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Norwich Cathedral at sunrise

A brief history of Norwich time - and how to enjoy it today

It was 19th century writer George Borrow who named Norwich ‘a fine city’ – you’ll see it mentioned on the name signs as you enter – and another writer, JB Priestley, said of the city, ‘What a grand, higgledy-piggledy, sensible old place Norwich is!’ But how much of its history do you know? Let us take you on a whirlwind trip through time...

In 575AD Anglo Saxon King Uffa made Northwic a Royal city and capital of East Anglia. Norwich became the seat of the Earl of East Anglia with its own mint and 25 churches.

In 840 Danes invaded East Anglia. Their language remains in places such as Pottergate and Finkelgate. Tombland comes from the Scandinavian for open space.

In 1067 the Normans arrived and asserted themselves by building a new castle that dominated the city skyline. Originally wooden, it was remade in stone after 1100AD. The façade you see today was created by the Victorians. Today the Castle is a Museum and Art Gallery, hosting many works by the Norwich School, led by John Crome.

Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle

Work started on Norwich Cathedral in 1096 using Caen stone from France. It took 54 years to complete. Norwich Cathedral has the second highest spire in the country – after Salisbury – and has the largest monastic cloisters. It is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe.

Richard the Lionheart gave Norwich a Royal Charter to become a city in 1194.

12 reasons to visit Norwich Cathedral

Magnificent Norwich Cathedral

English archers trained for the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 at Chapelfield Gardens in Norwich. They were led by Sir Thomas Erpingham, whose statue sits atop the main gate to Norwich Cathedral. We should add that the archers were actually Welsh and it’s from their victorious gesturing to the captured French knights that we get a certain two-fingered salute.

Thomas Erpingham


Norwich’s most famous street, cobbled Elm Hill, was rebuilt in 1507 after a devastating fire. A survivor of that fire is The Briton Arms, one of the only thatched buildings in the city and now tea rooms.

Elm Hill
Norman castle and cathedral

UK's best-preserved medieval city

The Industrial Revolution bypassed Norwich, leaving intact historic cobbled streets, city walls, and the majestic Norman castle and cathedral

Al fresco in Tombland

Vibrant restaurant and bar scene

Across the city you'll find fascinating old pubs, modern bars and eating establishments to cater for all tastes and pockets

Norwich Royal Arcade

One of the best shopping destinations

The city has two malls, five department stores, all the High Street names and great independent shopping in The Lanes

Sainsbury Centre

Brilliant cultural attractions

Award-winning museums, superb art collections, numerous theatres and the oldest arts festival in the country

River Wensum, Norwich

Enjoy the riverside views

The Norfolk Broads is the only English National Park with a city in it - the wonderful Wensum winds through the city

Norwich market place

Take a stroll

Norwich rewards those on foot - investigate medieval alleys and courtyards, wander along cobbled streets, explore Europe's largest permanent market

In 1549 Robert Kett from Wymondham lead a revolt of 15,000 men against land enclosures. After defeat at Mousehold Heath he was hanged outside the castle and his body left to deter more dissent.

Mousehold Heath

From Norman times to the 19th century Norwich was the second most important city in the UK after London. Then the Industrial Revolution came and bypassed the city – no fast-running water. Which did Norwich a favour. It’s now the best-preserved medieval city in the UK.

Dutch and French-speaking Huguenots and Walloons refugees fleeing religious persecution arrived in the city in 1565, invited by Queen Elizabeth I, who once stayed at The Maid’s Head Hotel in the city. The so-called ‘Strangers’ helped produce some of the finest woollen exports to the world.

Dutch connections

Maid's Head Hotel

The grand Georgian Assembly House was built in 1754 as public rooms for genteel society. You can have a traditional English Afternoon Tea there today.

Assembly House Norwich

In 1882 the Catholic Duke of Norfolk gave to a gift to begin the construction of the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. Behind the cathedral is the 3-acre Plantation Garden, created in an old medieval chalk quarry.

Legend has it that at one time Norwich boasted 365 – one for each day of the year – and 52 churches – so you could repent your drinking at a different one every Sunday. In fact, in 1870, Norwich had a recorded high of 670 licensed premises.

The oldest pub in Norwich is the Adam and Eve, which served masons building Norwich Cathedral.

Churches & Cathedrals

Norwich pub

Norwich City Football Club, the Canaries, was founded in 1902. They used to play at The Nest on Riverside before moving to Carrow Road. Their ‘On The Ball City’ is the oldest football song still sung in the world.

On the ball City

 Carrow Road

City Hall was formally opened in 1938 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The award-winning Art Deco civic centre was built to replace the Guildhall, across the road, which remains England’s largest and most elaborate provincial medieval city hall. Marvel at its ‘knapped’ flint and stone chequerwork. Nearby is Norwich Market, Europe’s largest permanent covered market.

Norwich Guildhall
In 1967 London Street became the first shopping street in the UK to be pedestrianised. Nearby The Lanes are home to many of the city’s finest independent shops.
London Street Norwich