The Town of Norwich (c.970 to 1194)

Painting 1833 by David Hodgson and Francis Stone

The Town of Norwich (C.970 to 1194)

As Northwic expanded in the following decades. The growth of Northwic swallowed other settlements, such as ConesFord.

It’s not known exactly when this new town of Norwich, but sources claim that the first written reference was from 970 to 980, with claiming that the first known reference to Norwich was written in 970 in the Liber Eliensis [

Norwich Ransacked and Burned Down by the Viking's (1004)

Before the railways were built, the River Wensum provided a financial lifeline to Norwich. But in the early days, that ease of access also made Norwich vulnerable to invasions. The Vikings had used this route to pillage Norwich frequently.

In 1004 during the second Viking invasion of England. The River Wensum allowed for King Sweyn and his Viking fleet to have the river access needed to invade Norwich.

Once King Sweyn's army landed in Norwich. They at-least partially burned down Norwich. With some sources claiming that it was only the Magdalen Street area burnt down while others claim it was more town wide. 

After burning down at least a part of Norwich. The Vikings moved on to Thetford and also burnt that town down [

The reason for the Viking's burning Norwich and Thetford was revenge in response to English King Ethelred, who had ordered for the genocide of all Danish people living within Norwich. Under this order being the King of Denmark's own sister [

After burning down, these towns would return home before coming back to the England in the following years and defeating the English by 1016. 

The Recovery and the Special Status of Norwich (After 1004 to 1066) 

Normally, having a big part of a town burnt down would destroy the economy. Especially in the past when building projects took a lot longer as there was no heavy machinery and building-work mostly done by hand.

Norwich could recover from this rather quickly. As by 1065, out of a population of 5,500 people, Norwich had 1,320 tax-paying burgesses (think upper class rich people) and had up to twenty-five churches. They have also suggested that some areas surrounding Norwich where the populous part of Late-Saxon England and attracted a lot of trade. 

Norwich also had a special status and administered separately from the rest of the county. With the city being directly responsible to a royal official who collected both taxes and rents [

Post-Conquest Norman Norwich (1067 to 1100)

After they defeated the English at the Battle of Hasting in 1066, the Normans would swoop through and Conquer the rest of England. 

For Norwich, the post-Conquest era would bring about destruction, instability, and financial hardship for the town. As in the first twenty-one years of Norman rule would see the number of the wealthy tax-paying burgesses fall to 719 (from 1,320 in the pre-Norman era).
The 480 small holders were so poor that they paid no dues. Tease tough economic conditions also meant that by 1086, 297 houses where either abandoned or destroyed.

A lot of the problems that Norwich had coming up to the first doomsday survey, not because of the Normans taking control of England.

Instead, most of the problems would be inflicted upon Norwich, as revenge for a rebellion by the Earl of Norwich, Ralph de Guader against the King, William the Conqueror. 

The king saw the residents of Norwich as being implicated in the rebellion against him. And wanted his revenge against those residents. This revenge would come in many devastating forms for Norwich.

Which included;

- Large parts of the town being burnt down.

- Residents having their property confiscated and their owners' fined.

- The king also imposed a financial penalty on Norwich. As an increase to the "annual render" from £31 to £95. 

They gave the worst punishments out to some people who had attended the wedding of the Earl in which plot for the rebellion formed. They gave some of these people corporal punishment as being blinded while others were banished [

The Post-Conquest period was not only a time of destruction for Norwich. As the Normans wanted to impose their dominance over the citizens of Norwich. How the Normans archived this goal was by rebuilding most of the town centre. With many Anglo-Saxon houses and churches demolished to make way for the rebuild.

This re-development though would give Norwich some its most iconic buildings and areas. Including; Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral, and The French Borough aka Mancroft, or as they named it in the Doomsday book; Franci de Norwic. 

The French traders that occupied the new borough would bring trade and prosperity to Norwich. That restricted to the French Borough but also had a positive effect on the other borough within the town [

The building and rebuilding of Norwich Castle (1067 to 1121)

After invading England, the Normans wanted to exert their newly found power and dominance over the citizens. The Normans also wanted to protect themselves against rebellions. As they advanced through England by building castles.

