One of the oldest cities in Britain and East Anglia is Norwich. Founded by the Anglo Saxons it lies in the heart of rural east of England. Norwich lies on the banks of the River Wensum and grew from a settlement to a great ancient city. At one time it was the largest walled town in England and at the time of the Norman Conquest was the center of one of the most important kingdoms in Britain. Norwich success and growth came from its geographical position, based on the coast and on the river, access was easy and many light industries grew. Trade with Russia and Scandinavia grew commerce even more and Norwich became affluent and extremely important.
When the Norman Conquest did arrive it was the south of the country that really was affected the most. The French victors were aware of the importance of Norwich and decided to build a great castle to reinforce their strength in the region. First a steep hill was constructed on the flat terrain which rose forty feet from the ground. And at the top a large wooden fort was constructed in 1067 which was later replaced by the stone keep that you can see today.
Thirty years after construction started on the castle work started on Norwich Cathedral, and to make way for the giant structure many Saxon homes were demolished to enable a canal to be dug to carry stone to the building site. Incredibly stone was actually imported from Normandy by sea and brought all the way to the site by water. In 1119 the first buildings of the cathedral were completed including the presbytery, nave, and transepts. But it was not until nearly another century until the cathedral was completed.
Norwich Became a City
Within the medieval walls of Norwich, a whole community lived and worked, there were actually over fifty churches inside the walls, which highlighted the wealth of Norwich at the time. Norwich was finally elevated into the position of City by royal decree in 1194. And Richard I granted the city the rights of self-government.
Around the mid-1300s the Black Death swept across England and it was really devastating in crowded cities such as Norwich. An estimated six thousand people died during these bleak times in the beleaguered city which was nearly half of the residents of Norwich. It was not until thirty years later that Norwich managed to become the same size, but the new population was made up more of peasants fleeing the barren countryside.
The 16th Century and Onwards
The 16th Century was another critical time for Norwich as severe fires burnt down many of the timber buildings. Whole streets of Tudor structures were destroyed, and over a period of around four days half the houses of Norwich were nothing but ashes. The 19th Century saw a massive increase in the population and now almost 100,000 people lived in the city. And a hundred years later the population had risen to around 120,000 which is almost the size that the current city is today.