Little Book of Norfolk

Little Book of Norfolk

by Neil R. Storey

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The Little Book of Norfolk is a repository of intriguing, fascinating, obscure, strange and entertaining facts and trivia about one of England’s most colourful counties. It is an essential to the born and bred Norfolk folk or anyone who knows and loves the county. Armed with this fascinating tome the reader will have such knowledge of the county, its landscape, people, places, pleasures and pursuits they will be entertained and enthralled and never short of some frivolous fact to enhance conversation or quiz! A reference book and a quirky guide, this can be dipped in to time and time again to reveal something new about the people, the heritage, the secrets and the enduring fascination of the county. A remarkably engaging little book, this is essential reading for visitors and locals alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780752494609
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Series: Little Book Of
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Neil R. Storey is one of Norfolk's foremost historians. He has written more than 30 books, many of them exploring a variety of aspects of the county he knows and loves so well.

Read an Excerpt

The Little Book of Norfolk

By Neil R. Storey

The History Press

Copyright © 2013 Neil R. Storey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7524-9460-9




By the fifth century the Angles, after whom East Anglia and England itself are named, had established control of the eastern region and later became the 'north folk' and the 'south folk', hence, 'Norfolk' and 'Suffolk'.

The first definite record of the place name Northwic (the earliest name for Norwich) appears on coins of Aethelstan I of England minted between AD 920 and 940.

The Domesday Book shows that during the eleventh century Norfolk was one of the most heavily populated counties and this remained the case until 1600.

Norwich is the most easterly city in the United Kingdom.

Norfolk is officially the driest county in the UK.

Dragon Hall on the ancient King Street in Norwich is the only known surviving medieval merchant's trading hall in Western Europe.

The returns of the Secret Committee during the nineteenth century showed Norfolk 'amongst the most loyal counties in the kingdom.'

Norfolk is the largest of the eastern counties, it is the fifth largest metropolitan county of England with an area of 537,070 hectares (2,074 square miles) and measures 68 miles from east to west and 41 miles from north to south.

There are 6,329 miles of roads and 250 miles of waterways in the county.

Norfolk was divided into 33 Hundreds consisting of 540 parishes. The Norfolk Hundreds were: Blofield, Brothercross, Clackclose, Clavering, Depwade, Diss, Earsham, North Erpingham, South Erpingham, Eynesford, East Flegg, West Flegg, Forehoe, Freebridge-Lynn, Freebridge-Marshland, Gallow, North Greenhoe, South Greenhoe, Grimshoe, Guiltcross, Happing, Henstead, Holt, Humbleyard, Launditch, Loddon, Mitford, Shropham, Smithdon, Taverham, Tunstead, Walsham and Wayland.

The historic Norfolk Hundreds were replaced by the four districts of North, South, East and West Norfolk in 1974.

By the sixteenth century Norwich had grown to become the second largest city in England but over one-third of the population died during a plague epidemic in 1579.

Over 25 per cent of people in Norfolk live within 8 miles of Norwich Castle.

The medieval Wayland Wood near Watton is said to be the setting for the story 'Babes in the Wood'.

Historian and naturalist William George Clarke coined the term 'Breckland' in 1894.

Research by the East of England Tourist Board estimated that in 2007 there were 4,220,000 staying visitors in Norfolk. The total number of day visitors was estimated at 25,631,000.

The village of Upper Sheringham has one of the greatest reputations for longevity of its residents in Britain; in fact, one in five Norfolk residents are aged over 65 and one in ten is aged 75 and over.

Worstead has a large market place but no market. Granted by ancient right, markets were held on Saturdays until the plague visited the village in 1666 and the market moved to North Walsham, never to return.

The good quality and reputation of Aylsham linens and Aylsham canvases were nationally renowned in the fourteenth century.

King's Lynn was known for many years as Bishop's Lynn. After the Dissolution Henry VIII claimed the properties and rights of the religious houses and granted a second charter in 1536, but seeing the name of the town as rather incongruous after his seizures, changed it to Lynn Regis (King's Lynn).

There are only two place names in Norfolk that begin with the letter 'Q': Quidenham (10 miles north-west of Thetford) and Quarles (4 miles south-west of Wells).

