NORFOLK

King's Lynn rusty nut on port  flickr Simon PeckhamA mini-sea port and market located west of country, on the River Great Ouse and close to the Wash, King’s Lynn (pop. 135,400) is a shadow of what it once was—the third most significant port in England during the fifteenth century.  In fact, it was so important that by the time King Henry VIII reigned, its name was changed from Bishop’s Lynn to King’s Lynn.  Nowadays, it’s only the medieval harbour, affectionately called Old King’s Lynn, which gives a tiny glimpse into the sea port’s heyday.  Move away from the harbour and into the official modern-day town centre and you will see a market town that’s nowhere near as thriving as it could have been.  Plans for redeveloping the town have been underway for a few years now, with multi-million pound projects for commercial centers and car parks—which are all opposite what originally made King’s Lynn a great harbour town.     

Layout
The town is unofficially divided into Old King’s Lynn and Modern King’s Lynn.  The medieval part of the town is located on the eastern side of the River Great Ouse.  It is separated from the train station by the modern town centre and the local bus station.

Sights
St Margaret's Church Kings Linn www.stmargaretskingslynn.org.ukCommissioned to be built by the Bishop of Norwich in 1101, St. Margaret’s Church
[Main Road, Clenchwarton, +44 1553 772089]  has undergone so many reconstructions that it is widely believed that only the bottom part of the church is part of the original structure.   At one point in its many incarnations, it housed a library, and even had a spire.  The great flood of 1741 that destroyed many structures, including parts of this church, has left an indelible mark on the bottom floor of the church.       

With a stereo guide, the
Tales of the Old Gaol House [Saturday Market Place, +44 1553 774297, £3] takes you through an interactive look at the King’s Lynn police station during the 1930s, where many infamous characters are depicted.         

The Regalia Room in the museum house some of the town’s civic treasures.  Here you will also find perhaps the most valuable possession of the town—the King John cup, the oldest secular medieval cup in the country, made of silver and gold and encrusted with jewels.       

The
Green Quay [South Quay, +44 1553 818500, free] is a museum located in the former Marriott’s warehouse.  It is solely dedicated to life forms and creatures found in the Wash.        

Clifton House
(Furlong Road, £3).   This Grade I-listed building is open to visitors for only a few times a year, as it a privately-owned family home.  It used to be the home of a medieval merchant, and its authentic interiors date from the 13th to the 18th century.  Its Elizabethan tower is an oddity, but nevertheless grandiose and a reflection of the great role merchants had in the medieval harbour town.        


Custom House
[Purfleet Quay, +44 1553 763044, free]
, designed by the architect Henry Bell, is another great reflection of King’s Lynn during its harbour heydays.  It is no longer used as custom house, but it has served as an iconic landmark of the town, overlooking the Purfleet Quay.  Nowadays, it houses the town’s tourist centre, as well as displays detailing the town’s important medieval merchants, as well as its infamous characters.        

Greyfriar’s Tower
(London Rd, free).   Unofficially considered the 'Leaning Tower of King’s Lynn', this tower was established by a group of Franciscan friars in the 1200s, among other friaries in England.  It is among the three that managed to survives the suppression during the sixteenth century, and the most well-preserved among them.

Now part of the King’s Lynn Arts Centre (along with the Fermoy, Red Barn, and Old Warehouse) St. George’s Guild Hall (29 King’s Street, +44 1553 765565, free) is the largest existing guildhall in England.  To give you an idea of how big it is, its size allowed boats to moor inside it.  Now, though, it only allows art house films to be shown here.

Hotels
The structure of
The Old Rectory (33 Goodwins Road, +44 1553 768544, £55) structure may seem ancient, but the interiors of this B&B are decidedly modern, without looking out of context, of course.  It is a few minutes’ away from the sights, but it’s also a good base for when you decide to take a stroll down the North Norfolk coastline.

