March 2020: Three Cities: 3. Norwich


I travelled from London to Norwich on a Greater Anglia express train, using a heavily discounted ‘Advance First’ ticket. It was one of the company’s brand new, Swiss-built Stadler trains, which gave an impressively smooth ride. On arrival, my base for the first couple of nights was just steps away. As ever, the Premier Inn was fairly basic, but gave excellent value for money.

Norwich Cathedral

Dating from the mid-12th century, Norwich Cathedral has had a long and sometimes troubled history – it was in a state of partial ruin for a while following the Reformation. Prior to that, the current spire was added in 1480; it is the second tallest in England (after Salisbury) and unusually, it does not have a full ‘ring’ of bells. The cathedral has extensive precincts and the building itself includes the only example in England of two-storey cloisters. The cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Norwich in the Church of England.

There is no entry charge, but voluntary contributions are, of course, gratefully received. I split my sightseeing into two visits, one of which was extended to include the wonderful experience of hearing Choral Evensong, exactly one week before lockdown put a temporary block on such pleasures.

But wait, there’s another one!

Since 1976, the city of Norwich has been home to a second cathedral: St John the Baptist Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia. Completed in 1910 as a parish church, this is a particularly fine building to a design by architect George Gilbert Scott Jr (1839-1897), son of a very famous father. There is, of course, no guarantee that a son will inherit his father’s talents or interests, but judging by this example of his work, it seems that the young GGS did exactly that. I was impressed.

Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle, sometimes irreverently referred to as ‘the square box on the hill’ is of similar vintage to Norwich Cathedral, dating from Norman times. In the castle’s case, construction is believed to have been ordered by William the Conqueror himself. It has a ‘motte-and-bailey’ design, a concept introduced into Britain by the Normans. The museum has a notable fine art collection, while the paintings are mainly British and Dutch – a perfect fit for this trip!

Other views

The natural centre of Norwich is Market Place. As well as being home to Norwich Market, which has operated on the site for more than 900 years, it is where the visitor can find City Hall and the medieval Guildhall.


I moved to an airport hotel for my final night, in order to be in position for my flight the following morning. In the event, this was cancelled and, with the developing situation around the pandemic, I chose to go home using a hastily arranged one-way rental car. At the time of making this post, I have an official acknowledgement of my claim for the cancelled flight, but as yet no refund.