An arch once straddled the road at Westwick between two lodge houses. Built in about 1780 it marked the entrance to the Westwick estate and was used as a dove cote. When the Norwich to North Walsham turnpike was diverted through the estate, the road was diverted to pass under it. By 1981 the arch had become structurally unsound and was demolished amid great controversy.

Architect George Skipper's masterpiece, the Royal Arcade in Norwich, which opened on 25 May 1899, was built on the site of the old Royal Hotel, hence its 'Royal' appellation.

A time ball erected on the north-west angle of the battlements of Norwich Castle to announce Greenwich time every day at 10.00 a.m. was heard for the first time on 10 August 1900.

There are 120 round tower churches in Norfolk; more than any other county.

The first council estate to be built outside London was begun at Mile Cross, Norwich, in 1918.

When May Savage's fifteenth-century house was scheduled for demolition at Ware in Hertfordshire in 1970, she had it taken down and rebuilt it brick by brick and beam by beam at Wells-next-the-Sea. Despite being in her sixties or seventies and having no previous experience of building or construction, May carried out most of the work herself.


In July 2010 archaeologists digging near the village of Happisburgh discovered 78 pieces of razor-sharp flint shaped into primitive cutting and piercing tools. They were believed to have been laid down by hunter-gatherers of the human species Homo antecessor some 840,000–950,000 years ago, making them the oldest human artefacts ever found in Britain.


1693 29,911
1752 36,369
1786 40,061
1821 50,173
1861 74,414
1891 100,964
1931 126,207
1971 121,688
2008 137,300


California (near Hemsby)
Frankfort (Sloley)
Little London (Griston)
Little Switzerland (Wroxham)
Quebec Road (East Dereham)
Shangri La (Ludham)
White City (Titchwell)
Pleasure Island (Hickling Broad)
Ciudad Rodrigo (Long Stratton)


Misery Corner (Denton)
High and Low Bridge (Horstead)
Hills and Holes Plantation (Wroxham)
Lamb's Holes (Hainford)
Loke Wiffens (Hethersett)
Runcton Bottom (South Runcton)
Slubberdike Wood (Stow Bardolph)
The Gongs (North Wootton)
Gogg's Whins (Dersingham)
Vinegar Middle (North Wootton)
Puny Drain (Setchey)
Lolly Moor (East Dereham)
Nowhere (Acle)
Whinny Hills (Felthorpe)
Bingles Turn (Hevingham)
Tuzzy Muzzy (Shropham)


Cockey Lane in Norwich was formally accorded its new name of London Street in
January 1829 Gropekunte Lane (now Opie Street, Norwich)
Rampant Horse Street (Norwich)
Cat's Pit Lane (North Walsham)
Laughing Image Corner (Great Yarmouth)
Hangman's Lane (now Heigham Street, Norwich)
Pullover Road (West Lynn)
Dick Fool's Lane (Wendling)
Slutshole Lane (Besthorpe)
Cucumber Corner (Beighton)
Spong Road (Limpenhoe)
Nobb's Lane (Woodton)
Bloodslat Lane (Bromholme)
Long John Hill (Lakenham)
Nowhere Lane (Wereham)
Drudge Road (Gorleston)


Three Cocked Hat (Maypole Green)
Swaffham Plashes (Swaffham)
The Lizard (Wymondham)
Big Bog (Sutton)
The Pulk (Hoveton)
Cess (Martham)
Potspoon Hole (Coltishall)
Dirty Lane (Swanton Morley)
Prickly Grove (Howe)
Crinkle Hill (Horsey)
Calfpightle Clump (Stockton)
Fustyweed (Lyng)
Bumwell Hill (Carleton Rode)
Tud Lane (Honingham)


The smallest National Trust property in Norfolk is a section of the old Cawston Heath upon which stands the Duel Stone. It marks the spot where Sir Henry Hobart of Blickling Hall fell, mortally wounded, during a duel with Oliver le Neve of Great Witchingham on 20 August 1698.

Thetford Castle has the highest Norman motte in England, but no trace remains of the castle that once surmounted it are visible today.

The first printed map of Norfolk appeared in Christopher Saxton's An Atlas of England and Wales published in 1579.

The highest point in Norfolk is Beacon Hill near West Runton; it stands 338ft above sea level.

The second highest point in Norfolk at 331ft above sea level is at Pigg's Grave at Swanton Novers.

The largest village green in the county is at Old Buckenham.

