New book delves into history of Norfolk market towns

Market towns are the hubs of rural life across Norfolk, with roots reaching deep into historic times.

A new book is helping heritage enthusiasts delve into those bygone days, and understand where some communities began, and how and they have developed.

Some, like North Walsham, Diss and Aylsham, were boosted by a medieval linen boom.

Most suffered fires, including Georgian-faced Holt and Fakenham which had two, but rose Phoenix-like, again and have grown.

Others, such as Reepham, saw their economic engine rooms such as brewing and tanning disappear and are little bigger than they were in the 19th century.

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Exploring the Norfolk Market Town is by respected local historian Christopher Barringer, who has held posts a the University of East Anglia and Cambridge and encourages local history groups during 45 years as a tutor in Norfolk.

It follows a similar book on villages done through Cromer-based Poppyland Publishing's Norfolk Origins series.

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It looks at a dozen towns across a diverse county but picking up on the things the market hubs had in common, besides the stalls and shops, such as the effects of local trade and industries, and the development of railways, canals and roads.

But as well as charting some of the main events in the towns' past, the book, linked to a website, is also a resource to help local history fans unlock the information about their communities and understand why the places are as they are today.

It points to research done in historic tomes such as Francis Blomefield's 1805 Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, which said Attleborough 'hath been very famous in early times'.

Mr Barringer said market towns had many things in common apart from their markets.

The new books aimed to show what made the study towns distinctive, but he added: 'While it focuses on particular settlements, each one represents a different area of the county and other towns will share common features with at least one of those featured in the book.'

The towns in the book are Attleborough, Aylsham, Diss, Downham Market, East Dereham, Fakenham, Harleston, Holt, Loddon, North Walsham, Reepham and Swaffham.

Exploring the Norfolk Market Town by Christopher Barringer is published today by Poppyland Publishing at �17.95. Visit for more information and further web resources for schools and researchers.

?For a full report see Friday's EDP

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