Visit Norwich and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Norwich, Norfolk. “Norwich has everything”, says Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, and what greater compliment could be paid to this beautiful city, the capital of Norfolk? Norwich developed by a large double bend in the River Wensum, and within its medieval walls it was second only to London. By the time of the Conquest it was already a town of importance and the castle which was built, together with the cathedral which soon followed, gave the city the two focal points that remain to this day.
The great stone keep of the castle dates from c. 1160, and is perhaps the most splendid of all surviving examples of Norman military architecture apart from the Tower of London. However, in its external decorative scheme it yields to none, only Castle Rising approaching it in style. It is approximately 90 ft square by 70 ft high and the elaborate patterns of blank arcading which cover the walls were carefully refaced in 1833-9. After serving as the city prison it was adapted as a museum in 1894.
Norwich Cathedral, the Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, is one of the country's finest examples of Norman cathedral architecture, and lying in a depression, it is its superb spire which at first commands attention. The See of East Anglia set up at Dunwich in A.D. 630, moved to North Elmham, Hoxne, and on to Thetford. In accordance with the Normans' policy of having their cathedral in the largest town, the See moved to Norwich in 1095 under the great Bishop de Losinga, as by that time Norwich with its original castle and market place had already established itself as the foremost town in East Anglia. Losinga commenced his new cathedral a year later and when he died in 1119, to be buried in the chancel, the work continued under his successors. The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1278, but was substantially complete well before that date.
The Norman plan, the only one to survive in this country, featured a bishop's throne at the east end, in an apse behind the altar. The throne may be 1,000 years old, which would make it the oldest bishop's throne in any English cathedral.
The arcading of the nave is covered with a magnificent roof which contains many of the 800 roof-bosses in the cathedral. Those in the nave tell the story of the Old and New Testaments, and “read” from east to west. The chancel is taller than the nave, with a clerestory added c. 1360 and the roof is, if anything, even more splendid than that of the nave. From outside the cathedral you will be able to see the astonishing array of flying buttresses which enabled the Norman walls to support this huge additional burden. Within the church, the stalls feature some of the finest English carving; Bishop Goldwell, who added the chancel roof in 1490, is buried beneath his masterpiece.
The spire which dominates the close and the city was added in the late 15th century by Goidwell, and at 315 ft high it is second only to Salisbury. The cloisters are the largest in Britain, and though originally Norman were rebuilt in the 13th to 15th centuries. Here again are many roof-bosses, easier to study because of the lower height of the vault.
Within the precincts is Norwich School, once (Carnary College, founded in 1316. Its most famous pupil was Horatio Nelson, another was the writer George Borrow. Two gates lead from the town into the close. One is Ethelbert Gate which was built in 1316 by the townspeople to make amends for the riots of the previous century. It was restored by Wilkins (see Cambridge and Great Yarmouth) on the basis of the original designs. Erpingham Gate, built in 1420 by Sir Thomas Erpingham, is exceptionally fine and contains a statue of its builder. By the river is the 15th-century Water Gate, now forming part of Pull's Ferry. It is one of the most picturesque and often painted Norwich scenes.
Inner Norwich may be traced in the city walls which follow a route encompassing an area north of the river as well as the major portion to the south of it. Carrow Hill, Queen's Road, Chapelfield Road, Station Road, Bakers Road and Builciose Road surround an ear-shaped area as big as the City of London. In this congested centre are no less than 32 surviving churches, though 400 years ago there were many more. All the churches are medieval and many are of exceptional interest. Close by the great market place is the beautiful St Peter Mancroft, commenced in 1430, with a great west tower and a length of 180 Ft, and entirely Perpendicular in style. Facing the church is the Guildhall built 1407-13, with a gable end of gaily patterned flint flushwork completed in 1535. It was in use as the seat of the City Council until the new City Hall, on the west side of the market place. was completed in 1938. This has been called the most impressive public building in England of its period. Its 200-ft tower makes a strong vertical accent, a foil to that of the cathedral.
