City of Norwich
Norwich Norwich
Shown within Norfolk
Status: City (1195)
Government Region: East of England
Administrative County: Norfolk
- Total
Ranked 322nd
39.02 km²
Admin. HQ: Norwich
Grid reference: TG 232 085
ONS code: 33UG
- Total (2004 est.)
- Density
Ranked 152nd
3,203 / km²
Ethnicity: 96.8% White

Arms of Norwich City Council

Arms of the City of Norwich
Gules a Castle triple-towered and domed Argent in base a Lion passant guardant Or.
Leadership: Leader & Cabinet
Executive: Labour (council NOC)
MPs: Charles Clarke, Ian Gibson
Post Office and Telephone
Postcode: NR
Dialling Code: 01603

Norwich (pronounced variously "Norritch", "Norridge", and "Naaridge") is a city in East Anglia, in Eastern England, and the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk.

The suburban area of the City expands beyond its borough boundary, with large populated areas on most sides, particularly Thorpe St. Andrew on the eastern side. The Parliamentary seats cross over into adjacent local government districts. The population for the Norwich Urban sub-area was 174,047 in 2001. It is the 27th largest settlement in England using this measure. However, the population for the whole built-up area was 194,839 in 2001 (census figures), up 5.1% from the 1991 figure of 185,420. It is the 32nd-largest urban area in England.



The Romans had their regional capital at Venta Icenorum on the river to the south which is now at modern day Caistor St Edmund.

Early English/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 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. Mersian coins and sherds 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 due to the fact that it had its own mint. The word Norvic appears on coins across Europe minted during this period, 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 south 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 around 5-10,000. It also records the site of an Anglo-Saxon church in Tombland, the site of the Anglo-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 sea. Quern stones, and other artifacts, from Scandinavia and the Rhineland have been found during excavations in Norwich city centre which date from the 11th century onwards.

The main area of the city south of the Wensum was destroyed by the construction of the Norman castle (see Norwich Castle) during the 1070s creation of a "New" or "French" borough. During the erection of the castle a new town was built up around it including the market place that is still present today.

In 1096 Bishop Losinga, then Bishop of Thetford, began construction of the cathedral. Limestone was imported from Caen. To get it up to the cathedral site a canal was cut from the river all the way up to the east wall. He then moved his See there to what became the cathedral church for the Diocese of Norwich. The bishop of Norwich still signs himself Norvic.

Middle Ages

By the middle of the 14th century the City Walls, about two and a half miles (4 km) long had been completed. These, along with the river, enclosed a large area, larger than that of the City of London. In the early part of the fifteenth century, Julian of Norwich wrote her famous work.

In 1144 the Jews of Norwich were falsely accused of ritual murder after a boy (William of Norwich) was found dead with stab wounds. The story was turned into a cult, with William acquiring the status of martyr and crowds of pilgrims bringing wealth to the local church. On Feb 6, 1190, all the Jews of Norwich were massacred except for a few who found refuge in the castle.

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 medieval churches in Western Europe. Norwich Market had trading links from Scandinavia to Spain. Around this time, the city was made a county corporate.

The great immigration of 1567 brought a substantial Walloon community of weavers to Norwich. Norwich has been the home of various dissident minorities, notably the French Huguenot and the Belgian Walloon communities in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These immigrants were known locally as 'strangers' (there being a hall in the city called 'Strangers' Hall' for temporary residence, now a museum) and it seems that generally they were accepted as part of the community without animosity. Primarily through trading connections with mainland Europe, ideas of religious reform and radical politics were introduced to Norwich.

English Civil Wars to Victorian Era

The eastern counties were profoundly Parliamentarian in nature and Norwich followed suit, at the cost of some discomfit to the Lord Mayor, a Royalist, and the Bishop Joseph Hall a moderate but targeted because of his position.

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, Norwich City F.C., nicknamed "The Canaries".

Until the 19th Century, Norwich remained a major provincial capital and, alongside Bristol, was rated closely after London in terms of importance and wealth.

Norwich's geographical isolation was such that until 1834 when a railway connection was established, it was often quicker to travel to Amsterdam by boat than to London. The railway was brought to Norwich by Morton Peto who also built the line onto Great Yarmouth.

Present day


The University of East Anglia on the outskirts of Norwich was one of the New Universities founded in 1963, following the Robbins Report. UEA adopted the city's motto of independence Do different and is especially well-known for its creative-writing programme; established by Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson, its graduates include Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan. The university campus houses the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. The city also has an art college, the Norwich School of Art & Design, located in the centre. Additionally, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on the city's periphery at Colney was opened in 2001.

