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Norwich (England)

Last modified: 2012-01-20 by rob raeside
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[Flag of Norwich] image by Ivan Sache, 4 September 2004

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About the Flag

I was in Norwich last week for a conference, and I had there the opportunity to see the municipal flag of Norwich and the flag of the University of East Anglia. Information on the historical city of Norwich can be found on the Historical Norwich website. The most interesting facts are:

"Norwich, the capital of Norfolk, was once second only to London in importance, growing out of several small Saxon settlements at the lowest fording point along the river Wensum. Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, Norwich was one of the largest towns in England. The conquerors built a castle and a cathedral, and established a new market place which is still in use today. In 1194 Norwich was granted the status of a city, while in 1404 it was given the privilege of appointing a mayor, two sheriffs and aldermen to run its affairs. Norwich grew in size and wealth during the Middle Ages. It was the principal market for one of the most densely populated parts of England and by the late fourteenth century was the chief centre of worsted manufacture. It remained one of the most important textile manufacturing centres until the nineteenth century. Over the centuries Norwich has been the scene of many riots and has suffered attacks by rebels. Perhaps the most famous incident was the 1549 Kett's Rebellion. Robert Kett and his brother led a mob protesting against the enclosure of land in Wymondham; they threw down the fences in the locality and then, with growing confidence, marched on Norwich itself. Kett and his followers camped on Mousehold Heath at first. The King's army eventually defeated the rebellion and the rebel leaders were hanged. Despite the damage done to the city during this and other rebellions, and heavy bombing during World War II, Norwich has survived the ravages of time well. Fortunately the most important historic buildings escaped severe damage, but some areas were badly hit. Much of historic interest remains within the boundaries of its ancient walls.

Little is known about the early defences of Norwich, although traces of them have been found. In 1253 a bank and ditch were constructed around much of the city, the eastern boundary being the river Wensum - an area of nearly a square mile was enclosed. Between 1297 and 1334 walls, mainly of flint, were built on the bank. Twelve gates gave access to the city (and also facilitated the collection of tolls). These gates were well fortified and supplied with great catapults, mostly paid for by a rich citizen, Richard Spynk, and  wardens kept them in good repair. The gates were considerably damaged during Kett's Rebellion in 1549, but they were repaired and remained standing until the Corporation ordered their demolition between 1791 and 1808, partly in the interests of hygiene, but mainly because of the expense of their maintenance.

For many centuries Norwich has been dominated by its great castle, a symbol of military and political control founded by the Normans between 1066 and 1075 to help keep their newly acquired kingdom in subjection. The conquered Saxons were forced to raise a mound, some twenty-one metres high and surrounded by a dry ditch, at the end of a prominent ridge of land. A wooden palisade protected the timber buildings on top of the mound, while to the south and east of the mound were yards or baileys that protected by banks and ditches. The castle was built at the King's expense and was held for him by Earl Ralf of East Anglia. In 1075 Ralf, with two other earls, plotted against William I. The King was told of this, and Ralf fled to Brittany, leaving his wife Emma to hold Norwich Castle against the King's army. After three months she surrendered, but in recognition of her bravery was allowed to join her husband. About 1100, when the mound had settled, masons began to build the stone keep - it took about twenty years. Entry to the keep, which is some twenty-seven metres square by twenty-one metres high, was up a flight of stairs to a vestibule at first-floor level and through the grand entrance into the great hall. This large room, where most of the garrison lived and slept, took up much of the northern half of the keep. Beyond it were a pantry, a small private kitchen and latrines. The garrison's food was cooked in a separate kitchen outside the keep. The southern half of the keep was divided into a number of smaller rooms, including a chapel, the great chamber, with a large fireplace, used by the governor and a private room for the King to use when he visited. Most of the ground floor was used for storage, but at one end under the chapel were dungeons reached only by holes in the first floor. Two sets of spiral stairs led from the ground floor to the first floor, then to the wall gallery and finally to the battlements. The outside walls of the keep, which is one of the largest Norman keeps in this country, were decorated with arcading, a most unusual feature and used perhaps because it was built as a king's palace.

