northernvicarwalks – Norwich

Norwich Historic Churches Trust were having a day conference on Medieval Pilgrimage so I caught the early train across from East Midlands Parkway. Elaine joined me at Ely, and we crossed Norfolk together. It is a shame seeing so many signal boxes going derelict. We walked along the River Wensum to Pull’s Ferry – always one of my favourite walks. I also remember walking it with grandad when I was a lad. It’s a C15 building, named after John Pull who ran the ferry from 1796 to 1841 (makes you wonder how many times he crossed the river). The ferry house next door was built in 1647. Originally there was a canal built from the river up to the Cathedral for the transport of the stone – there must be a PhD in how stone was transported to these Cathedrals and how many canals were dug across the country.

We continued beside the school playing fields, then onto Bishopsgate and beside the Great Hospital, founded by Bishop Walter de Suffield in 1249. Sadly St Helen’s church was locked – see Simon’s wonderful website, We walked round the Cathedral perimeter wall, and stopped to pay our respects to Edith Cavell – excellent website at I did a series of articles about World War 1 in the GER magazine, and there is a fascinating article to be written about how the Country coped with her death and the death of Captain Fryatt, the GE shipping commander who was also shot.

I’ll write the church of St-Martin-at-Palace, the HQ of Norwich Historic Churches Trust, up later. Then we walked up Wensum Street, ate, and went for an explore. We walked past St Clement-at-Fyebridge, which was probably established around 900 AD, and enlarged about 500 years later – NHCT has produced a selection of leaflets, there are lots of walking tours around the City.

The Octagon Chapel on Colegate looks fascinating too. It stands on the site of St John Colegate and, in a typical ecumenical gesture, the NHCT leaflet tells me nothing about the Chapel! There is a superb website – – well done the local school. Then we went into St George Colegate – and I’ll blog that one separately.

Just along the road is St Michael Coslany, founded late C10 or early C11, but rebuilt in the C15. The east wall is, to quote one of the walking leaflets, “glorious medieval flushwork wall [where] cu white limestone has been inlaid with darker flint to create a patterned surface that echoes the arched forms and fine tracery of the large windows.” The Chancel flushwork is a Victorian copy. The church now houses a circus group, and I wasn’t brave enough to walk in and have a look (I might have ended up on a trapeze). Also known as St Miles, this is the church that used to house the Inspire Science Discovery Centre. The kids used to enjoy that – once we had a trip here for Gareth’s birthday (16 December) and had the place to ourselves. Happy memories!

We came down to the river by the Bullard Anchor Brewery – Founded by Richard Bullard and James Watts in 1837. There are lots of fascinating riverside buildings along here, but the frustration was the number of places where what looks like a riverside path peters out just round the corner. We saw one boat on the river – if Derby can make something of its waterside heritage and plan a waterboat service, Norwich should be able to. Many years ago I went on a Cambridge University Railway Club trip to Trowse Swing Bridge, and they swung the bridge for us – must see if I can find the photos. [Another job to add to the list of things to do while we’re locked down for Covid-19]. I also photoed St Gregory, and I’ve added those photos to the original blog.

St Andrew’s church has a North Porch that can be dated to 1467, about the same time as the lowest portion of the tower, then another building campaign started in 1499. The church was ready to be glazed by 1508, and Robert Gardener, who was thrice Mayor of the City, was one of those who left £10 for that work. Apparently the church is open for visitors for an hour on Sunday after the morning service “with a focus on teaching the Bible and the use of contemporary music” and on Thursday afternoons. Must visit on a Thursday!

Back over the river, and past St Edmund’s church. This church seems slightly marooned, and it was firmly locked, but it stands against the line of the Anglo-Saxon fortifications, the town’s protection against the Vikings. Edmund’s martyrdom was about 50 years before the church was built, so the dedication was probably a form of spiritual protection for the City. In medieval times, part of the king’s shirt, the one he was said to be wearing when he died, was held in a crystal casket here. Simon got inside in 2018 – – it’s now the Fishergate House of Prayer –

The walk back was lovely – daffodils, and the Cow Tower, which I don’t think I’d ever been to before. One of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses in England, built about 1398 to command a strategic point in the city’s defences. Nice bridge too. This is all part of the city I had never been to before. Back past Pull’s Ferry, and to Thorpe station.

Time for a leisurely coffee, then the train back to Ely and on to Nottingham and East Midlands Parkway. It had been a good day – 5 miles walked.

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