Norfolk

Norwich nightclub's Samson statue: Funds appeal launched

Before and after Samson Image copyright Norfolk Museums Service
Image caption Thick layers of white paint have been stripped back to reveal the original carvings

A museum has launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable it to display a former nightclub's 17th Century statue of Samson.

The oak figure is one of a pair which flanked the door of a house built in 1657 on Tombland in Norwich. It was a nightclub from 1934 until 2003.

Restoration has removed 60 layers of lead paint to reveal its "curly hair, piercing stare and bulging muscles".

The Museum of Norwich hopes to raise £15,000 in six weeks.

Image copyright Norfolk County Council Library and Information Ser
Image caption The figures were kept in a courtyard from 1789 and returned to the front door in 1890
Image copyright Norfolk County Council Library and Information Ser
Image caption Samson and Hercules House was transformed into a dance hall in 1934

John Ward, the chairman of Norfolk joint museums committee, said: "Historians believe he is a unique survivor from this period and as such of national as well as local significance."

Samson and his partner figure Hercules were installed in the 17th Century by Christopher Jay, then the city's mayor.

While Samson survived centuries of outdoor exposure, Hercules decayed beyond repair and was replaced by a copy in 1890.

By the 1990s, the statues were in very poor condition and were replaced by fibreglass versions in 1998.

Image copyright Norfolk Museums Service
Image caption Extensive conservation was needed to restore the figure

Norfolk Museums Service, which now owns the figures, sent Samson to be restored by conservation company Plowden & Smith in 2014.

Mr Ward said this revealed "the intricacies of the original 17th Century oak carving, complete with curly hair, a piercing stare and bulging muscles".

The statue will feature in the BBC Civilisations project.

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