Norfolk's capital has been called England's finest example of the harmonious blending of past and present. The square Norman keep, continuing its 800-year watch from the top of its green mound, looks down on a city into which department stores and office blocks have been assimilated without disturbing the delicate tracery of old and ancient streets. The city snuggles in the bow of a river which made her an inland port, and some parts of the old flint city wall are still standing.
Colourful striped awnings cover the stalls of a big open market which operates daily and has traded there since before the Norman keep was built. Now the slim-towered city hall of this century presides over it all, its pleasing 1930s lines contrasting with the chequer-board black and white flint of the medieval Guildhall where 529 Mayors and Lord Mayors directed the city's affairs between 1407 and 1938.
The fortunes of both city and county began to flourish in the fourteenth century when Flemish weavers, who had previously spun and woven English wool at home, were attracted to Norwich. The great worsted weaving industry – Worstead is a small village outside Norwich – thrived until in the seventeenth century Norwich became the second city to London in the whole country. But again the tide of history changed with the coming of the industrial revolution and the manufacture of woollen cloth was drawn away to centres of power and raw materials in the North of England.
The cathedral which stirs the Norfolk soul so deeply sets itself apart from the busy streets in a serene and tranquil close. Building began in 1094 and today's spire at 315 feet is second in height only to Salisbury Cathedral. Inside, giant Norman columns and great round arches soar to the high vaults of the roof that are embossed with gold. These splendidly sculpted precincts to me are a thrilling expression in stone of all man's highest philosophical and moral aspirations. There is an almost tangible feeling that here, within this exultant frame, the peaceful positive goodness in human nature has been concentrated and intensified over many silent centuries.
Outside the close a few steps away lies the cobbled medieval street of Elm Hill, which is to Norwich what Cley's windmill is to Norfolk, the city's most photographed and painted landmark. Tudor timberwork merges with Georgian facades and from one of these houses, now the Strangers Club, Queen Elizabeth I is said to have watched a pageant in her honour.
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