Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Norwich Riverside Walk

View to Whitefriars bridge

A simple 2.5 mile walk alongside the River Wensum through Norwich.

This picturesque walk through the centre of Norwich links the Marriott's Way at Barn Road roundabout on the inner ring road with The Wherryman's Way and Boudicca Way at Norwich Railway Station. There is a lot of history to the bridges over the River Wensom and associated folklore which is detailed in the features to this walk.

Norwich Barn Road roundabout to Norwich Railway Station Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Norwich Barn Road roundabout View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Norwich Railway Station View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
2.5 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Maps:

The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2018-04-24
Walk Time
16:00 to 17:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm and sunny spring day

Walk Notes

City walks are rarely featured on this site but this is one exception. Despite Norwich's ever expanding metropolis it is still has a worthwhile historic centre which provides a pleasant riverside walk with a scenic link between the long distance trails of the Marriots Way, the Boudicca Way and the Wherrymans Way.

This walk can be treated as a circular walk as there are paths on both sides of the river for the majority of the route. Probably most notable thing throughout the entire route are the numerous bridges and the many historic buildings including the New Mills Pumping station which is the site of the old New Mills Corn mill, the former Bullards Brewery building, St Andrew’s Hall, the Victorian yarn mill, the Cow Tower and Pulls Ferry.

Part of the old city walls
Part of the old city walls

Directions

There are footpaths on both banks of the River Wensum for the majority of the distance through Norwich

Marriotts Way to Wherrymans Way

From the roundabout, on the city side of the road, there is a footpath that leads down alongside the river. Keep to this, past the former New Mills pumping station, Coslany Street Bridge and onto duke Street bridge. Turn left and cross the road and go around the back of the Travelodge and through to St Georges Street Bridge, cross the bridge and find an arch on the left between the Technical College and St Andrews Hall which leads through the former Blackfriars monastery grounds. Keep to the left and follow the path back to the riverside with the splendid medieval Georgian buildings on Elm Hill on the right. Continue onto Fye Bridge where the path emerges by the side of the Ribs of Beef pub. Fye Bridge is said to be the oldest river crossing in Norwich and the site of a roman ford. Cross the road and continue along Quay Side to Whitefriars Bridge. Cross the road and keep to the riverside path with a large Victorian Yarn mill on the opposite side which was originally the grounds to Whitefriars monastery. The path follows the river past the historic 12th century Cow Tower to Bishops Bridge. From here take the alley which eventually comes out at Pulls Ferry where the lane leads up to the Cathedral. From Pull’s Ferry the path continues along the riverside and crosses the terrace of the Complete Angler pub next to the Prince of Wales Road bridge with the railway station on the opposite side. This marks the start to both the Wherrymans Way to Great Yarmouth and The Boudicca Way to Diss.

Wherrymans Way to Marriott's Way

The reverse direction can be walked along the opposite bank for most of the river.

near Fye bridge
near Fye bridge

Pubs

The Kings Head, Norwich View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Magdalen Street, Norwich
Website

Records show the Kings Head being a public house in the mid 1700s and little has changed with the building since those times. The pub architecture is testament to its heritage with gargoyles guarding the arch to the side courtyard and the emblem of the 19th century Crown brewery proudly adorning the centre of the arch. In more recent years the pub has been restored to a basic Victorian style bar and lounge where its wooden floorboards provide a rustic but clean look. Tradition is the theme throughout with conversation providing company and a simple bar billiards table providing entertainment.

The pub offers up to fourteen real local ales on tap and up to four more on stillage available, as well as a wide selection of Trappist and Belgian beers. This is a must for any discerning drinker to seek out.

Review

This pub never fails to impress both in the friendliness and the beer that it has to offer. There is always a wide variety of ale on offer and the staff are there to assist in choosing the beer to suit ones palette. Highly recommended.

path close to Cow Tower
path close to Cow Tower

Features

The Legend of Old BlunderhazzardView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Standing on the north easterly tip of what used to be known as Cowsholm, at a bend in the river Wensum is an ancient structure commonly known as the Cow Tower. The name probably originates from the 11th century when the area was a marshy cow pasture. It was originally built as a tollgate for the river and also used as a prison before falling into disuse when a new tollhouse was built. In 1378 it was conveyed to the city in a ruinous state, and completely rebuilt in 1390 when it was known as the Dungeon. This was probably incorporated into the city defences although there is no record of such or of its function from that period on.

