London – British Museum (Norwich Triumphal Arch etching by Paul Fourdrinier)

I usually visit the British Museum three or four times a year, something which is a little difficult to do with the current virus situation, primarily because it’s shut. However, they’ve placed hundreds of thousands of images on their web-site, so this will have to do me for the moment. The images can be used non-commercially, as long as the British Museum is credited. So, this is their credit.

When I was in Bucharest a few weeks ago I was quite impressed by the number of triumphal arches they had, which marked victory in some conflict or other. I wondered briefly, as to be honest I wonder about a lot of bloody rubbish, why no enterprising man or woman had bunged something up in Norwich. They were often only temporary structures, so a bit of wood, bit of decoration and there’s a lovely arch.

I digress. Again. So, this plate above is etched by Paul Fourdrinier, an engraver and etcher who lived between 1698 and 1758, who kept himself busy by doing the illustrations for books, as well as being a portrait painter. The British Museum noted that this scene is in Norwich and being naturally sceptical, I did wonder whether that was right. But, of course, the curators were right and I found a similar etching which does have Norwich written on it.

The arch was erected in honour of the Duke of Cumberland in 1746 and it had the phrase “to the deliverer of his country”. My rickety knowledge of history means this is the Battle of Culloden, where the Duke of Cumberland put down the Jacobite Rising. So, the next question is where on earth in Norwich was this arch put up? After reading through old newspapers, it seems there were triumphal arches placed in the city centre on a regular basis between around 1700 to 1850, usually at the marketplace. And then, I noted on Wikipedia, there’s a reference to the exact spot being by the Guildhall. I still can’t pin down exactly where the buildings in the above etching are, but I can now sleep at night with my new knowledge of triumphal arches in Norwich. I really need to get out more.

And you can’t see the etching at the British Museum, it’s not on display.