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MARKET TOWNS OF NORFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Norwich in 1839

NORWICH, a city and county of itself, in the county of Norfolk, of which county it is the capital : 97 miles north-east of London, in a direct line; 118 miles by the mail-road through Bishop Stortford, Newmarket, Bury St. Edmund’s, and Thetford ; or 113 miles by the other mail-road through Chelmsford, Colchester, and Ipswich.

Norwich is not mentioned in history before the time of the earlier Danish invasions. It appears to have risen gradually from the decay of Caister or Castor St. Edmund’s, now an inconsiderable village about three miles south of Norwich, but anciently a British and subsequently a Roman town, under the name of Venta Icenorum. An old distich records that

‘Castor was a city when Norwich was none,
And Norwich was built of Castor stone.’

It is probable indeed that during the time of the Romans the site of Norwich was covered by the waters of the estuary or arm of the sea which at that time penetrated with its many ramifications the eastern coast of the island, and extended, it is likely, to or beyond the town of Venta. By the gradual accumulation of alluvial matter, islands were formed in this estuary, and its waters were divided into several channels. It is probable that even as late as the period of the Norman conquest what is now the lower part of the city consisted of such islands. During the existence of the separate kingdom of the East Anglia, their kings had erected, upon what was then a promontory on the shore of this estuary and is now the Castle Hill, a royal fortress ; and as it is probable that by this time the branch of the estuary which flowed up to Venta either was dry or had become so shallow as to be little available for navigation, the merchants and fishermen deserted Venta to seek new abodes under the protection of the castle, and thus formed a town which, from its situation relative to their former town, obtained the name of North-wic (wic, in Latin vic-us, a habitation, or group of habitations), the northern station or town. Norwich became a place of some importance under the Anglo-Saxon princes, and had a mint. Blomefield, in his ‘History of Norfolk,’ vol. ii., p. 4, notices the coins of several Saxon princes, Alfred, Athelstan, Edmund I, Edred, Edward the Martyr, and Ethelred II. The circumstance of Alfred coining money here is remarkable, as at the date of this coinage (about 872, according to Blomefield) the government of East Anglia could only have just come into his hands, upon the extinction of the East Anglian dynasty in the person of St. Edmund, and the country either was or had just been in the military possession of the Danes. In the invasion of the Danes under their king Sweyn, A.D. 1004, Norwich was taken and much injured by them. It soon however recovered from this blow, and was in the time of Edward the Confessor a flourishing town, having 1,320 burgesses and twenty-five parish churches. It may be questioned if at this time it was exceeded in wealth and population by any place in England, except London, and perhaps York. In the Conqueror’s time the castle of Norwich with was entrusted to Ralf de Guader, earl of Norfolk ; but he rebelling against the king (A.D. 1075), and being defeated, took shipping at Norwich and fled into Bretagne. His wife, who valiantly defended the castle, was obliged to capitulate. The constableship of the castle, with the earldom of Norfolk, was then conferred on Roger Bigot, or Bigod, to whom, on strong presumptive evidence, the erection of the present keep has been ascribed. On the accession of William Rufus the city was damage by this earl Roger Bigod, who held the castle for Robert of Normandie, William’s elder brother. On the peace of 1091, Roger was pardoned and retained his offices. In his time and probably by his encouragement the bishopric of the East Angles was removed from Thetford to Norwich (A.D. 1094), and the foundations of the cathedral were laid by Herbert Lozinga, or Losinga, the bishop. The Conquest and the rebellion of Guader had however materially injured the town, for at the Domesday Survey (A.D. 1086) the number of burgesses was only about half the number in the Confessor’s time. Henry I granted the citizens a charter (A.D. 1122), and soon after, this the Flemings began to settle here, and introduced the worsted manufacture. The castle remained (except for a short interval in the reign of Stephen) in the hands of the Bigod family, until the reign of Henry III. Hugh Bigod, being in the interest of young Henry, son of Henry II, took the city by assault (A D. 1174), with the aid of a body of Flemish troops. Henry II, to reward the loyalty of the citizens who had resisted this attack, restored or confirmed their privileges by a charter which is still extant, and which is one of the oldest in the kingdom. In the time of King John, Roger Bigod having joined the insurgent barons, Norwich Castle was seized by the king. Soon after John’s death it was taken by the dauphin Louis, but on the peace which followed his departure, it was restored to the Bigod family, by one of whom, about A.D. 1224, the castle was surrendered to the crown. It was subsequently committed to the charge of the sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. In the early part of the same reign (A.D. 1220) the citizens had received authority to fortify their city, but they did not act on the permission till long after (A.D. 1294), and the fortifications were not fully completed till above a century afterwards ; and in the mean time, in 1267, the insurgent barons took and plundered the place and did great damage. The walls of the city were embattled, with twelve gates and forty towers. In 1272 great disturbances broke out between the monks and clergy and the citizens, in consequence of the disputed jurisdiction of part of the city, and on account of these disturbances several citizens were executed, and the city for awhile lost its charter. In the reign of Edward III the Flemings settled here in considerable numbers, and carried on the worsted manufacture. In the reign of Richard II (A.D. 1381) the popular tumults which agitated nearly the whole country broke out in Norfolk, and the mob entering Norwich, and being headed by John the Litester, or Dyer, committed great outrages, until they retired to North Walsham on the approach of Henry Spencer, the warlike bishop of Norwich. In A.D. 1403 Henry IV separated the city of Norwich from the county of Norfolk, and made it a county of itself. During the subsequent reigns the city does not seem to have advanced in prosperity, and in the reign of Edward VI. A.D. 1549) it suffered from the rebels under Ket, the tanner of Wymondham. In the earlier years of Elizabeth’s reign the Flemings, who fled from the persecutions of the duke of Alva, settled at Norwich to the number of 4,000, and much increased the prosperity of the town by the introduction of the bombazine manufacture. In the civil war of Charles I Norwich sided with parliament ; and as the king had no party in this district, no contest took place. No public event of interest has occurred since that period.

