The bulge of land between the Thames Estuary and the Wash, flat but far from featureless, sits aside from the main north ~ south axis through Britain, and for that reason it has succeeded in maintaining and preserving its distinctive architecture, traditions and rural character in both cities and countryside.
East Anglia’s name derives from arable farming, and today East the Angles, the people from northern Germany who settled here during the 5th and 6th centuries. East anglians have long been a breed of plain-spoken and independent people. Two pro4 minent East Anglians ~ Queen Boadicea in the 1st century and Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century — were famous for their stubbornness and their refusal to bow to constituted authority. During the Civil War, East Anglia was Cromwell’s most reliable source of support. The hardy people who made a difficult living hunting and fishing in the swampy fens, which Were drained in the 17th century, were called the Fen Tigers. After (raining, the peaty soil proved ideal & Anglia grows about a third of Britain’s vegetables. The rotation of crops, heralding Britain’s agricultural revolution, was perfected in Norfolk in the 18th century. Many of the region’s towns and cities grew prosperous on the agricultural wealth, including Norwich. The sea also plays a prominent role in East Anglian life. Coastal towns and villages support the many fishermen who use the North Sea, rich in herring in former days but now known mainly for flat fish.
In modern times, the area has become a centre of recreational sailing, both off the coast and on the inland waterway system known as the Norfolk Broads. East Anglia is also home to one of Britain’s top universities: Cambridge.
Exploring East Anglia As you move away from London, you soon reach the countryside immortalized by the painter Constable, scattered with churches, windmills and medieval agricultural barns. Nature lovers will find it fruitful territory, especially North Norfolk with its bird reserves and seal colonies. Boating enthusiasts, — Hunstents too, are well catered for in this, Britain’s driest and sunniest region. The local architecture ranges from a mix of medieval to modern.
Although one of the oldest settlements in Britain, Peterborough was designated a New Town in 1967, and is now a mixture of ancient and modern.
The city centre is dominated by the 12th-century St Peter’s Cathedral which gave the city its name. The interior of this classic Norman building, with its vast yet simple nave, was badly damaged by Cromwell’s troops but its unique painted wooden ceiling has survived intact. Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII is buried here.
One of the most important Neolithic sites in England, this was once an extensive complex of flint mines — 433 shafts have been located — dating from before 2000 BC. Using antlers as pickaxes, Stone Age miners hacked through the soft chalk to extract the hard flint below to make weapons and tools. The flint may have been transported long distances around England on the prehistoric network of paths. You can descend 9 m (30 ft) by ladder into one of the shafts and see the galleries where the flint was mined.
The best-preserved Georgian town in East Anglia and a fashionable resort during the Regency period, Swaffham is at its liveliest on Saturdays when a market is held in the square around the market cross of 1783. In the centre of the town is the 15th-century Church of St Peter and St Paul, with a small spire added in the 19th century. It has a magnificent Tudor north aisle, said to have been paid for by John Chapman, the Pedlar of Swaffham. He is depicted on the two-sided town sign near the market place. Myth has it that he went to London and met a stranger who told him of hidden treasure at Swaffham. He returned, dug it up and used it to embellish the church, where he is shown in a window.
Formerly Bishop’s Lynn, its name was changed at the Reformation to reflect the changing political reality. In the Middle Ages it was one of England’s most prosperous ports, shipping grain and wool from the surrounding countryside to Europe. There are still a few warehouses and merchants houses by the River Ouse surviving from this period.
Built on a chalk hill, this small city is thought to be named after the eels in the nearby River Ouse. The hill was once an inaccessible island in the then marshy and treacherous Fens. It was also the last stronghold of Anglo-Saxon resistance, under Hereward the Wake, who hid in the cathedral until the Normans crossed the Fens in 1071.
Today this small prosperous city, totally dominated by the huge cathedral, is the market centre for the rich agricultural! area surrounding it.
