Non-Covid review of 2020

Norfolk and Norwich Hospital's youngest pre-term baby goes home. Tayla Menear gave birth to Lilly on

Norfolk and Norwich Hospital's youngest pre-term baby goes home. Tayla Menear gave birth to Lilly on 9 December 2019 at just 22 weeks and 2 days gestation, weighing in at just 511 g. Picture: Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: Norfolk and Norwich University H

One story dominated the headlines, just as it did all of our lives in 2020. But not everything was about coronavirus. Simon Parkin looks back at some of the other big stories of the year. 
 

JANUARY
Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci’s film adaptation of the Dickens classic, filmed in King’s Lynn hit the big screen.

The filming of David Copperfield is taking place at The Purfleet in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

The filming of David Copperfield took place at The Purfleet in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant


An unusually low tide revealed the wreck of Swedish vessel SS Fernebo some 103 years to the day since it was blown apart by an explosion near Cromer Pier.
Diss beauty blogger Samantha Last, who had revealed she had terminal brain cancer in an emotional YouTube video, died aged 50.
South Norfolk brothers Guzzy and Kevin Lee who ran a “professional enterprise” selling illegal firearms to criminals were jailed for a combined total of 24 years.
Researchers at the UEA began a £1m football dementia study, with former Canaries striker Iwan Roberts one of the former pros taking part.
Broadland District Council paid £700,000 to snap up almost 140 acres of common land at Houghen Plantation on the outskirts of Norwich to create a new country park.
Not for the last time in the year coastal erosion made headlines when occupants had to be evacuated as caravans teetered on the edge at Trimingham House Caravan Park following a huge cliff collapse.

An image from a drone of the cliff fall at Trimingham, taken on January 7, 2020. Image: BlueSky UAV

A dead sperm whale washed up on the beach, west of Weybourne on the north Norfolk coast.   Picture: Mary Williams - Credit: BlueSky UAV Specialists


A High Court judge had to be drafted in to settle a feud over complaints of bullying at Wymondham Abbey.
Department store chain Beales collapsed into administration, closing stores in Diss and Beccles, while Norwich-based novelty toy shop Hawkin’s Bazaar also called in administrators.
Norfolk paid tribute to Nicholas Parsons, who once welcomed millions of Sale of the Century viewers with “and now from Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week”, following his death aged 96.

FEBRUARY
The region was battered by the full force of Storm Ciara as 70mph winds brought down trees and power lines, blocked roads and ripped roofs off buildings, while heavy rain brought widespread flooding.

Storm Ciara Wroxham Road tree blocking road, smashed wall and traffic lights. Pictures: BRITTANY WOO

Storm Ciara flattened a tree on Wroxham Road as it tore across the region in February         Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant


The Queen paid a flying visit to RAF Marham, home to the UK’s new F-35 Lightning force, getting to see the multi-million pound jets up close for the first time.
Residents living in Norwich’s Normandie Tower hit back after a poster was put up ordering people to speak English or move out. Other tower block residents put up fliers of their own filled with messages of support including ‘you are welcome here’ and ‘stand up to racism’.
Norwich City supporters celebrated the anniversary of Justin Fashanu’s wonder goal against Liverpool in 1980 with a Pride banner marking the moment. 
Norfolk-raised TV presenter Caroline Flack was found dead in her London flat. The former Love Island host had been charged with assaulting her partner. A subsequent inquest heard sections of the media had been “hounding” the presenter over the alleged assault, which she denied. Her family released a powerful message she wrote days before she died, urging people to ‘be kind’.

Caroline Flack

Norfolk TV presenter Caroline Flack, who died in February. Photo: Nathan Pask - Credit: Nathan Pask


Police had to be called after tempers frayed at an extraordinary meeting of Attleborough Town Council in a row that would rumble on all year.
The community rallied around after the Beijing Diner Chinese restaurant on Watton High Street went up in flames after a fire broke out in the kitchen.
It was the end of an era as bulldozers moved to begin the demolition of the Marina Centre on Great Yarmouth seafront. 


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MARCH
Normally the jewel in the country’s summer crown attracting 85,000 people, the Royal Norfolk Show was cancelled for only the second time in peacetime history. And Cromer Carnival was cancelled for the first time in its 50 year history.
Jeyamalar Kumarathas was jailed for life after a jury took less than two hours to find her guilty of stabbing her husband Kumarathas to death in front of their two children at their Wymondham home.

