A tour through historic Norfolk
Norfolk is celebrated as a county of idyllic rural retreats and beautiful, bracing beaches. This unique blend is a big draw for visitors but Norfolk also has some interesting historical sites that shouldn’t be missed on a visit to the area.
Along with neighbouring Suffolk, Norfolk is a county with a turbulent past. It has a reputation for revolt (well-founded, we might add) and the people of Norfolk pride themselves on their fighting spirit: Boudica, Hereward the Wake, the Paston Family, Robert Kett, John Utting – all familiar names in Norfolk’s history.
We can’t promise a rebellion on a visit to one of Norfolk’s historic sites today but we can promise an exciting day and, don’t worry if you’re not a history buff, most attractions double up as a great family day out too.
Just an hour’s drive from Wells-Next-The-Sea, boxlike and bullish in appearance, Norwich Castle dominates the centre of Norfolk’s capital. By turns, a palace, a stronghold, a rebel base, and even a prison, the castle leads a more peaceful existence now as a museum charting the history of the county. Home to Norfolk’s largest collection of art and archaeological artefacts, it is a fascinating day out for all the family.
The castle is also an art gallery housing some of the county’s finest collections. The permanent collection features British and international masterpieces from the 17th to the 20th century, while regular guest exhibitions bring the most celebrated names in artworld to the UK.
Norwich’s museum features several exhibitions dedicated to archaeology and natural history, the most interesting of which is about East Anglia’s Queen Boudica. Highlights of the exhibition include sparkling golden treasures and the opportunity to jump aboard an Iceni warrior’s chariot!
Caistor St Edmund
Caistor St Edmund is a sleepy little village reclining on the River Tas, just outside Norwich. Here you will find the remains of an important Romano-British town, Venta Icenorum. Meaning ‘market-place of the Eceni’, Venta was one of Norfolk’s most important administrative centres during the Roman occupation.
Now in the care of Norfolk Archaeological Trust, the well-kept remains are worth a visit. For history enthusiasts, the site is a fabulous example of a Roman ‘gridiron’ street layout but all visitors will be captivated by the surroundings – you cannot fail to feel close to our ancestors here.
Before you go, download the Caistor Roman Town app to your smartphone to learn all about the history of the town. There are no facilities at Venta and the app makes your visit much more interactive – using augmented reality the app reconstructs the town before your very eyes!
We think no trip around historic Norfolk is complete without a visit to Sandringham House. Make the half hour drive to Sandringham from Wells to experience ‘how the other half live’ at a house that has been the private residence of our Royal Family for four generations.
This sprawling country pad is a Grade II listed building set in 20,000 acres of land. The house itself is set within 60 acres of beautifully manicured gardens; they are the perfect spot to take a leisurely walk or bring a picnic with the family.
Much of the house is open to the public and you are encouraged to take your time exploring the gorgeously decorated state rooms and private quarters. Sandringham has a fascinating history, we suggest you join a guided tour to fully appreciate this special family home.
Motor aficionados will love the Museum of Royal Vehicles housed in the Old Stables while those with a nose for the finer things will enjoy the charming collections of porcelain and jade, as well as many Royal Family portraits.
Of course, we’ve only just scratched the surface of historic Norfolk. Every town and village in the county has its own fascinating story to tell – we hope you take some time to unearth Norfolk’s past for yourself.