Visiting Norwich in Norfolk, England: Cathedral, Castle, Dragons and More

Updated on August 14, 2018
annart profile image

I love visiting places unknown, at home and abroad. Learning about history and traditions helps us understand the world around us.

Apart from being the county town of Norfolk in East Anglia, Norwich is classed as a city because it has a cathedral, my favourite in England. Lying on the River Wensum, it is a thriving city with that atmosphere and buzz only a university community can create; young and vibrant with lots to do and see and plenty of places for social gatherings, including eating houses, cafés and drinking holes. I visited a few years back and enjoyed a pleasant lunchtime, sitting on a triangle of grass near the centre, munching a sandwich and watching the world go by.

Norwich is pretty, boasting many mediaeval buildings, intriguing lanes which lure you into exploring them all and an impressive Norman castle high on a mound above the city centre. It also has a 'dragon' connection!

Allow me to be your tour guide!

Norwich Cathedral, Green and Close (With Museum)
Norwich Cathedral, Green and Close (With Museum) | Source

Norwich Cathedral, Close and Green

Approach the pretty heart of the city, which houses the cathedral, via one of two gates within the ancient city walls, and you will arrive in The Close, a large verdant area opening out before you. A cathedral close usually includes church buildings such as the cloisters, as well as historical houses for notaries and residents.

This close is not only one of the largest in England but also in Europe. More people live in it than in any other close. A statue of Horatio Nelson also stands there, close to the cathedral. Nelson, famous for his rôle in the British Navy - particularly for trouncing the Spanish Armada - was born in Norfolk and loved the area.

In a similar style to Salisbury, though smaller, the elegant structure of Norwich Cathedral sits at the edge of the close, where it is shown off to perfection. Dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity, it is the cathedral church for the Church of England Diocese of Norwich and also one of 12 heritage sites in the city.

St Ethelbert's Gate (one of the two gates to the close).
St Ethelbert's Gate (one of the two gates to the close). | Source
Erpingham Gate (one of the two gates to the close).
Erpingham Gate (one of the two gates to the close). | Source
Statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, guarded by a dragon (or is it the other way round?!), within the verdant close.
Statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, guarded by a dragon (or is it the other way round?!), within the verdant close. | Source

Construction of Norwich Cathedral

This Norman cathedral was begun in 1096 and constructed out of flint and mortar. It was faced with cream-coloured Caen limestone (from France) and completed in 1145 with a feature that can still be seen today, a Norman tower. At that time it was topped with a wooden spire covered in lead. The present stone spire was erected in 1480 and is the second tallest in England despite having been struck by lightning in 1169, which set the building on fire.

Cloisters

Be drawn in by the peace and quiet!
Be drawn in by the peace and quiet! | Source

Cloisters and Cathedral Interior

The large cloister - the second largest in England next to Salisbury Cathedral's - has over 1,000 bosses (one at the centre of each vault), including several hundred carved and ornately painted ones.

With its pale, serene, cream stone, the interior of this perfectly proportioned building echoes the exterior, soothes the eye and invites us to explore, onward and upward. The intricate, delicate decoration of both stone and wood lifts the soul and calms the spirit.

Pastels and warm woods echo that calm. Light pours in, refreshing and invigorating. It is my favourite cathedral, though several come a close second.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Exquisite, Embossed CeilingPeaceful Blue and Green BannerMore Subtle, Striking ColoursCentral Escalating Art, Crowned in Warm WoodAn art Installation called 'Shadows of The Wanderer', makes us think about how we react to others.
Exquisite, Embossed Ceiling
Exquisite, Embossed Ceiling | Source
Peaceful Blue and Green Banner
Peaceful Blue and Green Banner | Source
More Subtle, Striking Colours
More Subtle, Striking Colours | Source
Central Escalating Art, Crowned in Warm Wood
Central Escalating Art, Crowned in Warm Wood | Source
An art Installation called 'Shadows of The Wanderer', makes us think about how we react to others.
An art Installation called 'Shadows of The Wanderer', makes us think about how we react to others. | Source

Norwich Castle

We go now towards the edifice that dominates the town; the square, defiant, immovable Norwich Castle. Its imposing position high above the city centre makes it a focal point and provides an opportunity for vigorous exercise with its steep access. The climb is well worth the effort for the panoramic view from its walls.

