'Some wonderful stories' - Book's incredible aerial images reveal Norfolk's past
- Credit: John Fielding
An upcoming book will explore Norfolk's rich history by telling the stories behind 100 places. STUART ANDERSON spoke to some of the people behind the project.
From the oldest footprints ever found outside Africa to modern marvels of architecture - the traces of human habitation in Norfolk are rich and varied.
And now a trio of researchers have joined forces with two aerial photographers to produce a new book called 'A History of Norfolk in 100 Places', which is due for release in 2021.
“This is something that has not been done before,” said Dr Peter Wade-Martins, one of the co-authors of the book.
"We decided it had to cover more than the archaeological, but in fact the whole range of human history in Norfolk.
“The fun has been in choosing which 100 sites tell you about the history of the county the best.
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“In the early Middle Ages, Norfolk was the most prosperous part of the whole county, which is reflected in our great cathedrals and abbeys, so along with everything else, there are some wonderful stories to tell.”
Dr Wade-Martins, 76, said the book's scope stretched from the site of the more than 800,000-year-old Happisburgh Footprints to the Norwich Forum, opened in 2001 on the site of the former Norwich Library, which burned down in 1994.
Dr Wade-Martins, from North Elmham, is a former Norfolk County Council archaeologist and former director of the Norfolk Archaeological Trust.
His co-authors are his wife, historian Dr Susanna Wade-Martins, and archaeologist David Robertson.
Dr Wade-Martins said: “My particular interest in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval, and my wife has studied Norfolk from the 18th to the 20th centuries. David has a passion for the prehistoric, so the three fields of expertise really came together.
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The volume will be illustrated with images from aerial photographers Mike Page and John Fielding - who "filled in the gaps", taking photos of sites not already covered in Mr Page's extensive archive.
Mr Fielding, from Upton Road, Norwich, took some of the photos from his microlight aircraft over about three months in between lockdowns, other commitments and bad weather.
He said finding some of the sites was a challenge, even though he spent many hours researching their locations.
Mr Fielding said: "On a few occasions, I thought I had plotted the position correctly on my map and then spent ages circling, seeking the feature on the ground.
"For example, I spent 20 minutes over Thetford Forest trying to find the Fossditch Linear Earthwork, photographing everything in sight only to find later that I was a mile north of where I needed to be."
Mr Fielding said the project had made him realise just how vast Norfolk was.
He said: "From the Denver Sluice Complex in west Norfolk to the medieval town wall remains in Great Yarmouth in the east is 70 miles.
"From the Roman Fort remains at Brancaster in north Norfolk to the Billingford Windmill in south Norfolk is 45 miles."
Mr Fielding said it was far easier to get the shots required from an aircraft than with a drone because they are limited to a height of 120m (400ft).
Dr Wade-Martins said they avoided locations that were on private land and so could not be visited by members of the public.
Among the other sites covered are: The Britannia Monument (built to honour Lord Nelson) in Great Yarmouth; the Church of St Andrew at East Lexham (whose round tower is thought to be England's oldest); and the former workhouse Pulham Market, which was opened in 1836, shortly before Queen Victoria took the throne.
Also featured are the remains of an Iron Age fort at Wareham St Mary, the Norfolk Broads, which were dug out by medieval peat miners; and Caistor Roman Town, once a regional capital of the empire.
Further sites include Grime's Graves prehistoric flint mine, St Benet's Abbey on the River Bure and the former Norwich Union office in Surrey Street, noted for its marbled interior.
To see more of Mr Fielding's photos, visit www.flickr.com and search for John Fielding Aerial Images.