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Edward Boardman's Shoe Factory

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What is now known as Seebohm House, 2-4 Queen Street, Norwich, is a vestige of the city’s shoe-making industry (writes COLONEL UNTHANK). At one time Haldinstein’s Boot and Shoe Manufactory occupied much of the land between Queen Street and Princes Street. In the 1930s the company went into partnership with the Swiss firm Bally. It was bought outright by Bally in 1946 but with the decline of the shoe-making industry in Norwich the Queen Street building is all that remains of this partnership

Seebohm House itself is an interesting example of industrial architecture but presents something of a paradox. The date on the rain-heads indicates the factory to have been built in 1872 but the upper floors are surprisingly modern in design, rejecting both sides of the Victorian schism between Gothic Revival and Classical. The addition of a Gothic arch over the entrance therefore strikes a jarring note and the detailing on the stucco around the doorway seems more like an art deco take on ‘Victorian’. The door grille is pure art deco.

The building is not listed as being one of Edward Boardman’s but plans held in the Norfolk Record Office (BR35/2/23/10/1-43) show that the building was designed by him, probably a few metres away in his offices at Old Bank of England Court. The plans show that the original doorway shared the same shallow arch as the ground- and first-floor windows so that the Gothic arch must have been a later addition. This is confirmed by other plans in the file dated 1946 – the year that George Haldinstein sold his 51% share to Bally. These show that the ground floor was remodelled to provide new boardrooms, providing an explanation for the addition of stucco to the exterior of the ground floor and the anachronistic treatment of the entrance.

Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office (BR35/2/23/10/1-43)