Norwich (also ) is a city on the River Wensum in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom. Until the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the capital of the most populous county in England and vied with Bristol as England's second city.
The urban or built-up area of Norwich had a population of 213,166 according to the 2011 Census. This area extends beyond the city boundary, with extensive suburban areas on the western, northern and eastern sides, including Costessey, Taverham, Hellesdon, Bowthorpe, Old Catton, Sprowston and Thorpe St Andrew. The parliamentary seats cross over into adjacent local government districts. 132,512 (2011 census) people live in the City of Norwich and the population of the Norwich Travel to Work Area (i.e. the self contained labour market area in and around Norwich in which most people live and commute to work) is 282,000 (mid-2009 estimate). Norwich is the fourth most densely populated local government district within the East of England with 3,480 people per square kilometre (8,993 per square mile).
The capital of the Iceni tribe was a settlement located near to the village of Caistor St. Edmund on the River Tas approximately to the south of modern-day Norwich. Following an uprising led by Boudica around AD 60 the Caistor area became the Roman capital of East Anglia named Venta Icenorum, literally "the market place of the Iceni". The Roman settlement fell into disuse around 450 AD, and the Anglo-Saxons settled on the site of the modern city between the 5th and 7th centuries, founding the towns of Northwic (from which Norwich gets its name), Westwic (at Norwich-over-the-Water) and the secondary settlement at Thorpe. According to a local rhyme, the demise of Venta Icenorum led to the development of Norwich: "Caistor was a city when Norwich was none, Norwich was built of Caistor stone."
Early English and Norman Conquest
There are two suggested models of development for Norwich. It is possible that three separate early Anglo-Saxon settlements, one on the north of the river and two either side on the south, joined together as they grew or that one Anglo-Saxon settlement, on the north of the river, emerged in the mid-7th century after the abandonment of the previous three. The ancient city was a thriving centre for trade and commerce in East Anglia in 1004 AD when it was raided and burnt by Swein Forkbeard the Viking. Mercian coins and shards of pottery from the Rhineland dating to the 8th century suggest that long distance trade was happening long before this. Between 924–939 AD Norwich became fully established as a town because it had its own mint. The word Norvic appears on coins across Europe minted during this period, in the reign of King Athelstan. The Vikings were a strong cultural influence in Norwich for 40–50 years at the end of the 9th century, setting up an Anglo-Scandinavian district towards the north end of present day King Street. At the time of the Norman Conquest the city was one of the largest in England. The Domesday Book states that it had approximately twenty-five churches and a population of between five and ten thousand. It also records the site of an Anglo-Saxon church in Tombland, the site of the Saxon market place and the later Norman cathedral. Norwich continued to be a major centre for trade, the River Wensum being a convenient export route to the River Yare and Great Yarmouth, which served as the port for Norwich. Quern stones, and other artefacts from Scandinavia and the Rhineland have been found during excavations in Norwich city centre which date from the 11th century onwards.
Norwich Castle was founded soon after the Norman Conquest. The Domesday Book records that 98 Saxon homes were demolished to make way for the castle. The Normans established a new focus of settlement around the Castle and the area to the west of it: this became known as the "New" or "French" borough, centred on the Normans' own market place which survives to the present day as Norwich Market. In 1096, Herbert de Losinga, the Bishop of Thetford, began construction of Norwich Cathedral. The chief building material for the Cathedral was limestone, imported from Caen in Normandy. To transport the building stone to the cathedral site, a canal was cut from the river (from the site of present-day Pulls Ferry), all the way up to the east wall. Herbert de Losinga then moved his See there to what became the cathedral church for the Diocese of Norwich. The bishop of Norwich still signs himself Norvic. Norwich received a royal charter from Henry II in 1158, and another one from Richard the Lionheart in 1194. Following a riot in the city in 1274, Norwich has the distinction of being the only English city to be excommunicated by the Pope.
1134 First recorded presence of Jews in Norwich. In 1144, the Jews of Norwich were accused of ritual murder after a boy (William of Norwich) was found dead with stab wounds. William acquired the status of martyr and was subsequently canonised. Offerings to a shrine at the Cathedral (the Cathedral was largely finished by 1140) by pilgrims were made up to the 16th century but the records suggest there were few pilgrims. In 1174 Norwich was sacked by the Flemings. 1190, In February all the Jews of Norwich were massacred except for a few who found refuge in the castle. At the site of a medieval well, the bones of 17 individuals, including 11 children, were found in 2004 by workers preparing the ground for construction of a Norwich shopping centre. The remains were determined by forensic scientists to most probably be the remains of Jews murdered, and a DNA expert determined that the victims were all related, most probably coming from one Ashkenazi Jewish family. The study of these remains was featured in an episode of the BBC television documentary series History Cold Case.
