History of Chantry Place

Photo taken 2002 by John Fielding


Main Entrance of Chantry Place Main Entrance Main entrance of Chantry Place (Formally, Chapelfield Shopping Centre).
Photo taken 2011 by Evelyn Simak.

Chantry Place or as it is for better known by its former name; Chapelfield Shopping Centre, is the largest shopping centre in Norwich. It has 91 stores, 17 cafes and restaurants, and even 100 apartments. The architecture is often referred by locals as being generic.

Chantry Place opened to the public on the 20th September 2005, around four years after gaining planning permission. The £275m (£420m in 2020 prices) construction projected required a large space of land to be cleared.

Not only required the chocolate factory demolished but also the demolition of the Malthouse Multi-Storey Car Park and of an old branch of Woolworth on St Stephen's Street.

Before the Shopping Centre

Norwich used to produce a verity of different goods.

The site that Chantry Place occupies that (mainly) in the past was home to Caley's chocolate factory, that was most well-known to outsiders for producing the Rolo chocolates before
closing in 1996 after a decade of jobs cuts that after a takeover of Rowntree-Mackintosh by Nestle.

Though, the plot of land that Chantry Place lies on is far larger than the chocolate factory was. In fact, the construction of Chantry Place would also involve the demolition of Malthouse Multi-Storey Car Park and a Woolworths store on St Stephen's Street. 

Construction of Chapelfield Shopping Centre (October 2001 to September 2005)

Losing manufacturing jobs in Norwich during the 1990s left the city with a lot of abandoned brown field sites, including the abandoned Nestle chocolate factory.
St. Stephen's Street Entrance of Chantry Place.
Chapelfield Road Entrance, Nestle Chocolate Factory (Closed in 1996).
Photo taken 1996 by George Plunkett.

A building on a plot of land several acres in size when property values were skyrocketing made the site a target for redevelopment.

After speculation about the future of the site, the Lendlease group submitted a proposal on behalf, its client Capital Shopping Centres (Rebranded Intu in 2013). This proposal was for a large shopping centre with 90 shops, 100 apartments and a 1,000 space underground car park
got approval in October 2001.

It would be around a year later in late 2002 before demolition work started on the old Nestle chocolate factory.

In early 2003, after they cleared the site (factory only, car park and Woolworths being demolished later on), an archaeological dig would take place that would give “
fascinating insights” into the history of the city.

Demolition on Malthouse Multi-Storey Car Park would take place later that year, with construction work on the shopping centre itself starting either at the end of that year or at the start of 2004.

As construction continued in 2004, a lot of businesses were interesting in opening branches with over 50 of the 90 retail spaces already signed up to open by
October 2004.

This led to the owners of Chapelfield Shopping Centre attempting to come to a deal with Norwich City Council to expand the shopping centre into were Chantry Car Park.

Though, there are no details on what the plans were (apart from it being related to retail) and permission for such an extension was they never applied for.

While this extension never happened, that did not take away from the how successful Chapelfield was even before it opened.

By May (aka four months before opening), the shopping centre had already met its goal of creating 2,000 new jobs and businesses were advertising for 800 more employees. 

Opening and first years of Chapelfield Shopping Centre

On the 21th September 2005,
Chapelfield Shopping Centre opened its doors to shoppers. The then new £275m (£420m in 2020 prices) shopping development would prove to be an instant success, with 80 of the 90 retail spaces being occupied on the day of opening. 

In its first year, Chapelfield attracted 10 million shopping with the anchor store “House of Fraser” reporting that 1-in-5 of “account holders” regularly
travelling over 80 miles to visit its Chapelfield store.

The shopping centre would many attract national brands to open stores in Norwich for the first time, retail outlets that before Chapelfield would have required residents of Norwich to either travel to Cambridge or London to visit.

Chapelfield in the 2010s 

Chantry Place, upper-ground floor
The "upper-ground" floor of Chantry Place.

Image © Evelyn Simak 2018 (CC-BY 2.0)

Unlike many other malls, the credit crunch and the financial crisis of 2008 to 2010 had little effect on Chapelfield Shopping Centre.

By 2011, at busy times of the year (such as the
Christmas season) the increase in retail traffic forced the city to put-on traffic officers to avoid gridlock within the city. 

In 2013, Capital Shopping Centres, the owner of the Chapelfield Shopping Centre, would change its name to intu. On top of a slight name change of the shopping centre to “intu Chapelfield”, the shopping centre would also receive a
£25m revamp (£28.34m in 2020 prices).

The next major year for intu Chapelfield would be 2017. This year would see footfall increase to 12 million people and
rental income increase to £15.5m (£16.67m in 2020 prices) and would see intu sell a 50% stake of Chapelfield to LaSalle Investment Management for £148m (£159.22m in 2020 prices).

That year would also see Chapelfield hold a quiet hour to support “
World Autism Awareness Day”.

Chantry Place Rename and the No-So Bright Future

Before 2020, intu Chapelfield had increased footfall to
15 million per year. Which Unlike its local rival Castle Quarter (Know better by its old name; Castle Mall), intu Chapelfield had not suffered an exodus of retail shops.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and the government’s response to it has caused much damage to the retail sector.

This would contribute to the
Empty floor space in The House of Fraser, Norwich
Empty floor space at Chantry Place.

Image © Richard Humphrey 2019 (CC-BY 2.0)
collapse of intu in June 2020 a collapse that would see LaSalle Investment Management (50% Ownership) effectively take full control of the shopping mall until a buyer can be found for intu’s 50% stake and would see Chapelfield change its name to Chantry Place.

Though “Chantry Place” has replaced empty storefronts for now. People are moving away from traditional shopping centres whose role has been replaced by the internet. “Chantry Place” relies on national retailers to survive, and with those shutting down, that leaves Chantry Place in a terrible position.

Chantry Place is ultimately even falling behind Castle Quarter (New name for Castle Mall) with convincing entertainment venues and gyms to lease out units. That raises the question of when the national retailers pull out, what will be left of Chantry Place?