The Walls of Norwich

The Boom Towers on Carrow Bridge

The Boom Towers by Carrow Bridge (2015)

The tour of the medieval walls of Norwich was extremely instructive. We started at the Boom Towers adjacent to Carrow Bridge. These structures allowed a chain to be raised to restrict river traffic along the Wensum (although the position of the chain and winding mechanisms was not immediately clear). The damage to the tower since 1934 can be seen quite clearly here.

Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

The Black Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

We climbed up the hill from the river inspecting the well preserved walls and towers along the south side. For an image of the tower in the 1930s see here.

Detail of tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

Detail of the Black Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

Notice the wall walk and the way that the staircase is mounted into the wall.

Terminal bastion (2015)

Terminal bastion or Oak Street Tower (2015)

We crossed the river to inspect this terminal bastion adjacent to the river in the northern part of the circuit.

Further details about the medieval walls of Norwich can be found here. A photographic record of the walls can be found here.

Signs and the Walls of Norwich

Norwich City Wall

Norwich: The Old City Wall (2015)

A group of us walked the line of the city wall of Norwich today. Some of the sections are well preserved, and the line is marked out along pavements and even in the middle of one of the roundabouts. We came across a number of metal plaques that noted ‘This forms part of the old city wall built during the 13th-14th centuries’.

One of the suggestions is that they were placed on the wall by the Office of Works either in the early part of the 20th century or in the 1930s.

Under Another Sky


I have been enjoying Charlotte Higgins, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain (Vintage 2014). It took me on a tour of some of the key sites in Britain: and I was able to revisit some of them in my mind. Chapter 1 takes us from the beach at Deal (and Caesar’s landings) to the Roman colony at Colchester. Chapter 2 considers Boudica and Norfolk, with a stroll round Castor St Edmund (and I always make sure I sit on the correct side of the train to get the magnificent view of the town on the way up to Norwich). Chapter 3 searches out the remains of Roman London including trips into underground car-parks. Chapter 4 takes me back to my roots with happy walks around Silchester and its now carefully present amphitheatre. Chapter 5 looks westwards to Wroxeter and sites in Wales. It includes detail on explorations of the Wheelers including the legionary amphitheatre at Caerleon. Chapter 6 takes us to Bath and the Roman baths. We then head north in Chapter 7 to Hadrian’s Wall, complete with the music for Benjamin Britten’s ‘Roman Wall Blues’, and in Chapter 8 to the Antonine Wall. Chapter 8 takes a tour of York, and then in Chapter 9 there is a trip to Cumbria and the Roman fort in Hardknott Pass. There is even a mention of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet (“I asked the Christie’s people how much work had been done  on the helmet to present it thus. Not much, they said breezily”.). Higgins then hopped down the Fosse Way to the Cotswolds for Chapter 11 (why not have it next to Bath in Chapter 6?) and a visit to Cirencester and the Corinium Museum as well as Chedworth villa. The final chapter (12) sees a return to Norfolk and Suffolk with a trip to Burgh Castle and thoughts on the Mildenhall Treasure.

Kyffin Williams and the castles of North Wales

Beaumaris Castle


I have much enjoyed John R. Kenyon, ‘Kyffin Williams and the guidebooks to the four great Edwardian castles of North Wales: a bibliographic essay’, The Castle Studies Group Journal 27 (2013-14) 241-44. These cover the castles of Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Harlech. My copy is a second impression (1966) but the originals date to 1961. The guides (‘illustrated souvenir’) were written by Alan Phillips and ‘produced by the Information Branch of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works’. Phillips also prepared a souvenir guide to monasteries in North Yorkshire. He seems to have studied at University College, Oxford.

The four guides replaced the old Office / Ministry of Works guides to Beaumaris (by Wilfried J. Hemp, 1933), Caernarfon (by Sir Charles Peers, 1929), Conway Castle and Town Walls (by A.J. Taylor, 1956), and Harlech (by Hemp and Peers, 1927).

Harlech Castle


Williams’ covers were replaced by line drawings of the castles in later editions of the guides. My copy of Phillips’ guide to Harlech is the Department of the Environment (‘on behalf of the Welsh Office’) edition of 1974. The guides both contain fold-out plans and tours of the two castles. The DOE guide to Harlech has a description of the castle in Welsh printed inside the back cover.

The new MPBW guides mark a move away from the ‘Blue Guides’ to more heavily illustrated booklets such as the combined volume for Stonehenge and Avebury.

Tudor Heritage, Wolf Hall and Ipswich

Wolsey's Gate, Ipswich

Wolsey’s Gate, Ipswich © David Gill

The Ipswich Star asked the question, “How can Ipswich make the most of the Tudor revival brought about by BBC series Wolf Hall?” (28 January 2015). Visitors to Ipswich can see ‘Wolsey’s Gate’ in College Street, part of the planned ‘Cardinal College’ founded by Thomas Wolsey. Local MP Ben Gummer was interviewed:

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who is also a respected historian, said it was important for Ipswich to make the most of its Tudor history, but that did not mean it should recreate a “Disneyland” style area.

He said: “There are many ways to show off the town’s history with the use of apps on smart phones and tablets and virtual descriptions.”

A digital heritage ‘game’ is in fact under development for Ipswich.

Ipswich is also home to Christchurch Mansion that houses part of the town’s art collections.

The Monasteries of North-East Yorkshire



I have been thinking about the development of Heritage guidebooks in the UK. One of the moves away from the ‘blue guides’ was the new guide to Stonehenge and Avebury from the late 1950s. In 1962 a new guide was published for monastic sites in the care of the Ministry of Works: Alan Phillips, A look round the monasteries of north-east Yorkshire (London: HMSO, 1962) [2 shillings]. The guide is intended for tourers. The sites selected ‘are strung out … in the following pages, presented as to a motorist on a zigzag course from York’. A distinction is made between the detailed guides and this booklet: ‘This book is designed to be only an illustrated souvenir; the visitor in search of fuller information is advised to consult Abbeys, a Ministry of Works official publication’.

The sites covered are:

  • Kirkham Priory (pp. 6-11)
  • Byland Abbey (pp. 12-17)
  • Rievaulx Abbey (pp. 18-27)
  • Mount Grace Priory (pp. 28-33)
  • Gisborough Priory (pp. 34-37)
  • Whitby Abbey (pp. 38-45)

Each site has a simple plan, and there are a number of black and white photographs. There is a single reconstruction of Rievaulx Abbey by Alan Sorrell.

Phillips was also responsible for new castle guides in Wales.

My copy formed part of the Ministry of Works library and has now been withdrawn from the English Heritage library.