In 1216 the castle fell to Louis, Dauphin of France and Hildebrand's Hospital was founded. Ten years later the Fransiscan Friary and Dominican Friary were founded. In 1249 the Great Hospital was founded and the following year, the College of St Mary in the Field established. In 1256 Whitefriars founded and in 1266 the 'Disinherited' sacked Norwich. The city has the distinction of being the only English city ever to be excommunicated, following a riot between citizens and monks in 1274. St Ethelbert's Gate, one of the entrances to the cathedral priory, was constructed as penance by Norwich citizens. In 1278 the Cathedral received final consecration. In 1290 the city flooded, whilst Austin Friary founded.
The engine of trade was wool from Norfolk's sheepwalks. Wool made England rich, and the staple port of Norwich "in her state doth stand With towns of high'st regard the fourth of all the land", as Michael Drayton noted in Poly-Olbion (1612). The wealth generated by the wool trade throughout the Middle Ages financed the construction of many fine churches; consequently, Norwich still has more medieval churches than any other city in Western Europe north of the Alps. Throughout this period Norwich established wide-ranging trading links with other parts of Europe, its markets stretching from Scandinavia to Spain and the city housing a Hanseatic warehouse. To organise and control its export to the Low Countries, Great Yarmouth, as the port for Norwich, was designated one of the staple ports under terms of the 1353 Statute of the Staple.
From 1280 to 1340 the city walls were built. At around two and a half miles long, these walls, along with the river, enclosed a larger area than that of the City of London. However, when the city walls were constructed it was made illegal to build outside them, inhibiting expansion of the city. Around this time, the city was made a county corporate and became capital of one of the most densely populated and prosperous counties of England.
Early Modern Period (1485–1640)
Hand-in-hand with the wool industry, this key religious centre experienced a Reformation significantly different to other parts of England. The magistracy in Tudor Norwich unusually found ways of managing religious discord whilst maintaining civic harmony.
The year 1549 saw an unprecedented rebellion in Norfolk, which, unlike popular challenges elsewhere in the Tudor period, appears to have been Protestant in nature. For several weeks Kett's rebels camped outside Norwich on Mousehold Heath and took control of the city, with the support of many of its poorer inhabitants. Unusually in England it divided a city and appears to have linked Protestantism with the plight of the urban poor. In the case of Norwich this process was later underscored by the arrival of Dutch and Flemish 'Strangers' fleeing Catholic persecution and eventually numbering as many as one third of the city's population. Perhaps in response to Kett, Norwich became the first provincial city to initiate compulsory payments for a civic scheme of poor relief, which Pound claims led to its wider introduction, forming the basis of the later Elizabethan Poor Law of 1597–8.
Norwich has traditionally been the home of various dissident minorities, notably the French Huguenot and the Belgian Walloon communities in the 16th and 17th centuries. The great 'Stranger' immigration of 1567 brought a substantial Flemish and Walloon community of Protestant weavers to Norwich, where they are said to have been made welcome. The merchant's house—now a museum—which was their earliest base in the city is still known as 'Strangers' Hall'. It seems that the Strangers were integrated into the local community without a great deal of animosity, at least among the business fraternity who had the most to gain from their skills. The arrival of the Strangers in Norwich bolstered trade with mainland Europe, fostering a movement toward religious reform and radical politics in the city.
The Norwich Canary was first introduced into England by Flemish refugees fleeing from Spanish persecution in the 16th century. They brought with them not only advanced techniques in textile working but also their pet canaries, which they began to breed locally, the little yellow bird eventually to become, in the 20th century, the city's most beloved mascot. The canary is the emblem of the city's football club, Norwich City F.C., nicknamed "The Canaries".
Printing was introduced to the city by Anthony de Solempne, one of the 'Strangers' in 1567 but did not become established and had died out by about 1572.
English Civil Wars to Victorian era
Across the Eastern Counties Oliver Cromwell's powerful Eastern Association was eventually dominant. However, to begin with, there had been a large element of Royalist sympathy within Norwich, which seems to have experienced a continuity of its two-sided political tradition throughout the civil-war period. Bishop Matthew Wren was a forceful supporter of Charles I; none the less Parliamentary recruitment took hold, and a strong Royalist party was stifled by a lack of commitment from the aldermen, and isolation from Royalist-held regions. Serious inter-factional disturbances culminated in "The Great Blow" of 1648, when Parliamentary forces tried to quell a Royalist riot. The latter's gunpowder was set off by accident in the city centre, causing mayhem. (According to Hopper qv, the explosion "ranks among the largest of the century".) Stoutly defended though East Anglia was by the parliamentary army, there are said to have been pubs in Norwich where the King's health was still drunk and the name of the Protector sung to ribald verse.
