After enjoying recent weekends away in Bristol and Birmingham we decided to turn our attention to Norwich and take a look at the county town of Norfolk. Norwich lies approximately 100 miles (161 km) north east of London in East Anglia. We travelled by train and coming from the north of England, I took a Virgin East Coast train to Peterborough from where I changed onto an East Midlands service to Norwich. For passengers arriving from London there is a direct service from Liverpool Street station. As I was leaving the station, I glanced back to admire the attractive building which is built around a central clock tower with matching wings on each side.
It was a deceptively sunny, yet extremely cold afternoon as we followed signs to the city centre, crossing a bridge over the River Wensum on our way. Mid-way between the station and the centre lies the Travelodge Norwich Riverside where we had reserved a room, so after leaving our luggage we were able to start exploring.
Our first stop was to the Jarrold’s Department Store on London street. This family business is one of the most renowned landmarks in the city and has been trading in its current building since 1823. After taking a look around the store, we enjoyed a light lunch in the Pantry restaurant located on its top floor.
Across from Jarrold’s lies the Guildhall on Gaol Street. This historic building was constructed between 1407-1413 and served as the seat of city government from the early 15th century until the 1930’s. At the time of the building’s construction and for much of its history, Norwich was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in England. Nowadays the Guildhall is used as an events venue and cultural centre.
Continuing our walk, we browsed the outdoor market on Gentleman’s Walk with over 200 stalls selling everything from fresh produce to household items. Not far from there, we strolled along the Norwich Lanes which are a series of alleyways, courtyards and open spaces. It was fascinating wandering along these car free lanes with their delightful array of small independent shops, cafes and galleries.
Just off Tombland (originally Norwich’s market place) we arrived at the entrance archway to the Anglican Cathedral. Set on a 44 acre site, the cathedral is one of the finest Romanesque churches in Europe boasting the second tallest spire in England, after Salisbury and unlike many other cathedrals in the U.K. admission is free.
We strolled through Cathedral Close with its many listed buildings and beautiful tranquil spaces. Clusters of snowdrops were a promising sign that spring was around the corner.
Entering the cathedral through the largest monastic cloister in England we admired the stunning medieval high arches and roof bosses. The interior of the cathedral was beautiful with its sumptuous decorations, elaborate carvings and stained glass windows.
I was fascinated by the unusual font and read about its history. The confectionery company Rowntree Mackintosh was a major employer in Norwich and in 1969 Rowntree took over the Mackintosh factory which made toffee. The factory eventually closed in 1994 and later gifted to the cathedral two of its burnished, copper bowls formerly used in the manufacture of toffee. These bowls now form a shining, modern font with historic links to the city and its certainly a talking point to be able to say you were baptised in a toffee making bowl.
On our way back to the hotel we made one final stop at the Royal Arcade. Designed by George Skipper and opened in 1899, it is one of the most beautiful covered streets in Norfolk. At the time of construction, arcade shopping was immensely popular and browsing the shop windows today, it’s home to many high-end retailers.
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