Norwich Introduction Walking Tour, Norwich

Norwich Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Norwich

The Iceni tribe predated the Romans in the village of Caistor, near the area of present-day Norwich. In 60 AD an uprising led by Boudica had been put down and Caistor became the Roman capital of East Anglia. Anglo-Saxons settled the town of Northwic in the 4th century. By the 10th century Northwic became Norwich, a prosperous trading center.

William the Conqueror arrived with a bang in 1066. The Normans heartily set to work. They built the Norwich Castle. Around the Castle a market and a Norman village was created. In 1096 construction of the great Norwich Cathedral began. Norwich became a walled city of churches, hospitals and friaries, financed by a burgeoning wool trade.

The Tudor era in the 16th century brought revolutionary changes. The Protestant Reformation, peasant rebellions, and waves of religious refugees from the continent, brought new skills and enterprises with them. Cromwell brought civil war and churned life in general but after the restoration in 1660, Norwich had its economic golden age.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Norwich area had its share of civic and social upheavals. Jacobitism, Whigs and Tories, plagues, dissents and reforms had generated a metropolitan if not cosmopolitan culture and sophisticated politics. Intellectual life flourished and the city billed itself as "The Athens of England."

Life in Norwich in the 19th century showed marked improvement. The first public library opened in 1857. The Chapelfield Public Park opened in 1852 and Mousehold Heath in 1886. The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was built in 1884. The Castle Museum in the Norman Castle opened in 1894, the Royal Arcade in 1899.

Norwich is a blend of the medieval and modern. Come and visit Elm Hlll, the Forum, the Plantation Gardens, Strangers Hall, the Wensum River Walk, the Museum of Norwich, restaurants and pubs from the 15th century, and a market square that has been operating for 900 years. Like William, come, conquer and be conquered.
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Norwich Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Norwich Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » Norwich (See other walking tours in Norwich)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: Maia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Norwich Market
  • Royal Arcade
  • Norwich Castle
  • London Street
  • Norwich Cathedral
  • Elm Hill
  • Riverside Walk
  • Strangers Hall Museum
  • Norwich Lanes
  • Norwich Guildhall
  • St. Peter Mancroft Church
Norwich Market

1) Norwich Market (must see)

In the 10th century, during the reign of Good King Aethelstan, the settlement of Norwich was already a major trading center. The Anglo-Saxon town was centered around the open market space called Tombland. A piece of the Tombland space is still there. It's a small triangular bit of park with a few trees and a telephone call-box.

The Normans demolished most of Tombland in the 11th century to make room for their own town and market. They built Norwich Cathedral and Norwich Castle. The new market gradually supplanted the old one and it has been in operation for over 900 years. The Norwich Market today looks nearly the same as it did in the 14th century.

The market is a rectangle running north and south. On the north side was a tollhouse. This building was replaced in 1413 by the Guildhall. The St. Peter's Street (Overowe) borders the west side with the City Hall which was built in 1938. The old Norman Church of St Peter Mancroft is in the south. On the east is the Gentlemen's Walk (Netherowe).

In the market area there are more than 200 permanent stalls. There are 29 stalls operated by food vendors and the remainder are held by other enterprises. In 2004 the market was rearranged in parallel rows of stall units of steel called "pods", holding four stalls each. Transparent retractable canopies cover the alleyways between pods.
Royal Arcade

2) Royal Arcade

The Royal Arcade is close by the Norwich Market, between Gentlemen's Walk and Castle Street. In contrast to the medieval market square atmosphere of the Market, the Arcade is an ornate Art-Nouveau Victorian mall. It offers a more upscale shopping experience with its unique architecture and specialty shopping outlets.

The arcade opened in 1899. It is a covered avenue up to 250 feet long. It was designed and built by architect George Skipper. The walls of the upper floor of the arcade are adorned with tiles. The tiles show themes from nature, especially floral arrangements and peacocks.

The Art-Nouveau style is reflected in the floor tiles. Under the glass gallery roof hang wrought iron and glass lanterns. These were added to the Arcade as part of the restoration of the 1980s. At its opening in 1899 the Arcade was called a "fragment from the Arabian Nights" appearing in the old city center.

Retailers in the Arcade include antique galleries, sweet shops, toys and games, cafes, fashion shops, jewelers, etc.

The Arcade has three entrances connected to the Norwich pedestrianized shopping streets. It is across the street from the Norwich Market.
Norwich Castle

3) Norwich Castle (must see)

By 1075 Norman troops had demolished about 100 Saxon homes to create room for a wooden fort and motte in the town of Norwich. In 1094 work was begun by King William (The Red) II, third son of William the Conqueror, on the stone keep which would become Norwich Castle. King Henry I completed the work on the stone keep in 1121.

The keep was built with two floors. Access was gained by an external stone staircase on the east side to a foyer building called the Bigod Tower. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, was Constable of Norwich castle. An area around the castle, known as the Fee, was set aside for defensive purposes.