At the cost of some discomfort to the Mayor, a Royalist, and the bishop, Joseph Hall, a moderate, was targeted because of his position as bishop.
Distinguishing Norwich in the period following the Restoration of 1660 and throughout the ensuing century was that it was the golden age of its cloth industry, comparable only to those of the West Country and Yorkshire. But unlike other cloth-manufacturing regions, Norwich weaving brought greater urbanisation; being substantially concentrated in the surrounds of the city itself, creating an urban society, with features such as leisure time, alehouses, and other public fora which provided opportunities for debate and argument.
Writing of the early 18th century, Pound describes the city's rich cultural life, the winter-theatre season, the festivities accompanying the summer assizes, and other popular entertainments. Norwich was the wealthiest town in England with a sophisticated poor relief system, and a large influx of foreign refugees. Despite having suffered severe episodes of plague, the city had a population of almost 30,000. While this made Norwich unique in England it placed her in the company of about fifty cities in Europe. In some, like Lyon or Dresden, this was, as in the case of Norwich, linked to an important proto-industry, such as textiles or china pottery; in some, such as Vienna, Madrid or Dublin, to the city's status as an administrative capital; in others such as Antwerp, Marseilles or Cologne to its positioning on an important trade route of sea or river.
However, Norwich of the late 17th century was riven politically. Churchman Humphrey Prideaux described "two factions, Whig and Tory...and both contend for their way with the utmost violence". Nor did the city accept the outcome of the 1688 Glorious Revolution with a unified voice. The pre-eminent citizen, Bishop William Lloyd, would not take the oaths of allegiance to the new monarchs. One report has it that in 1704 the landlord of Fowler's alehouse "with a glass of beer in hand, went down on his knees and drank a health to James the third, wishing the Crowne (sic) well and settled on his head". "Never was a city in the miserable kingdom so wretchedly divided as this", said the London Post.
In 1716, at a play at the New Inn, the Pretender was cheered and the audience booed and hissed every time King George's name was mentioned. In 1722 supporters of the king were said to be "hiss'd at and curst as they go in the streets", and in 1731 "a Tory mobb, in a great body, went through several parts of this city, in a riotous manner, cursing and abusing such as they knew to be friends of the government". But the Whigs gradually gained control and by the 1720s they had successfully petitioned parliament to allow all adult males working in the textile industry to take up the freedom, on the correct assumption that they would vote Whig. But it had the effect of boosting the city's popular Jacobitism, says Knights (qv),and contests of the kind described continued in Norwich well into a period in which political stability had been discerned at a national level, and the city's Jacobitism perhaps only ended from 1745, well after it had ceased to be a significant movement outside of Scotland. Despite the Highlanders reaching Derby, and Norwich citizens mustering themselves into an association to protect the city, some Tories refused and the vestry of St Peter Mancroft resolved that it would not ring its bells to summon the defence. But it was the end of the road for Norwich Jacobites, and the Whigs organised a massive celebration following the battle of Culloden.
What the events of this period illustrate is that precursory to an organised radical movement Norwich had had a strong tradition of popular protest favouring Church and Stuarts and attached to the street and alehouse. Knights qv tells how in 1716 the mayoral election had ended in a riot, with both sides throwing "brick-ends and great paving stones" at each other. A renowned Jacobite watering-hole, the Blue Bell Inn (nowadays The Bell Hotel), owned in the early 18th century by the high-church Helwys family, in the 1790s became the central rendezvous point of the Norwich Revolution Society.
Britain's first provincial newspaper, the Norwich Post, had been published in 1701. By 1726 there were rival Whig and Tory presses and even in mid-century some parishes had three quarters of the males as literate. In Norwich alehouses 281 clubs and societies met in 1701, and at least 138 more were formed before 1758. The Theatre Royal had opened in 1758 adding to the city's stage productions in inns, and puppet shows in rowdy alehouses. In 1750 Norwich could boast nine booksellers and after 1780 a "growing number of circulating and subscription libraries". Knights says: '[All this] made for a lively political culture, in which independence from governmental lines was particularly strong, evident in campaigns against the war with America and for reform...in which trade and the impact of war with Revolutionary France were key ingredients. The open and contestable structure of local government, the press, the clubs and societies, and dissent all ensured that politics overlapped with communities bound by economics, religion, ideology and print in a world in which public opinion could not be ignored.'
