1803 - 1834

The Norwich Society of Artists was established in 1803 by Norwich painters John Crome and Robert Ladbroke. At first the Society of Artists are said to have been held either in Little Cockey Lane or in the Hole-in-the-Wall Inn just a few dozen yards north, the Hole-in-the-Wall, was a long-vanished public house that was built into the remains of a disused church somewhere near Bedford Street, Norwich. There the local artists would meet to discuss techniques and recent developments in art and as many as 79 painters were formally associated with the Society. At first it was not an exhibiting organisation which was a natural expansion of the group’s activities with the Society’s first exhibition being held in Sir Benjamin Wrench’s Court, which was demolished when the new Corn Exchange was built, in 1826 on the corner of Exchange and Little Bedford Streets, these successful art exhibitions continued until the 1830s. In 1828 James Stark (1794-1859) was elected Vice-President of the Norwich Society of Artists and, in the following year, President. The demolition of the Norwich Society of Artists’ premises, to make way for the corn exchange, was a major factor in the group’s demise. It had been weakened by the deaths of John Crome in 1821 and Joseph Stannard in 1830, then by the forthcoming departure of Cotman to London, but the annual exhibitions had run at a loss for some time and the Society’s members could not resist the severe downturn in the city’s economy. The Society folded in 1834 when known as 'The Norfolk and Suffolk Institution for the Promotion of the Fine Arts'