Secrets of Norwich’s fascinating past

The author of the new book Secret Norwich Elizabeth Walne (Budd). Picture: Keiron Tovell

The author of the new book Secret Norwich Elizabeth Walne (Budd). Picture: Keiron Tovell - Credit: Archant

Listen. Do you want to know a secret? Several actually. Derek James takes a look at a new book looking at the hidden history of Norwich from the plague to pleasure gardens and much more.

St Peters Street, viewed from the church tower before City Hall was built in the 1930s.

St Peters Street, viewed from the church tower before City Hall was built in the 1930s. - Credit: Archant

I cannot remember a time when there have been more 'local' books being written about Norwich, Norfolk and the rest of East Anglia and I have the greatest respect and admiration for the authors.

Writing a book is no easy task. It takes months of painstaking research, checking and double-checking the facts and figures and discovering photographs, maps or illustrations which haven't been used time and time again.

The new book on Secret Norwich.

The new book on Secret Norwich. - Credit: Archant

The latest offering is called Secret Norwich and it has been written by Elizabeth Walne, aged 33, who lives in Attleborough and it is absolutely brilliant with 'secrets' a-plenty.

Elizabeth (married name Budd) has worked at the Norfolk Record Office, firstly as Archive Specialist and later managing Archive Education and Outreach. She then became Second Floor Manager at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, essentially managing, among other things, the Norfolk Heritage Centre.

Always interested in our history she has written much on various aspects of it and books such as Diss and District Though Time, and Researching Your World War One Ancestors (with Norfolk colleagues).

A few years ago she embarked on the MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies at the University of Strathclyde and graduated with distinction.

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During the course Elizabeth wrote specific projects about a house in South Norfolk, assisted emigration of the poor in the 1830s (focusing on Winfarthing) and a dissertation about local resistance to smallpox vaccination in Norwich.

She is also a public speaker and workshop leader and in recent times she has been working hard on her new book – Secret Norwich.

'This is,' she explains, 'A Secret Norwich. It is not THE Secret Norwich. It is, I suppose, MY Secret Norwich.'.

She knows there is a great deal of local material about murders, ghosts, pubs, courts and yards but she has largely avoided them so she can focus on some of the more obscure history of the city.

'My choice of chapters are a compendium informed by the inquiries I have supported over the last few years,' she explained, plus the lesser-known parts of the story of this colourful and fascinating city of ours.

'Keen Norwich historians will find things they already know, but I have gone out of my way to find new sources, unpublished images, and archive material to complement this work. I hope there is much to enjoy,' added Elizabeth.

'It is clear that new generations are looking for answers and interpretations of that history. These are often generations that couldn't have visited the old Central Library, don't remember the dominance of old city industries like shoemaking and chocolate, and don't have parents or grandparents who lived through the war,' she said.

This book is for all enjoying Norwich and its culture and heritage today, in the hope that they and their children and grandchildren are the historians and inquiring minds of the future.

Secret Norwich by Elizabeth Walne is published by Amberley Publishing and is in the shops now at £14.99.

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