Earlham Hall is on the western side of the City of Norwich. It was built in 1642 by Robert Houghton. In the late 18th century it became the home of the influential Gurney family, English Quakers that established Gurney's bank in 1770. At that time, Earlham Hall was the home of John Gurney (1749–1809) and his wife Catherine Bell (1755–1794), who was a descendant of the family that founded Barclays Bank. They had 13 children, including the bankers Samuel Gurney and Daniel Gurney, the social reformers Elizabeth Fry and Joseph John Gurney, while Hannah married Sir Thomas Buxton. Another sister was Louisa Hoare, the writer on education. In the 19th century, the Gurney family was known for its wealth: In Gilbert and Sullivan's 1875 comic opera "Trial by Jury", a character describes his accumulation of wealth until "at length I became as rich as the Gurneys".
It is on the outskirts of the village of Earlham.
As a boy George Borrow used to fish the River Yare near Earlham Hall and on one occasion was caught by Joseph John Gurney. Gurney later invited the boy into the hall to see his books. In his autobiographical novel Lavengro Borrow recalls the hall with great precision:
On the right side is a green level, a smiling meadow, grass of the richest decks the side of the slope; mighty trees also adorn it, giant elms, the nearest of which, when the sun is nigh its meridian, fling a broad shadow upon the face of the ancient brick of an old English Hall. It has a stately look, that old building, indistinctly seen, as it is, among the umbrageous trees.
The art critic and biographer Percy Lubbock (1879-1965) grew up at Earlham Hall during the nineteenth century and in his memoir Earlham (1922) he describes his childhood summer holidays spent at his maternal grandfather's home. He was the son of the merchant banker Frederic Lubbock and his wife Catherine, daughter of John Gurney (1809–1856) of Earlham Hall.
In October 1963, Earlham Hall and its gardens became the home of the newly opened University of East Anglia. The Vice-Chancellor and administration were based in Earlham Hall. It later housed the Norwich Law School. Following major refurbishment and restoration, the Law School returned to Earlham Hall in March 2014 after four years being located in the Blackdale building.
- Earlham Hall on www.literarynorfolk.co.uk, access date 13 Sept 2012
- Elliott, Geoffrey (2006). The Mystery of Overend & Gurney: A Financial Scandal in Victorian London. London: Methuen. p. 235. ISBN 0-413-77573-9.
- Muthesius, Stefan (2000). The Postwar University: Utopianist Campus and College. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 139–149. ISBN 0-300-08717-9.