Amid this metropolitan culture the city burghers had built a sophisticated political structure. Freemen, who not only had the right to trade but to vote at elections, numbered about 2,000 in 1690, rising to over 3,300 by the mid-1730s. With growth partly the result of political manipulation, their numbers did at one point reach one third of the adult male population. This was notoriously the age of "rotten" and "pocket" boroughs, and Norwich was unusual in having such a high proportion of its citizens able to vote. "Of the political centres where the Jacobin propaganda had penetrated most deeply", says E. P. Thompson, "only Norwich and Nottingham had a franchise deep enough to allow radicals to make use of the electoral process." "Apart from London, Norwich was probably still the largest of those boroughs which were democratically governed", says Jewson, describing other towns under the control of a single fiefdom. In Norwich, he says, a powerful Anglican Establishment, symbolised by the Cathedral and the great church of St Peter Mancroft was matched by scarcely less powerful congeries of Dissenters headed by the wealthy literate body [of Unitarians] worshipping at the Octagon Chapel.'
In the middle of political disorders of the late 18th century, Norwich intellectual life flourished. And it contained one, so far unmentioned, characteristic. Harriet Martineau wrote of the city's literati of the period, which included such people as William Taylor, one of the first German scholars in England. The city "boasted of her intellectual supper-parties, where, amidst a pedantry which would now make laughter hold both his sides, there was much that was pleasant and salutary: and finally she called herself The Athens of England."
Notwithstanding Norwich's hitherto industrial prosperity, by the 1790s the wool trade was experiencing intense competition. It came from both Yorkshire woollens, and increasingly from Lancashire cottons. The effects were aggravated by the loss of continental markets after Britain went to war with France in 1793. The early 19th century would see deindustrialisation accompanied by bitter squabbles. The 1820s would be marked with wage cuts and personal recrimination against owners. Thus amid the rich commercial and cultural heritage that was its recent past, there lurked in the alleys of 1790s Norwich an unwelcome stranger, incipient decline; exacerbated by a serious trade recession.
As early in the war as 1793 a major city manufacturer and government supporter, Robert Harvey, had complained of low order books, languid trade and a doubling of the poor rate. As with many generations of their Norwich forbears, the hungry poor took their complaints on to the streets. Hayes describes a meeting of 200 people in a Norwich public house, at which 'Citizen Stanhope' spoke. The gathering is said to have "[roared its] applause at Stanhope's declaration that the Ministers, unless they changed their policy deserved to have their heads brought to the block; – and if there was a people still in England, the event might turn out to be so." Hayes says that "the outbreak of war, in bringing the worsted manufacture almost to a standstill and so plunging the mass of the Norwich weavers into sudden distress made it almost inevitable that a crude appeal to working-class resentment should take the place of a temperate process of education which the earliest reformers had intended".
However by 1795 it was not just the Norwich rabble which was causing the government concern. In April that year the Norwich Patriotic Society was established, its manifesto declaring "that the great end of civil society was general happiness; that every individual...had a right to share in the government..." In December the price of bread reached its highest yet, and in May 1796, when William Windham was forced to seek re-election following his appointment as war secretary, he only just held his seat. Amid the same disorder and violence as was often the case with Norwich elections, it was only by the narrowest of margins that the radical Bartlett Gurney, campaigning on the platform of "Peace and Gurney – No More War – No more Barley Bread" failed to unseat him.
Though informed by issues of recent national importance, the vibrant two-sided political culture of Norwich in the 1790s cannot be totally disconnected from local tradition. Two features stand out from a political continuum of three centuries. The first is the dichotomous power balance. From at least the time of the Reformation, there is a record of Norwich as a "two-party city". In the mid-16th century the weaving parishes actually fell under the control of opposition forces, as Kett's rebels held the north of the river, in support of poor cloth workers.
Secondly there does seem to be some case for saying that with this tradition of two-sided disputation, the city had over a long period of time developed an infrastructure, evident in her many cultural and institutional networks of politics, religion, society, news media and the arts, whereby argument could be managed short of outright confrontation. indeed at a time of hunger and tension on the Norwich streets, with the alehouse crowds ready to have "a Minister's head brought to the block", that, unusually in England, the Anglican and Dissenting clergy were doing their best to conduct a collegiate dialogue, seeking common ground, and reinforcing the same well-mannered civic tradition of consensus as that illustrated by historians of earlier periods.