67-year-old Rajasingam Kumarathas lived on Burdock Close, Wymondham, with his wife Jeyamalar Kumarat

67-year-old Rajasingam Kumarathas was murdered in Wymondham by his wife, Jeyamalar Kumarathas, who was found guilty in March Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant


Plans were unveiled for a new £4.7m police investigation centre on the edge of Norwich, while Norfolk officers received 130 new tasers in fight against crime.
Tributes were paid to Mary Matthews and Myra Green who died after the car they were travelling in crashed with a van on the A47 Acle Straight.
Norwich’s floating restaurant - known for years as the Thai on the River, but actually a Dutch barge called Vagabond - left its city centre mooring after 30 years of serving diners.
Theatres across the region remembered Suffolk-based comedian, actor and performer Roy Hudd after he died aged 93.
And a rare signed flier advertising the performance by The Beatles at the Governor in Norwich in 1963 sold for £8,800 at auction.

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APRIL
‘Hero Within You’ a song by Great Yarmouth duo John Galea and Hannah Long, climbed to the top of an iTunes singer-songwriter category chart after being dedicated to NHS staff.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a history-making royal tour of a primary school in Burnley - without leaving Norfolk. They used Zoom in order to make a virtual visit to the classroom.
Second World War bomber hero, Stevie Stevens whose appeal for visitors to help ease his loneliness had touched hearts and led to a book on his wartime experiences, died aged 98.
The OPEN Youth Trust charity announced that after 15 years it had gone into liquidation, closing its base in Norwich, after an unsuccessful fight to secure the funding needed to survive.
Popular floating bar and restaurant in Wells Harbour, The Albatros, was sold but its new owner vowed it was staying. It did leave its mooring in September but only to undergo a major refit.

The Albatros leaves Wells to be surveyed at Great Yarmouth. Picture: Reg Holl

The Albatros leaves Wells to be surveyed at Great Yarmouth. Picture: Reg Holl - Credit: Archant


Volunteers expressed their dismay after a homeless man was found dead in a doorway of Debenhams in Norwich. 
The fundraising efforts of Captain Tom Moore were saluted by, amongst others, Wymondham mud artist Ruddy Muddy, and with a colourful mural on the wall of the Black Horse pub in Thetford. 

MAY
Five months after tiny Lilly was born weighing just over 1lb, mummy and daddy Tayla Meaner and Shane Rumbles, from Norwich, got to take home their “22-week miracle”, the youngest ever premature baby at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
A rare white-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, was spotted flying in Norfolk skies in one of very few confirmed sightings in the last two centuries.

A white-tailed eagle was photographed at the Buckenham Marshes this week Picture: JAMES LOWEN

A white-tailed eagle photographed at Buckenham Marshes  Picture: JAMES LOWEN - Credit: Archant

Meanwhile, three peregrine falcon chicks hatched at the top of Cromer Church tower. 
Lowestoft’s bid for a third river crossing was finally given the green light, five years after plans were first outlined.
Despite coronavirus restrictions Norfolk marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War with a host of innovative ways to mark VE Day.
Police offered ‘words of advice’ to a teenager seen walking in a mysterious Black Death plague outfit on the streets of Hellesdon.
Colman’s workers closed the gates to their Norwich factory for the final time having called the site home for nearly 166 years. The historic mustard brand had been operating in Norfolk since 1814.
The Zoological Society of East Anglia, which runs Banham Zoo and Africa Alive!, said it was cutting a third of the workforce.
Dippy the dinosaur’s much-anticipated summer visit to Norwich Cathedral was postponed. The Natural History Museum’s iconic diplodocus cast had been due to go on display in July but will now hopefully visit next summer.

JUNE
The Duke of Cambridge praised staff from King’s Lynn Ambulance Station for their dedicated work in his first face-to-face royal event since the start of lockdown.
Norwich’s Bertram Books collapsed into administration, making the majority of its 459 employees redundant.
Eight people were given a total of more than 28 years in jail as Operation Orochi used data from mobile phones to help smash 20 deadly drug supply lines into Norfolk.
The family of mum-of-three Gemma Cowey paid tribute after she was fatally stabbed in the grounds of a former hospital in Thorpe St Andrew. In December, Michael Cowey, her former partner, was jailed for life for murder.
Residents watched in disbelief as Holt’s Budgens supermarket was destroyed when a fire caused by an electrical fault ripped through the building. The community rallied around to ensure vital services for elderly and vulnerable continued.

Fire at Budgens in Holt Picture: Lee Smith

Fire at Budgens in Holt in June      Picture: Lee Smith - Credit: Archant


Hundreds of campaigners protested in Norwich as the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the globe after the death of an American man, George Floyd, arrived in Norfolk. 

JULY 
Norwich Theatre Royal postponed its 2020 Christmas panto Dick Whittington and His Cat and said it had been forced to cut 113 jobs.
The government gave the go-ahead for The Vanguard windfarm 30 miles off the coast of Happisburgh, a decision met with despair by villagers. In October a judicial review into the approval was announced. 
The statue of Lord Nelson in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral was fenced off after becoming the target for graffiti linked to the Black Lives Matters campaign.