Norwich, it is said, once had an inn for every day of the year and a church for every Sunday. Medieval Norwich had 57 churches within the city walls, and 31 still exist. Most are Perpendicular in style and are skillfully built of local flint. In the heart of Norwich stands the Cathedral, separated from the busy streets by flint walls and entrance gates, but still a living part of the city. The Cathedral was begun in 1096, the vision of Herbert de Losinga, first bishop of Norwich. Building work on the Cathedral, a bishop's palace and the associated Benedictine monastery continued throughout his life, but the Cathedral was not finally consecrated until 1278. The building is mainly of Caen stone, a pale, honey-coloured limestone brought over from Normandy, but Norfolk flints form the core of the Cathedral, and stone from Northamptonshire was used for medieval additions. This great church has a Norman ground plan and walls, and a Perpendicular roof and spire, added after a fire caused by lightning destroyed the wooden roof and spire in 1463. The Cathedral spire is 315 ft (96m) high - second only in height to that of Salisbury. Below the tower, late medieval flying buttresses support the roof at the east end. The decision to replace the wooden roof of the nave with stone vaulting was taken by Bishop Walter Lyhart. Running from east to west, the stone ribs are joined by painted bosses that tell the story of the Bible from the Creation to the Last judgment.

Norwich lies at the centre of a great agricultural area, and thus for many centuries it has been an important market town. The Saxon market was situated in Tombland, but after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a new market was established in the area known as 'Mancroft'. By 1300 the main market in Mancroft stretched from Guildhall Hill almost to St Stephen's Church. Vegetables, fish, meat, bread, cloth, shoes, livestock and many other commodities were each sold in their proper place. A small area was kept for the use of smallholders who brought in produce from the county for sale on market days. By the late seventeenth century the market was becoming so congested that a new site for livestock sales had to be found, and in 1738 the livestock market was moved to the 'castell dykes', below the castle mound. There it remained until 1960, when it was transferred to Harford Bridge. The main market continued to flourish. At one end stood the meat and fish markets, separated by buildings from the rest of the area where not only vegetables, but also 'cloth, hats, shoes, stockings, rope, books, etc. were sold. In the 1930s the whole market was remodeled to accommodate the City Hall, it was opened in 1938. Also by the Market Place is the Guildhall, with its fine chequered flint work. This was built between 1407 and 1413 after the Charter of 1404 was granted to Norwich, allowing it a mayor and two sheriffs. Used for civic and judicial functions for five hundred years, the Guildhall became the city's Tourist Information Centre in 1986. Norwich Market Place today is still one of the largest and finest of its kind in England.

In 1804, Jeremiah Colman moved from Bawburgh to Norwich and bought a flourmill. By 1814 he could afford to set up in Stoke Holy Cross watermill, and here he began the manufacture of mustard, which today has become one of Norwich's most important industries. When Colman died, the business was taken over by his great nephew, Jeremiah James Colman, who moved it into Norwich to be nearer the railway. The new Colman works at Carrow were opened in 1856.

The founder of the Norwich School of painting, John Crome, was born near the castle in 1768.

Admiral Lord Nelson, although born at Burnham Thorpe some miles away, attended Norwich School, within the precincts of the cathedral."

The flag of Norwich is hoisted over the city hall, which is "a copy of a famous Swedish building" (our guide could not tell us exactly which one). The flag is a banner of the municipal arms, that is a red flag with a white castle above a yellow leopard. According to Ralf Hartemink: "The City's arms are based on a seal of the XVth century. They were recorded and confirmed on 27th May 1562. The shield depicts Norwich castle and the royal lion of England. This was traditionally granted to the city by King Edward III (1327-1377). In past centuries the arms were shown surmounted by a fur cap and supported by angels. These additions were of no authority and are no longer used."
The image above was made using the coat of arms from Ralf Hartemink's website. On the real flag, the charges are of a more simplified design. I am not sure that the leopard has there a blue tongue and claw. The coat of arms of Norwich can be seen in several places in the city, including the Guildhall mentioned above.

Ivan Sache, 4 September 2004