In 1797 Thomas Bignold, a 36-year-old wine merchant and banker, founded the first Norwich Union Society. Some years earlier, when he moved from Kent to Norwich, Bignold had been unable to find anyone willing to insure him against the threat from highwaymen. With the entrepreneurial thought that nothing was impossible, and aware that in a city built largely of wood the threat of fire was uppermost in people's minds, Bignold formed the "Norwich Union Society for the Insurance of Houses, Stock and Merchandise from Fire". The new business, which became known as the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Office, was a "mutual" enterprise. Norwich Union was later to become the country's largest insurance giant.
From earliest times, Norwich was a centre of textile manufacture. Towards the end of the 18th century, in the 1780s, the manufacture of Norwich shawls became an important industry and remained so for nearly one hundred years. The shawls were a high-quality fashion product and rivalled those made in other towns such as Paisley (which entered shawl manufacture in about 1805, some 20 or more years after Norwich). With changes in women's fashion in the later Victorian period, the popularity of shawls declined and eventually manufacture ceased. Examples of Norwich shawls are now highly sought after by collectors of textiles.
Norwich's geographical isolation was such that until 1845 when a railway connection was established, it was often quicker to travel to Amsterdam by boat than to London. The railway was introduced to Norwich by Morton Peto, who also built the line to Great Yarmouth.
In the early part of the 20th century Norwich still had several major manufacturing industries. Among these were the manufacture of shoes (for example the Start-rite or Van Dal brands), clothing, joinery, and structural engineering as well as aircraft design and manufacture. Important employers included Boulton & Paul, Barnards (inventors of machine produced wire netting), and electrical engineers Laurence Scott and Electromotors.
Norwich also has a long association with chocolate manufacture, primarily through the local firm of Caley's, which began as a manufacturer and bottler of mineral water and later diversified into making chocolate and Christmas crackers. The Caley's cracker-manufacturing business was taken over by Tom Smith in 1953, and the Norwich factory in Salhouse Road eventually closed down in 1998. Caley's was acquired by Mackintosh in the 1930s, and merged with Rowntree's in 1969 to become Rowntree-Mackintosh. Finally, it was bought by Nestlé and closed down in 1996 with all operations moved to York; ending a 120-year association with Norwich. The demolished factory stood on the site of what is now the Chapelfield development. Caley's chocolate has since made a reappearance as a brand in the city, although it is no longer made in Norwich.
HMSO, once the official publishing and stationery arm of the British government and one of the largest print buyers, printers and suppliers of office equipment in the UK, moved most of its operations from London to Norwich in the 1970s.
Jarrolds, established in 1810, was a nationally well-known printer and publisher. In 2004, after nearly 200 years, it passed out of family ownership. Today, the Jarrold name is now best-known and recognised as being that of Norwich's only independent department store.
The city was home to a long-established tradition of brewing, with several large breweries continuing in business into the second half of the century. The main brewers were Morgans, Steward and Patteson, Youngs Crawshay and Youngs, Bullard and Son, and the Norwich Brewery. Despite takeovers and consolidation in the 1950s and 1960s in attempts to remain viable, by the 1970s only the Norwich Brewery (owned by Watney Mann and on the site of Morgans) remained. In 1985 the Norwich Brewery closed, and was subsequently demolished. Small-scale brewing continues in Norwich in "microbreweries".
Norwich suffered extensive bomb damage during World War II, affecting large parts of the old city centre and Victorian terrace housing around the centre. Industry and the rail infrastructure also suffered. The heaviest raids occurred on the nights of 27/28th and 29/30 April 1942; as part of the Baedeker raids (so called because Baedeker's series of tourist guides to the British Isles were used to select propaganda-rich targets of cultural and historic significance rather than strategic importance). Lord Haw-Haw made reference to the imminent destruction of Norwich's new City Hall (completed in 1938), although in the event it survived unscathed. Significant targets hit included the Morgan's Brewery building, Coleman's Wincarnis works, City Station, the Mackintosh chocolate factory, and shopping areas including St. Stephen's Street, St. Benedict's Street, the site of Bond's department store (now John Lewis) and Curl's department store. During World War II Norwich also served another purpose as a postal acronym used by servicemen to convey messages to their sweethearts at home. These were usually written on the back of envelopes, when "Norwich" became "(k)Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home".
In 1976 the city's pioneering spirit was on show when Motum Road in Norwich, allegedly the scene of "a number of accidents over the years", became the third road in Britain to be equipped with speed bumps, intended to encourage adherence to the road's 30 mph (48 km/h) speed limit. The humps, installed at intervals of 50 and 150 yards, stretched twelve feet across the width of the road and their curved profile was, at its highest point, 4 inches (10 cm) high. The responsible quango gave an assurance that the experimental devices would be removed not more than one year following installation.
From 1980 to 1985 the City became a frequent focus of National media due to the squatting of Argyle Street.