Norfolk (/ˈnɔrfək/) is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The city of Norwich is the county town at Norfolk which is fifth largest ceremonial county in England, with an area of 5,371 km² (2,074 sq mi). Of the 34 non-metropolitan English counties, Norfolk is the seventh most populous, with a population of 850,800 (mid 2008). However, as a largely rural county it has a low population density, 155 people per square kilometre (or 401 per square mile). Norfolk has about one-thirtieth the population density of central London, the tenth lowest density county in the country, with 38% of the county’s population living in the four major built up areas of Norwich (195,000), Great Yarmouth (67,000), King’s Lynn (41,000) and Thetford (22,000). The Broads, a well known network of rivers and lakes, is located towards the county’s east coast, extending south into Suffolk. The area has the status of a National Park and is protected by the Broads Authority. Historical sites, such as those in the centre of Norwich, also contribute to tourism.
Our town list is:
- Burnham Market
- Downham Market
- Great Yarmouth
- King’s Lynn
- New Buckenham
- North Walsham
- Redenhall with Harleston
- Thorpe St Andrew
Norfolk was settled in pre-Roman times, with camps along the higher land in the west where flints could be quarried. A Brythonic tribe, the Iceni, inhabited the county from the first century BC, to the end of the first century (AD). The Iceni revolted against the Roman invasion in 47 AD, and again in 60 AD led by Boudica. The crushing of the second rebellion opened the county to the Romans. During the Roman era in Norfolk roads and ports were constructed throughout the county and farming took place.
Situated on the east coast, Norfolk was vulnerable to invasion from Scandinavia and northern Europe, and forts were built to defend against the Angles and Saxons. By the 5th century the Angles, after whom East Anglia and England itself are named, had established control of the region and later became the “north folk” and the “south folk”, hence, “Norfolk” and “Suffolk”. Norfolk, Suffolk and several adjacent areas became the kingdom of East Anglia, which later merged with Mercia and then Wessex. The influence of the Early English settlers can be seen in the many place names ending in “-ton”, and “-ham”. Endings such as “-by” or “-thorpe” are also common, indicating Danish place names: in the 9th century the region again came under attack, this time from Danes who killed the king, Edmund the Martyr. In the centuries before the Norman Conquest the wetlands of the east of the county began to be converted to farmland, and settlements grew in these areas. Migration into East Anglia must have been high as by the time of the Conquest and Domesday Book survey it was one of the most densely populated parts of the British Isles. During the high and late Middle Ages the county developed arable agriculture and woollen industries. Norfolk’s prosperity at that time is evident from the county’s large number of mediaeval churches: of an original total of over one thousand, 659 survive, more than in the whole of the rest of Great Britain. The economy was in decline by the time of the Black Death, which dramatically reduced the population in 1349; suffice to say that the current population has yet to equal the population before that time. Over one-third of the population of Norwich died during a plague epidemic in 1579. By the 16th century Norwich had grown to become the second largest city in England, but in 1665 the Great Plague again killed around one third of the population. During the English Civil War Norfolk was largely Parliamentarian. The economy and agriculture of the region declined somewhat. During the industrial revolution Norfolk developed little industry except in Norwich and was a late addition to the railway network.
In the 20th century the county developed a role in aviation. The first development in airfields came with the First World War; there was then a massive expansion during the Second World War with the growth of the Royal Air Force and the influx of the American USAAF 8th Air Force which operated from many Norfolk Airfields. During the Second World War agriculture rapidly intensified, and it has remained very intensive since with the establishment of large fields for growing cereals and oil seed rape.
Norfolk’s low-lying land and easily eroded cliffs, many of which are chalk and clay, make it vulnerable to the sea, the most recent major event being the North Sea flood of 1953. The low-lying section of coast between Kelling and Lowestoft Ness in Suffolk is currently managed by the Environment Agency to protect the Broads from sea flooding. Management policy for the North Norfolk coastline is described in the North Norfolk Shoreline Management Plan which was published in 2006 but has yet to be accepted by the local authorities. The Shoreline Management Plan states that the stretch of coast will be protected for at least another 50 years, but that in the face of sea level rise and post-glacial lowering of land levels in the South East, there is an urgent need for further research to inform future management decisions, including the possibility that the sea defences may have to be realigned to a more sustainable position. Natural England have contributed some research into the impacts on the environment of various realignment options. The draft report of their research was leaked to the press, who created great anxiety by reporting that Natural England plan to abandon a large section of the Norfolk Broads, villages and farmland to the sea to save the rest of the Norfolk coastline from the impact of climate change.
