United Kingdom: Norwich

Norwich (/ˈnɒrɪdʒ, -ɪtʃ/ (About this sound listen)) is a city on the River Wensum in East Anglia and lies approximately 100 miles (161 km) north-east of London. It is the county town of Norfolk. From the Middle Ages until the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important.

The urban area of Norwich had a population of 213,166 according to the 2011 Census. This area extends beyond the city boundary, with extensive suburban areas on the western, northern and eastern sides, including Costessey, Taverham, Hellesdon, Bowthorpe, Old Catton, Sprowston and Thorpe St Andrew. The parliamentary seats cross over into adjacent local-government districts. A total of 132,512 (2011 census) people live in the City of Norwich and the population of the Norwich Travel to Work Area (i.e., the self-contained labour market area in and around Norwich in which most people live and commute to work) is 282,000 (mid-2009 estimate). Norwich is the fourth most densely populated local-government district in the East of England, with 3,480 people per square kilometre (8,993 per square mile).

In May 2012, Norwich was designated England's first UNESCO City of Literature.

There are two suggested models of development for Norwich. It is possible that three separate early Anglo-Saxon settlements, one on the north of the river and two either side on the south, joined together as they grew or that one Anglo-Saxon settlement, on the north of the river, emerged in the mid-7th century after the abandonment of the previous three. The ancient city was a thriving centre for trade and commerce in East Anglia in 1004 when it was raided and burnt by Swein Forkbeard the Viking king of Denmark. Mercian coins and shards of pottery from the Rhineland dating from the 8th century suggest that long-distance trade was happening long before this. Between 924 and 939, Norwich became fully established as a town, with its own mint. The word Norvic appears on coins across Europe minted during this period, in the reign of King Athelstan. The Vikings were a strong cultural influence in Norwich for 40 to 50 years at the end of the 9th century, setting up an Anglo-Scandinavian district near the north end of present day King Street. At the time of the Norman Conquest the city was one of the largest in England. The Domesday Book states that it had approximately 25 churches and a population of between 5,000 and 10,000. It also records the site of an Anglo-Saxon church in Tombland, the site of the Saxon market place and the later Norman cathedral. Norwich continued to be a major centre for trade, the River Wensum being a convenient export route to the River Yare and Great Yarmouth, which served as the port for Norwich. Quern stones and other artefacts from Scandinavia and the Rhineland have been found during excavations in Norwich city centre. These date from the 11th century onwards.

The year 1549 saw an unprecedented rebellion in Norfolk. Unlike popular challenges elsewhere in the Tudor period, it appears to have been Protestant in nature. For several weeks Kett's rebels camped outside Norwich on Mousehold Heath and took control of the city, with the support of many of its poorer inhabitants. Unusually in England, it divided the city and appears to have linked Protestantism with the plight of the urban poor. In the case of Norwich this process was underscored later by the arrival of Dutch and Flemish "Strangers" fleeing persecution from the Catholics and eventually numbering as many as one third of the city's population. Large numbers of such exiles came to the city, especially Flemish Protestants from the Westkwartier ("Western Quarter"), the region in the Southern Netherlands where the first Calvinist fires of the Dutch Revolt had spread. Inhabitants of Ypres in particular chose Norwich above other destinations. Perhaps in response to Kett, Norwich became the first provincial city to initiate compulsory payments for a civic scheme of poor relief, which it has been claimed led to its wider introduction, forming the basis of the later Elizabethan Poor Law of 1597–98.

What the events of this period illustrate is that Norwich had had a strong tradition of popular protest favouring Church and Stuarts and attached to the street and alehouse. Knights tells how in 1716 the mayoral election had ended in a riot, with both sides throwing "brick-ends and great paving stones" at each other. A renowned Jacobite watering-hole, the Blue Bell Inn (nowadays The Bell Hotel), owned in the early 18th century by the high-church Helwys family, became the central rendezvous of the Norwich Revolution Society in the 1790s.