Lord Nelson statue by Thomas Milnes in Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. Picture : Antony Kelly

The Lord Nelson statue in Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. The statue was graffitied  Picture : Antony Kelly - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017


The BBC announced 450 job cuts and ended dual presenters on Look East and current affairs programme Inside Out. Presenter David Whiteley subsequently announced he was leaving the corporation after 23 years. 
The family of five-year-old Sophie Taylor, from Sprowston, who died of cancer in 2019, welcomed that a tissue donation to a groundbreaking UEA bone cancer research project could mark the “biggest breakthrough in 40 years”.
Thursford Christmas Show was cancelled for the first time in its 44-year history.
While there were lots of job loss woes, Norfolk luxury boat builders Oyster Yachts announced it was creating 100 jobs, and car maker Lotus said it was set to open a new factory in Norwich.
Ron Mallion, the last surviving member of the legendary Gorleston lifeboat the Louise Stephens, which was part of the ‘small ships’ Dunkirk evacuation, died just a month before his 99th birthday.
Experts at the University of Bradford found that large areas of Norfolk were devastated by a North Sea mega-tsunami 8,000 years ago - and, not to alarm you, but they reckoned it could happen again.

AUGUST
The first restoration work for 40 years began on Norwich Cathedral’s spire with Wallwalkers, a specialist historic buildings rope company, proving they have a head for heights by scaling the second highest spire in the UK.

Weathercock project at cathedral - weather vane being removed from Cathedral Pictures: BRITTANY WOOD

Experts remove the spire from Norwich Cathedral to give it a clean      Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant


More than 40 people cut off by the tide had to be rescued by lifeboat and coastguard teams after crowds flocked to the coast on the hottest weekend of the year.
A tragic weekend saw Kristers Bednarskis, 22, drowned in a lake at Bawsey Country Park, near King’s Lynn, while Danielle Chilvers, 37, drowned in the sea at Waxham trying to help her son and his friend.
Norwich’s 250-year-old retailer Jarrold made 90 roles redundant – including the chief executive - saying it needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the company amid the Covid crisis.
Hundreds lined the streets of Cromer to say farewell to six-year-old ‘superhero’ Benny Pitcher as he made his final journey in a horse-drawn, rainbow-themed carriage, with crowds donning superhero outfits as a tribute to the pint-sized Avengers fan.
Farmer Edward Pope welcomed the first visitors to his new 170-acre Watatunga Wildlife Reserve near King’s Lynn for endangered species.
Hundreds of ravers descended on Thetford Forest, leading to dozens of arrests when police from across the region were pelted with objects as they tried to shut it down. A 23-year-old man was subsequently fined £10,000 for organising the event.

SEPTEMBER
There was much anger when the long called-for dualling of the A47 Acle Straight was ruled out for at least another decade, after it was not included in the government’s next wave of road schemes.
Plans for a £3.5m redevelopment of Great Yarmouth’s marketplace took another step forward after borough councillors agreed the “significant” project.
Shannon Lovelock, who attacked three police officers in Norwich and left one, Inspector Laura Symonds, with horrific injuries including a fractured eye socket and broken nose, was jailed for four years.

Injuries suffered by Inspector Laura Symonds following attack by Shannon Lovelock. Picture: Norfolk

Injuries suffered by Inspector Laura Symonds following an attack by Shannon Lovelock. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary. - Credit: Norfolk Constabulary.


The new boutique two-screen cinema was unveiled as part of a £1.6m facelift for King’s Lynn’s Corn Exchange. 
Dubbed ‘the man who saved Norwich City’, tributes poured in for former chief executive Gordon Bennett who died aged 74. Between 1988 and 1999, he steered the club through some of the most testing financial times.
Canaries fans were also back inside Carrow Road as 1,000 season ticket holders watched a 2-2 draw with Preston North End as part of a pilot for returning supporters. Sadly it proved to be a false dawn, with fans not back again until December.
Much-loved radio presenter Keith Skues, 81, broadcast his final show on Radio Norfolk after a 60-year career spanning armed forces radio, pirate radio and the launch of Radio 1.
An 11ft statue of Alan Partridge appeared outside the Forum in Norwich, created by sculptors and fans Nick Dutton and Gavin Fulcher. Steve Coogan said he was “flabbergasted”.
High winds and torrential rain hit the region but the effect was most noticeable in Walcott where cars, gardens and roads were buried beneath sand blown off the beach. 
Norfolk’s first-ever wild vulture was spotted. A bearded vulture - also called a lammergeier - whose wingspan can reach 2.5m (8.2ft) was seen near Foxley. 