The county of the city of Norwich extends about 4 miles from north to south, and as many from east to west ; the town itself is not exactly in the centre of this district, but rather to the north-east, and extends about a mile and a half in length from north-west to south-east, and from three-quarters of a mile to a mile in breadth. It is of irregular form, and very irregularly laid out. The streets are narrow and winding ; some of them follow the line of the ancient walls, which are partly standing, though the ditches have been filled up and the gates pulled down. Those parts of the walls which remain are in very dilapidated condition ; in other parts they have been entirely demolished and the site built upon. The town stands on a considerable space of ground for its population, the houses being much intermixed with gardens, so that it has been designated ‘a city in an orchard.’ The market-place is one of the most spacious in England. The streets are paved, lighted with gas, and watched under the provisions of a local act, and the principal streets have flagged footpaths. Many of the houses and other premises are well built ; the best are in the market-place and its vicinity ; those situated in the precincts of the cathedral are large and handsome, and are chiefly occupied as private residences. The increase of buildings has been of late years very considerable, principally on the west side of the town. The modern parts are well built. The river Wensum enters Norwich on the north-west side, and winds partly through, partly round the town, until it finally leaves it on the south-east side : it is crossed by at least ten bridges in the town or close to it. The county of the city contains forty-four parishes or hamlets, and part of a forty-fifth (Sprowston) ; of these, thirty-three are entirely comprehended in the town ; the remaining twelve are partly or altogether in the rural portion of the county.