On the opposite side of the river to the Cow Tower is an area of Norwich beyond the city walls called Pockthorpe which contained within it the monastery of White Friars, founded by William de Cowgate, in 1268. The manor house at Pockthorpe was known by both Monks Grange and Lathes Yard and after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 the land passed into private hands. In 1551 the lease was passed to William Blennerhassett and stayed in the Blennerhassett family name until 1702. During this period the name of the manor house at Monks Grange came to be known as Hassetts Hall and the Cow Tower as Hassetts Tower, although the reason for such is not known, maybe the family were entrusted to it, or maybe some family members even lived within it but there is no record of this. Hassetts Hall was said to be a brick building with a court-yard before it and a flight of stone steps up to the door and the whole grounds surrounded by a large walled garden. These buildings, together with Pockthorpe gate and the city walls were demolished in 1792 when they were replaced by the Cavalry Barracks which covered ten acres of land surrounded by a large brick wall. The barracks lasted until 1973 when the land was redeveloped as housing with a small section of the original wall incorporated into the corner of Barrack street and Gurney Road.

Hassetts Hall was reputed to be haunted and after it had been demolished, soldiers recuperating in the Barracks hospital, which stood on the site of the old manor house, would tell tales of being disturbed by strange apparitions during the night. The house was also supposed to have had a closet which had never been opened, and no one knew what was behind the doors of two rooms which had been plastered up, legend stating that any attempt to open them would result in the perpetrator being struck blind, with the testament of two such people who had suffered such a fate.

Probably the more renowned tale that came out of Hassett Hall was that of the Old Man Hassett. To what family member this reference was made is unclear, but the tale related to the ghostly apparition of Old Man frequently riding his coach and four horses over Bishopgate and over the tops of houses. It was said that the coachman and horses were all without heads, and when the whip was cracked, flashes of fire came out which illuminated the whole city. A similar story stated that 'Old Blunderhazard' would be seen each Christmas eve, just before midnight, in a coach and six headless horses flashing fire from their nostrils, on his journey to visit Hassett's Tower at Norwich, and to return to Barsham in Suffolk before 'he may snuff the morning air'. It is never made clear exactly how headless horses can flash fire from their nostrils!

It is uncertain where and when the tales originated though it is known that a relative also with the name Blennerhassett resided at Barsham Hall, near Beccles in Suffolk. A good piece of detective work was undertaken by Ivan Bunn and his findings were published in The Lantern, the Borderline Science Investigation Group monthly publication from the late 1970's. This suggests that this legend could emanate from Thomas Blennerhasset(b.c1546 d.1599), the son of John Blennerhassett from Barsham although this is only speculation based on the fact that his last will and testament left a coach and horses to his wife. Quite why such a legend should come about is open to conjecture and speculation; maybe he was a bit of a tyrant, maybe there is some tragic deed or untimely death which sentenced Old Blunderhazard to his eternal journey.

References

The Wensum BridgesView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The bridges that span the Wensum through Norwich are steeped in history. Starting from the Marriots Way end and heading to the Railway Station there are seven bridges in total.

St Miles Coslaney Bridge

The current pedestrian bridge here was built by James Frost in 1804, replacing an earlier stone bridge, and is the earliest iron bridge in Norwich and stands next to the 1773 former Anchor Brewery buildings of Bullard and Sons, now converted to flats.

Duke Street Bridge

A privately funded cast-iron toll bridge was built in 1822 which lasted until 1855 when the City Corporation took control. When the road was widened in 1972 which required a new bridge, the original was dismantled and later used in the construction of the Castle Mall cap park in 1992.

