This is about Norwich in England. For articles about other uses of the name Norwich, please click here.
The city of Norwich is the regional administrative centre and county town of the county of Norfolk, England.

Table of contents
1 Early history
2 Traveller's comments
3 Famous names associated with City
4 Present-day
5 External links

Early history

Norwich, in the county of Norfolk, was shaped by the Iceni, the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Late Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans.The word Norvic appears on coins minted during the reign of King Athelstan (early 10th century AD). The ancient city was already a thriving centre for trade and commerce in East Anglia when Swein Forkbeard the Viking destroyed it in 1004 AD. The main area of the city south of the River Wensum was destroyed by the construction of the Norman castle during the 1070s creation of a "New" or "French" borough.

In 1096 Bishop Losinga began construction of the cathedral. At the time of the Norman Conquest the city was one of the largest in England, and it continued to be a major centre for trade, especially wool. The Wensum was a convenient exporting route to the sea.

The wealth generated by the wool trade throughout the Middle Ages resulted in the construction of many fine churches. Norwich still has one of the highest number of splendid medieval churches in western Europe.

Ever since the great immigration of 1567 the Walloon community had been granted by successive bishops the right to use a chapel for their own worship. Norwich has been the home of various dissident minorities, notably the French Huguenot and the Belgian Walloon communities in the 16th and 17th centuries. Primarily through trading connections with mainland Europe, ideas of religious reform and radical politics were introduced to Norwich.

The Norwich Canary was first introduced into England by Flemish refugees fleeing from Spanish persecution in the 1500s. They brought with them not only advanced working skills in textiles but also their pet canaries, which they began to breed. The canary is the emblem of the city's football team, "The Canaries", Norwich City F.C

Norwich's geographical isolation was such that until 1834 when a railway connection was established, it was often quicker and safer to travel to Amsterdam than to London!

Traveller's comments

In 1507 the poet John Skelton (1460-1529) wrote of two destructive fires in his Lament for the City of Norwich.

All life is brief, and frail all man’s estate. City, farewell: I mourn thy cruel fate.

Thomas Fuller in his The Worthies of England described the City in 1662 as -
Either a city in an orchard or an orchard in a city, so equally are houses and trees blended init, so that the pleasure of the country and the populousness of the city meet here together. Yet in this mixture, the inhabitants participate nothing of the rusticalness of the one, but altogether the urbanity and civility of the other.

Celia Fiennes (1662-1741) visited Norwich in 1698 and described it as
a city walled full round of towers, except on the river side which serves as a wall; they seem the best in repair of any walled city I know.

She also records that held in the City three times a year were-
great which resort a vast concourseof people and wares a full trade.
Norwich being a rich, thriving indusrious place full of weaving, knitting and dyeing.

Daniel Defoe in his Tour of the whole Island of Great Britain (1724) wrote of the City-

the inhabitants being all busy at their manufactures, dwell in their garrets at their looms, in their combng-shops, so they all them, twisting-mills, and other work-houses; almost all the works they are employed in being done within doors.

John Evelyn (1620-1706) Royalist, Traveller and Diarist wrote to Sir Thomas Browne-
I hear Norwich is a place very much addicted to the flowery part.

He visited the City as a courtier to King Charles II in 1671 and described it thus -
The suburbs are large, the prospect sweet, and other amenities, not omiting the flower-garden, which all the Inhabitants excel in of this City, the fabric of stuffs, which affords the Merchants, and brings a vast trade to this populous Town.

George Borrow in his semi-autobiographical novel Lavengro (1851) wrote of Norwich as-
A fine old city, perhaps the most curious specimen at present extant of the genuine old English Town. ..Thre it spreads from north to south, with its venerable hoouses, its numerous gardens, its thrice twelve churches, its mighty mound….There is an old grey castle on top of that mighty mound: and yonder rising three hundred feet above the soil, from amongst those noble forest trees, behold that old Norman master-work, that cloud-enriched cathedral spire …Now who can wonder that the children of that fine old city are proud, and offer up prayers for her prosperity?

In 1812, Andrew Robertson wrote to the painter Constable-
'' I arrived here a week ago and find it a place where the arts are very much cultivated....some branches of knowledge, chemistry, botany, etc. are carried to a great length. General literature seems to be persued with an adour which is astonishing when we consider that it does not contain a university, as is merely a manufacturing town.

Famous names associated with City

Throughout its history, Norwich has been associated with radical politics, political dissent and liberalism. Between 1790 and 1840, many of the famous names associated with the City flourished. These include- The Norwich School of painters, Harriet Martineau, Amelia Opie, George Borrow, William Taylor and Sir James Edward Smith .

