Who knew that? #4
1 There's a reason why Norwich is the best preserved medieval city in the country – it's because of a lack of fast-running water! When the Industrial Revolution began that's what was needed to help drive steam engines and fast-running water only occurs in hilly, mountainous areas. And as we all know, Norfolk's not one of those! So whereas other cities were demolished to make way for new factories, Norwich remained unscathed. Dragon Hall, in King Street in Norwich, is the only surviving medieval merchant's trading hall in western Europe. Learn more about the city's history at the Museum of Norwich at Bridewell.
2 Actors James Stewart and Walter Matthau were both stationed in Norfolk during the second world war, along with 50,000 other American servicemen. What did the Americans do for us? They brought bubble gum, stockings and donuts. Uhm… donuts…
3 Britain's first Prime Minister was Robert Walpole of Houghton Hall, although the term originated as an insult! Before, the official title of the head of government was The First Lord of the Treasury' but taking office in 1721, Walpole became so powerful that MPs resentfully referred to him as the 'Prime' Minister and the name stuck. Walpole was the first leader to live at Downing Street, replacing the last private resident, a Mr Chicken who, we can assume, wouldn’t cross the road to get into politics.
4 The spire of Norwich Cathedral is 315ft high - second only to Salisbury – and it's built from Caen stone from Normandy. We have the Normans to thank for it being here (and the castle too, which looks so good because the Victorians reclad it... sssh, don't tell!). The Adam and Eve pub in Bishopgate is the oldest in Norwich, built in 1249 for Cathedral builders.
5 The Cromer ridge in north Norfolk is the terminal moraine of a glacier, the front line of the ice sheet where less movement meant a bigger build-up of material. In fact, Norfolk is underlain by a bedrock of chalk. On top of this earth, sand and gravel from retreating ice sheets were deposited. The ridge is the highest land in East Anglia at over 100 metres high, is 8.7 miles long and is characterised by its irregular and undulating topography.
6 Norfolk has 659 medieval churches - the highest concentration in the world. Of these, 125 have round towers - more than any other county in the UK. (Suffolk has 42, Essex 7, Sussex 3, Cambridgeshire 2 and Berkshire 2). Round towers are of Saxon origin, the Normans introducing square towers.
7 Lord Nelson was born at the rectory at Burnham Thorpe in north Norfolk on 29th September, 1758. 'I am a Norfolk man – and glory in being so,' he once said. The rectory has gone now, but you could pop into The Lord Nelson pub (The Plough back then) for a tot of Nelson’s Blood, a combination of rum and spices.
8 From around 1350 to 1750 the wool and weaving trade was the most important economic activity in the county and Norwich was the second most important city after London. The Domesday book shows that during the 11th century Norfolk was one of the most heavily populated counties. This remained the case until 1600.
9 In 1990 the bones of a mammoth were discovered in the cliffs at West Runton. The animal would have been 4 metres tall at the shoulder. It's the oldest and best-preserved mammoth ever found… anywhere! The only bits missing were bones eaten by hyenas. Hyena teethmarks can be seen on some of the discovered bones. Yuk!
10 STANTA (The Stanford Training Area) in the Brecks was created during the second world war by evacuating five villages: Stanford, West Tofts, Buckenham Tofts, Lynford and Tottington. The army have used it to train for fighting in Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq and the remaining villagers are occasionally allowed back in for church services. You'll drive past the area if you enter Norfolk via the A11.