From the Queen of Iceni to Colman’s Mustard, find out more about Norfolk’s varied history
Norfolk’s recorded history begins with the Iceni tribe, an Iron Age community who lived across East Anglia and were led by Boudicca’s husband Prasutagus. From then, Norfolk became part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia, before the Norman conquest brought with it the development of Norwich, which remains the county’s epicentre. Norfolk and its men were also of great importance in both World Wars, testimony to the region’s long military and rebellious past that began with Boudicca all those years ago. Nowadays, Norfolk is full of museums, stately homes and historic sites for on-holiday history buffs to discover. This guide has been specially designed to help our guests staying in one of our Norfolk Holiday Cottages to nurture their love of history by guiding them towards some of the region’s most favoured historic sites.
Possibly Norfolk’s most famous historic landmark, Norwich Castle has stood atop the city’s skyline since the Norman era. During the medieval period, Norwich Castle was converted to a Gaol after this supposedly Royal Castle never saw a monarch live in it. In the late nineteenth century, the Castle was converted into a museum and has welcomed visitors ever since. With a whole host of family-friendly interactive displays and activities, Norwich Castle is always an enjoyable day out and a great way to learn about the history of the city. The Castle also has an ever-changing array of special exhibitions that celebrate local history, art and culture, making every trip here unique.
The stunning Tudor hall at the heart of the Blickling Estate in Aylsham has a rich history and is an essential part of any visit to this large National Trust Estate. The Hall was bought by Sir Geoffrey Boleyn in 1406 and is said to have been the birthplace of his granddaughter Anne - that’s Anne Boleyn of course. Since this iconic moment, the Estate has seen a variety of historic moments occur within its walls, including the time that Blickling’s owner Lord Lothian persuaded Winston Churchill to write to President Roosevelt in 1940 and ask for active allyship from the USA in the war. There are multiple walking routes around the Estate, which is truly beautiful, so a trip out to Blickling is definitely one for both history and nature lovers.
As the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in the UK, Grimes Graves in Thetford is a truly unique experience. The mines were first constructed 4,500 years ago, around the same time Stonehenge was erected and were first excavated in 1871. The landscape is unusually lunar-esque and has fascinated scientists, historians and visitors alike. Set in the Breckland Heath, Grimes Graves aren’t just a mesmerizing sight, but the area at large is, so be sure to allow enough time during the day to take a walk around the site and look out for all the wildlife that lives here. Children under 7 are not allowed in the mine shaft, so the Graves may be better suited to adults or families with older children, but the mine tours are truly magnificent and incredibly insightful.
The Elizabethan House Museum, Great Yarmouth
This Elizabethan House is in the heart of Great Yarmouth’s historic quarter and is the starting point for the one-mile Heritage Trail through some of the town’s most iconic historic sites. The trail will take you past Greyfriars Cloisters, The Nelson Museum, Tolhouse Museum and more and is a must-do for history buffs visiting the coastal town. However, if you just fancy visiting one of these, we recommend The Elizabethan House Museum. The building was built in 1596, but the most infamous aspect of its history occurred years later in 1648, as the house is said to be the place where Oliver Cromwell and other Parliamentarians decided the fate of King Charles I. You can learn more about this and the other families who lived here by visiting the National Trust site and you can also expect interactive exhibitions and experts on hand to guide you through.
Situated between King’s Lynn and Hunstanton is the Queen’s Royal Residence, Sandringham House. Beloved by walkers and dog-friendly, the grounds at Sandringham are a great place to stretch your legs, but Sandringham is also a great destination for history lovers. The House was built in 1870 by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and has been a favourite of the British Royal family ever since. Filled with art, portraits, artefacts and original Edwardian furniture, a group or private visit is a must-see for fans of Royal history staying in one of our Norfolk Holiday Cottages. Be sure to book ahead and always check availability of tours before visiting.