When the Normans arrived in Norwich in 1067, almost immediately they would begin on the first phase of the construction of the castle. This phase of construction involved the demolition of ninety-eight houses. And the construction of a wooden motte-and-bailey castle on a natural mound that was extended.

Around 1100, work began on the second phase of Norwich Castle. Which mainly comprised replacing the wooden keep with a stone one. This second phase would be completed twenty years later in 1120. They replaced the stone blocks in the Victorian time when the Castle was renovated but kept its Norman design [
22] [23].

The building of Norwich Cathedral (1096 to 1197)

The next big change for Norwich would come about after they moved the bishopric from Thetford to Norwich in 1095. Upon the move of the bishopric to Norwich, they created a new precinct for the church. That was not under the control of Norwich, as like Norwich Castle.
Norwich Cathedral

Before development in the precinct could begin. An entire Anglo-Saxon settlement and two churches demolished.

This demolition was likely completed quickly. As construction on the site started one year later in 1096, when the bishop Herbert de Losinga laid the first foundation stone.

By the time that bishop Herbert de Losinga died in 1119, many parts of the cathedral were taking shape, with the presbytery and its associated; chapels, two transepts, ambulatory and the first four bays of the nave had been completed.

His successor, bishop Everard de Montgomery, would far more progress on the cathedral than his predecessor. During his time as bishop, most of the remaining work on the cathedral was completed, including the nave and the west end of the roof, as well as the cloisters and monastic buildings. 

By 1171, Under William de Turbe (The third bishop) the tower of the cathedral had been completed, and the building was standing.

Though described as "not perfectly fitted up and finished " before the project suffered a setback when the cathedral caught on fire. 

This fire would mean that it would take another twenty-six and another bishop to get the fire damage fully repaired. And all the finishes added including; ornaments and vestments before the cathedral was finally ready.

Of course this glosses over all the major changes that would happen to Norwich Cathedral over the following years [
24] [25].

The Construction of The French Borough (1071 to 1075)

It was not only massive new buildings that were being constructed during the post-conquest era. As the Normans saw the people of Norwich as being "bolshie" who did not want to submit to the wishes of the King, even after the Castle was constructed.

As the Normans still saw the people of Norwich as being uncooperative with their rule. Even after the Normans burnt down their houses and seized their land from the citizens of Norwich and the constructing of the Castle. The next idea the Normans had was to import people from France who would of course be more friendly and supportive of the king [

For this, they created a French quarter in the Mancroft to the west of Norwich Castle. This area had 125 French burgesses by 1086, who were mainly traders.

That borough would become the centre of commerce in Norwich after the market in Tombland closed. With it reopening in the French borough where it would be near to the main road coming from London. 

One difference between this borough and others around the city which was known for its many churches. Is that they would construct only three new churches in Mancroft, which became very wealthy as the centralised Norman meant they had little in the way of competition [

Sources for this article:

[7] Ward, K., 2004. A History Of Norwich - The Saxons And Vikings. [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 31 August 2020].

[18] Mackintosh, D., n.d. Ports.Org.Uk / Norwich. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 September 2020].

[19] Rose, C., n.d. Norwich - 2000 Years Of European Immigration | Culture24. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 16 September 2020].

[20] Atkin, M., 1993. Norwich. Dover, NH: A. Sutton, p.22.

[21] Atkin, M., 1993. Norwich. Dover, NH: A. Sutton, p.23.

[22] Ward, K., 2004. A History Of Norwich - The Normans. [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 20 September 2020].

[23] 2020. History Of Norwich Castle. Norwich: Norfolk Museums. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 September 2020].

[24] n.d. Norwich Cathedral - Part 1. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 September 2020].

[25] Blomefield, F. (1806). An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I. [online] W Miller. Available at: [Accessed 20 Oct. 2020].

[26] CA (2007). AD 1200 - Norwich: the second largest medieval city. [online] Current Archaeology. Available at: [Accessed 23 Sep. 2020].

[27] Malcolm Atkin (1993). Norwich : history and guide. Editorial: Dover, Nh: A. Sutton, p.29.