The most interesting of the public buildings are the castle and the cathedral. The site of the former was probably occupied by the castle of the East Anglian kings : it is a natural eminence, augmented perhaps by the earth thrown out from the excavations made at or preliminary to its re-erection by the Normans. The ancient and present state of this castle was described by Mr. Wilkins of Norwich (Archaeologia, vol. xii., pp. 145, et seq.), A.D. 1795, and more recently (A. n. 1834) by Mr. J. W. Robberds, also of Norwich. It had three nearly circular concentric lines of defence, each consisting of a wall and ditch, enclosing a ballium or court : beside these there were the keep, the only part now standing, in the innermost ballium ; and a barbican, or outwork, to defend the entrance. The whole comprehended an area of not less than twenty-three acres. The outer ditch has been filled up from time immemorial, but some faint traces may yet be observed at some points. The middle ditch was more recently levelled, and the traces of it remain in the descent of 18 or 20 feet in some private yards. The inner ditch and the bridge over it still remain : the ditch is enclosed by an iron palisade, and planted ornamental shrubs and trees, in the midst of which stands a newly-erected shire-hall, in the Tudor style. The bridge is 150 feet long, and has one arch of 40 feet span (or 43 feet, Wilkins) : it is supposed to be the largest and most perfect arch remaining of what has been popularly but erroneously termed Saxon architecture. The wall of the inner-most ballium has been long destroyed, but there are the remains of two round towers, part of the original gateway at the inner end of the bridge. The area of the inner-ballium is level, but, from its superior elevation, commands an interesting view of the city and surrounding country. Round its verge there is a public walk, at the foot of a modern wall, faced with granite and capped with battlements of freestone, which, except where interrupted by the keep, encloses the central part of the area. In this central part is the keep, a substantial quadrangular building, the western and southern sides of which are upon the line of the enclosing wall, and are consequently open to the public walk. The keep is 110 feet 3 inches from east to west, including a small tower, through which was the principal entrance : from north to south it is 92 feet 10 inches : its height to the battlements is 69 feet 6 inches. The interior comprehended two floors, a basement 24 feet high, with walls in one part 13 feet thick, faced with flint, and almost destitute of ornament. The upper part is faced externally with stone, and is much ornamented. The building maintains its ancient form externally, but the architectural ornaments are much impaired by time : the inner part has been so much altered, in order to adapt it to the purpose of a gaol, to which it has been long applied, that the original arrangement of the apartments can scarcely be traced. The entrance tower, of richly ornamented Norman architecture, known as Bigod’s Tower, has lately been restored. The eastern front has also been renovated, but is partly hidden by the incongruous addition of a modern county gaol. Mr. Wilkins ascribes the erection of the keep to the Anglo-Danish king Canute ; but later writers, on better ground, ascribe it to Roger Bigod.

The foundation of the cathedral was laid, A.D. 1094, by Herbert Losinga, or Lozinga, the bishop in whose time the see was removed from Thetford to Norwich ; but he finished only the choir and tower : succeeding bishops added the other parts of the building : the spire was added by Bishop Percy, A.D. 1361. Lozinga laid the foundations of a Benedictine monastery at the same time as those of the cathedral ; the monks of this monastery were engaged in frequent contests with the citizens, and in these conflicts the cathedral received considerable damage. The monastery was completed in 1101 : its revenues at the dissolution were £1,050, 17 shillings, 6 pence gross, or £978, 19 shillings, 4 pence clear. A few traces of the buildings remain.