Britain's first provincial newspaper, the Norwich Post, appeared in 1701. By 1726 there were rival Whig and Tory presses and even in mid-century, three-quarters of the males in some parishes were literate.[c] The Norwich municipal library claims an excellent collection of these newspapers, also a folio collection of scrapbooks on 18th-century Norwich politics, which Knights says are "valuable and important". Norwich alehouses had 281 clubs and societies meeting in them in 1701, and at least 138 more were formed before 1758. The Theatre Royal opened in 1758, alongside the city's stage productions in inns and puppet shows in rowdy alehouses. In 1750 Norwich could boast nine booksellers and after 1780 a "growing number of circulating and subscription libraries". Knights 2004 says: "[All this] made for a lively political culture, in which independence from governmental lines was particularly strong, evident in campaigns against the war with America and for reform... in which trade and the impact of war with Revolutionary France were key ingredients. The open and contestable structure of local government, the press, the clubs and societies, and dissent all ensured that politics overlapped with communities bound by economics, religion, ideology and print in a world in which public opinion could not be ignored."

Though informed by issues of recent national importance, the two-sided political culture of Norwich in the 1790s cannot be totally disconnected from local tradition. Two features stand out from a political continuum of three centuries. The first is the dichotomous power balance. From at least the time of the Reformation, there is a record of Norwich as a "two-party city". In the mid-16th century the weaving parishes actually fell under the control of opposition forces, as Kett's rebels held the north of the river, in support of poor cloth workers. Secondly, there seems to be a case for saying that with this tradition of two-sided disputation, the city had over a long period of time developed an infrastructure, evident in her many cultural and institutional networks of politics, religion, society, news media and the arts, whereby argument could be managed short of outright confrontation. Indeed at a time of hunger and tension on the Norwich streets, with the alehouse crowds ready to have "a Minister's head brought to the block", the Anglican and Dissenting clergy were doing their best to conduct a collegiate dialogue, seeking common ground, and reinforcing the same well-mannered civic tradition of consensus as that illustrated by historians of earlier periods.

Norwich suffered extensive bomb damage during World War II, affecting large parts of the old city centre and Victorian terrace housing around the centre. Industry and the rail infrastructure also suffered. The heaviest raids occurred on the nights of 27/28 and 29/30 April 1942; as part of the Baedeker raids (so called because Baedeker's series of tourist guides to the British Isles were used to select propaganda-rich targets of cultural and historic significance rather than strategic importance). Lord Haw-Haw made reference to the imminent destruction of Norwich's new City Hall (completed in 1938), although in the event it survived unscathed. Significant targets hit included the Morgan's Brewery building, Coleman's Wincarnis works, City Station, the Mackintosh chocolate factory, and shopping areas including St Stephen's St and St Benedict's St, the site of Bond's department store (now John Lewis) and Curl's department store. 229 citizens were killed in the two Baedecker raids, and 340 by bombing throughout the war—giving Norwich the highest air raid casualties in Eastern England. In 1945 the city was also the intended target of a brief V2 rocket campaign, though all these missed the city. (Sources: 4 Civil Defence Region bombing reports at National Archive; M J F Bowyer "Air Raid")

In October 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government produced a Local Government White Paper inviting councils to submit proposals for unitary restructuring. Norwich submitted its proposal in January 2007, which was rejected in December 2007, as it did not meet all the rigorous criteria for acceptance. In February 2008, the Boundary Committee for England (from 1 April 2010 incorporated in the Local Government Boundary Commission for England), was asked to consider alternative proposals for the whole or part of Norfolk, including whether Norwich should become a unitary authority, separate from Norfolk County Council. In December 2009, the Boundary Committee recommended a single unitary authority covering all of Norfolk, including Norwich.

However, in February 2010, it was announced that, contrary to the December 2009 recommendation of the Boundary Committee, Norwich would be given separate unitary status. The proposed change was strongly resisted, principally by Norfolk County Council and the Conservative opposition in Parliament. Reacting to the announcement, Norfolk County Council said it would look to challenge the decision in the courts. A letter was leaked to the local media, in which the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government noted that the decision did not meet all the criteria and that the risk of it "being successfully challenged in judicial review proceedings is very high." The Shadow Local Government and Planning Minister, Bob Neill, stated that should the Conservative Party win the 2010 general election, they would reverse the decision.

Following the 2010 general election, Eric Pickles was appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in a Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. According to press reports, he instructed his department to take urgent steps to reverse the decision and maintain the status quo in line with the Conservative Party manifesto. However, the unitary plans were supported by the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, and by Simon Wright, LibDem MP for Norwich South, who intended to lobby the party leadership to allow the changes to go ahead.

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