Norwich Castle is a mediaeval royal fortification in the city. It was founded in the aftermath of the Norman conquest of England when William the Conqueror (1066–1087) ordered its construction. It was his only castle in East Anglia and is another of the 12 heritage sites in Norwich.

The cream stone of its square, obstinate construction belies its warring purpose, appearing to offer a warm welcome.

Norwich Castle
Norwich Castle | Source
Towering Over Town
Towering Over Town | Source

'Snap' the Dragon

According to Norwich Museum,

Snap was part of a well-established civic ceremonial which continued, though modified, until the early 20th century. It included the snapdragon as the herald of the grand annual Guild Day procession held at the inauguration of the new Mayor. The cavorting dragon was an obvious source of amusement and entertainment for the crowds watching the procession, but in earlier times it had a religious significance as part of a pageant performed by the Guild and Fraternity of St. George of Norwich.

The history of the snapdragon is linked to that of the Guild of St George (1385-1548), whose aims were religious, charitable and social. These aims were

  • to honour St. George and keep his feast day,
  • to pray for its members past and present and
  • to offer alms to the poor and needy within the Guild.

As we know, it was St George who killed the mythical dragon.

'Snap, Snap, steal a boy's cap, give him a penny and he'll give it back.'
'Snap, Snap, steal a boy's cap, give him a penny and he'll give it back.' | Source

Stranger's Hall Museum

Strangers' Hall is a museum of domestic history in Norwich. It is a Grade I listed building, a Tudor house which has been occupied by many of the city’s prestigious citizens, such as merchants and mayors, since the 14th century. At the time, it was owned by Thomas Sotherton, a grocer, mayor and entrepreneur.

The hall got its name from its subsequent constant flow of visitors - or strangers - from far and wide. The eastern areas of England had, and still do have, a strong connection with Holland, and the first ‘strangers’ were Dutch, Walloon and Flemish refugee weavers who fled in the 16th century when the Dutch Calvinists were persecuted by the Catholics. Elizabeth I’s Protestant England welcomed them, and judges regularly came in 1748 to hear court cases.

The hall became derelict by the 1890s. Luckily, Leonard Bolingbroke, a local solicitor, bought it, saved it from demolition and furnished the house with his antiques. In May 1900, he opened it to the public as a folk museum. In 1922 he gave both museum and contents to the City. It is now managed by the Norfolk Museums Service.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Entrance to Strangers' HallInner CourtyardMore of Inner CourtyardDecorative Lintel SupportEntrance Door and Passage Looking out Onto Street
Entrance to Strangers' Hall
Entrance to Strangers' Hall | Source
Inner Courtyard
Inner Courtyard | Source
More of Inner Courtyard
More of Inner Courtyard | Source
Decorative Lintel Support
Decorative Lintel Support | Source
Entrance Door and Passage Looking out Onto Street
Entrance Door and Passage Looking out Onto Street | Source

Dragon Hall and the National Centre for Writing

Dragon Hall is a Grade I listed mediaeval merchants' trading hall located in King Street, Norwich, close to the River Wensum. Since 2015 it has been home to 'The National Centre for Writing, Norwich' (Norwich is a UNESCO City of Literature).

The hall is thought to be unique as the only such trading hall in Northern Europe owned by one man. The building stands close to the River Wensum on King Street, the main road through the city in the 15th century, with river transport links via Yarmouth to the Netherlands and the Germanic countries. Dragon Hall is now acknowledged as one of Norwich’s mediaeval architectural gems and an iconic building in the city.

The National Centre for Writing’s mission is ‘to put literature at the heart of contemporary culture. Through pioneering and collaborative projects we explore the artistic and social power of creative writing and literary translation.’

