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Norwich, Norfolk

Norwich city street by Barbara Ballard Norwich is Norfolk’s county town. The county derives its name from its Saxon settlers, the “North folk”. The town, on the Wensum and Yare rivers, dates from about the 6th century. It was granted city status in 1194. Its location on river transport made it an important port for shipping wool cloth during the middle ages. The Saxon market in the town was known as ‘tombland’, its name derived from the Saxon ‘tom’, which meant empty. The market was later moved to the town centre where it still exists today.

Victorian Fire Engine at Bridewell Museum courtesy Norfolk Museums and Archaelogy Service Norwich timbered building by Barbara Ballard The Guildhall, on the market square, dates from 1407. In a medieval merchant house is the Bridewell museum with historic objects and machinery related to occupations of the people. There are recreated shops and a Victorian fire engine in the museum. Bridewell was a prison for women and beggars from 1583-1828. Timber framed Dragon Hall is also a medieval merchant’s hall and the former home of Norwich’s first mayor, William Appleyard (1404).

The Great Hall in Strangers' Hall courtesy Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Services A third merchant house, Strangers' Hall in Charing Cross dates from 1320 and once housed immigrant Dutch and Flemish weavers. The stone-vaulted undercroft, Tudor great hall, bedrooms, a nursery, and Georgian dining room are on display along with a kitchen, all set up according to the times. There are 25,000 items in the collections.

A short distance from the market square on a high mound is Norwich castle. It was constructed of timber by William the Conqueror in 1067 and rebuilt in stone around 1100. A stone gatehouse was added in 1200. The mound on which it sits is not natural but was built by the Normans to raise the castle above the surrounding ground. After the castle’s importance for defense was no longer needed, it became a gaol (1220-1887), then a museum was added to the site (1894). The keep has displays on the history of the castle. An Anglo-Saxon and Viking gallery tells the story of life in east Anglia after the Romans left. Treasures from the time are on display. A special Boudicca gallery honours the area’s warrior queen. The museum contains a collection of Cotman watercolours, glass, silver, porcelain, and teapots.

Norwich Cathedral by Barbara Ballard Norwich cathedral, in another direction from the square, is considered one of the finest complete Romanesque buildings in Europe. It was begun in 1095 when the bishopric of east Anglia was transferred to Norwich from Thetford. The cathedral is built of flint rubble and mortar faced with limestone ashlar imported from Caen in France and from Barnack in Northamptonshire. The spire (the original was destroyed by fire) was added between 1472-1501 and is 315 feet high, the second highest in England. The cathedral has 1106 beautifully carved roof bosses. The bishop’s throne sits on Saxon stone. Most of the exterior is original except for the west end, which was remodeled in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a treasury housing silver.

A second cathedral (Catholic), St. John the Baptist's, l was begun in 1882 under the auspices of the 15th duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan Howard. It was built in the 13th century Early English style.

St Peter Mancroft church by Barbara Ballard 31 of Norwich’s churches date from the middle ages. Many were funded with wool trade money and built of local flint. St Peter and St Paul, built between 1390 and 1523, is one of the finest churches in England. There are 17th century clerestory windows, a decorated tower, and church treasures. 14th century St Giles Church has a tall tower and an angel roof. St Mary Coslany church has a timber roof with angel carvings. St Andrew’s has carved monuments. The largest church in the city, St Peter Mancroft, has a hammer-beam roof of special note. It was built between 1430 and 1455. The stained glass dates from the 15th century.

Colman's mustard shop by Barbara Ballard Norwich is the main shopping and entertainment center for the county of Norfolk. Antique shoppers will want to visit cobbled Elm Hill where a number of dealers are located. Be sure to have a look at Coleman’s mustard shop off the market square.

Travel Information

Trains run regularly from London to Norwich. Major roads lead into Norwich from all directions. There is a ring road around the city. Expect busy streets.

Vistor Attractions

Norwich Cathedral
at The Close
Open: 7am-7pm daily, from mid-May to mid-Sep; 7am-6.30pm daily, from mid-Sep to mid-May.
Website: Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
On castle mound, city centre
Tel. 01603 493636
Open: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 2-5pm; shop, café.

Bridewell Museum
Bridewell Alley, city centre
Tel. 01603 629127
Open: April-end Oct, Tue-Sat, 10am-5pm.

Dragon Hall
115-123 King Street
Tel. 01603 663922
Open: April to Oct, Mon to Sat, 10am-4pm; Nov to March, Mon to Fri. Guided tours.

Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
Market Ave, next to Shirehall
Tel. 01603 493650
Open year round, Tue-Fri, 10am-4.30pm, Sat 10am-5pm.

Strangers' Hall
Charing Cross
Tel. 01603 493636 (bookings) or 01603 667229 (general).
Open: Wed and Sat, 10.30am-4.30pm.

at The Forum, Market Square
Tel. 01603 727922; information line 01603 727920.
Open: every day of the year except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Times vary.
This is the Visitor Centre with an av entertainment of Norfolk heritage.

Official Weblinks

Norwich City Council

Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service

Photos by Barbara Ballard except photos of Strangers’ Hall and Bridewell Museum courtesy Norfolk Museums and Archaelogy Service

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