In 1998 Norfolk had a Gross Domestic Product of £9,319 million, making it 1.5% of England’s economy and 1.25% of the United Kingdom’s economy. The GDP per head was £11,825, compared to £13,635 for East Anglia, £12,845 for England and £12,438 for the United Kingdom. In 1999–2000 the county had an unemployment rate of 5.6%, compared to 5.8% for England and 6.0% for the UK.
Important business sectors include tourism, energy (oil, gas and renewables), advanced engineering and manufacturing, and food and farming.
Much of Norfolk’s fairly flat and fertile land has been drained for use as arable land. The principal arable crops are sugar beet, wheat, barley (for brewing) and oil seed rape. Over 20% of employment in the county is in the agricultural and food industries.
Well-known companies in Norfolk are Aviva (formerly Norwich Union), Colman’s (part of Unilever) and Bernard Matthews Farms. The Construction Industry Training Board is based on the former airfield of RAF Bircham Newton. The BBC East region is centred on Norwich, although it covers an area as far west as Milton Keynes; the BBC does however provide BBC Radio Norfolk solely for the county.
New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has been recently established by business leaders to help grow jobs across Norfolk and Suffolk. They have secured an enterprise zone to help grow businesses in the energy sector and established the two counties as being a centre for growing services and products for the green economy.
To help local industry in Norwich, Norfolk, the local council offered a wireless internet service but this has now been withdrawn following the end of the funding period.
The University of East Anglia is located on the outskirts of Norwich and Norwich University College of the Arts (previously Norwich School of Art and Design) is based in seven buildings in and around St George’s Street in the city centre, next to the River Wensum. The City College Norwich and the College of West Anglia are colleges covering Norwich and Kings Lynn as well as Norfolk as a whole. Easton College, 7 miles (11 km) west of Norwich, provides agriculture-based courses for the county, parts of Suffolk and nationally. University Campus Suffolk also run higher education courses in Norfolk, from multiple locations including Great Yarmouth College.
Norfolk is under the control of Norfolk County Council and is also divided into seven local government districts, Breckland District, Broadland District, Great Yarmouth Borough, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough, North Norfolk District, Norwich City and South Norfolk.
In October 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government produced a Local Government White Paper inviting councils to submit proposals for unitary restructuring. In January 2007 Norwich submitted its proposal, which was rejected in December 2007 as it did not meet the criteria for acceptance. In February 2008, the Boundary Committee for England (from 1 April 2010 incorporated in the Local Government Boundary Commission for England) was asked to consider alternative proposals for the whole or part of Norfolk, including whether Norwich should become a unitary authority, separate from Norfolk County Council. In December 2009, the Boundary Committee recommended a single unitary authority covering all of Norfolk, including Norwich.
However, on 10 February 2010, it was announced that, contrary to the December 2009 recommendation of the Boundary Committee, Norwich would be given separate unitary status. The proposed change was strongly resisted, principally by Norfolk County Council and the Conservative opposition in Parliament. Reacting to the announcement, Norfolk County Council issued a statement that it would seek leave to challenge the decision in the courts. A letter was leaked to the local media in which the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government noted that the decision did not meet all the criteria and that the risk of it “being successfully challenged in judicial review proceedings is very high”. The Shadow Local Government and Planning Minister, Bob Neill, stated that should the Conservative Party win the 2010 general election, they would reverse the decision.
Following the 2010 general election, Eric Pickles was appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 12 May 2010 in a Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. According to press reports, he instructed his department to take urgent steps to reverse the decision and maintain the status quo in line with the Conservative Party manifesto. However, the unitary plans were supported by the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, and by Simon Wright, LibDem MP for Norwich South, who intended to lobby the party leadership to allow the changes to go ahead.
The Local Government Act 2010 to reverse the unitary decision for Norwich (and Exeter and Suffolk) received Royal Assent on 16 December 2010. The disputed award of unitary status had meanwhile been referred to the High Court, and on 21 June 2010 the court (Mr. Justice Ouseley, judge) ruled it unlawful, and revoked it. The city has therefore failed to attain permanent unitary status, and the previous 2-tier arrangement of County and District Councils (with Norwich City Council counted among the latter) remains the status quo.
Norfolk County Council has 83 councillors. Norfolk is represented in the House of Commons by nine Members of Parliament.
Norfolk’s county town and only city is Norwich, one of the largest settlements in England during the Norman era. Norwich is home to the University of East Anglia, and is the county’s main business and culture centre. Other principal towns include the port-town of King’s Lynn and the seaside resort and Broads gateway town of Great Yarmouth.