Dragon Hall National Centre for Writing
Dragon Hall National Centre for Writing | Source

Norwich's Inspiration for Writers

When I visited in 2015, there were statues of dragons placed at locations in and around the centre, as part of a regular fundraising scheme, which enthralled and delighted at every turn. With the National Centre for Writing and the city’s mediaeval ‘Snap’ Dragon, as well as its modern statues, it seems that Norwich is as much an inspiration to writers as are its dragons.

I am grateful to Norwich for taking me on a tour which taught me about history, geography, architecture, mythology and art.

Another 'Snap' in the Shopping Mall
Another 'Snap' in the Shopping Mall | Source

East Anglia

Have you visited any of these places in the East of England?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Ann Carr

    Comments

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      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        10 months ago from SW England

        Thanks Lawrence. Glad you enjoyed this. Yes, Nelson was well known for many things.

        Ann

      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 

        10 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Ann

        Really enjoyed this hub. Nelson defeated Napoleon as well as a Spanish fleet at Trafalgar.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        10 months ago from SW England

        This is now re-edited, despite HP's mistakes, so I'm hoping it survives!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        10 months ago from SW England

        The HP team is editing this at the moment, so I can't do that myself - they have made lots of errors so please bear with me until I can sort it out!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        10 months ago from SW England

        It was great fun, Jackie. I couldn't stop taking photos as I went round. I do try to keep it in perspective though, so I make sure I don't 'live' it all through the lens!

        Thanks for your visit this morning.

        Ann

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        10 months ago from The Beautiful South

        I can only imagine the fun you had here and taking all these beautiful photos. Wish I were there!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        10 months ago from SW England

        Yes, the Jorvik Museum is brilliant. I went 2 weeks ago with my sister who lives there. We didn't book but I think we were lucky!

        Enjoy!

        Ann

      • Glenis Rix profile image

        GlenR 

        10 months ago from UK

        Jo, you might like to visit the Jorvik Centre when in York. Book in advance though, as queues can be long.

        https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        10 months ago from SW England

        Yes we have so much history to explore here, most of it pretty well intact. I love all the cathedrals & castles. York has a fine Minster &

        Lincoln a little to the south has a spectacular cathedral. Happy travels, Jo!

        Ann

      • jo miller profile image

        Jo Miller 

        10 months ago from Tennessee

        I haven't visited this part of your lovely country yet, but would love to. This would be a great guide. I am returning for short visit to your this fall--to London and York--but probably won't make it to this area.

        One of the things I'm always impressed by when I visit Europe is that you have castles and cathedrals older than our country.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Hello Linda! Yes, it has many twists and turns and I found it fascinating. Thanks for popping in today.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Yes Liz; from what my sister says Lincoln is lovely but I've never visited. It's on my list! Thanks for reminding me.

        Ann

      • Glenis Rix profile image

        GlenR 

        11 months ago from UK

        Lovely photographs, Ann. I don't believe that I have ever visited Norwich, and it was a surprise to learn that it has the National Centre for Writing. Inspired by your article, I may have to make time to stop off here when next visiting the East coast.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        11 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thank you for this enjoyable tour, Ann. I wish I could visit Norwich in person. It looks like a very interesting place to explore.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        11 months ago from UK

        I echo your comment about the dirt. It was hot as well last weekend. I'm off to Lincoln later this week, which I suspect is more up your street.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        London is one place I know reasonably well as I was brought up on the coast, 50 miles due south of the capital. It's not one of my favourites, though, as I'm not really a fan of huge cities and it's so dirty these days. It certainly merits at least a week though!

        The smaller ones such as York are more my cup of tea and Norwich fits the bill nicely.

        Thanks for your valuable input.

        Ann

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        11 months ago from UK

        I share your feelings. There's never enough time to do all that we want to do or see all that we want to see. I was in London last weekend and could do multiple trips there!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thank you very much, Liz. It's certainly somewhere I want to revisit as one day is not enough by any means. I'd like to visit the castle and also more of the countryside around this area.

