Norwich Union Building, Bristol, UK

Wakeford, Jerram & Harris
Date Built
High Street & Bridge Street
The former Norwich Union Building sits unoccupied and apparently unloved at the corner of High Street and Bridge Street in Bristol's city centre.  It is one of a threesome of buildings that sit at the end of Castle Park arranged around the ruined tower of the St Mary-le-Port Church.  Built in 1962 it provided Norwich Union with a new bigger office in the city.  The building that I photographed in January of 2014 is clearly a pale shadow of its former self with all the windows boarded up and graffiti on its walls.

Below you can see it in better times, first in the architect's visualization and then during construction.  The images are shown here with the kind permission of Anna Stone, the Aviva Group Archivist.

A closer look reveals a full-height foyer with a sixties-style chandelier.

Today the building is boarded up awaiting its fate.

Coats of arms are located on either side of the entrance. 

Anna Stone, the archivist of Aviva Plc, was kind enough to explain the history behind these coats of arms.  The one to the left of the door is the arms of the Norwich Union Life Society incorporating those of the Amicable Society.

The one to the right of the door belongs to the Norwich Union fire society.  It was granted in 1947 and features: Justice (who was traditionally used in the society‚Äôs policy literature); blue and white wavy lines to represent the fact that the company operated all over the world and that the origins of insurance are from marine insurance; a red sword from the arms of the City of London; and a castle from the arms of Norwich. The two supports are the blue lion from the arms of the Bignold family (founding family) and the salamander (the mystical creature which lives in fire).

The building along with the abandoned former Bank of England next door occupy a site at the end of Castle Park that has been the subject of contested plans for redevelopment for a number of years.  The most contentious part of the plan involves the use of part of the park itself and as of January 2014 the process continues to be beset by disagreements between the city and members of the public.

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