Blackfriars Bridge

Blackfriars Bridge is named after the order of Blackfriar monks who inhabited the adjoining ancient convent. This was originally a timber bridge built in the 14th century and replaced by a similar construction in the 15th century. A three arched stone bridge was then built in 1586, itself replaced in 1783 by a single arch spanning 44 feet with iron balustrades on each side.

Fye Bridge

The current Fye Bridge, originally known as Fyvebridge on account of it being the fifth principle bridge at the time of its construction although it is thought that a river crossing has been associated with this site dating back to Saxon times. The present bridge, by the side of the Ribs of Beef pub, was constructed in 1933 but records show that a timber bridge existed up until the 14th century when it was replaced by a two arch stone bridge and reputedly the first stone bridge in the city. This survived until 1570 when a flood washed it away and it was replaced by a two arched stone construction with the large arch spanning 26 feet. This lasted until 1829 when a single span cast iron bridge replaced it. In 1933 the iron bridge was replaced by the present two arched bridge with each arch spanning some 35 feet.

Close to Fye bridge was a lane known as Cook Row on account that this was the location of the so called Cucke Stool, the name applied to what is more commonly referred to as the ducking stool. This contraption is renowned for its use in the 17th century to determine whether a woman was a witch by repeatedly ducking her under the water. If she floated she was determined to be a witch, if she drowned she was innocent. It also had a wider general use as a punishment for unscrupulous brewers and bakers as well as scoulds, the term applied to troublesome or disorderly women. An instance of the use of this apparatus is recorded in 1597 which states that:

Margaret Grove, a common skould, to be carried with a bason rung before her to the Cucke-stool, at Fyebridge, and there to be three times ducked

Another instance from 1562 states:

A woman for whoredom to ryde on a cart, with a paper in her hand, and tynklyd with a bason; and so at one o'clock to be had to the cokying stool, and ducke din the water.

The road north of the bridge is Magdalen Street and number 19 is reputedly haunted by the shadowy figure said to be the victim of a murder. The premises was a pub during the 19th century and was named The Key Merchants Arms which was said to harbour a den of vice in its upper rooms. One of the girls who worked here got into an altercation with a man who got the wrong idea and in the commotion he strangled her. Although he was caught, tried and executed at Norwich Gaol, the spirit of his victim does not rest and is said to be one of the city's most violent poltergeists which has caused terror and fear for many of the occupants of the premises which have included Stirling Travel, Oxfam and Ron's Reptiles in the years since the pub stopped trading.

Since the 1960's there have been many reports of ghostly occurrences such as phantom footsteps in the upper empty rooms of the building, objects moving on their own accord including a typewriter operating itself. During the Oxfam ownership a bin bag of donated clothing was found one morning to have been taken out and neatly folded in a pile although none of the staff had been at the shop. From the exterior numerous folk have witnessed a ghostly apparition of a young woman staring out of the upstairs window although the window in question had been bricked up from the inside. Because this obtained a mark of notoriety the window was also boarded up from the exterior. These days the window appears to be back in place.

Eventually a session with a Ouija board was performed which contacted a woman called Sarah who was the victim of the murder. The reason she is so angry is because she doesn’t understand she is dead. She thinks she’s alive so she will say something to you and if you ignore her, which you are likely to do because you cannot hear her, then she will think you are being rude and she’ll get angry Despite an exorcism by the bishop of Norwich, the shop still retains its ghostly occupant.However the person who took it over in 2005 Brian Roberts as a craft shop has reported no menacing issues.

Whitefriars Bridge

Whitefriars Bridge was opened in 1925 with the first bridge on this site dating back to 1106 when it was known as St. Martins Bridge. The original timber bridge was swept away in a flood during the 13th century. This was rebuilt and lasted until the mid 15th century when the Earl of Warwick ordered its destruction to prevent the rebels protesting against the land enclosures, led by Robert Kett and commonly known as Ketts Rebellion, from entering the city. It was eventually rebuilt as a stone structure in 1591 and this lasted until the start of the 20th century when it had to be pulled down due to river widening, and replaced by the present bridge.

