Visit to Norwich 2008
At 7.15 on the morning of February 23rd 2008 the sky was not fully light and a chilly wind was blowing.† My daughter ran down the street to greet her friend who was waiting outside St. Michael's Church along with several other day trippers all huddled in overcoats but resolutely cheerful.
The morning had started well, the robes were neatly folded into my bag, the music was packed and we had arrived before the coach! The coach was on time sliding gracefully out of Commonwealth Road and reversed smoothly to a halt outside the church.
Everyone boarded the bus greeted friends who had joined the bus at Welling and settled gratefully into the warmth with magazines, newspapers or walkmans.† Or, like me caught up on some shuteye!
The journey passed and we arrived at Norwich at about 10.15, disembarked at the Cathedral Gate.† Having deposited the robes into the choir room and having ordered the children off of the table football and snooker table they had found we pondered what to do with the morning.
Everyone drifted off to do what they chose, we joined Michael, Janet, Solomon, Lydia and Mercy on a walk along the River Wensum and around some of the historic parts of Norwich.† It was an interesting stroll and Michael turned out to be a font of knowledge about Norwich's long past.
We walked along the river and saw the small jetty where much of the French stone used to build the Cathedral had been landed.† We walked on along the river with Michael pointing out and naming the many churches to be seen in the distant as well as the Roman Catholic Cathedral which was built outside the city wall as after the Reformation it was illegal to be build it within the city.
Norwich is a fascinating City with historical sites going back to the Saxon and Norman periods as well as examples of Medieval and Tudor history.† As we walked on along the river we saw the ruins of the Cow Tower a purpose built artillery tower built in the early 1300's and a section of the old city wall which had been a part of the defences of the medieval city.
The children in the group made friend with the local dog walkers who were also enjoying the river path and we all enjoyed the displays of early spring flowers that were just coming into bloom.
As we reached the end of the first stage of our walk Michael lead us all into a delightful little cafe called the King of Heart and revived everyone by treating us all to tea, coffee and homemade cakes.† Thank you they were very much enjoyed.
The second stage of our walk took us into the old town along Elm Hill which had once housed the premier shopping street of Saxon Norwich, today it is full of antique shops, dusty book shops and shops selling art and tourist nic-nacs but you don't have to try to hard to see the butcher, baker and blacksmith of long ago as you stumble along the narrow cobbled street.
As we reached the top of Elm Hill we passed a Tudor House with a plague informing us that this had been the home of the Paston family in 1538.† I don't know who the Paston family were but I was impressed by their home and the fact it was still there at all!
As we turned the corner we came to another beautiful building, Michael told us that this had once been a monastery but had been closed in the Tudor period when so many monasteries had been dissolved.† The building had been saved by a petition by the people of Norwich to the monarch after which the building had found a new lease of life as the city hall where functions of all sorts are held to this day.
We walked on to the large open air market which has been in operation since Normans times, and was in its day the largest Norman Market in Europe.† It is a big and still impressive market today with lines of stalls topped with brightly coloured awing.† Today it sells everything from jewellery to pet food.
The market was a strange place where tweedy locals mixed with big issue sellers and street musicians, red and blue haired safety pinned punks who seemed to be slightly out of their time as well as the green and gold clad football fans off to cheer for the canaries and eat Delia's pies.† Perhaps itís just Norwich, old and new ordinary and the extraordinary.
From here we walked through the pretty Royal Arcade to look at the Norwich Castle atop its hill another impressive sight.† By now it was time for lunch and after a slight mishap in which I lost the rest of the group and had to be rescued by Peter, and the discovery of a very ,very long and slow moving queue at the Kentucky Fried Chicken Shop we returned to the Cathedral to eat in the Refectory there.
After baked potatoes and coffee the choristers and the children from Jubilate headed off to the choir room to practice for Evensong later in the day.
Those of us that were left spent the afternoon taking a guided tour of the Cathedral.† It had once also been home to a Benedictine Monastery and had a wonderful, long history full of things of interest and beauty and stories of the grand and the good and the grand and not-so-good and many local people who became willingly or not part of Norwich Cathedrals past.† I cannot begin to do justice to the story.† The Cathedral is beautiful I enjoyed the wonderful stained glass windows, the needlework, the paintings, the craving, the statues and the works of art both ancient and modern although many were covered at the moment because of Lent.
My favourite item on the tour was the new font a large brass bowl that had been fashioned from an old chocolate vat taken from the Nestle Factory in Norwich after it had been closed.
The tour was very interesting and took place against a backdrop of the choir practising the music for evensong.† The music sounded so beautiful and I felt so proud to be associated with the people able to make it.
Evensong was a lovely way to end the day, with the traditions of the Cathedral continued for one more day the Bible was read in turn by The Presenter and then The Dean, (who once was The Rector of Thamesmead.) both assisted by the verger, and then the ancient rule of St Benedict was read as is the daily custom in Norwich Cathedral.† The Rule for the day was about Heads of Department and how people in such positions should take care not to become puffed up with pride.† If they do they should be removed from their position.† Some things never change!
It was a calm and peaceful way to end the day.† The music soared and even though you simply can't do so in church I felt an overwhelming desire to stand up at the end and give everyone a jolly good clap!
The journey home was uneventful, although not quiet with so many children in our group.† We arrived back at St. Michael's shortly before eight o'clock at the end of a happy day well spent.
Written by Sue