Based on the 2001 Census the county’s largest centres of population are: Norwich (259,100) Great Yarmouth (71,700) Kings Lynn (43,100) Thetford (21,588) Dereham (15,659) Wymondham (12,539) North Walsham (11,998) Cromer (7,749) Fakenham (7,357) Swaffham (6,935) There are also several smaller market towns: Aylsham, Downham Market, Diss, Holt, Hunstanton, Sheringham and Harleston.
Norfolk is one of the few counties in England that does not have a motorway. The A11 connects Norfolk to Cambridge and London via the M11. From the west there only two routes from Norfolk that have a direct link with the A1, the A47 which runs into the East Midlands and to Birmingham via Peterborough and the A17 which runs into the East Midlands via Lincolnshire. These two routes meet at King’s Lynn which is also the starting place for the A10 which provides West Norfolk with a direct link to London via Ely, Cambridge and Hertford . The Great Eastern Main Line is a major railway from London Liverpool Street Station to Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Norwich International Airport, offers flights within Europe including a link to Amsterdam which offers onward flights throughout the world.
The Norfolk dialect is also known as “Broad Norfolk”, although over the modern age much of the vocabulary and many of the phrases have died out due to a number of factors, such as radio, TV and people from other parts of the country coming to Norfolk. As a result, the speech of Norfolk is more of an accent than a dialect, though one part retained from the Norfolk dialect is the distinctive grammar of the region.
People from Norfolk are sometimes known as Norfolk Dumplings, an allusion to the flour dumplings that were traditionally a significant part of the local diet.
More cutting, perhaps, was the pejorative medical slang term “Normal for Norfolk”, alluding to the county’s perceived status as an illiterate incestuous backwater. The term has never been official, and is now discredited, its use discouraged by the profession.
Norfolk is a popular tourist destination and has several major examples of holiday attractions. There are many seaside resorts, including some of the finest British beaches, such as those at Great Yarmouth, Waxham, Cromer and Holkham. Norfolk is probably best known for the Broads and other areas of outstanding natural beauty and many areas of the coast are wild bird sanctuaries and reserves with some areas designated as National Parks such as the Norfolk Coast AONB. Tourists and locals enjoy the wide variety of monuments and historical buildings in both Norfolk and the city of Norwich.
The Queen’s residence at Sandringham House in Sandringham, Norfolk provides an all year round tourist attraction whilst the coast and some rural areas are popular locations for people from the conurbations to purchase weekend holiday homes. Arthur Conan Doyle first conceived the idea for The Hound Of The Baskervilles whilst holidaying in Cromer with Bertram Fletcher Robinson after hearing local folklore tales regarding the mysterious hound known as Black Shuck.
Norfolk has several amusement parks and zoos.
- Thrigby Hall near Great Yarmouth was built in 1736 by Joshua Smith Esquire and features a zoo which houses a large Tiger enclosure, primate enclosures and the swamp house which has many Crocodiles and Alligators.
- Pettitts Animal Adventure Park at Reedham is a park with a mix of Animals, rides and live entertainment shows.
- Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach is a free-entry theme park, hosting over 20 large rides as well as a crazy golf course, water attractions, children’s rides and “white knuckle” rides.
- BeWILDerwood is an award winning adventure park situated in the Norfolk Broads and is the setting for the book A Boggle at BeWILDerwood by local children’s author Tom Blofeld.
- Britannia Pier on the coast of Great Yarmouth has rides which include a ghost train. Also on the Pier is the famous Britannia Pier Theatre.
- Banham Zoo is set amongst 35 acres (140,000 m2) of parkland and gardens with innovative enclosures providing sanctuary for almost 1000 animals including big cats, birds of prey, siamangs and shire horses. Its annual visitor attendance is in excess of 200,000 people, and has often been awarded the prize of Norfolk’s Top Attraction, by numerous different organisations, including “Best Large Attraction” by Tourism In Norfolk in 2010.
- Amazona Zoo is situated on 10 acres (40,000 m2) of derelict woodland and abandoned brick kilns on the outskirts of Cromer and is home to a range of tropical South American animals including jaguars, otters, monkeys and flamingos.
- Amazonia is a tropical jungle environment in Great Yarmouth housing over 70 different species of reptiles including lizards, crocodiles, snakes, tortoises and terrapins.
- Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near the town of Fakenham in north Norfolk, is a nature reserve with many captive birds and animals. Such species include native birds such as Lapwing and Eurasian Crane, to much more exotic examples like Marabou Stork, Greater Flamingo, and Manchurian Crane. The site played host to BBC’s ‘Springwatch’ from 2008 until 2010. A number of man-made lakes are home to a range of wild birds, and provide stop-off points for many wintering ducks and geese.
- Extreeme Adventure is a high ropes course built in some of the tallest trees in eastern England. in the ‘New Wood’ part of Weasenham Woods, Norfolk.
- The Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth is One of the biggest sea life centres in the country. The Great Yarmouth centre is home to a tropical shark display, one resident of which is Britain’s biggest shark ‘Nobby’ the Nurse Shark. The same display, with its walk-through underwater tunnel, also features the wreckage of a World War II aircraft. The centre also includes over 50 native species including shrimps, starfish, sharks, stingrays and Conger eels.
- The Sea Life Sanctuary in Hunstanton is Norfolk’s leading marine rescue centre and works both as a visitor attraction as well as a location for rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured sea creatures found in the nearby Wash and North Sea. The attractions main features are similar to that of the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth, albeit on a slightly smaller scale.
The Pavilion Theatre(Cromer) is a 510-seater venue perched on the end of Cromer pier, best known for hosting the famous’ end-of-the-pier’ show, the Seaside Special. The theatre also presents a high-quality mix of comedy, music, dance, opera, musicals and community shows.
Britannia Pier Theatre (Great Yarmouth) host mainly popular comedy acts such as the Chuckle Brothers and Jim Davidson. the theatre seats 1200 seats and is one of the largest in Norfolk.
Theatre Royal (Norwich) has been on its present site for nearly 250 years, the Act of Parliament in the tenth year of the reign of George II having been rescinded in 1761. The 1300-seat theatre, the largest in the city, hosts a mix of national touring productions including musicals, dance, drama, family shows, stand-up comedians, opera and pop.
Norwich Playhouse (Norwich) is a superb venue in the heart of the city and one of the most modern performance spaces of its size in East Anglia. The theatre has a seating capacity of 300.
The Maddermarket Theatre (Norwich) opened in 1921 and was the first permanent recreation of an Elizabethan Theatre. The founder was Nugent Monck who had worked with William Poel. The Theatre is a world class Shakespearean style play house and has a seating capacity of 310.
Norwich Puppet Theatre (Norwich) was founded in 1979 by Ray and Joan DaSilva as a permanent base for their touring company and was first opened as a public venue in 1980, following the conversion of the medieval church of St. James in the heart of Norwich. Under subsequent artistic directors – Barry Smith and Luis Z. Boy – the theatre established its current pattern of operation. It is a nationally unique venue dedicated to puppetry, and currently houses a 185 seat raked auditorium, 50 seat Octagon Studio, workshops, an exhibition gallery, shop and licensed bar. It is the only theatre in the Eastern region with a year-round programme of family-centred entertainment.
The Garage studio theatre (Norwich) can seat up to 110 people in a range of different layouts. It can also be used for standing events and can accommodate up to 180 people. The high specification of equipment and design means that it is particularly versatile, and can be adapted to a variety of layouts offering a wide choice for performances or events.
Platform Theatre (Norwich) is in the grounds of City College Norwich (CCN), and has a large stage with raked seating for an audience of around 200. The theatre plays host to a diverse range of performances by both student and professional companies.
The Sewell Barn Theatre (Norwich) is the smallest theatre in Norwich and has a seating capacity of just 100. The auditorium features raked seating on three sides of an open acting space. This unusual staging helps to draw the audience deeply into the performance.
The Norwich Arts Centre (Norwich) theatre opened in 1977 in St. Benedict’s Street, and has a capacity of 290.
The Princess Theatre (Hunstanton) stands overlooking the Wash and green in the busy East Coast resort of Hunstanton. The Princess Theatre is a 472 seat venue dubbed as one of the friendliest theatres in the country by artists who have performed there. Open all year round, the theatre plays host to a wide variety of shows from comedy to drama, celebrity shows to music for all tastes and children’s productions. The venue also has a six week summer season plus an annual Christmas pantomime.
Sheringham Little Theatre (Sheringham) provides intimate and comfortable seating for 180. The theatre programmes a wide variety of plays, musicals, music and also shows films.
The Gorleston Pavilion (Gorleston) is an original Edwardian building with a seating capacity of 300, situated on the Norfolk coast. The theatre stages plays, pantomimes, musicals, concerts as well as the popular 26 week Summer Season.