The cathedral consists of a nave with side-aisles, two transepts without aisles or columns, a choir occupying part of the nave and the area under the tower, an unoccupied space east of the choir, a chancel with two side-aisles continued round the circular east end of the choir, several chapels, a tower and spire at the intersection of the transepts with the nave, and a cloister, nearly perfect, on the south side of the church. The length of the whole building from east to west is 411 feet ; the breadth at the transepts 191 feet ; the breadth of the nave and side-aisles is 71 feet. The cloisters, with the included space, form a quadrangle with the sides not quite parallel, but averaging between 175 and 176 feet each. The height of the tower and spire, with the weathercock, is 313 feet. The plan is almost wholly Norman ; the east end and some of the chapels are circular. Compared with some other cathedrals, that of Norwich is small size and meagre in embellishment, but it comprises many forms and features of singular and unique character. There has been a lady-chapel eastward, but it is now destroyed. The exterior of the cathedral in many parts presents a decayed appearance, from the loose and friable character of the stone of which it was built ; and buildings or other encumbrances prevent it froth being seen to advantage on any side except the west. The nave, central tower, and eastern portion present a continued line of Norman work of excellent character : the east end is a very fine composition : in its aisles are some good Norman groined roofs ; and the tower, both inside and outside, presents one of the best specimens of ornamented Norman extant. The architecture of the nave is very bold, and the arches of the triforium are very large. There are various insertions of later styles : the destroyed lady-chapel was of early English ; the spire is of decorated English or early perpendicular ; the cloisters present a series of work from early decorated to perpendicular, and a considerable portion of the west front is of perpendicular character. There is a fine font, and various portions of the screen-work and several of the monuments deserve attention. The chapter-house has been destroyed. There is a good doorway, and some lavatories of good work in the cloisters.

On the north side of the cathedral and connected with it is the episcopal palace, a large and irregular edifice, built by different prelates ; there are in the garden some remains of the ancient hall of the palace, now in ruins. Near the west end of the cathedral is the free school (formerly the charnel-house), containing some good ancient work ; and not far off are two ancient gates, St. Ethelbert’s Gate, of decorated English character, and the Erpingham Gate, of late perpendicular ; both valuable specimens of their respective styles.

The parish churches of Norwich are more numerous than in any other city in England except the metropolis ; they amount to thirty-six. Some of them are valuable specimens of ancient architecture. Those of St. Bennet, St. Ethelred, and St. Julian have round towers : these towers are usually considered to be of early Norman date, but their original openings have been so disturbed by alteration, that their period and style cannot be exactly ascertained. Several of the other churches retain portions of good ancient work amidst much mutilation and addition. The church of St. Michael Coslany is of mixed character; part is early English and part of perpendicular character ; in the latter the tracery mouldings and other embellishments are carved in stone, and the interstices filled up with flints. The churches of St. Andrew, St. George Colegate, St. Giles, St. John Sepulchre, St. Lawrence, St. Michael at Plea, St. Saviour, and St. Stephen are all handsome churches, of perpendicular character, some of them with lofty and elegant flint and stone towers. But the most conspicuous church is that of St. Peter Mancroft, a large and fine perpendicular church, with a lofty tower and handsome windows. There are some other buildings which are the remains of ecclesiastical edifices. The nave of the church belonging to the monastery of the Dominican or Black Friars is now the common hall of the city, called St. Andrew’s Hall ; the choir, long used as the Dutch or Walloon church, with the convent kitchen, dormitory, infirmary, and other parts, were lately used as a workhouse. St. Giles’s Hospital (popularly the Old Man’s Hospital) comprehends portions of the ancient church of St. Helen’s. There are numerous dissenting places of worship.

The Guildhall is a large old building, erected in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, and since repaired or altered ; it includes convenient courts for holding the city assizes and sessions, and contains some good paintings and some other articles of interest. The new city gaol is a massive and appropriate building ; there is also a bridewell ; the shire-hall, in the castle ditch, is a brick building in the Tudor style, cased with cement ; the new county gaol, in connexion with the castle, is a commodious building.

