Norwich Part I: History and Architecture

Norwich was founded by the Saxon North Folk (“North Folk” became “Norfolk”) at the confluence of the Yare and Wensum rivers sometime around the 6th century.

My first visit to Norwich and it rained. After days of unseasonable heat and blue skies in early September the forecast for the Saturday that we intended to visit the county capital of Norfolk was sadly correct. But since the main attraction was the cathedral it didn’t deter us and in fact it worked out rather well. I am going to split the posts up otherwise they would be far too long and photo heavy, so posts about the cathedral itself may be a while down the line.

Today we are going to walk through the city from the bus station to the cathedral. We left the car at Thickthorn Park ‘n Ride and took the bus into the city centre as we had no idea of where to park in the city. It proved to be a good idea. The first destination was the information office at the Forum so we could pick up a map or two! Getting there was a bit tricky though, as we took a wrong turning, but imagine my delight when we found ourselves outside the delightful Art Nouveau Royal Arcade which was one of my ‘must see’ sights.


Exiting the arcade we discovered the market place; the City Hall, the Guildhall and the church of St Peter Mancroft.

Market Place
Market Place

The pair of heraldic lions are shown roaring with right paws raised and long necks with a stylised Assyrian inspired treatment of their manes. The artist is Alfred Hardiman and they were installed in 1938. Winged lions in this pose forms part of the Norwich City Council’s coat of arms, on a shield under a stylised castle.


Whilst standing taking photos of the impressive lions and equally impressive doors we were invaded by Stormtroopers! Fortunately they didn’t attack us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After visiting the Forum we headed off towards the cathedral quarter before the rain started again. We briefly explored part of the Norwich Lanes district walking down Lower Goats Lane and St John Maddermarket (I found the street names in the city to be enchanting).

We passed several of Norwich’s 31 remaining Medieval churches, more than any European city north of the Alps. Some are still used as churches, others have diverse uses such as a dance studio, bookshop and café, martial arts academy, antiques and artist’s studios among them.

Leaving the Lanes behind we entered the Cathedral Quarter and Tombland. Elm Hill is a famous cobbled street so we duly wandered down it and found ourselves outside the Bear Shop which was holding an Open Garden event as part of the Heritage Open Day weekend event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a quick look around the small terraced garden crammed full of late flowering blooms we finished up in Olivia’s on the corner with Wensum Street for a welcome cup of coffee. This historic part of Norwich reminds me very much of York’s Shambles area.

Erpingham Gate
Erpingham Gate

On reaching Tombland* you will see Erpingham Gate (1420), an imposing gateway which frames the west front of the cathedral. It is decorated with the coat of arms of Sir Thomas Erpingham and members of his family together with his motto ‘yenk’ (“think”) on small scrolls.

Instead of accessing the cathedral via this gate we carried on along Tombland to the St Ethelberts Gate passing by the memorial to Edith Cavell, who was born just outside Norwich, and a pair of distinctive statues.


Samson and Hercules (original wooden figures 1789) guard the entrance to the doorway of no. 16 Tombland while holding up the porch. They are set on low plinths and armed with the jawbone of an ass (Samson) and a club (Hercules). Unfortunately layers of paint disfigured the replicas through the many ‘change of use’ and recently they have been painted red to reflect the change of use of the building into a restaurant specialising in lobster dishes.


We entered the cathedral grounds through St Ethelbert’s Gate which is three storeys high, the uppermost once a chapel dedicated to St Ethelbert. The upper stage is decorated with three flushwork rose windows – the result of the restoration by Wilkins in 1815. The stonework and carvings were replaced under the supervision of Sir Bernard Feilden in 1964 including the man fighting a dragon – and the Virgin and Child by Frank Beverley.

*Tombland does not mean burial ground; the name comes from two Old English words meaning ‘open ground’, or an empty space. This open ground was used as the main market place for Norwich; the hub of commercial activity and town life. Use the link for more detailed information about this historical area.


Published by


I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

39 thoughts on “Norwich Part I: History and Architecture”

  1. Rain in Norfolk, the ‘driest county in England’? Surely not?
    Well, you rightly shame me with your excellent photos of a city that I live so close to, yet have never carried a camera into. For those who did not know, Sir Thomas Erpingham commanded the archers at the battle of Agincourt. The village that bears his name lies to the north of Norwich, above Aylsham.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Well now that you have a lovely new digital camera Pete, you have no excuse! It is very much a photogenic city and I only touched on a small part of it – there is lots to discover. And thank you for the additional information, that’s very interesting.

    1. There is more of the arcade coming shortly, it is stunning! And the cathedral of course, now that is going to take several posts, there is so much to take in.

  2. I’ve always been interested in Julian of Norwich, but I didn’t really know anything about the city at all. This was fascinating, and I think you’re right that the rain didn’t hurt a thing. These old, old buildings often shine in the rain.

    1. We were lucky in that the rain held of until we were inside the cathedral and then stopped again when we came out! The rain did make the buildings brighter, and the grey sky helped with the colours too.

  3. Fabulous! A huge round of applause, Jude 🙂 It’s a good-looking city and you totally did it justice. I’d have liked more time for a wander myself, but I believe I had 2 young nieces giving me the guided tour. 🙂 The flintwork on the buildings is superb, isn’t it? So distinctive! Nice to have that Open Garden too. You might remember I managed that at the Bishop’s Garden in Norwich. And the Royal Arcades are simply gorgeous. Looking forward to more. Many thanks for the link, hon.

  4. I never knew Norwich was such a rich and diverse city. Probably because I have never been there! I like the name of one of your shops you photographed: Stoned and Hammered. I reckon that would be a great name for a pub!

  5. Thanks for taking me around with you. When we visited Norwich, I liked tha arcade a lot. Plus the cathedral grounds and – of course – the cathedral itself.

  6. I feel I’ve just been on holiday with you. Love the architecture and the attention to small detail–and so much of it. I’d love to visit there. Sigh. ❤ ❤ Fantastic photos, Thank you for sharing, Jude. 🙂

  7. Another beautiful city I have little knowledge of, I’ve been there once but not at a good time of my life. So thanks for these great photos, the slide show is fantastic. I know Norwich was bombed in the war but it looks like a lot of the historic buildings were saved, luckily. If I ever go back I think I’d have to fly, it’s such a drag of a drive.

    1. It’s a long drive west to east as it involves circumnavigating London in one way or another. I’m beginning to realise how far the tip of Cornwall is from anywhere!!

Comments are closed.