Norwich City skyline
Norwich City skyline

Norwich Theatre Royal has been on its site for nearly 250 years. The 1300-seat theatre hosts a mix of national touring productions including musicals, dance, drama, family shows, opera and pop.

Each year the Norfolk and Norwich Festival celebrates the arts, drawing many visitors into the city from all over the eastern England.

The Forum, designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners and opened in 2002 is a building designed to house the Millennium Library, a replacement for the Norwich Central Library building which burned down in 1994, and the regional BBC broadcasting offices. The building provides a venue for exhibitions, concerts and events, although the city still lacks a dedicated concert venue.

The Forum, housing (among other things) the Millennium Library and the BBC's Eastern England News Rooms
The Forum, housing (among other things) the Millennium Library and the BBC's Eastern England News Rooms

The Millennium Library contains the Second Air Division Memorial Library, a collection of material about American culture and the American relationship with East Anglia, especially the role of the United States Air Force on UK air bases throughout the Second World War and Cold War. Much of the collection was lost in the 1994 fire, but the collection has been restored by contributions from many veterans of the war, both European and American.

Recent attempts to shed the backwater image of Norwich and market it as a popular tourist destination, as well as a centre for science, commerce, culture and the arts, have included the refurbishment of the Norwich Castle Museum and the opening of the Forum. The proposed new slogan for Norwich, England's Other City, has been the subject of much discussion and controversy - and it remains to be seen whether it will be finally adopted.

Business and shopping

Norwich City Hall
Norwich City Hall
Norwich Market (before renovation)
Norwich Market (before renovation)

The city's economy, originally chiefly industrial with shoemaking a large sector, has changed throughout the eighties and nineties to a service-based economy. Norwich Union, an Aviva company, still dominates these, but has been joined by other insurance and financial services companies.

Norwich Market is an ancient market place, established by the Normans between 1071 and 1074, and is today the largest six days a week open air market in England. The market has recently undergone redevelopment and modernising.

New developments on the former Boulton and Paul site include the Riverside entertainment complex with nightclubs and other venues featuring the usual national leisure brands. Nearby, the football stadium is being upgraded with more residential property development alongside the river Wensum.

Castle Mall, a shopping mall designed by local practice Lambert, Scott & Innes and opened in 1993, presents an ingenious solution to the problem of sensitively creating new retail space in a historic city-centre environment - the building is largely buried underground and in the side of a hill.

The new Chapelfield shopping mall has been built on the site where the Caleys (later Rowntree Mackintosh and Nestlé) chocolate factory once stood. This opened in late September 2005, and is described as 'a major new shopping experience', featuring a new three-floor flagship House of Fraser department store. The new shopping mall, which was the largest to open in Britain in 2005, has been criticised as unnecessary and damaging to local businesses; its presence has prompted smaller retailers to band together to promote the virtues of independent shops.

Archant, formerly known as Eastern Counties Newspapers (ECN) is a national publishing group that has grown out of the city's local newspaper, the Norwich Evening News and the regional Eastern Daily Press (EDP).

Norwich has long been associated with the manufacture of mustard. Colman's was founded in 1814 and continues to operate from its factory at Carrow.


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, though these are associated with Norfolk in general and not just the City. These have been joined by The Nimmo Twins.

Independent radio stations are Radio Broadland (formerly Broadland 102) and Classic Gold Amber. BBC Radio Norfolk and the University of East Anglia's Livewire 1350 all broadcast to the city.

A new independent radio station, Radio Norwich, is now broadcasting test transmissions on 99.9 FM. There is also a thriving Community Radio station which is soon to begin its permanent tenure on the Norwich airwaves called Future Radio.

Norwich has a thriving music scene based around local venues such as the Norwich Arts Centre and the Marquee. The city is host to many bands that have achieved national and international recognition such as Bearsuit, Cord, Sennen, Magoo, KaitO and The Sadtowns. There are also some established record labels in Norwich such as Hungry Audio and Mummy Where's The Milkman.


The local football team is Norwich City FC, the "Canaries"; their ground is at Carrow Road. They have a strong East Anglian rivalry with Ipswich Town FC.

Norwich also has a rugby club, the Norwich Lions.


Norwich is occasionally portrayed by the media as a city out-of-step with national trends. This is primarily due to its geographic isolation which has contributed greatly to its "unspoilt" and insular character.

