Situated in the north east of Norfolk around a 100 miles north east of London , Norwich originated in the 10 th century AD as three small Anglo-Danish settlements on the banks of the River Wensun that gave it a natural defence barrier. Already then, Norwich, or Northwic, as it was called then, was a bustling trade town. Tombland in the city centre had a market supported by the town's international trade port, named after the Saxon word for marketplace toom. Today Tombland is a cobbled square lined with mature trees and host of a number of old mainly Georgian buildings. By the end of the 11 th century the population of Norwich was as high as 5000 and for many decades it was the second city to London .
In 1096 shortly after the arrival in England of the Normans I 1066, work began on Norwich 's Cathedral by Bishop Herbert de Losinga on orders from the Pope. Built of stone brought in from Normandy , it was finished merely 25 years later, during the Bishop's life, but wasn't actually consecrated until 1278. Since then this magnificent Gothic structure, whose spire is the second highest in Britain after that of Salisbury Cathedral, has towered over Norwich , surviving riots, natural disasters and bombing during the Second World War. Inside are various artistics and architectural wonders to be seen such as the carved misericordes found in the choir stalls.
Of particular note is Bishop's de Losinga's lavish throne, which is situated in its original position, in the apse behind the high alter. Dating from the 18 th century, it is the oldest in England . The Cathedral cloister, begun in 1297 and finished in 1430, are the largest in England and contains over 400 coloured bosses, each depicting a biblical scene. The Cathedral close, the largest close in England , sets the Cathedral apart from the bustle of the city. It is best entered through one of two magnificent gates ST. Ethelbert's Gate, built by the town's people as a penance for one of their assaults on the monks, and Erpingham Gate, intended as a monument to Sir Thomas Erpingham. The latter is an exceptionally magnificent Perpendicular monument depicting the 12 Apostles and the Virgin Mary as well as Sir Thomas himself. The Close, once a monastic precinct, contains many medieval buildings, notably the Old Bishop's Palace, which now forms part of King Edward's School, of which Admiral Horatio Nelson, the victor against Napoleon, was its most famous pupil.
Norwich 's castle is another of the city's prominent features. The present stone keep is a 12 th century Norman construction which replaced an earlier earth and wooden structure. Its clan and neat appearance, however, dates back to a Victorian restoration during the 1830s. At the beginning of the 14 th century, with the construction of the city's defence walls, the castle was de-militarised and until 1887, when it was turned into a museum, served as the county jail. The museum now offers a fascinating and wonderful insight into the methods of punishment down the centuries. A wall around the battlements provides excellent views of Norwich in all four directions and the castle's gardens, which now occupy the old moat, make for a very pleasant spot to while away the time.
Walking around Norwich's numerous cobbled streets, one encounters several other interesting and beautiful buildings. The most notable of these is the Church of St Peter Mancroft , one of the largest and most impressive parish churches in England . On the neighbouring Hey Hill sits a statue of the physician, Sir Thomas Browne who is buried in the church. During the summer, this area is host to lively musical and theatrical events. Not far from St Peter Mancroft lies the old Market Place, a site which has hosted a market for several hundred years. To the right of the market as one faces the City Hall is the 600 year old Guildhall, built by forced labour at the beginning of the 15 th century. Until 1938 it was the seat of local government but part of it was used as a prison. Many famous inmates were imprisoned here, notably Thomas Bilney, the Tudor heretic and the Robert Kett, who rebelled against Edward VI in 1549. Both were duly executed. The Guildhall also houses the Spanish Admiral's sword, taken by Lord Nelson after the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797.
One of Norwich 's most attractive features is its maze of ancient cobbled streets filled with buildings dating from various centuries. The narrow Tombland alley takes one from Tombland and into Princes Street which winds towards St. Andrew's, a former Dominican priory, which was bought by the Norwich Corporation during the Reformation of the 16 th century, which turned it into a public hall that is in use to this very day for concerts and other events. Up from Princess Street is a small crossroads where lies Elm Hill, which contains a variety of buildings dating from Tudor to Georgian times. The street is particularly attractive at night when it is beautifully lit by an award-winning lighting scheme that captures the atmosphere of the early Victorian period.
At the point Elm Hill emerges from Tombland lies the Maid's Head Hotel, allegedly the oldest inn in Britain and the site of the first regular stage-coach service between Norwich and London . At short walk from the inn is the river Wensun along which there is a footpath that passes several notable buildings such as the Cow tower, built in 1378 as a boom tower to control the flow of river traffic and is Norwich 's oldest surviving brick building. Further along sits Bishop's Bridge, the only surviving medieval bridge in Norwich and alongside it is Lollards' Pit where heretics were burnt and where bitter fighting ensued during the Kett rebellion. A well deserved rest is earned on Morosehold Heath, an expansive area of wooded heathland just across the Bishop's Bridge. A short walk takes one to St. Jame's Hill from where splendid views of Norwich can be seen.
Norwich is a charming and exciting city. Its numerous historical and cultural attractions as well as the beauty of its location makes for both a place for an extended stay and a base from which to explore the surrounding beauty of North Norfolk .