to 8 Sep Rediscover the Legend
to 8 Sep As & When: In the Waxing Crescent by Michael Lewis
to 29 Sep John Sell Cotman in Norwich & London
to 5 Oct Norwich in ’59 Ward
to 20 Nov Sacred &/Or Secular: a Heritage History of St Peter Hungate
to 5 Jan 2020 Lines of Sight: WG Sebald’s East Anglia
to 12 Jan Tor Falcon: Rivers of Norfolk
Check also Norwich’s tourism website.
What to see
You’ll find accounts of Norwich in Towns of Two Halves (and of 91 other places: order the book now for £8 from firstname.lastname@example.org). For additional information plus shopping, eating out etc there’s Visit Norwich and Visit Norfolk.
Links to follow in Norwich include:
John Jarrold Printing Museum
Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell
Norwich Arts Centre
Norwich Catholic Cathedral
Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum
St Peter Hungate
Strangers Hall Museum
Norwich Cathedral has plenty to be proud of, and in the digital age its web address is not its least remarkable distinction: www.cathedral.org.uk – no ‘norwich’, no ‘anglican’, no need for a qualifier of any kind. Somebody on the staff must have been on the ball in the early years of this century to get that registered.
But there’s no unseemly crowing on the website itself. In further evidence of technological ease, the peregrine falcon is the only prominent bird to be found on the site – a nest on the Cathedral spire is monitored by webcam.
More technology will help you appreciate what may be the largest collection of medieval roof bosses; since most of these are scores of feet above your head it helps to be able to study them by means of an app, and there are 1,000 or more.
You’ll be able to enjoy the traces of medieval wall paintings without binoculars or smartphones. Graffiti from a similar era – including musical notation as well as scratched words and symbols – is also, not surprisingly, closer to ground level.
Norwich Cathedral may also be the most photogenic in the country. Quite beautiful from the outside, its interior includes visually spectacular features like a highly-polished copper font (two hemispheres, one inverted to support a second, upturned) and the Peace Globe, a spherical metal framework dotted with candle-holders. It is also noticeable that where other cathedrals direct you towards ancient memorials or tombs, Norwich celebrates a more modern heroine with the grave of Edith Cavell just outside the eastern end of the building.
A fine Norman castle is the next likely stop on your itinerary. Norwich Castle dominates the city skyline – apparently the Conqueror may have demolished as many as 113 buildings to make room for it.
The keep is hollowed out and has the atmosphere, oddly, of a Saxon hall. Tours of the battlements and the dungeons are offered. Abutting the keep on the north and east are a museum and several distinct galleries.
Norfolk art is well-represented, the Royal Norfolk Regiment’s collections are quartered there and the erstwhile Second City’s contribution to decorative arts – in textiles and silver in particular – is commemorated.
In the Gurney Gallery the exhibition in mid-2018 was called Visible Women. A characteristically aggressive Penny Slinger image, Circe from 50% The Visible Woman series, opened the show: the Homeric enchantress is disturbing on many levels, and none less subtle than the pair of shears dangling from her naked waist. There were pieces by Gwen John and Barbara Hepworth, and even the Bridget Riley was a calming influence.
Another highlight was something called The Paston Treasure. In most museums that name would lead you to expect a collection of coins, torques and buckles dug up from a barrow. This Treasure, however, is the record of a family’s wealth preserved in the Dutch 17th century still-life tradition.
At Norwich the painting is reunited with some of the objects depicted in it. Oddly, the only item in the room you’re allowed to photograph is the painting itself. And so I am able to recall at leisure that it’s a very considerable mess, and that young Master Paston would have spent his time well had he ever devoted any of it to tidying his room. In structure and for the variety of textures it has a quite modern feel; you half expect to see brand names or logos, as in a product-placement deal. It’s as if the gloomy central figure of Dürer’s Melancholia I, instead of surrounding herself with articles of mysterious symbolic significance, tried to cheer herself up by going through her acquisitions from that morning’s yard sale.
Other small treasures in the Castle include the Collectors Room, where ceramic custard pots justly claim pride of place from pot cats and objects from Cameroon. And after Romans and Vikings there’s a fine display of Lowestoft Porcelain, including teapots – of which you’ll find more in the Twinings Teapot Gallery.
Art even permeates the tiles and sanitary ware in the public loos in the castle – the urinals are named Lifesaver, Lifebuoy and Lifeline.
The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell goes back to the origins of the city but, arriving at the present, supplies an answer to the mystery of why Norwich City play in yellow and are known as the Canaries. Apparently canary-breeding was a popular hobby among working men there; in support of this assertion, the museum presents a picture of a cobbler in front of rows of canaries.
The Bridewell also refers regularly to Norwich as the ‘second city’, a title it claimed in the 17th century. On the back of the wool trade, Norwich was a hugely important trading city. At the Strangers’ Hall there’s more evidence of this, and of the welcome the city gave to refugees from the Low Countries. By a happy chance, the ‘strangers’ included many with advanced weaving skills.
Other curious features of the Norwich heritage trail:
* The Cow Tower, said to be the first purpose-built artillery platform in the country
* The Guildhall, a spectacular medieval city hall
* John Jarrold Printing Museum, open on Wednesdays only
* St Peter Hungate, a medieval church with exhibitions of medieval art and a centre of brass-rubbing.
The city is known as one of the country’s leading Tudor and Stuart towns, its walking tour reinforced in spring 2018 by a Channel 4 programme presented by Professor Alice Roberts. Closer to the present, it has some eye-catching and award-winning modern architecture: the Marks & Spencer building, the Forum, even the Best New Car Park of 2017 which is to be found on Rose Lane. In other words, Norwich is a great city just to stroll round and admire.
And if you want to sit down and let it all wash over you for a while, there are several promising spots. Around the Castle you’ll find a pathway and a small open-air theatre; in a square close to Rampant Horse Street, a statue of Sir Thomas Browne looks down on a collection of marble pieces with five seats arranged in Browne’s quincunx pattern; or the Plantation Garden, a little to the west of the city centre. This last is a gorgeous 3-acre Victorian garden, Grade II listed, and it is quite wonderful. In the Bridewell, the judgement of 17th century churchman and historian Thomas Fuller on Norwich’s apple trees are recorded: “A city in an orchard or an orchard in a city.” How he would have loved the Plantation Garden.