The two shortest place names in the county have just three letters: Oby (10 miles north-west of Yarmouth) and Hoe (2 miles north of Dereham).

Norfolk has 659 medieval churches, the greatest concentration of such religious buildings in Northern Europe.

The narrowest of the old Yarmouth Rows was Kittywitches Row (Row 95) that was just 27in wide at its west end. The widest Yarmouth Row was Gun Row (Row 125), that stood 9ft wide in places.

The round tower of the church of St Andrew at East Lexham near Swaffham is 1,000 years old and is the oldest Saxon tower in England. The 160ft tower of the church of St Peter and St Paul at Cromer is the tallest surviving church tower in Norfolk. The 120ft tower of St Giles' Church is the highest in Norwich. Soaring above them all is the tower of Norwich Cathedral at 315ft; it is the second highest spire in England (the tallest being Salisbury Catherdral).

The largest church in Norwich is St Peter Mancroft, built between 1430 and 1455.

The world's largest rock shop is Docwras Rock Shop, Great Yarmouth, who make and sell over 80,000 sticks of rock a week.

The earliest known reference to a barber in England was John Belton, a Norwich barber recorded as resident in the city in 1163.

At almost 80ft from the ground to the top of the cap plus the reach of the sails beyond that, Sutton windmill near Stalham is the county's tallest extant windmill and one of the tallest mills in the country.

Norwich Cathedral has over a thousand carved roof bosses. Each boss is decorated with a theological image. The nave vault shows the history of the world from the creation; the cloister includes series showing the life of Christ and the Apocalypse. The roof bosses of Norwich Cathedral have been described as 'without parallel in the Christian world.'


Warham Camp: An Iron Age hillfort probably built by the Iceni.

Burgh Castle: One of several Roman forts constructed as a defence against Saxon raiders.

Castle Acre Castle: Founded shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 by William de Warenne.

Buckenham Castle: A Norman castle built by William d'Aubigny.

Norwich Castle: Founded by William the Conqueror sometime between 1066 and 1075.

Castle Rising Castle: Built in about 1138 by William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel.

Weeting Castle: A fortified manor house built in the twelfth century.

Claxton Castle: Built in the fourteenth century but largely demolished to build Claxton Hall.

Baconsthorpe Castle: Built as a fortified manor house by William de la Pole in the fifteenth century.

Caister Castle: A fifteenth-century moated castle built by Sir John Fastolf between 1432 and 1446.


Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, built his palace by the bank of the Wensum in Norwich between 1561 and 1563. This magnificent structure was said to be one of the finest town houses in England but in 1710 when the mayor of Norwich refused permission for the duke's company of comedians to enter the city with trumpets and due procession, the duke was outraged and immediately defaced his palace and ordered it to be demolished.

The magnificent Holkham Hall, constructed in the Palladian style for Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, is estimated to have cost in the region of £90,000 (over £10 million in modern money). The construction nearly ruined the earl's heirs, rendering them unable to alter the house to suit changing tastes and consequently it has remained almost untouched since its completion in 1764.

Robert Walpole, Britain's first prime minister, set about enlarging his manor house at Houghton in 1722. He also desired a massive landscaped park to roll out before his house but the village of Houghton was not considered in keeping so he had it demolished and rebuilt it a mile further away.

George Walpole, 3rd Earl of Orford (1730–91), inherited Houghton Hall and its estates when he was just 21 years old. A genuine eccentric, a keen sportsman and profligate rake notable even in an age of aristocratic excess, he abandoned the family 'business' of politics, preferring to concentrate on field sports, horses and greyhounds – for the latter he established the rules of coursing. He enjoyed gambling but kept on losing to the degree that in 1778 he sold the art collection he had inherited to Catherine the Great of Russia for £40,000 to pay off his debts – and promptly named a greyhound 'Tzarina' to mark the occasion.

When John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire and owner of Blickling Hall, died in 1793 he was buried in a pyramid erected upon the grounds of the hall.

The original 'secret millionaire' was James Webb; the man known simply as 'the benevolent stranger' visited Norwich and Yarmouth in February 1813 and distributed considerable sums of money among public institutions and needy poor.

