The history of Earlham Hall The history of Earlham Hall

Following a major restoration project, UEA School of Law moved back to its former residence of Earlham Hall in the spring of 2014. Earlham Hall has been fully restored with newly refurbished offices, seminar rooms, a lecture theatre and substantial student space.

"We want our School to be inspirational and we are pleased to have returned to its historic ‘home' in Earlham Hall, an ancient building fondly remembered by our alumni and newly refurbished for the 21st century".

Professor Peter Kunzlik
Head of UEA Law School

The History of Earlham Hall

Earlham Hall has a unique and fascinating history. In the 12th century, Earlham Manor belonged to the de Hauville family, who subsequently took the name of de Erlham. The original core of Earlham Hall dates back to c.1580 but was remodelled in the 1640s, giving it its essential form of a substantial east-west range with cross wings. Records for the manor of Earlham show that the Houghton family acquired the estate in 1616 and the house was extensively remodelled by Thomas Houghton. In 1657 the estate was acquired by the Waller family and in 1682 it passed to Waller Bacon, who became MP for Norwich in 1705.

In 1786, Earlham Hall was leased to the Gurney family, who took up residence. During their tenancy countless alternations were made, continuing up until the early years of the 20th century. 

The Gurneys were an old established family of wool merchants and the brothers John and Henry, sons of John Gurney of St Augustine’s known as the ‘weavers friend’, established Gurney’s bank in 1775. Members of the Gurney family became prominent in banking, politics, theology and natural science. 

John Gurney of Earlham was the father of Elizabeth Fry, who spent her childhood at Earlham Hall. A social reformist and philanthropist, Elizabeth dedicated her life to helping those in need. Although she is probably better known for helping improve the lives of women and children in prisons, she also campaigned for nursing standards, mental asylum reform and better housing for the poor. Her legacy continues to echo today, and many of her reforms underpin 21st century society. Her face now appears on our £5 note.

In 1925, Norwich City Council bought Earlham hall and it became a nature study museum, while the rest of the ground floor rooms, kitchens, outbuildings and servants’ quarters were used for “rest, refreshment and reading rooms for public use and dressing rooms for users of the playing fields”.

The site was also been used as a nursing home, wartime maternity home and school.

Becoming the home of UEA Law School

In 1962 Earlham Hall was leased by University of East Anglia and became the home of the UEA Law School from 1977. In June 2010, the Hall, outbuildings, kitchen garden and former works compound to the east were purchased by UEA. A project to undertake emergency structural repairs commenced in July 2010.

The project had the objective of improving access, refurbishing services and fittings and putting the building in good order. Services and facilities have been upgraded and include lecture capture AV, a platform lift and internal ramps. Intrusive modern elements have been removed and historic fabric revealed and conserved.

Law students can now enjoy the facilities and all law academic staff are based within Earlham Hall, allowing a close community between students and academics.


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