A former farmhouse built in the 1800s, the Bridge House
[Winch House, +44 1553 636756, £55]  may be secluded, but its location is still perfect for exploring the best of King’s Lynn.  For a structure of this age, it boasts big rooms that are tastefully decorated.

The
Bank House Hotel (King’s Staithe Square, +44 1553 660492, £70), which was originally constructed in the 18th century as a bank, is a Grade-II listed Georgian building with a great location—smack dab in the historic part of the town.  As is expected with older structures, though, the rooms are quite small, with low beams in most cases, with very little storage space.



Brancaster Beach  flickr Martin PettittBurnham Deepdale is some thirty-five kilometers north of King’s Lynn, and one of a collection of villages around the River Burn.  For serious backpackers and fans of the Norfolk Walking trail, Burnham Deepdale is a haven full of cycling trails with views as pretty as a picture, and beautiful beaches.        

Around the tiny village of Burnham Deepdale are the marshes of Brancaster and the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve.

Sights:   Aside from the walking paths, in Burnham Deepdale you will also find one of the few remaining round tower churches in England.  A few kilometers away, enter Burnham Market, a quaint Georgian town with many old buildings alongside trendy boutique hotels and gastropubs that have started sprouting.

Hotel
Deepdale Farm
[+44 1485 210256, £45-65].   This backpacker’s hostel is eco-friendly (case in point, the whole building is a repurposed stable courtyard).  For those so inclined, they offer camping spaces and teepees (for a different fee).  The website has a clear color-coded guide on when the peak, midseason and offpeak periods of Burnham Deepdale.

 


Castle Rising www.castlerising.co.ukFrom the King’s Lynn bus station, it’s four miles northeast to Castle Rising (pop. 225), a town whose claim to fame is the great Castle Rising Castle (+44 1553 631330, £4).  The ruins of the castle built by the first Earl of Arundel (which also served as a former home to Queen Isabella, whose lasting legacy involves her allegedly planning the murder of her own husband.  The castle itself is sturdy and intact for a keep constructed in the 12th century.  This comes as no surprise, as the stonemasons who built this were also those who constructed some of England’s finest cathedrals.

 



Cromer PierCromer (pop. 8,000) was once an affluent Victorian resort, with a dramatic natural setting.  Many rich Norwich families considered the town their summer home during the 19th century.  The tall St. Peter and St. Paul tower attests to the town’s former wealth.  However, its natural beauty is deflected by the myriad of decidedly family-friendly but unfashionable amusement thingamajigs that surround the coastline.  If you want to get a glimpse of the town during its 19th century boom, visit the Cromer Museum (East Cottages, Tucker Street, +44 1263 513543, £3.20).  Cromer is still a part of many popular Norfolk walking paths, because if you look past the tacky commercial centres, it is still a naturally beautiful coastal town. 

 


Norfolk BroadsThe rivers Bure, Waveney, and Yare and their tributaries all converge over flatlands east of Norwich, and form the biggest protected wetland in the country, the Norfolk Broads.  Technically, parts of the Broads belong to Norfolk’s southern neighbor, Suffolk, but people have been used to calling the Norfolk Broads because it was where the Broads became popular as a boating holiday destination since the 19th century.

For years, locals believed that the Broads were natural but in the 1960s, Dr. Joyce Lambert proved that that they were a result of a great flood that caused the sea levels to rise in the 13th and 14th century.  The parts where the Broads were formed were sites of early peat excavation.  Along with the formation of the Broads, this part of Norfolk became a home to many rare species of birds and other animals.

Sights
The Broads
are 125 miles of navigable waterways, with plenty to offer to the observant eye.  The best way to see its peaceful majesty is by boat, which is easily rented on boating centres in Wroxham, accessible by train, bus, or car from Norwich on the A115.  You can also rent boats in Potter Heigham, where you will find the infamous fourteenth-century bridge, one of the hardest passages in the Broads.  For cyclists, there are friendly footpaths that meander across the region.
       
Aside from the rare bird species and marshlands, you will find many haunting ruins of abbeys and medieval churches, and windmills and windpumps—the prettiest of which are in How Hill, the highest point in the Broads.  These windpumps, built in the 12th century, were used to drain the marshlands by peat-cutters.  It is fair to say that they are the remaining witnesses to how the exploitation of peat changed the landscape of this part of England forever.



Great Yarmouth pier  flickr pamelaadamGreat Yarmouth (pop. 93,500), located at the mouth of the River Yare (hence the name) and a part of the Norfolk Broads that spills out onto the North Sea, has been a popular seaside resort for well over three hundred years, and continues to be so.  Therefore, it has the trappings of a typical British seaside town—crazy golf, tons of arcades, and tourists milling around on the fine sands.  But venture away from the seaside and you will find another Great Yarmouth—the Great Yarmouth that celebrates the beauty of its heritage through fascinating museums and preserved houses reflected another era.

Sights  
The Great Yarmouth seafront isn’t called the “Golden Mile” for nothing.  It is a wide stretch of fine sand and clear sea water, inviting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.  But aside from the beach, Great Yarmouth prides itself on its heritage.  There are many museums celebrating different facets of the town’s heritage  One of which is the Time and Tide Museum (Blackfriars Road, +44 1493 743930, £4.50), one of the largest museums in the county, and an award-winning one to boot.  It details the rich maritime history of Great Yarmouth, and is set inside a well-preserved herring curing works.
  
    
Another museum of interest is the Tolhouse Museum (Tolhouse St., +44 1493 745526, £3.50), which was an ancient gaol, and is considered the oldest civic building in Britain.
       
In South Quay, there are many historical structures reflecting Tudor, Elizabethan and medieval architectural styles.  It is also home to more museums, such as the Elizabethan House Museum (4 South Quay, +44 (0) 1493 855746 £3.50), a preserved merchant’s house.

There is also a museum dedicated to the Trafalgar St. hero, the Norfolk Nelson Museum (26-27 South Quay, +44 1493 850698, £3.50).  Behind it, you will find the row, which were distinct narrow alleyways where the thoroughfares of Great Yarmouth converge.  The Row Houses (+44 1493 857900, £4.20) provide a glimpse into how dwellings were during various periods, for different social classes.

Hotels

The Victorian
No. 78 Guesthouse [78 Marine Parade, +44 1493 850001, £55]
may be over a hundred years old, but aside from the beautiful exteriors, the age is reflected nowhere in the interiors, except perhaps in the varying size of rooms.  Upon booking, though, you will be briefed as to how big (or small) your room is, so that there will be no surprises.  The rooms may vary in size, but they don’t vary in comfort.  Every room is cozy and furbished for convenience.

The White Lodge [19 Marine Crescent, +44 1493842180, £61] is situated by the quieter northern side of the seafront, and is ideal for those who want a view of the sea without having to sacrifice comfort and a good night’s sleep.  Every room has a view—either that of the sea, or a beautiful garden.  The rooms are all big enough, and the hosts will even help you choose a room according to your needs.

 


Norfolk Broads at NorwichNorwich (pop.132,000) may not be in its medieval wool trade golden age, but it sure does not look that way.  Unlike other towns whose heydays have come and gone, in Norwich you will find no sign of decline.   Once the second most significant and second wealthiest city in England, Norwich has settled comfortably into its role as a laidback college town.  It stands apart from usual college towns by having a stretch of the North Sea coastline and parts of the Norfolk Broads, as well as majestic cathedrals and churches dotting the town, which are constant reminders that this is not just any college town.
       
History
Norwich has had a long history even before it reached its golden age as a wool trade center.  However, it was its massive wealth during that period that has affected the town strongly.
       
Because it was easier to cross the North Sea than to travel by land to London, Norwich had stronger links to the Low Countries.  Edward III saw potential in this and encouraged Flemish weavers to settle in Norwich.  There were so many of them that one point they consisted a third of the city’s population.  The strengthening of the work force and link to the Low Countries made Norwich even richer, and yet even more isolated from the rest of England.
       
By the time the Industrial Revolution rolled by, Norwich experienced a gradual decline in its textile industry.  It didn’t degenerate as a shadow of its past, though.  Instead, it has maintained the medieval street plan, and the many cathedrals built during the golden age.  The spirit of the town has experienced an uplifting when the University of East Anglia was founded in the 1970s.
       
Layout
The medieval street plan of Norwich, a strong legacy of the Saxons, can make navigation quite confusing.  As a guide, look for these landmarks—the cathedral, the Normal castle, and the city hall’s clock tower.

Sights
Norwich CastleNorwich Castle, Museum, and Art Gallery
[Castle Meadows, +44 1603 493625, £6.20], a massive Normal military structure sitting up on a grassy mound, overlooking Norwich like a watchful guard, is one of the best preserved keeps of its kind in England, even with that shopping centre lately affixed to it.  It has now been repurposed as a museum dedicated to the town’s history, and an art gallery that features art works by the Norwich School of landscape paintings.  The Castle Museum depicts e city’s Anglo-Saxon history.  A guided tour can also help you explore more of the ruins of the castle, where you will find ancient instruments of torture as well as archeological artifacts.  If you want something even gloomier, step down onto the tunnel that leads to the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, which illustrates a no-holds-barred look into the regiment history of the city.  If you think you can explore the castle within an hour before it closes, you can avail of their clever “Pop in for a pound” promo.
       
Norwich CathedralIf there were any structure in Norwich that could attest to the city’s former wealth without contest, it would be this majestic Anglican Norwich Cathedral [12 The Close, +44 1603 218300], its characteristic octagonal spiky spire second only to Salisbury in terms of height, and its cloisters second to none.  Its interiors are not as gloomy as other English cathedrals, thanks to its lightly-tinted stones and glass windows.  Do not forget to look up and be in awe of the massive artwork upon the ceiling, roof bosses which depict the stories of the Old and New Testament.  The precincts of the cathedral are quite impressive as well, with its memorials to famous local figures such as Horatio Nelson, who was a student in the Norwich School, and Norwich Cathedral interiorEdith Cavell, a local nurse who was shot to death by Germans after helping prisoners of war escape.  The two-story cloisters built between 1200s to the 1400s also showcase in even greater detail the art of stonemasonry during the medieval period.  These cloisters used to shelter a hundred monks. The intricate medieval gates of the cathedral precincts, the Erpingham and Ethelbert, enclose the greens of the Upper Close.  They both lead out to the Tombland, which was where the Market place used to be (its name does not refer to the tombs, but rather to the Saxon term for empty space). 
       
Described in the English Journey of 1933 as overly Dickensian, Elm Hill, which you can reach by turning west from the Cathedral to Wensum St., is a gently sloping cobblestoned street leading out to St. Peter Hungate, a charming 15th century flint church.   Elm Hill is the most intact street of Norwich that reflects its medieval age, complete with half-timber houses and curiosity shops.  It is now the centre of antique business here in town, no surprise there.  You will also find here Wright’s Court, which is one of the existing enclosed courtyards that used to be more prevalent in the city.
       
For glimpses into houses during the Victorian and Tudor ages, enter Stranger’s Hall [Charring Cross, +44 1603 667229, £3.50], which has rooms that depict the various interior décor styles of these lavish periods.  The Grade I-listed Dragon Hall (115-123 King Street, +44 1603 663922, £5) is similar in a way, in that it has preserved the atmosphere of its own era.  The Dragon Hall is an impressive building that was once used as a merchant’s trading hall.  Its crown post roof is particularly remarkable, with a carved dragon which gives the hall its name.  It has recently undergone redevelopment and restoration.
       
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
[University of East Anglia, +44 1603 593199] is the centre of East Anglia’s growing arts community.  The centre holds artworks by Picasso, Degas and Bacon, among others.  It also holds many temporary art exhibitions that celebrate both local culture and international trends in art.  The building itself was the first major building that architect Norman Foster designed.
       