The following shows the increase of the population of the county of the city of Norwich in the course of the present century:-1801, 36,832 ; 1811, 37,256 ; 1821, 50,288 ; 1831, 61,116. The population in 1831 comprehended 529 families, chiefly engaged in agriculture, 9,153 in trade and manufactures, and 4,848 not included in either of the above classes. The number of houses in 1835 was 14,201, of which 13,132 were inhabited and 1,069 uninhabited. The number of houses rated to the poor was 4,525, of which 1,271 were rated under £10 a year ; 1,978 above £10 and under £20 ; 768 above £20 and under £40 ; and 508 at £40 and upward. The most important trade of the town consists of the manufacture of silk and worsted into shawls, crapes, bombazines, damasks, camlets, and imitations of the Irish and French stuffs. These manufactures are chiefly carried on by hand-looms and at the habitations of the workmen. There are however some manufactories. These branches of industry have recovered of late years from the depression under which they had long laboured (of which depression 1811 was the middle point) : nearly 3,800 adult males were engaged in them in 1831. There are three yearly fairs, and two weekly markets, viz. on Wednesday and Saturday ; the latter, which is the principal, is a great market for corn and cattle. The corn-market is held in a large handsome building, ‘the Corn Exchange,’ erected for the purpose, and the cattle-market is in an open area adjacent to the castle. Trade in agricultural produce, coal, and other heavy goods is carried on by means of the river, chiefly in lighters of from fifteen to twenty tons burden. Since the 30th September, 1833, Norwich has been accessible to sea-borne vessels of small tonnage. To facilitate the approach, an entrance has been made from the sea into the navigable channel of the Waveney, by Lake Lothing, and a ship-canal from the Waveney to the Yare or Wensom. There is another short canal near Norwich. These various cuts with the river are navigable for vessels not exceeding ten feet draught of water. The harbour, lock, and sluice at the sea entrance of this navigation are extensive works. The assizes and quarter-sessions for the county of Norfolk are held at Norwich.

Norwich claims to be a borough of prescriptive origin. The corporation has however received many charters from successive kings. Before the late Municipal Reform Act it comprehended a governing body of a mayor, 24 aldermen, and 60 common councilmen, with the usual officers, and nearly 3,500 freemen. By the Municipal Reform Act the borough was divided into eight wards, and has 16 aldermen and 48 councillors. The city has returned two members to parliament from the time of Edward I. The constituency in 1835-36 comprehended 4,102 electors, freemen or £10 householders. The limits of the borough, both for municipal and parliamentary purposes, comprehend the county of the city, and have been no further altered than by the addition of some extra-parochial districts within the boundary. Norwich is the principal place of election and a polling-station for the eastern division of the county of Norfolk.

The benefices in the city amount to thirty-four : they are, with one exception, in the archdeaconry of Norwich, and are all small, only two exceeding £200 yearly value ; a very few are provided with glebe-houses.

There were in 1833, in the county of the city, thirty-eight infant or dame schools, with above 900 children ; twelve boarding-schools, with above 300 children ; and one hundred and twenty day-schools of all kinds (including national and other charity schools), with 5,200 scholars ; giving in all one hundred and seventy schools, with about 6,400 children in them, or about one-tenth of the population of the county of the city at the time. There were forty-four Sunday-schools of all classes, giving instruction to about 4,400 children.

There are several dissenting places of worship. The charitable institutions and charities are very numerous. (Reports of Charity Commissioners.) The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, a large and elegant building of red brick, erected in 1771, can receive above a hundred patients. It is partly supported by a triennial musical festival in St. Andrew’s Hall. The Norfolk and Norwich Lunatic Asylum is at Thorpe, about two miles from the city. There are a dispensary, an eye-infirmary, a lunatic hospital, an asylum and school for the blind, and several hospitals or almshouses for the indigent : St. Giles’s hospital, the Boys’ and Girls’ hospitals, and Doughty’s hospital are the chief of these. St. Giles’s hospital (of which the management is in the corporation) has estates worth nearly £6,000 a year. There are a master and 165 inmates, besides servants. The free grammar-school is maintained out of this endowment.

Of institutions for the promotion of knowledge, the Norfolk and Norwich Literary Institution is the chief. It has a valuable well-selected library, for which a fine new building has been erected or is now erecting. The Norfolk and Norwich Museum is kept in the building connected with this institution, but is an entirely separate establishment. There is an annual exhibition of paintings by a society of artists. There are two newspapers published at Norwich. The Norwich Union Fire and Life Insurance Offices are institutions of considerable importance.