norwich Union.  The building was designed by G.F. Skipper and was erected in 1904.  It is faced with buff to yellow Clipsham stone.

Right: Shepherds depicted in plaster relief work on a wall of the well-known Ancient House building in Ipswich.  Built in 1567, it was once the home of the Sparrowe family.

Above: Dr. Doolittle

weather-vane on top of a health centre in Harleston, Norfolk.

Below: A scene of architects and builders at work carved in terracotta in bas relief on the front of a building in Norwich.  It is the work of George Skipper (1856-1948) who once had his office here.  Born in East Dereham in Norfolk, he trained as an architect in London, and in 1879 set up his own practice in Norwich.

The village sign at Brockdish shows four different occupations - ploughing, chimney-sweeping, smithying and shooting.  The sign was erected in 1996 and unveiled by the two most elderly residents of the village, namely Edith Multimer and Patsy Keeling.

Right: Weather vane on top of an old school building in New Buckenham in Norfolk.  It depicts a teacher wearing a mortar-board seated at a desk and two children.




The chap sitting at a table with a chequer-board on this pub sign at Feltwell in Norfolk might look as though he’s playing chess or draughts, but he has no opponent opposite him. So he may instead represent a money-changer.  

The Chequers is a very common name for an inn or a pub, there being several hundred in Britain, and historically one of the oldest.   As Eric Delderfield says in his book An Introduction to Inn Signs (David and Charles 1969), it may even be a legacy from the days of the Romans as it was also one of the most common signs for a drinking house in the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneaum.  There, it may have indicated that a game of draughts could be played on the premises.  

Chequer’ is the root of our modern word ‘exchequer’, which is a state department responsible for revenue.  The word originally referred to a chequered cloth which covered a table on which accounts were reckoned.  ‘The Chequers’ became a sign for a money-changer.

Relief work


The word relief is derived from the Italian rilievo, from rilievare, meaning ‘to raise’.  Although the term originated in Italy in the eleventh or twelfth century, the art form itself is much older.  One of the finest examples of relief work is the celebrated frieze on the Parthenon building in Athens.


Relief work is a type of sculpture in which the figures or objects represented project from a surface.  The term  bas relief (basso rilievo meaning low relief) is used where the dimension of depth is very much less than that of the other two dimensions.  Middle relief (mezzo rilievo) is where the dimension of depth is about half the scale of the other dimensions.  High relief (alto rilievo) is where the dimension of depth is more than half of the other dimensions.  The term rilievo stiacciato (or schiacciato) is given to a form of very low relief that was practised in the fifteenth century.


Relief work is most often seen on the outside of buildings, as on the buildings in Ipswich and Norwich illustrated above.  It is usually worked on a frieze or a panel, most commonly in wood, metal or stone.  High reliefs were made by the Sumerians by hammering sheets of copper over wooden cores.

John Moray-Smith


Very good examples of relief work in East Anglia, other than the two cited above, include the work of a John Moray-Smith.  Some of his brightly-coloured exterior and interior bas reliefs can still be seen around Norfolk.


John Moray-Smith was born in about 1889 and, although he had an English name, it was one which he adopted from his wife, Katrin, when he married her.  It is thought that he was born in northern Italy and that he was a prisoner during the First World War.


What is certain is that he was a student at the Slade School of Art in London and it is there that he met Katrin.  He specialised in decorative plasterwork and had commissions for work on both private houses and churches all over Norfolk.  But he is best known for his panels that he created for seven Norwich pubs that were owned by Morgan’s Brewery, three of which are still on public display on the external walls of buildings.


One of these three adorns the gable end of The Prince of Denmark pub, which is situated at the junction of Denmark Road and Sprowston Road.  A leaflet about Moray-Smith, published by The Norwich Society in 2007, describes it as ‘quite the most startling single public sculpture in Norwich.’   It was commissioned in 1939 and shows the Prince of Denmark riding on a white horse.

The other two were copied from engravings by John Ninham of the Gates of Norwich.  One is in Ber Street and shows the former Ber Street Gates that were demolished in 1808.  The second, known as The Coachmakers, is in St.Stephen’s Road and shows St. Stephen’s Gate.


Other bas reliefs still surviving in Norwich are on display indoors.  At The Woolpack pub in Golden Ball Street, there is a series of five panels that remain from an original six that celebrate Norwich’s medieval wool trade.  Full of colourful detail, they depict sheep farming, sheep sheering, a sheep market, ships at a busy quayside, and other aspects of the wool trade such as dyeing and selling.


Three surviving panels that were commissioned in the early 1950s were originally installed in The Ship Hotel in Cromer.  When it closed in 1984 two of the panels were removed to Cromer Museum and the third went to the museum at Gressenhall.  The two at Cromer are still on view to the public.  One depicts a beach scene full of figures on the sands and in the sea with boats on the horizon and houses on the sea front.  The other is a portrait in high relief of Henry Blogg, the celebrated coxswain.


A panel that was originally in The Cock Inn in King Street and later installed in the lobby of Caistor Hall Hotel at Caistor St. Edmund (but not currently available to view), showed a fine panoramic view of Norwich.


Moray-Smith’s last known work was unveiled in 1958 and shows the first steam road haulage engine to leave the Charles Burrell steam works in 1856.  In deep relief it is made of bronze and can still be seen at the Charles Burrell Museum in Thetford.


Moray-Smith died in 1958 at the West Norwich Hospital.  Those who remember him describe him as a slight man with a goatee beard.  He was often seen travelling by bus from New Costessey to Norwich Market Place where he bought food for the rabbits and poultry that Katrin kept.  He often wore a black beret, jodhpurs and bright red stockings.


For a pamphlet on John Moray-Smith (from which this information has been taken) contact The Norwich Society at The Assembly House, Theatre Street, Norwich NR2 1RQ Tel: 01603 765606


The Norwich Society have also published a leaflet entitled Public Sculpture in Central Norwich

These two pictures

(supplied) show sections of murals on the promenade at Sheringham in north Norfolk.  They depict fishermen and their flint-built cottages.

This is the stone figure of William Gilberd who lived from 1544 to 1603. He was physician to Queen  Elizabeth I and King James I of England.  He was also a distinguished astronomer and scientist.  He researched magnetism and invented the first electrical measuring instrument, the electroscope.  Hence he is known as the father of electricity.  His statue shows his hand resting on a ball on a pillar, which apparently was his device for collecting static electricity. It’s because he was born in Colchester that he adorns the front wall of Colchester Town Hall which dates from 1898.

Right: Modern stained glass window in St.Andrew’s Church in Quidenham, Norfolk.  It commemorates the life of Sir Colin Keppel, a British sailor in the Royal Navy who became an admiral in 1917.  Born in 1862, he was a member of the Keppel family of Quidenham Hall, and he died in 1947.  The window apparently depicts a World War II airman looking up at a vision of Jesus.

Right: A weather vane on a house in Tibenham, Norfolk, showing a wheelwright with a wheel.  There is also a large metal wheel attached to an external wall of the house.  A nameplate on the building next door says ‘Wheelwright’s Cottage’, confirming that the weather vane denotes the past occupation of the person living here.