Peter's Bridge

Peter's Bridge is a new footbridge opened in January 2012 and is named after the former Jarrolds chairman Peter Jarrold. Staff at the Adam and Eve pub report a sighting of a ghostly hand holding a head in the car park, the terrifying sensation of somebody running hands through their hair and odd noises. Lord Sheffield, who died at the inn in 1549 is believed to be the culprit here.

Bishop's Bridge

Bishop's Bridge is the only surviving medieval bridge in the city, built in 1340 and originally part of Norwich's defensive walls but even this is predated by an older timber bridge which was said to have been rebuilt in 1295. This bridge consists of three fortified arches and a large gatehouse at the western end.

The far side of this bridge is a pit known as Lollards pit from which the chalk was hewn for the construction of Norwich Cathedral. Although the term Lollard appears to have been applied to religious heretics in general, possibly taken from a Dutch word with the meaning of mumbler, it was more specifically applied to the followers of John Wycliffe in the 14th century whose religious views were considered heretical by the catholic church. The movement lasted through to the English reformation of the 16th century.

The pit became the location for the execution of heretics and witches and consequently was referred to as Lollards Pit. Executions were given for the simplest of crimes such as possession of a religious text or even querying the theological basis of the Catholic Eucharist. Monty Pythons stoning sequence in the film Life of Brian succinctly parodies such religious intolerance when the accused was heard to utter a blasphemous word. Records show that such instances of intolerance regularly occured with the following account recorded in the year 1556:

In March, William Carmen, of Hingham, was burnt in Lollard's pit, without Bishps gate. He was charged with being an obstinate heretic, and having in his possession a bible, a testament, and three psalters, in the English tongue.

July 13. Simon Miller, merchant, of Lynn, and Elizabeth Cooper, a pewterers wife, of the parish of St Andrew, were burnt in the same fire , in Lollards pit.

Aug 5. Richard Crashfield of Wymondham, was burnt in the same place. During the time of his suffering, one Thomas Carman was apprehended (probably for speaking favourably of the martyr), and shortly afterwards burnt, together with William Seaman and Thomas Hudson. Cicely, the wide of Edmond Ores, of the parish of St Lawrence, Worstead weaver, was burnt on the 23rd September.

These cases are fully detailed along with many other accounts in John Spurgins 1855 publication The Norfolk and Norwich martyrs. I would encourage the avid reader to peruse the pages of this book to understand how easy it was to end up being burnt at the stake during these times.

Opposite the bridge is the Lollards Pit pub, formerly known as the Kings Arms, which was built in the mid 1600's on the site of the execution grounds. The cellar of the pub is said to have been the holding cells of the accused awaiting for their execution and the garden is said to have been the pit into which the burned remains were cast. There are numerous reports of paranormal phenomenon associated with the pub including dark shadows on the corridors, disembodied screams and an apparition of a woman being engulfed in flame which then vanishes before the witnesses eyes.

Foundry Bridge

Foundry Bridge was opened in 1811 and gains it's name from the foundry which used to stand just downstream of it.

References
Pulls Ferry
Pulls Ferry

Gallery

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2018-04-28

2018-04-28 : Expanded bridges feature to include more local history and folklore

  4 comments:

  1. Wonderful city. But I am biased.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great blog post.

    Since you seem to be very well informed, can I ask what are those stone arches (or part of walls, I am not sure what they really are...) that are visible on Barn Road, a little after the retail part that is there. The arches are very near the traffic lights (they stand on your left, if you are waiting at the traffic lights to turn right and get on Dereham Road, I hope you know which ones I am on about).

    I see them daily and wander what part of what structure from when are they, but cant find anything on the internet. Thanks :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe these are parts of the old City Wall and date from the 14th century. The City wall protected the south and west side of the city whilst the river offered protection for the north and east sides. There are other sections of the old wall still visible, notably the section by the St Stephens Street roundabout. I have found an interesting hand drawn map of the old city gates at http://www.georgeplunkett.co.uk/Norwich/Drawings/Citywallsandtowers00.jpg

      Delete

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