Walls on the ground floor were surfaced with flint. White limestone was used on the upper level, which was intended to be the Royal Palace. The upper floor was in two parts: the great hall and the royal residence. There was a walkway or fighting gallery on the outer walls.

Early on, parts of the Castle were used as a prison. The castle continued mainly as a gaol (jail) until 1887, when His Majesty's Prison Norwich was opened at Mousehold Heath and the Castle was bought by the city to be used as a museum.

The conversion was carried out by architect Edward Boardman. Prison cells were removed. Flooring and balconies installed. Arches reinforced the newly glazed roof. The exercise yards became gardens and the cell blocks spectator galleries. The museum officially opened in 1894.

The Museum and Art Gallery exhibits are diverse. There are ceramics, porcelain and silver objects and paintings of the Norwich School. Historical artifacts are Roman, Egyptian, Saxon and Viking. There are tours of dungeons and battlements and there is a cafe.
London Street

4) London Street

In July 1967 Norwich Street became the first street in the United Kingdom to be pedestrianized. Several UK towns had made plans to pedestrianize as early as 1960. Things never got past the planning stage. Everything was shelved in the face of opposition from shopkeepers and retailers.

Then, suddenly things changed. The London Street sewer had collapsed. The street was closed to car traffic. Only pedestrians were allowed on the street. Retailers on London Street were suddenly busy as never before. Putting people before automobiles was now a great idea. Fifty years later the idea of shopping without a car is a no-brainer.

London Street is basically an expensive place to shop. It might be called the jewelry center of the city. The street is home to Chapelfield Shopping Plaza, Castle Quarter, Furniture Village, Bear Shop (for toys), Head in the Clouds (for gifts and jewelry), The Free Shop (for phones and vintage items), Langleys (for toys), and the House of Fraser, a department store.
Norwich Cathedral

5) Norwich Cathedral (must see)

Herbert de Losinga, bishop of Thetford and first bishop of Norwich, was not without sin. He bought the bishopric of Thetford from the King in 1094 for 1,900 pounds. He then transferred his cathedral seat to Norfolk, specifically, Norwich. Ensconced in his new see, he wasted no time in building his own cathedral. Work started in 1096.

What was his sin? He bought the job, from the king, no less. His monks were distressed by his sin. He hustled off to Rome to be forgiven. Success! He was allowed to return to Jesus with his bellyful of forbidden fruit. Who could judge him? It was a crazy time. Herbert had barely parked his throne in the nave when he died in 1119.

The work was carried on by Herbert's successor, Bishop Eborard in 1121. It was completed in 1145 when Eborard's successor, Bishop William de Turbe, installed the cathedral tower. The cathedral was put together with flint and mortar and faced with white limestone from Caen, in France.

The cathedral has a really long nave with 14 bays. The transepts have no aisles. The east end holds an apse with an ambulatory. The ambulatory grants access to two circular chapels. The Norman tower was at last installed by 1145. It is adorned with lozenges and arcading. The stone spire was added in 1480. The early Norman style is intact.

The nave roof was struck by lightning in 1463 and the roof burned. The nave replacement roof has an intricate vaulting featuring short stone ribs with bosses carved and painted in various forms. The kings, peasants, musicians, soldiers, acrobats, and ladies carved and painted on the bosses are, by turns, humorous or frightening.

Before the high altar is the tomb of Bishop Herbert de Losinga. Close by there is a bas relief marking the 900th anniversary of the cathedral. The chapels are; The Goldwell Chantry; the Jesus Chapel and; St. Andrew's Chapel. The famous Erpingham Window celebrates Sir Thomas Erpingham who fought in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
Elm Hill

6) Elm Hill (must see)

There are no elms in Elm Hill. The neighborhood acquired its name from the elm trees planted there in the 16th century by the Churchwardens of St. Peter Hungate Church. Because there is Dutch elm disease in the UK, there has been no effort to bring back elms to Elm Hill.

There is some evidence of settlement around Elm Hill as far back as 1200. Almost all of Elm Hill was destroyed by fire. The early Tudor Britons Arms is the only surviving building that dates before 1507. Elm Hill extends from the Church of St. Peter Hungate at Princes Street to the Church if St. Simon and St. Jude at Wensum Street.

The north side of of Elm Hill is parallel to the river Wensum. This area once was the location of wealthy merchant houses and their quays. The river was a busy commercial thoroughfare in the 15th and 16th centuries. Barges carried raw materials and finished products to and from the city.

In 1927 the Norwich corporation carried out a renovation project in Elm Hill aimed at preserving the original medieval appearance of the cobble stone streets and landmark Tudor tiered buildings. The Stranger's Club, the Pettus House, the Tea House in Wrights Court and the Dormouse Bookshop are recommended for a visit.
Riverside Walk

7) Riverside Walk (must see)

The Riverside Walk takes a path alongside the river Wensum. The walk starts at the forum in the center of town. The alternate starting place is the train station. The river is close by. The walk follows a path on both sides of the river, including a break at Norwich Cathedral.

