On Saturday I took a day trip to the town of Norwich. It is a small medieval town about 1.5 hours east of Cambridge by train. A friend and I went there to walk around, see the town, and do some shopping. One of the first buildings that greeted us when we got to Norwich was the Norwich Castle. It was built high up on a hill so that it could defend the surrounding market town.
The Norwich Castle
After the castle, we walked into the center of the town where the market is. The market here sold everything, from clothes to dog treats. The stalls were permenant structures that opened up when the market was open. The Cambridge market is different, with temporary tents that cover the stalls, so this market was a little bigger and more established-feeling.
A fabric and textiles stall at the Norwich Market
After the market, we decided to walk around and see the “Norwich 12,” a set of 12 buildings throughout the town that highlight the history of the city from 1067 to the present day. The castle was the oldest building on the list. The next building we saw was the newest building on the list–The Forum. The Forum was built in 1999-2000 and houses the library, a branch of the BBC, and other community facilities. When we were there they were setting up for a concert outside the building. (And, note olympic decorations on the front of the building!)
The Forum: the most modern building on our self-guided historic building tour
The next building we visited was the Guildhall. This ornate building was built in 1407-1424 and shows Norwich’s status as one of the wealthiest villages in the area at that time. The Guildhall was built to house the government activities neccessary for the new self-governing city.
Next on the list of things to see were The Halls of St. Andrew’s and Blackfriars’. This is the most complete surviving friary complex in England. It survived the Reformation because the city bought it for the king to use as a common hall. The buildings have had many uses since then and now it hosts events like conferences, fairs, weddings, and concerts.
The Halls: St. Andrew’s and Blackfriars
Next was the most magnificent building of our tour, the Norwich Cathedral. The Cathedral was built by the Normans in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was a spectacular building both inside and out with beautiful architecture, stained glass, and statues. The pictures show it much better than I can describe with words.
More of Norwich Cathedral
Beautiful Stained Glass in Norwich Cathedral
After the Cathedral, we walked by several other buildings, including the St. James Mill. This is a typical English Industrial Revolution mill. We also saw The Great Hospital, The Assembly House, and The City Hall. We didn’t make it to all 12 of the buildings, but we did pretty well. After seeing all these historical places, we had lunch at The Waffle House, which served waffles with all kinds of different toppings, both savory and sweet. Then we took a little break for Starbucks before we checked out some of the shopping at the popular British stores of Topshop, Primark, and Dorothy Perkins.
St. James Mill (used to be a woolen mill)
Our final stop of the day was mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Built between 1884 and 1910, this is a relatively new building because it was built after Catholics were allowed to worship in England again. Between 1560 and 1829 Catholics were forced to worship in secret and priests faced execution and imprisonment. During this time, wealthy Catholic families sometimes continued to practice their faith in secret. The houses that these families lived in had secret areas where priests could hide if the house was searched. I still want to do some more research about the Catholic Church in England, so hopefully I will write another blog post later with more details. For now, though, it is interesting to know that this church is actually a lot newer than it looks because it was built after Catholics were allowed to practice their faith again.
St. John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral