Heart of Norwich

Heart of Norwich

26 Tombland

Targetfollow owns 26, 27 and 28 Tombland. Hansells solicitors reside in number 26, while Bam Bam Boutique Bar and Restaurant currently takes up the basement and some of the ground floor of numbers 27 and 28, while Leathes Prior solicitors has their home in some of the ground floor and most of the first floor of numbers 27 and 28.

Although you might think differently, Tombland has nothing to do with tombs. The name appears to be of Saxon origin, and denotes an open space. The original town of Northwic grew from this area in Saxon times, with Danish settlers arriving before the 11th century.

Tombland was originally a major marketplace. It was home to the palace of the Earl of East Anglia as well as the largest church in Norwich, St Michael's. But the Normans changed all that. Not content with moving the marketplace to its current position in the shadow of their new castle, they later put their stamp on the city's ecclesiastical scene. Bishop Herbert de Losinga built the new cathedral by the river, and demolished the Earl's Palace and St Michael's in the process.

Tombland's character changed as Norwich became the administrative centre for Norfolk, and inns sprang up there to cater for people visiting the cathedral and courts. But it remained an open space used for fairs, such as a yearly horse fair. This survived until the mid 18th century, a few years after Tombland was paved in 1733.

It was at one of these fairs that one of the city's most notorious events took place in 1272 - a riot! The cathedral's monks had been arguing with the people of the city over land rights for several years. It was thought that one of the monk's had killed someone and violence flared as people wanted him brought to justice. Burning arrows were fired from St George's Church towards the cathedral itself, and the bell tower plus other buildings, included St Ethelred Church, were damaged.

The then king, Edward III, intervened and took the side of the Church. 30 people were executed and the people of Norwich were ordered to build a new gateway to the church, plus a chapel to replace the destroyed St Ethelred. The result was Ethelred Gate, built around 1320, which incorporates a small chapel.

Now Tombland is a popular spot for socialising, with lots of attractive restaurants and bars. But at its heart is the Cathedral and The Close which form the city's top tourist spot as well as a place of quiet contemplation and beauty.

Key Tombland buildings:

The Maid's Head Hotel. One of Britain's oldest hotels, it dates back 800 years.

Samson and Hercules House stands on the site of a significantly older building, erected in the 15th century. This early mansion was built by the important military captain, Sir John Fastolf

Erpingham Gate. The magnificent gateway, leading to the Cathedral, was built around 1420 by Sir Thomas Erpingham, who is most famous as the commander of Henry V's archers at the Battle of Agincourt.

The Statue of Edith Cavell - This was erected in in honour of the Swardeston-born nurse. Miss Cavell helped 200 Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium during the First World War, before she was executed by firing squad.

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