The route along the riverbank is scenic with nature, bridges and historical buildings. Points of interest include the historic New Mills Pumping House, the medieval Watergate of Pulls Ferry, the Cow Tower and a 14th century artillery tower. The walk may be extended to take in Whitlingham Country Park and the trails of Mousehead Heath.

The Walk connects to paths leading away from the city. Wherryman's Way leads to Great Yarmouth through the Yare Valley. The Boudica Way is a long distance path to Stoatsham mill and ford. Ketts County Walk and Tas Valley Way follow the river Tas. The Walsingham Way starts and finishes in the city.
Strangers Hall Museum

8) Strangers Hall Museum

In the 1320s one Ralph de Middleton owned a house on the site of the current Strangers Hall Museum. Ralph's house is gone but the undercroft is intact under the Museum. How is it now Strangers Hall? How did it become a museum?

The building was considered prestigious. Mayors and merchants made changes and additions to show their social status. The great hall itself was built in the 15th century by William Barley, a cloth merchant. During the 16th century, Thomas Southerton, mayor and greengrocer owned the house when the strangers arrived.

The first "strangers" were religious refugees from the Netherlands; Walloon and Flemish Calvanists fleeing persecution by Spanish Catholic rulers. Protestant asylum seekers were welcome. England was a protestant country under Queen Elizabeth I. The "strangers" brought their skills, energy, and knowledge with them and Norwich prospered.

Subsequent tenants/owners made modifications to the house: a crown post roof, a mullioned bay window, a vaulted porch and steps giving access to the Great Hall. The Great Chamber was a wing of the Great Hall. The Georgian dining room was installed in 1748.

By the 1890s, however, the Strangers Hall had fallen into disrepair. In 1899 Leonard Bolingbroke bought the building. In 1900 he opened it to the public as a folk museum. In 1922 the Hall as museum was presented to the city of Norwich.
Norwich Lanes

9) Norwich Lanes

The Norwich Lanes, known locally as The Lanes, is an area of Norwich. It consists of a series of mostly pedestrian-oriented small lanes, alleyways and streets. Norwich Lanes is noted for its independent retailers, and eating and drinking establishments.

The area also contains some of the city's cultural attractions, including museums, theatres, pubs and bars. As part of a nationwide drive to recognize the importance of the character and individuality of Britain's high streets, and to maintain it, Norwich Lanes won the Great British High Street Awards 2014.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Norwich Guildhall

10) Norwich Guildhall

In 1404 Henry IV, king of England, granted a charter of autonomy to the city of Norwich. Immediately the city needed a town hall. The old Tollhouse would not be enough for an autonomous city. Construction on the Guildhall started in 1407. The project was completed in 1413.

The roof of the council chamber collapsed in 1511. It was restored in 1537. In those days only the craftsmen were paid. Laborers were pressed into service without pay. A working day would go from dawn to dusk. The quality of work could be a little iffy.

The Guildhall was the largest municipal building in Suffolk. There were two main halls on the upper floor. These were for meetings and courts. The larger hall was the Assembly Chamber, Sheriff's Court and Sword Room. The armory was on the upper level. The ground floor was for unchained prisoners. The toughies were kept below.

Thomas Bilney, an iconoclastic clergyman well ahead of his time, was held below in the undercroft of the Guildhall. He was charged with heresy and burned at the stake in 1531. The Guildhall was the seat of government until 1938, when the new City Hall opened for business. The Office of the Sheriff of Norwich is in the Guildhall chapel.
St. Peter Mancroft Church

11) St. Peter Mancroft Church

We know who Saint Peter was, but who is Mancroft? There is no "who." The name Mancroft is not a name. It is believed to be a corruption of the Old English term for a common field, "gemaene croft." In fact, the church, St Peter Mancroft, was built next to a common field which had become the site of the Norwich Market.

St Peters is the largest of the three churches of Norwich. The lesser two are St. Giles and St. Stephen. The church was most likely founded in 1075 by Ralph de Guader, Earl of Norfolk. Ralph was involved in a failed rebellion against William the Conqueror. Ralph fled the country and gave the church to his chaplain, Wala. Wala ran away too.

In 1388 the church was taken over by the Benedictines. The Benedictines rebuilt the church by 1455 and today it still has that no-nonsense perpendicular, 15th century style. The building period was short. That's the secret.

The outside is faced in limestone, most likely imported from Caen in France. There are two large porches each on the north and south sides. Over the north porch there is a parvis, a small room. Lighting in the interior is by a clerestory that runs the length of the nave. The timber roof is decorated with bosses of golden angels and suns.

Walking Tours in Norwich, England

Create Your Own Walk in Norwich

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Creating your own self-guided walk in Norwich is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Norwich's Historical and Haunted Buildings

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles