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Published: July 14th 2017
Day 3 - Today felt a little bit like being in Nafpaktos and trying to make a connection between a number of unrelated facts. What is the connection between yellow and green canaries , the cook Delia Smith and Edith Cavell? The answer - Norwich . Norwich City Football club is called the Canaries and they play in yellow and Green. Delia is their chairman and Edith Cavell was born here.
I came to Norwich in the mid 70's. We had the mad idea of going to watch Liverpool FC playing Norwich. We often went to both home and away matches in the late 1970's. The distance didnt matter . It could be Manchester or Birmingham or equally Norwich. Sadly though we only drove a mini which was notoriously slow and we didnt get to the match until half time. I think they let us in for nothing.
This time we are staying on the Camping and Caravan Club site a few miles out of the city. As we travel down Martineau Road we are reminded of railway bridges near to the Motor GP circuit of Misano which are too low to get under. Suzy just about gets under
this one. The site is well hidden behind a high wall, surrounded by mature trees and a large green gate. Inside it looks small with motorhomes and caravans parked up in an orderly fashion. We are greeted by the very friendly wardens. We drag them away from their sojourn. They were enjoying a well deserved afternoon break. They had cleaned the toilet block, cut the grass and completed all the tasks for the day. The only thing left to do was greet visitors as they arrived on site and show them to their plot. We were on plot 13. Unlucky for some if you believe that sort of thing. Our neighbours were out and we none to the other side . There were allotments behind us. Not much noise from there then. We were issued with a booklet which gave us the usual information on site rules which are more lax than those from the Caravan and Motorhome Club. Our host apologised about the toilets "A bit basic " she said . They were fine I assured her. Been in worse. They were clean and tidy and had everything in them you could want. Also issued was a description of
the route to the local park and how to walk into town or where to catch the bus from . The aptly named Cavell Road named after the nurse who was executed during the First World War for helping prisoners escape.
We settled in to the less formal regimented site and made plans for the morning. The hum of the London Train which rumbled past us every 20 mins sounded and felt therapeutic once we got used to it.
We were woken up by the sound of airplanes above us. A low grumble. We thought we must be on the flight path to Norwich airport but instead what we saw were two jet fighters high in the sky having a dog fight. We watched with fascination as they weaved past each other with what looked like inches apart. They screamed and grumbled at each other . Our necks ached from watching them in their daring antics high up in the atmosphere.
It was time though to go for the bus. Our map told us to walk to the end of our road and turn right at the Cock Public House. Sadly the pub had like many others
long closed . We walked under the railway bridge past the houses advertising honey for sale. To the traffic lights where we crossed the busy main road. We could not have missed the bus stop. After 9.30 the elderly can use their bus passes . Standing by the stops were the elderly with their shopping trolleys and then us . The not so elderly who also had the benefit of concessionary travel. In to Norwich for nothing . That is a result . The money can be spent on a coffee when we get there.
The bus takes us through council estates, over railway bridges and the river. Eventually we arrive in the city . Where to get off? Our travel tip from the campsite was to get off at the first stop in town if we wanted anything other than the Castle or the Cathedral.. We needed a bank so we got off with the throngs of elderly folk , found the bank and then moved on to the coffee shop. There were buses everywhere. All full. Buses going to the hospital and further afield. We could have gone on one to Wroxham and the Broads had we
wanted to. They were all painted the colours of their routes. The Purple Route, the Green route. - the buses green or purple . The blue bus plied the blue route.
Our first stop was the castle. Perched high on a hill it was impossible to miss it. Perfectly square it looked as if you could take a tape measure and it would equal on all sides and equal in height. A perfect cube shape punctuated by rows of Romanesque windows. The stone work looked perfect too as if it had been cut by machine in the 21st century. It looked both pretty and forbiding . A reminder of the utilitarian nature of the building built to impress and to conquer. The locals must have hated it . A symbol of a lost king, of a king they neither wanted nor knew. A regime that was brutal. A language used that they did not understand and laws they did not want to adhere to. Latched on to the side was a Victorian Gothic addition which housed the museum inside.
We walked around the building first. It was an amazing structure one that had not been destroyed in the
Civil War and had luckily not been damaged by bombing in the Second World War. It was intact and structurally sound.
We entered at the ground floor and I had a quick reccy. Was it worth the £8.75 entrance fee I wondered? Hard to say . I asked what was inside . We could see the keep on the main floor and the keep balcony and if we wished pay extra for a tour of the battlements or for one of the prison below. There were exhibitions in the museum - an eclectic collection of items from around Norwich and Norfolk. In other rooms Egyptian remains, an art gallery, a section on the decorative arts , one on natural history and one on Boudica and the Romans. We decided to bite the bullet and go in. After all we probably wont come this way again.
The castle was founded by William the Conqueror some time between 1066 and 1075. It originally took the form of a motte and bailey which was the common practice of that period. Norwich was one of 48 castles mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086 and the castle was built over a Saxon
cemetery. The stone keep was probably built between 1095 and 1110..
In about the year 1100, the motte was made higher and the surrounding ditch deepened. The Normans introduced Jews to the city and they lived close to the castle. Outside the doors is a stone memorial to William of Norwich . The young boy was murdered and the Jews were blamed for his death. In Lent 1190, violence against Jews erupted in East Anglia and on 6 February it spread to Norwich. Some fled to the safety of the castle, but those who did not were killed.
The castle was used as a gaol from 1220, with additional buildings constructed on the top of the motte next to the keep. These buildings were demolished and rebuilt between 1789 and 1793 by Sir John Soane the London architect and more alterations were made in 1820. The use of the castle as a gaol ended in 1887, when it was bought by the city of Norwich to be used as a museum. The conversion was undertaken by Edward Boardman, and the museum opened in 1895.. Its collection the usual Victorian philantrophical assortment of exhibits. Reading the blub our thoughts
that the stones of the building looked very fresh we later found out that it was refaced by a mason using Bath Stone. Still it was pretty impressive .
Inside we passed through the original doorway. A beautifully decorated Romanesque doorway that led into a vast open space. Photographs did it no justice with its towering slender pillars which supported the new roof. Along the walls were displays about the castle, life in Norwich, display cases full of silver artifacts and religious items and even an illuminated manuscript. The guide sat by the Bigot Tower waiting for his time to take visitors up on the roof. We saw Roman and Saxon hoards in the Anglo Saxon gallery. Some of the finest worked gold was there in the Snettisham Hoard . Iron Age precious metal found locally between 1948 and 1973. The hoard consists of metal , jet and over 150 gold torc fragments dating from BC 70. Though the origins are unknown, it is of a high enough quality to have been royal treasure of the Iceni a local tribe. In 1985 there was also a find of Romano British jewellery and raw materials buried in a clay pot in AD 155, This treasure the Snettisham Jewellers Hoard was magnificent with thick torcs. We missed the Egyptian displays. Probably the kids in there made it impossible to see. The natural history galleries were filled with fossils, rock samples , stuffed birds and shells. The sort of thing any self respecting Victorian would want in his collections. Decorative arts included porcelain and teapots plus a collection of clothing mainly dresses. The final room was dedicated to Boudica and her struggle against those pesky Romans.
We had had a lovely morning browsing the treasures within the museum. Small but perfectly formed it made a pleasant way to spend a morning. Rather liked Norwich and what we had seen so far. Our next stop was to wander through the Art Deco arcade opposite the castle grounds. Decorative stained glass filled every inch of the building. Small shops lined both sides. In a tiny way it reminded me of the shopping arcades of Milan although not so large and certainly not so grand. On the other side we found the Guildhall. A small flint built house right in the middle of the city.
Norwich Guildhall on Gaol Hill was constructed between 1407 and 1413 and served as the seat of government from the early 15th century until 1938, when it was replaced by the newly built City Hall. The City Hall dominates the city with its huge utilitarian clock tower. Not as attractive as the Guildhall . The Guildhall is the largest surviving medieval civic building in the country outside London.
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