This sizeable Norfolk estate has been in royal hands since 1862 when it was bought by the Prince of Wales, who later became Edward VII. The 18th-century house was elaborately embellished and refurbised by the prince and now retains an appropriately Edwardian atmosphere. The large stables are now a museum and contain several trophies that relate to hunting, shooting and horse racing – all favourite royal activities. A popular feature is a display of royal motor cars spanning nearly century. In the park there are scenic nature trails.
Herring fishing was once the major industry of this port, with 1,000 boats engaged in it | just before World War I. Overfishing led to a depletion of stocks and, for the port to survive, it started to earn its living from servicing container ships and North Sea oil rigs.
It is also the most popular seaside resort on the Norfolk coast and has been since the 19th century, when Dickens gave it useful pubF licity by setting part of his novel David Copperfield here.
The Elizabethan House Museum has a large, eclectic display which illustrates the social history of the area.
In the old part of the town, around South Quay, are a number of charming houses including the 17th-century Old Merchant’s House.
These shallow lakes and waterways south and northeast of Norwich, joined by Six rivers — the Bure, Thurne, Ant, Yare, Waveney and Chet ~ were once thought to have been naturally formed, but in actual fact they are medieval peat diggings which flooded when the water level rose in the 13th century.
In summer the 125 miles (200 km) of open waterways, uninterrupted by locks, teem with thousands of boating enthusiasts. You can either hire a boat yourself or take one of the many trips on offer to view the plants and wildlife of the area. Look out – for Britain’s largest butterfly, the swallowtail. Wroxham, the unofficial capital of the Broads, is the starting point for many of these excursions.
Featured: Thatch Barn
In the heart of the fertile East Anglian countryside, Norwich, one of the bestpreserved cities in Britain, is steeped in a relaxed provincial atmosphere. The city was first fortified by the Saxons in the 9th century and still has the irregular street plan of that time. With the arrival of Flemish settlers in the early 12th century and the establishment of a textile industry, the town soon became a prosperous market and was the second city of England until the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.
The oldest parts of the city are Elm Hill, one of the finest medieval streets in England, and Tombland, the old Saxon market place by the cathedral. Both have well-preserved medieval buildings, which are now incorporated into pleasant areas of small shops. With a trading history spanning hundreds of years, the colourful market in the city centre is well worth a visit. A good walk meanders around the surviving sections of the 14th-century flint city wall. fa Norwich Cathedral The Close. Tel 01603 218300. C7 daily. Donations. Ci www.cathedral.org.uk This magnificent building was founded in 1096 by Bishop Losinga and built with stone from Caen in France and Barnack.
The precinct originally included a monastery, and the surviving cloister is the most extensive in England, The thin cathedral spire was added in the 15th century, making it, at 96 m (315 ft), the second tallest in England after Salisbury.
As one of the large open spaces near London, the 2,400 ha (6,000 acre) forest is popular with walkers, just as, centuries ago, it was a favourite hunting ground for kings and courtiers — the word forest denoted an area for hunting. Henry VIII had a lodge built in 1543 on the edge of the forest. His daughter Elizabeth I often used the lodge and it soon became known as Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge.
This three-storey timbered building has been fully renovated and now houses an exhibition explaining the lodge’s history and other aspects of the forest’s life.
The tracts of open land and woods interspersed with a number of lakes, make an ideal habitat for a variety of plant, bird and animal life: deer roam the northern part, many of a special dark strain introduced by James I.
This delightful old town on the River Blackwater, its High Street lined with shops and inns from the 14th century on, was once an important harbour. One of its best-known industries is the production of Maldon sea salt, panned in the traditional way.
A fierce battle here in 991, when Viking invaders defeated the Saxon defenders, is told in The Battle of Maldon, one of the earliest known Saxon poems. The battle is also celebrated in the Maldon Embroidery on display in the Maeldune Centre. This 13-m(42-ft-) long embroidery, made by locals, depicts the history of Maldon from 991 to 1991.