Medical doctor, polymath scholar and encyclopedist with interests in Biblical scholarship and the esoteric. The stylistic purity and stupendous learning displayed in Browne's varied prose in the spheres of religion, science and art are minor classics of World literature. Major works available online at-

  • William Crotch (1775-1847) Composer, artist and teacher. Norwich’s Mozart. He gave daily public organ recitals aged two and a half. Crotch played ‘God save the King’ before the King aged three. He had performed at every major town in England and Scotland by the age of seven. Crotch became Organist of Christ Church Oxford and for 50 years he was Oxford’s Professor of Music. Unlike Mozart however his precocious musical talents failed to mature.

  • John Crome and Joseph Stannard along with John Sell Cotman established the first art movement outside of London. The Norwich School of painters were influenced by the achievements of Dutch landscape painting and the beauty of the rural hinterland surrounding Norwich.

  • The writer and traveller George Borrow (1803-1881). In his youth Borrow was resident at Willow Lane. He attended the Norwich King Edward school. Borrow recollects his youth in the city and conversations with the philologist and translator of German Romantic literature, William Taylor in his semi-autobiographical novel Lavengro.

  • The prison reformer Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was born in Gurney Court in Magdalen Street, and was one of several philanthropists associated with the city (her portrait is currently upon the new Bank of England £5 note).

  • Thomas Ivory, Neo-Classical Architect built the Assembly Rooms (1776) and the Octagon Chapel (1756)

  • Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) daughter of a Norwich manufacturer of Huguenot descent. She suffered from ill-health and deafness throughout her life. A devout Unitarian, her writings include Illustrations of political economy (1832-1834). Harriet Martineau supported the abolitionist campaign in the United States writing Society in America (1837). She translated writings by Auguste Comte. Her first novel was entitled Deerbrook (1839). A radical in religion she published the anti-theological Laws of Man’s Social Nature (1851) and Biographical sketches (1869).

  • Amelia Opie (1769-1853), Norwich author and Quaker. Opie wrote The dangers of Coquetry aged 18 and married John Opie in 1798. Her novel Father and daughter (1803) is about misled virtue and family reconciliation. Encouraged by Mary Wollstonecraft she wrote Adeline Mowbray (1804) an exploration of relationship between mother and daughter. Adeline Mowbray discusses sex in an unconscious and frank manner and delivers the moral that the desires of women as much as men can override their familes wishes and thus jeopardise their future. Most of Amelia Opie's life was divided between London and Norwich. She was a friend of Sir Walter Scott, Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Madame de Stael. In 1825 she drastically changed her life as a socialite, party-goer, and attendant at literary soiree’s, to become a Quaker. Late in her life she received George Borrow as a guest. After a visit to Cromer, a seaside resort on the North Norfolk coast, she caught a chill, retired to her bedroom and died a year later.

  • George Skipper (1856-1948), architect. Examples of George Skipper's Edwardian Art-Deco style architecture can be seen throughout the city. The splendid 'Royal Arcade', the Norwich Union Marble Banqueting Hall and the 'Hotel de Paris' at the seaside resort of Cromer are each fine examples of the so-called Gaudi of Norwich.


A university, the University of East Anglia was founded in Norwich in 1963. UEA adopted the city's motto of independence Do different.

Norwich Airport offers scheduled international services and holiday charter flights, and developed from the former RAF airfield at Horsham St Faith. This was once the home of Air UK, which grew out of Air Anglia and eventually became part of the Dutch airline KLM.

Satirical comedian Steve Coogan located his fictional, unbearably vain, cheesy broadcaster 'Alan Partridge' in Norfolk, specifically hosting the pre-breakfast show on the fictional independent station 'Radio Norwich'. It exploited the county's reputation as being somewhat detached from modern trends, past its prime, and rather peripheral to national life.

Other comic entertainers who have drawn comedy from that stereotype include Allan Smethurst 'The Singing Postman' and The Kipper Family lately represented by 'son' Sid Kipper.

A shift from the decline in industries in the city throughout the eighties and nineties to new entreprenurial activities has stablised the city's economy. Recent developments include the Norfolk and Norwich University hospital at Colney, the 'Forum', home of the Millennium Library and regional BBC broadcasting, and the Riverside entertainment complex. Future plans for development include a new stadium for the football club, 'The Canaries', along with another shopping mall on the site of the much-loved, recently demolished 'Caleys' chocolate factory.

Attractions for those re-locating include the city's relatively cheap housing market, the compactness of its centre for shopping , its relatively low crime rate, its relaxing pace of life and access to the bootiful Norfolk countryside, including the Norfolk Broads and extensive coast-line.

Norwich is occasionally portrayed by the media as a city out-of-step with national trends (see Alan Partridge); This is primarily due to its geographic isolation which has contributed greatly to its 'unspoilt' and insular character. However, the long-standing tolerance of the 'native' population's slow, but friendly absorption of all-comers, combined with its good rail links to Cambridge and London, its wealth of historical architecture and the continued growth of new retail and service businesses makes Norwich a popular place to visit and to live.

External links