Sites and buildings from ancient history
Norfolk has a wealth of history, Prior to the Doomsday Book and the Norman conquest of 1066 Norfolk history is in the main uncharted. There is however ample evidence of Roman occupation in the area, such as the flint workings at Grimes Graves, the Roman camps at Brancaster and Castle Rising, numerous “straight as an arrow” Roman roads like Peddars Way and Watling Street and remains of forts at Thetford and elsewhere.
There is also much evidence of the Danes occupation of the area with many towns and villages bearing names that have Danish origins. Horning, Holt, Darum - Dereham, Kjelling – Kelling, Horsted – Horstead to name but a few.
The Iceni Village, at Cockley Cley, Near Swaffham, is a reconstruction of the type of village occupied by a British tribe, the Iceni, shortly before the Roman occupation-about 2,000 years ago. Within the ground of the village is St mary's Church, thought to be one of the oldest churches in the country, posisbly having first been built during the time of the Augustine mission in 628AD. The church now stands much as it must have done 1300 years ago with the exception of the Roman coffin and the Roman tiles in the western end of the nave.
When the Normans arrived and conquered in 1066, Norwich was one of the largest towns in England with 25 churches and a population of over 5,000.
Circa 2100BC Grimes Graves begun
Grime's Graves is the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain but it wasn't until one of the holes was excavated in 1870 that they were found to be flint mines dug over 5,000 years ago, during the later Neolithic and early Bronze Ages.
Visitors can descend 30 feet by ladder into one excavated shaft and the small exhibition area illustrates the history of this fascinating site.
2050BC Seahenge constructed (the date is exact!)The ring of 55 split oak trunks surrounding a large inverted oak stump was discovered on the beach at Holme next Sea due to coastal erosion.
Controversially the henge was removed from the site, and after preservation work at Flag Fen near Peterborough, it was moved to Portsmouth for more conservation work by experts at the Mary Rose Trust.
A whole gallery of King's Lynn Museum is devoted to telling the story of the unique 4,000 year old timbers. As well as a life size replica of the Bronze Age circle, around half of the original timbers are housed in a display which echoes their beach findspot.
Circa 60AD Venta Icenorum established
First discovered in July 1928 from RAF aerial photography in the area, and later revealed to be of international importance, the Roman Town of Venta Icenorum is a few mile south of Norwich, at what is now known as Caistor St Edmunds.
The predecessor of the modern county town of Norwich, the Roman settlement accounts for only a small part of over 10,000 years of human activity in the area, evidenced by numerous archeological finds, many of which are held at Norwich Castle Museum.
The most visible part of Roman Caistor is the town wall on the north side. It still stands to a height of about 20 feet, having been built for defence puposes. Although the town wall enclosed about 35 acres this was only about half the area of the original town, which included a forum, a basilica, baths, temples and an amphitheatre.
1089AD Founding of Castle Acre Priory
Situated five miles north of Swaffham, in West Norfolk, Castle Acre Priory is one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England.
As well as the magnificent West front entrance, the reamins still include parts of teh nave and much of the Prior's house. This is in excellent condition, with huge fireplaces remaining in almost every room, incluidng the Prior's Private Chapel. The massive earthworks help to give an idea of the size of teh site.
Close by is the Castle Acre Castle and Bailey Gate, a 13th century twin-towered stone gatehouse, which formed the north gateway to the town.
1090AD Commencement of construction of Binham Priory
Mostly Norman, Binham Priory was not completed, at the west end, until between 1226 and 1244, by which time work was in the Early English style. Still standing is the nave of the larger priory church, which contiues to serve as the parish church of Binham, midway between Holt and Wells-next-the- Sea.
1096AD Foundation stone laid for Norwich Cathedral
Bishop Herbert laid the foundation stone at the very east end of Norwich Cathedral. The riverside location of the Cathedral complex is quite deliberate. Lack of local freestone and the inaccessibility of the Northamptonshire quarries meant that the majority of the stone used to construct the new Cathedral had to be imported from Caen in Normandy.
The building is in the Romanesque style, the architectural style which was widespread from the late tenth to the twelfth century across the western church, also known in England as ‘Norman’ style.
1107AD Wymondham Abbey founded
Wymondham Abbey Wymondham Abbey was founded in 1107 as a community of Benedictine monks. The abbey is one of the finest and most interesting of the historic churches of East Anglia.
The building was on an ambitious scale. Stone was shipped across the English Channel from Caen, in Normandy, and the original Nave - a scaled-down version of the Nave of Norwich Cathedral - was twelve bays long. The Priory Church was cruciform, with a central Tower and two low Towers at the western end. By the middle of the fourteenth century the Norman Central Tower was showing signs of weakness and was demolished, with the present Central Tower having been completed in 1409.
Inside it is distinguished by its twelfth-century nave arcades, its magnificent fifteenth-century angel roofs and its remarkable altar-screen, designed in the twentieth century by Sir Ninian Comper.
1120AD Norwich Castle keep completed
The square Caen stone keep of Norwich Castle, which retains its original outer shell, was built on top of the motte measures some 96 feet by 92 feet and stahds 76 feet high. built by the Normans as a Royal Palace, the castle was used as a prison from the 14th century, beginning its current usage, as a museum. in 1894.
1140AD Castle Rising Castle
Castle Rising Castle is one of the most famous 12th Century castles in England. One of the largest, best preserved and most lavishly decorated keeps in England, it is surrounded by 20 acres of mighty earthworks. The stone keep is one of the finest surviving examples of its kind anywhere in the country.
Circa 1398AD Construction of Cow Tower, Norwich
One of the earliest purpose-built artillery blockhouses in England, the brick Cow Tower was built to command a strategic point in Norwich's city defences. The tower has a dungeon below it which was used in the 16th century to hold convicted witches before they were led along the riverside path to meet their end at Bishopgate.
Circa 1430AD Dragon Hall built
Dragon Hall is a magnificent Grade 1 listed medieval trading hall in the heart of Norwich embodying one thousand years of human history. The hall was built by merchant Robert Toppes in 1430 and is believed to be the only surviving medieval trading hall in Western Europe built by an individual.
Following a £1.8 million restoration and development programme, largely funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, Dragon Hall was re-opened in 2006 as a major heritage visitor attraction.