Norwich has one of the biggest open-air markets in England, and it is located right at the heart of the town.  It is open from Mondays to Saturdays, and its wares range from clothes to ephemera.  By the Market Place you can espy four distinct buildings that give character to the place.  One is the Guild Hall, a flint and stone structure that has stood there since the 15th century.  The City Hall with its signature Clock tower, bears a resemblance to Oslo’s City Hall, and this is not by any accident—the City Hall was designed in the 1930s Scandinavian Art Deco style after all.  The newest structure, The Forum (Bethel St., +44 1603 727 950), is a modern building with glass exteriors, only completed in 2001.  It houses the Millennium Library, as well as many temporary art exhibits.  The prettiest of all is seen at the south of the Market Place—St. Peter Mancroft (Chantry Road, +44 1603 610443), a church built in the Perpendicular style, with a long nave and a stone tower.
       
Near the church you will find the only existing pub out of all the pubs that used to litter Market Place, the Sir Garnet Wolsely pub.  By this pub, you will find the Gentleman’s Walk, the town’s main promenade, and the art nouveau Royal Arcade, which now houses the Mustard Shop (Royal Arcade, +44 1603 627889), which was one of the few Industrial Revolution success stories of Norwich.  It remains one of Norwich’s most beloved brands.
       
For a little bit of the city’s social  and insustrial history ,step into Grade I-listed Bridewell Museum (Bridewell Alley, +44 1603615975).  It is closed, though, till the summer of 2011, for renovations and redevelopment.  The bridewell, which started life as a merchant’s house, used to house women prisoners, beggars and tramps in the 1500s.  It then turned into an ordinary prison in the 1800s, until it became a factory for tobacco, shoes, among others.  The redevelopment aims to address issues such as inaccessibility to partially-disabled visitors.

Hotels
The location of
Edmar Lodge [64 Earlham Road, +44 1603 615599, £45-55] is very convenient—there is even a bus that goes to the University of East Anglia and the railway station that passes near the B&B.   Each of the five rooms is cozy and clean, and well-furnished with coffee-making facilities, iron and ironing board, TV and DVD player, though the décor could use some updating.

Right at the heart of Norwich, Gothic House [
Old Kings Head Yard, Magdalen St., +44 1603 631879, £95] may not have the requisite historical loud kitsch that its name suggests, but the comfortable rooms, exquisite breakfasts, and excellent period furnishings. This is not for those who want their bathrooms en suite, though, even though the bathrooms are dedicated to each of the two rooms. 

If you want a little quirk and personality into your temporary dwellings, then By Appointment [
25 St Georges St, +44 1603 630730, £90-120] can certainly fit the bill.  The 15th century structure is formed by three former merchants’ houses adjoined and repurposed.  The rooms are all theatrically furnished, with dramatic chandeliers in some, and coffee percolators in all.  Also, check out the restaurant, which is known for its traditional English fare.

Set in a pretty Georgian house and owned by previous deli owners, 38 St. Giles  [
38 St. Giles Street, +44 1603 662944, £120-160] i
s small, cozy, and intimate.  The three rooms are all spacious, and with modern furnishings.  Breakfasts are also a rare treat, as well as random homemade baked goods that the owners love to leave for their guests in their rooms.

 


Oxburbh Hall  flickr Martin PettittOxborough (pop. 240)  is a tiny civil parish with a population of no more than three hundred people.  It is known for the St. John’s Church and the Oxburgh Hall.  St. John’s Church is famous for its spire and tower which collapsed unexpectedly in 1948.  Despite this, the 16th century chapel behind it survived.

North of St. John’s Church is the ancient ancestral house of the Bedingfield family, Oxburgh Hall (+44 1366 328258, £7.80).  The moated manor house is romantic and imposing, and the interiors give a glimpse into the family’s strong Catholic faith.  There is even a secret hole that priests used to crawl into.