Norwich Castle Museum – Old Carrow Gardens by John Joseph Cotman


This is a watercolour of Old Carrow Gardens painted in 1876 by John Joseph Cotman (1814-1878) and it presents me with a little bit of a challenge of trying to understand where it fits into the current urban environment. The tower in the background is the Black Tower which is accessible up a big hill, one I ascend as infrequently as possible. Anyone who thinks Norwich is flat hasn’t had to traipse up to pubs such as the Rose from King Street.

I think the the artwork was probably painted from here, on the north side of the River Wensum. That bridge isn’t there any more, they’ve shoved it down the road a bit nearer to the football ground, with Paper Mill Yard now being on the south side of the river where the bridge once met it. Until relatively recently, all the buildings on the south of the river were part of Colman’s Carrow Works Factory, a site that they only finally left in 2020.

I may well be wrong on this (that does happen frequently), but I know that sometimes the word ‘gardens’ more means an empty space with some bits of foliage as opposed to something more organised, which might be happening here. As a river scene, it has though entirely changed over the last 150 years or so.