OCTOBER
The Queen’s birthday honours were dominated by the local heroes of the coronavirus lockdown, ranging from those who helped the vulnerable and elderly with shopping to health workers who went above and beyond.
A North Walsham neighbourhood was left in shock after Thomas Moore, 22, died after being stabbed in the neck in a disturbance. Matthew Constantinou, 42, was charged with his murder.
Two male beavers were released on the Norfolk coast as part of a ground-breaking scheme. It is hoped they will breed with two females released near Heacham.
The life of Arthur George Vickers, who flew 30 Bomber Command operations over Germany, was marked after he died in Bungay aged 97.
Africa Alive! in Kessingland, near Lowestoft, welcomed its first baby giraffe in six years, a male calf delivered to mother Kibibi.

The male baby giraffe recently born at the zoo. Both of the babies now need naming. Credit: Sonya Du

Africa Alive! welcomed a baby giraffe    Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Archant


Three UEA students were fined £10,000 for breaching coronavirus rules on mass gatherings after police were called to break up a party of about 100 people.
The bells at Church of St Peter in Hedenham tolled again following a £36,000 renovation project, ending their silence for the first time since 1991.
A rare Harold II silver penny from 1066, the year of the Battle of Hastings, found at Topcroft by teen metal detectorist Reece Pickering sold at auction for £4,000.
Norwich won a £25m slice of the national £3.6bn Towns Fund aimed at getting homes built and kick-starting business.

NOVEMBER
One of the most contentious – and largest – developments in Norwich for decades, the £271m revamp of Norwich’s Anglia Square shopping centre, was turned down by local government secretary Robert Jenrick.
A community in Dereham was shocked after two people were found dead inside a house after a suspected gas leak that saw neighbouring properties evacuated.
Netflix’s festive film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey was released, featuring Norwich’s Elm Hill transformed into a Victorian street in the fantasy town of Cobbleton.

Snow on rooftops and window sills as Elm Hill is transformed into a Victorian style winter setting f

Snow on rooftops and window sills as Elm Hill is transformed into a Victorian style winter setting for the filming of the musical Jingle Jangle being produced for Netflix by John Legend. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019


A letter written by Norfolk nurse and First World War heroine Edith Cavell just days before she was captured by the Germans was donated to Norwich Cathedral.
Radio presenter Chrissie Jackson, a familiar local voice since starting as a DJ in local clubs across Norfolk back in the late 1970s, broadcast her final mid-morning show on BBC Radio Norfolk. Meanwhile Wally Webb announced his retirement live on air.
Surfer Chris Bamfield, 65, went missing off the coast of Hunstanton and was not found despite an extensive search and rescue operation.
Extinction Rebellion campaigner Alex Sidney, 17, from Dereham, took his protests to new heights climbing 100ft up a crane in Norwich carrying a sleeping bag, supplies and several banners.
Bulldozers moved in to demolish the final part of Mundesley Holiday Camp after years of disuse, marking the end of an era. It is being developed as a modern holiday site.
The Royal Mail unveiled its Christmas stamps, including one of a historic stained glass window at St Andrew’s Church in East Lexham, near Fakenham.

DECEMBER
Despite protests, councillors voted to close the outdoor learning services centre at Holt Hall and put the historic building up for sale, saying they could no longer afford to run it. 
There were finally fans to cheer on Norwich City as they headed to the top of the league with 2,000 supporters allowed into home games.
A 50ft long dead sperm whale washed onto the beach near Weybourne in north Norfolk.

A dead sperm whale has washed up on the beach, west of Weybourne on the north Norfolk coast. 

A dead sperm whale washed up on the beach, west of Weybourne on the north Norfolk coast.   Picture: Mary Williams - Credit: Mary Williams


Workmen carrying out excavations as part of the £2.5m regeneration of Tombland in Norwich unearthed six skeletons. Studies are continuing into when the find dates back to.
The popular Dunes Cafe at Winterton-on-Sea, which had suffered a long and costly battle with coastal erosion ever since storms first brought it to the brink in 2004, was finally demolished.
It was announced The Queen would not be spending Christmas at Sandringham. Ynstead the 94-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 99, would spend the festive season at Windsor.
Council leaders were labelled “blooming ridiculous” after urging members not to wear Christmas jumpers in online debates.
Some live performances return including at Norwich Theatre Royal which stages a circus version of A Christmas Carol and Panto In A Pickle with favourite dame Richard Gauntlett.
Norfolk’s poultry industry was dealt a blow in the crucial countdown to Christmas as turkey farms near King’s Lynn and Attleborough and a duck farm were confirmed to have bird flu. Tens of thousands of birds had to be culled. 

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