In the early twentieth century, when the golden age of coaching was fading fast, Sir Thomas Cook of Sennowe Hall purchased a coach and a full livery to go with it. The Lobster Coach was established with a run carrying passengers between Cromer and Norwich with stops at St Faiths and Roughton. This 'gentleman's whimsy' also carried a cargo of fresh crabs and lobsters to grace the tables of the city's Maid's Head Inn.

The 6th Marquess of Cholmondeley started collecting model soldiers as a schoolboy. The fascination stayed with him and when he and his wife settled down in Houghton Hall in the 1950s he expanded and has one of the largest collections of model soldiers in the world.


An earthen pot containing 500 pieces of ancient English silver coins including two gold angels of Henry VI, pennies from the Edwards and many groats of Henry VIII, was ploughed up in a field near Aylsham in March 1805.

An archaeological find of national importance was uncovered at Stow Heath, Felmingham, in 1844 when labourers were removing sand and a cave-in revealed two urns containing a hoard of religious bronzes with celestial symbolism from Roman, Celtic and oriental religion. Among the ritual material were found ceremonial staves, bronze ravens, a Celtic miniature wheel symbol and the hollow cast bronze head of the Roman god Jupiter, another of Minerva and a statuette of Lar with his drinking horn and cup. A couple of years later further finds were made nearby with the discovery of seventeen clay urns dating to the second century AD.

A golden torc ploughed up on Ken Hill at Snettisham in 1948 is described by the British Museum as 'the most famous object from Iron Age Britain' but it could have been lost forever. The ploughman who discovered it thought it was just an interesting lump of metal. He took it to the foreman and asked him what it was. The foreman declared it to be part of a brass bedstead and it lay for a week by the side of the field. More fragments of metal were drawn up and it was thanks to a rethink that the pieces were taken to Norwich Castle Museum where its antiquity and importance were recognised. The torc is skilfully crafted from sixty-four threads made from just over a kilogram of gold mixed with silver and is dated to the first half of the first century BC. It is one of the most elaborate golden objects made in the ancient world.

Further treasures were uncovered at Snettisham, notably in 1990 when a total of five hoards were found in the area. In one pit a nest of seven silver and bronze torcs were uncovered, but this was just a taste of things to come. Opening a larger pit two bronze bracelets were revealed, below them two silver torcs and then a prize of no less than ten gold torcs. The hoards contained a total of 175 torcs, seventy-five of them complete and fragments of about 100 more along with metal ingots and coins of the early, uninscribed variety, some of them early British types but the majority were Gallo-Belgic imports dated to about 70 BC.

The Thetford Treasure was discovered by a metal detectorist in 1979. Believed to have been buried in about AD 390 during a purge on religious cults, it contains such gems as a gold belt buckle, a duck-handled spoon, a small figure of Mercury, a key handle showing a lion eating a man and sets of blacksmith and farming tools. The British Museum states the treasure is a find of national and international importance because it contains one of the finest sets of silver plate and jewellery known from the late Roman period.


On 3 February 1862 HRH the Prince of Wales visited Norfolk to inspect the Sandringham Hall Estate 'with the view of purchasing it for shooting purposes, for which it is well adapted.' On 22 February it was announced that his Royal Highness had concluded the purchase for £220,000 and it was added by the Norfolk Chronicle: 'Norfolk people entertain strong hopes that they shall see a good deal of their future Sovereign.'

Wolferton station was the Royal Station serving Sandringham from its construction in 1862 until its closure in 1969. Among the royal visitors who passed over her platforms were: the King and Queen of Denmark (1893), King Carlos of Portugal (1895 and 1902), Queen Victoria (1899), the German Kaiser and his Empress (1899), the Dowager Empress of Russia (1907) and the King and Queen of Spain (1907).

The ornate platform lamps of Wolferton station are topped with miniature crowns.

The twenty-first birthday of Prince George (later George V) on 3 June 1886 saw a special royal train bring Sanger's Circus to Wolferton.


Excerpted from The Little Book of Norfolk by Neil R. Storey. Copyright © 2013 Neil R. Storey. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Topography,
2. Battles & Wars,
3. Crime & Punishment,
4. Norfolk People: Famous & Not So,
5. Norfolk at Work,
6. Farming Times,
7. That's Entertainment,
8. Norfolk at Play,
9. Transport,
10. Death & Religion,
11. Natural History,
12. The Coast,
13. Rivers, Broads & Marshland,
14. Sense of Place,
15. On this Day,
Select Bibliography,

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