Flintspiration for families

PUBLISHED: 12:38 28 April 2017

Flintspiration feature

Flintspiration feature

Copyright Norwich Historic Churches Trust.

As Norwich celebrates its world-beating collection of medieval churches in the first festival of its kind this weekend we find out how families can make the most of Flintspiration

Come and have a go at Flintspiration. Inside St John Maddermarket. Photograph: Norwich Historic Churches TrustCome and have a go at Flintspiration. Inside St John Maddermarket. Photograph: Norwich Historic Churches Trust

They’ll be singing from the rafters, parading through the streets, dancing in the aisles and drawing on the walls as a celebration of one of the world’s best collections of medieval churches takes over Norwich city centre this bank holiday weekend.

Flintspiration is the first ever festival of Norwich’s remarkable churches and many of the events are aimed at families.

Almost all the remaining ancient churches will be open and four new trails for families connect all of them.

These are churches which are now used as theatres, a circus school, cafes, art galleries, craft workshops, indoor markets and museums, as well as those still serving their original purpose at the heart of Christian communities.

Flintspiration will open the door to Norwich's medieval churches. Picture: Norwich Historic Churches TrustFlintspiration will open the door to Norwich's medieval churches. Picture: Norwich Historic Churches Trust

Norwich still has an impressive 31 ancient churches but there were once twice as many medieval churches in the city, with more than 60 built in medieval times.

Flintspiration for families will be focused around St Stephen’s Church, alongside the Chapelfield shopping centre, where children can enjoy medieval-style craft activities throughout the three-day festival.

Spin out from the St Stephen’s hub for more Flintspiration fun:

Come-and-try circus skills sessions will be held at St Michael Coslany church as part of Flintspiration. Picture: Norwich Historic Churches TrustCome-and-try circus skills sessions will be held at St Michael Coslany church as part of Flintspiration. Picture: Norwich Historic Churches Trust

At the amphitheatre in front of The Forum hear stories of stonemasons and their ancient craft, and then watch a traditional mystery play, called Cain and Abel, performed by members of Norwich’s guild of masons. The guild members will process from the Playhouse Theatre to St Peter Mancroft, from 9.30-10am on Monday, May 1, and then put on performances from 11am-noon, 1-2pm and 2-4pm.

On Sunday and Monday, watch, and even take part in, re-enactments of games, and drill by the local medieval militia, plus demonstrations of traditional skills including painting and writing, all with members of the Norfolk and Norwich Medieval Association.

At St Edmund’s Church in Fishergate on Saturday and Monday from 10am to 4pm, children and adults can try creating illuminated lettering and find out about pilgrimages.

Make dragons at the Norwich Puppet Theatre, housed in what was once St James’ Church. The drop-in dragon workshops, suitable for youngsters aged three and over, are on Sunday and Monday from 12-4pm.

Join an artist and caricaturist at St John Maddermarket to help create a mural of the area in medieval times. Drop in between 11am and 3pm on Saturday to bring dancers, bakers, mayors and rope-makers back to life.

St Michael Coslany is now the Oak Circus Centre, and open for circus workshops with sessions for youngsters, teenagers and adults on Saturday, plus drop in circus sessions on Sunday, with a free performance from 5-6pm.

Find out about medieval graffiti and discover where monks used to live, work and pray centuries ago, at Norwich Cathedral. Cathedral explorer backpacks (available on Saturday and Monday) will help children hunt down graffiti with torches and magnifiers, and there’s a gift in every bag to remind them of their medieval adventure. The free drop-in monastic fun runs from 9.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday and Monday and 12-3pm on Sunday.

Four city centre walking trails, aimed at seven-14 year olds and their families, have been created especially for Flintspiration.

They will be available from the Flintspiration hub churches, St Peter Mancroft and St Stephen’s, during the weekend. Complete a trail and collect a prize!

After Flintspiration the trails 
can still be followed, by downloading them from the festival’s website.

Angels and dragons begins at St Stephen’s and takes in nine medieval churches.

The King Street trail begins in Westlegate and includes another nine medieval churches, including “ghost” churches which have vanished from the streets and remain only in names, or archaeological traces.

Over the Water begins at St George’s, Colegate, and passes nine medieval churches north of the River Wensum, in the oldest part of Norwich, plus the site of a 10th.

The Cathedral Quarter trail passes the sites of 10 medieval churches.

For full details of the whole festival visit

Babies on the walls, pigs in the house and jobs in doggie doo-doo...

Modern children will be able to enjoy a fascinating glimpse into how children living in Norwich many centuries ago might have played, worked, eaten and slept. So what was life like for medieval children?

Chris Herries, trustee of Norwich Historic Churches Trust, and a former primary school teacher, has helped to put together the Flintspiration programme for children and has some surprising historical facts:

Babies were hung on walls. “Babies would often be swaddled and hung on the wall, to keep them safe and out of the way of pigs and rats snuffling around,” said Chris.

People’s bedrooms really did look like pig sties. “Animals like pigs and chickens were kept in the houses, partly to keep them safe and partly because of their body heat,” said Chris.

Collecting dog poo, and human wee, was a job. “Children would have been doing some sort of work from around the age of eight,” said Chris. “Most of them wouldn’t have gone to school. If their parents could read and write, then they might have been taught to, and Norwich was actually a very literary city, even then, because it had so many churches, and clerics could read and write.
“But children often worked collecting scraps of material, or dog faeces which was used to tan leather, or urine for fixing dye.”

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