        I feel guilty that I don't know enough about my own country so we're trying to broaden our national horizons!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Linda, for such a lovely comment. I'm so pleased you enjoyed this. It's true that these buildings took years, sometimes centuries, to build and the artistry is truly stunning. In their quest to become closer to God, though, sadly many lost their lives as there was little scaffolding and no health and safety precautions. If you wanted the pay, you got on with the job!

        I always appreciate your visits and your input, Linda. Have a great week!

        Ann

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        11 months ago from UK

        This is a very useful article. I visited Norwich a few years ago when my daughter had an interview there. Time was short, but we managed to wander around the center and go to the cathedral.

      • Carb Diva profile image

        Linda Lum 

        11 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Ann, there is so much to take in here. I could probably spend hours just gazing (or gaping) in awe at the architecture of the cathedral. How such intricate structures could be made 1,000 years ago, without computer-aided drafting, without power tools is simply beyond comprehension. I was especially taken by the banner. I have made over 2 dozen banners for my church but nothing as large or intricate. Truly stunning.

        Thank you for sharing this tour with us. Your photography is wonderful and as always your descriptions pull us right in.

        Blessings on you.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Dora. I know what you mean by going up to see the Castle; I didn't have time to do that myself so I'd like to go back and explore more another time.

        Good to see you today.

        Ann

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        11 months ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks for the tour. I'm curious to climb the hill so I can get closer to Conquering Castle. Yes, there are many visuals for writers' inspiration. Your presentations are well done!

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Now I'm jealous, bill! Our blistering hot has just disappeared after a fair few weeks and we're back to rain although the humidity hasn't abated.

        Yes, lots of history everywhere and I never tire of it. Much more to explore in my home country, so watch this space!

        Hope your Sunday is soporific and sociable, bill.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thanks for the visit, Jackie. So glad you enjoyed this. It is a relaxing place as it's so open, clean and friendly. The buildings are stunning. Maybe one day...?

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Hello, Mike! Glad you enjoyed this. Yes, England has many beautiful places, many of which I've never seen so we're trying to concentrate on exploring our own more. Where have you visited in England?

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thanks for the visit, Mary. You should go if you can manage it, seeing as both you and your husband are keen! It's one of our best cities; I'm only sad I didn't see it sooner.

        Ann

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        11 months ago from Olympia, WA

        This is one of those cities even uneducated Americans have heard of. The cathedral is stunning. I am always left to wonder how long it must have taken to build such a building, all the man hours involved in constructing a truly stunning piece of architecture....whoever oversaw such a job certainly had his hands full for decades, I would think. You are so fortunate to live in a country where every turn around a corner presents you with such history and magnificent views.

        Thank you for sharing on this blisteringly hot Sunday!

        bill

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        11 months ago from The Beautiful South

        So very beautiful and although I am sure I will never visit there in this life I love reading about them and seeing pictures. I find places like this so relaxing to gaze upon, almost hypnotic.

      • mckbirdbks profile image

        mckbirdbks 

        11 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Ann - I very much enjoyed this photographic tour. England always looks beautiful. Tying the tour in with dragons is clever. I have been lucky enough to visit England twice.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        11 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        I have still to visit this place and I am sure my husband would also love to go given Nelson's statue there. What a stunning Cathedral that is. I had an acquaintance before who was born in Norfolk so there are enough reasons to visit the place.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thanks, Flourish. Glad you enjoyed our journey to Norwich. I took so many photos that day, it took ages to sort them out! We were lucky with the weather too, which made the places shine even more.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, whonu. Glad you enjoyed this little trip.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        11 months ago from SW England

        Hello, Eric! Yes, I do enjoy my travels, at home and abroad. There is still so much to see. Thanks for popping by today.

        Ann

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        11 months ago from USA

        I enjoyed traveling along with you in this article both through your words and photos.

      • whonunuwho profile image

        whonunuwho 

        11 months ago from United States

        I enjoyed your wonderful tour of the cathedrals and all of the grand architecture. Great trip and thank you, my friend. Many blessings. whonu

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I just love your tours. Really great pictures. You must just love your travels.

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