A walk down the short main street tells you all you need to know about this busy and wealthy little town. The shops sell horse feed and all manner of riding accessories; the clothes on sale are tweeds, jodhpurs and the soft brown hats rarely worn by anyone except racehorse trainers. Newmarket has been the headquarters of British horse racing since James I decided that its open heaths were ideal for testing the mettle of his fastest steeds against those of his friends. The first ever recorded horse race was held here in 1622. Charles I shared his grandfather’s enthusiasm and after the Restoration would move the whole court to Newmarket, every spring and summer, for the sport — he is the only British king to have ridden a winner.
Featured: the mayfair newmarket
A horse being exercised on Newmarket Heath The modern racing industry began to take shape here in the late 18th century. There are now over 2,500 horses in training in and around the town, and two racecourses staging regular race meetings from around April to October.
Bury St Edmunds
St Edmund was the last Saxon king of East Anglia, decapitated by Danish raiders in 870. Legend has it that a wolf picked up the severed head —
an image that appears in a number of medieval carvings.
St James’s was designated a cathedral in 1914. The best features of bp St Mary’s are the north porch and the hammerbeam roof over the nave. A stone slab in the north east corner marks St Edmund the tomb of Mary Tudor.
Just below the market cross in Cornhill – remodelled by Robert Adam in 1714 stands the large 12th-century Moyse’s Hall, a merchant’s house that serves as the local history museum, displaying archaeology from the area.
This picture-postcard seaside resort, with its charming white-washed villas clustered around small greens, has largely by historical accident remained unspoiled. The railway line which connected it with London was closed in 1929, which effectively isolated this Georgian town from an influx of day-trippers. This was also once a large port, as testified by the size of the 15th-century St Edmund King and Martyr Church, worth a visit for the 16th-century painted screens.
On its tower is a small figure dressed in the uniform of a 15th-century soldier and known as Jack o’the Clock. Southwold Museum tells the story of the Battle of Sole Bay, which was fought offshore _ between the English and 5 Dutch navies in 1672. .The pretty village of Walberswick lies across the creek.
By road it is a long detour and the only alternatives are a rowing-boat ferry across the harbour 7 (summer only) or a footbridge across the river half a mile inland. Further inland at Clock, Blythburgh, the 15th century Holy Trinity Church dominates the surrounding land. In 1944 a US bomber blew up over the church, killing Joseph Kennedy Jr, brother of the future American president.
Suffolk’s county town has a largely modern centre but several buildings remain from earlier times. It rose to prominence after the 13th century as a port for the rich Suffolk wool trade Later, with the Industrial Revolution, it began to export coal.
The Ancient House in Buttermarket has a superb example of pargeting – the ancient craft of ornamental facade plastering. The town’s museum and art gallery, Christchurch Mansion, is a Tudor house from 1548, where Elizabeth I stayed in 1561. It also boasts the best collection of Constable’s paintings out of London including four marvellous Suffolk landscapes, as well as paintings by Gainsborough.
Ipswich Museum contains replicas of the Mildenhall and Sutton Hoo treasures, the originals being in the British Museum.
In the centre of the town is St Margaret’s, a 15th-century church built in flint and stone with a double hammerbeam roof and 17th-century painted ceiling panels. Wolsey’s Gate, a Tudor gateway of 1527, provides a link with Ipswich’s most famous son, Cardinal Wolsey. He started to build an ecclesiastical college in the town, but fell from royal favour before it was finished.
Windmills on The Fens and Broads
The flat, open countryside and the stiff breezes from the North Sea made windmills an obvious power source for East Anglia well into the 20th century, and today they are an evocative and recurring feature of the landscape. On the Broads and Fens, some were used for drainage, while others, such as that at Saxtead Green, ground corn. On the boggy fens they were not built on hard foundations, so few survived, but elsewhere, especially on the Broads, many have been restored to working order. The seven-storey Berney Arms Windmill is the tallest on the Broads. Thurne Dyke Drainage Mill is the site of an exhibition about the occasionally idiosyncratic mills and their more unusual mechanisms.