Other notable buildings include St Andrew's Hall by St Andrew's Plain. Here it may be remarked that the term “plain” is in common use in Norwich and Norfolk and echoes the Dutch plein used of squares in Holland and Flanders. St Andrew's was the Black or Dominican Friary of the city and has been converted for use as a public hall. The Assembly House in Theatre Street dates from 1754 and has now been restored to its former function. Strangers' Hall is mid-15th-cent.. with a façade of 1621 and is now a museum with rooms representing various periods. The Bridewell Museum in Bridewell Alley was first built about 1370 and became the gaol 213 years later. In 1925 it became a museum which specializes in local industries. Another interesting building is the Church of St Peter Hungate, in Elm Hill. The church was built by the Paston family in the 15th century.
Elm Hill itself is one of the most attractive and frequently photographed and painted of all Norwich's streets. Its cobbled road and its irregularly placed houses gives it a medieval feeling, yet a century ago it was derelict and its present charm is due to the Corporation who restored it. It is the centre of the Norwich antique trade and as such it is irresistible to lovers of art and antiques. At the bottom of Elm Hill is Wensum Street, leading to the cathedral and Tombland. This name has nothing to do with tombs, but comes from an ancient word for market. Here is commemorated Nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed in the Great War and is buried in the cathedral precincts. Nearby is the Samson and Hercules House, now a ballroom, with the two figures who act as supporters for its porch. Across the river we are reminded of two famous women and the founder of the Norwich School. Elizabeth Fry, the famous prison reformer, was born in 1780, in Gurney Court and in the same house in 1802 was born the writer: Harriet Martineau. St Michael's Church in Coslany boasts a wonderful façade, which shows the East Anglian art of flushwork at its best. Of interest to art lovers is the fact that the tracery of the west door was drawn by Cotman, whose house at Palace Plain may still be seen. Cotman's great contemporary John Crome is buried in St George's Church nearby, the only one of East Anglia's four greatest artists to rest in his home county. Crome was born in 1768 in a Norwich ale-house, and after a brief education the young boy became errand boy to a local doctor. Two years later he was apprenticed to a sign painter and thus developed his taste for painting. Helped by Thomas Harvey of Catton, a local collector and banker, Crome was able to study the Dutch painters and also the work of Wilson and Gainsborough. He thus developed his style of landscape painting in oils and watercolour. Only once did he go abroad, to France in 1814 - the results may be seen in some paintings of Paris and Boulogne. He died in April 1821.
Medieval Norwich had one of the largest Jewish communities in England and like similar cities, traces remain in cemeteries and in the houses which were built for the wealthier Jewish merchants and money-lenders. The Old Music House in King Street was built for such a man in the 12th century and was much added to in subsequent centuries. It is now a club. The monument of another faith is seen in the remarkable Roman Catholic Church of St John the Baptist, built in the Early English style in 1884-1910 by Sir George Gilbert Scott and J. 0. Scott. It is a huge building 275 ft long and over 80 ft high inside the chancel. The tower is yet higher. As an exercise in architectural scholarship and unity of style it is an astonishing performance.
Nearby towns: Aylsham, Beccles, Bungay, Caister-on-Sea, Dereham, Great Yarmouth, Harleston, Lowestoft, Wymondham
Nearby villages: Alpington, Arminghall, Bawburgh, Bramerton, Caistor St. Edmund, Colney, Costessey, Cringleford, Earlham, East Carleton, Great Plumstead, Hellesdon, Hethel, Hethersett, Horning, Horsham St Faith, Ketteringham, Kirby, Markshall, Melton Constable, Mulbarton, Mundesley, Poringland, Rackheath, Salhouse, Spixworth, Sprowston, Stoke Holy Cross, Swainsthorpe, Swardeston, Taverham, Thorpe St. Andrew, Trowse Newton, Yelverton
Have you decided to visit Norwich or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Norwich bed and breakfast (a Norwich B&B or Norwich b and b)
- a Norwich guesthouse
- a Norwich hotel (or motel)
- a Norwich self-catering establishment, or
- other Norwich accommodation