Despite this perception, Norwich has a long history of political radicalism and is by no means a conservative city. With 9 seats, Norwich City Council has the largest number of Green Party councillors anywhere in the country. The largest number of seats, however, is held by the Labour Party with 16; the Liberal Democrats are in second place with 12. The Conservative Party is currently in fourth place with only 2 councillors.

According to the 2001 census, 27.8% of respondents in Norwich stated that they were of "no religion", the highest percentage in England.[1]

There has always been a general tolerance of "incomers" by the "native" population of Norwich and Norfolk, though becoming a "local" is still reckoned to take decades. There are good rail links from Norwich railway station to Peterborough and London, and direct services to Cambridge were added in 2004.

A large proportion of the population of Norwich are users of the Internet. A recent article has suggested that, compared with other UK cities, it is top of the league for the percentage of population who use the popular Internet auction site eBay.[2]




Norwich is connected to Peterborough via Kings Lynn by the A47, the port of Ipswich by the A140, and Cambridge (and the motorway M11 to London) by the A11.


Rail links to the rest of the country are via London Liverpool Street Station and Peterborough. Local lines also run to destinations including Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Sheringham.

Norwich formerly had three stations running to a number of other local destinations, but now the rail terminus is at Thorpe Station.


Norwich International Airport is a feeder to KLM's Schiphol hub. Apart from that smaller national airlines fly to UK destinations and there is a strong holiday charter flight business. The airport was originally the RAF airfield at Horsham St Faith. This was once the home of Air UK, which grew out of Air Anglia and was then absorbed by the Dutch airline KLM.


The River Yare is navigable from the sea at Great Yarmouth all the way to Trowse, south of the city. From there the River Wensum is navigable into Norwich.

Travellers' 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 in it, 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 concourse of people and wares a full trade.

Norwich being a rich, thriving industrious 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 combing-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 omitting 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 houses, 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?

Borrow wrote far less favourably of the City in his translation of Faust-

They found the people of the place modelled after so unsightly a pattern, with such ugly figures and flat features that the devil owned he had never seen them equalled, except by the inhabitants of an English town, called Norwich, when dressed in their Sunday's best.

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 pursued with an ardour which is astonishing when we consider that it does not contain a university, as is merely a manufacturing town.

Famous names associated with the city

Throughout its history, Norwich has been associated with radical politics, nonconformist religion, political dissent and liberalism. Between 1790 and 1840, many of the famous names associated with the City flourished. These include:

Contemporary names associated with Norwich


Norwich is considered to have a wealth of historical architecture. The medieval period is represented by the 11th-century Norwich Cathedral, 12th-century castle (now a museum) and a large number of parish churches. During the Middle Ages, 57 churches stood within the city wall; 31 still exist today.[3] This gave rise to the common (in the city) saying that it had a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day. Most of the medieval building is in the city centre. From the 18th century the pre-eminent local name is Thomas Ivory, who built the Assembly Rooms (1776), the Octagon Chapel (1756), St Helen's House (1752) in the grounds of the Great Hospital, and innovative speculative housing in Surrey Street (c. 1761). Ivory should not be confused with the Irish architect of the same name and similar period.

The 19th century saw an explosion in Norwich's size and much of its housing stock, as well as commercial building in the city centre, dates from this period. The local architect of the Victorian and Edwardian periods who has continued to command most critical respect was George Skipper (1856-1948). Examples of his work include the headquarters of Norwich Union on Surrey Street; the Art Nouveau Royal Arcade; and the Hotel de Paris in the nearby seaside town of Cromer. The neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral on Earlham Road, begun in 1882, is by George Gilbert Scott Junior and his brother, John Oldrid Scott.

The city continued to grow through the 20th century and much housing, particularly in areas further out from the city centre, dates from that century. The first notable building post-Skipper was the city hall by CH James and SR Pierce, opened in 1938. Bombing during the Second World War, while resulting in relatively little loss of life, caused significant damage to housing stock in the city centre. Much of the replacement postwar stock was designed by the local authority architect, David Percival. However, the major postwar development in Norwich from an architectural point of view was the opening of the University of East Anglia in 1964. Originally designed by Denys Lasdun (his design was never completely executed), it has been added to over subsequent decades by major names such as Norman Foster and Rick Mather.

Twinned cities

The city is twinned with the following cities:


  1. ^ Census 2001 - Ranking (Ethnicity and Religion: No religion).
  2. ^ (2005-02-02). Norwich is eBay capital of UK. Press release.
  3. ^ Old Norwich - Churches. Historical Norwich.
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