Originally installed in 1657 by order of Christopher Jay, Mayor of Norwich, outside his Tombland home, Samson stood guard in Tombland alongside his partner Hercules until the statues were removed in 1993 and replaced with fibreglass replicas.
The statues of Samson and Hercules stood guard over building though various guises over the years, most famously acting as doormen for the ‘Samson and Hercules’ nightclub during the Second World War. The club was a hugely popular nightspot: attracting locals and American GIs alike.
With Samson forming such a key feature of Norwich’s social history, in 2018 Norfolk Museums Service – in partnership with the Norfolk Museums Development Foundation – launched a crowdfunding campaign under the ArtHappens platform in order to fund the conservation of Samson ahead of a proposed redisplay in the Museum of Norwich.
The goal was to raise £15,000 to fund the work. Funders were offered rewards for different levels of donation, and these ranged from branded tote bags through to limited edition prints of the Samson and Hercules building by local artist Leanda Jaine Hughes.
Over 300 public donors contributed to the campaign, and generous support from the Friends of Norwich Museums, The Paul Bassham Charitable Trust, The Geoffrey Watling Charity and the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society ensured that the fundraising target was met and Samson was saved.
|1657||Christopher Jay, Mayor of Norwich, installs Samson and Hercules outside his home.|
|1789||The figures are removed and placed in the rear courtyard where they remained for a century.|
|1890||George Cubitt, a local antique dealer, reinstalls the figures outside the premises, returning the original Samson but replacing the old Hercules with a new copy, as the original had decayed beyond repair.|
|1934||Local builder, Edward Bush, transforms Samson and Hercules House into a dance hall, creating a new swimming pool covered by a dancefloor.|
|WW2||The ‘Samson and Hercules’ becomes a popular night spot during the war, attracting American GIs who were stationed in Norfolk, and consequently, the local ladies.|
|1944||Glenn Miller the American Big Band leader, visits the Samson and Hercules club after giving a concert at Attlebridge airfield.|
|1948||Local business supremo Geoffrey Watling buys the building and the ‘Samson and Hercules’ dancehall goes from strength to strength.|
|‘The Samson and Hercules’ continues to be a popular night club, attracting famous big band names such as Count Basie and George Melly. |
However as the decade progresses, the music and entertainment scene changes along with the programme. To attract the youth market, new promotions such as yo-yo and hula hoop championships, as well as jazz clubs and jive nights, are launched. In the late 1950s, the club hosts Norwich’s first disco night called ‘On the Record’ in partnership with its sister venue, The Lido, on Aylsham Road.
|1960||Mecca Ltd purchases the ‘Samson and Hercules.’ The venue continues its popularity offering dances, bingo, wedding receptions, birthday parties and local workers’ events.|
|1983||The ‘Samson and Hercules’ rebrands as ‘Ritzy’s’ nightclub.|
|By the early 1990s, the Samson and Hercules figures are in very poor condition and there is public concern for their survival. When Samson’s arm falls off, it reveals that the figure is covered by a layers and layers of thick paint. As a result, both figures are removed for urgent preservation.|
|1998 / 9||New fibreglass replicas of the pair adorn the front of the building.|
|1999||After much negotiation and debate, Norfolk Museums Service become the owners of the figures and begin fundraising for their conservation.|
|1999||The club turns into Ikon.|
|2003||The nightclub closes its doors and the building is redeveloped into a restaurant and housing.|
|2014||The Samson and Hercules replica figures are painted red by the new proprietor ‘Just Lobsters’ causing an outcry from concerned locals. They remain this colour until the restaurant closes in 2016.|
|2014||The original Samson relocates to Plowden & Smith Ltd, London, where the latest phase of conservation work begins to remove the thick layer of paint.|
|2017||The building is purchased by new proprietors ‘Cocina Mexican and Margaritas’ and the replica figures are repainted white.|
|2018||Crowdfunding campaign launch to fundraise for new display of Samson at The Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell.|
|2019||Samson takes pride of place in the Museum of Norwich, for the inspiration and enjoyment of Norwich people.|