From Night Shelter to Art Studio

Between 1976 and 2001 St Martin at Oak was well know to Norwich residents as the home of the Norwich Night Shelter. Following its relocation to purpose built premises the church was empty for approximately 4 years when it was  spotted by Fred Higginson & Martin Field who both studied at the Norwich Arts School.

After leaving the School they found that affordable studio spaces in Norwich had long waiting lists. When they saw the church they though it would be ideal not only because it provides a beautiful space to work in but also the unstained windows provide better light for painting.

The studios have been set up as a charity and are run on a not for profit basis. The rent and costs of running the building are divided between the ten artists who work in the studios, who include painters, sculptors & graphic designers. Most also have part time jobs.

Since being set up many of the artist move there straight from the art school. Fred believes that without the studio, or similar places, most students from Norwich would move straight on to London he says: “It’s culturally better for things to stay in smaller places too. That will only happen if there is affordable space for people to practice in” 

Since moving into the church in January 2005 the group have repainted the church & built studios. Because St Martin is a listed building restrictions on the building were strict. Although at first it seemed a problem that tenants were not allowed to screw into any of the walls, in case there are paintings under the surface, it in effect worked out well, because the freestanding divides are more adaptable and can be moved to make a larger space when required.

As a result St Martin now  provides a wonderful exhibition space which makes it a perfect venue for the Norfolk Open Studio Event (part of the annual Norfolk & Norwich Festival)  encouraging visitors to see both the exhibits & the church. Many local people were interested in the exhibition, which attracted over 200 people last year, Fred believes because a range of different artists are on show there is something for everybody and very much looks forward to receiving more visitors this summer



Churches managed by NHCT are highlighted in in bold below. Click to visit a church.
All Saints Westlegate St. George Tombland St. Julian St. Michael at Plea
St. Andrew St. Giles St. Lawrence St. Peter Hungate
St. Augustine St. Gregory St. Margaret St. Peter Mancroft
St. Benedict St. Helen St. Martin at Oak St. Peter Parmentergate
St. Clement St. James Pockthorpe St. Martin at Palace Plain St. Saviour
St. Edmund Fishergate St. John de Sepulchre St. Mary Coslany St. Simon & St. Jude
St. Etheldreda St. John Maddermarket St. Mary the Less St. Stephen
St. George Colegate St. John Timberhill St. Michael(Miles) Coslany St. Swithin