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Here are some facts you might not know about our fine city

PUBLISHED: 06:30 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:29 01 April 2020

Paul Burall from the Norwich Society. Pic: Bob Hobbs

Paul Burall from the Norwich Society. Pic: Bob Hobbs

Archant

I am always surprised about what people who have lived in Norwich for some time do not know about their city.

The pothole was fenced off for 31 months. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe pothole was fenced off for 31 months. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

So, for the society’s column on this first day of April, I thought I would share a few facts that which may surprise you.

The Trowse railway bridge last opened to enable a beluga whale to escape to the sea, after it had grown fat on fish thrown to it while it lived in the Wensum near the rail station.

Norwich holds the European record for the longest over-running roadworks with a pothole that was fenced off for 31 months before being finally filled.

The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts was originally intended to show every packaging design that the supermarket had ever used since it was founded in 1869.

Trowse Swing Bridge was last opened to allow a beluga whale to pass through

Pic: Mike Page.Trowse Swing Bridge was last opened to allow a beluga whale to pass through Pic: Mike Page.

The decision to abandon this idea in favour of the art that is now on display was only taken when it was discovered that not all of the packaging could be sufficiently cleaned to avoid nasty smells.

The Bear Shop in Elm Hill celebrated its opening in 1990 with a visit from two brown bears borrowed from Colchester zoo.

The hanging of Robert Kett from the Norwich castle battlements following his rebellion against land enclosures is a myth: in fact, he escaped to Ireland with a sack full of potatoes and started an agricultural revolution there.

The Maids Head hotel gets its name from the ghost that haunts one of its bedrooms; it is believed to be that of Anne Boleyn, who was born at Blickling Hall in 1501 and was beheaded by Henry VIII in 1536.

Had things turned out differently, Her Majesty might have been looking at empty cans of Sainsbury's beans during her visit to the Sainsbury Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYHad things turned out differently, Her Majesty might have been looking at empty cans of Sainsbury's beans during her visit to the Sainsbury Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Castle Mall was originally built as a nuclear shelter which would house the British government if the UK was ever attacked by Russia.

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When HMSO vacated Sovereign House in Anglia Square it was sold to Kew Gardens with plans to use it to display tropical ferns. However, it proved impossible to get the plants up the spiral staircase and the idea was abandoned.

Elephants used to parade through Norwich from the old City Station to the site of the circus where they performed. This only ceased when one of the elephants died of a heart attack outside Jarrolds and it took two weeks to decide who was responsible for removing it, during which time it began to rot, leading to the only time that the market closed since it was founded in the eleventh century.

A rotting elephant forced the closure of Norwich Market. Picture: Archant LibraryA rotting elephant forced the closure of Norwich Market. Picture: Archant Library

Guy Fawkes tried out his explosives at Chapelfield in 1604, the year before his attempt to blow up Parliament. The event was known as the ‘Big Blow’.

Plans to dual the whole of the A47 have been abandoned as it is now expected that flying cars will have replaced road models by the time it was due to be completed.

The Bishop’s Garden in Norwich has a Hebe planted from a sprig taken from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet in 1840. It has never grown very large due to visitors stealing bits off it. It is believed that more than a thousand gardens in Norfolk now have Hebes that can be traced back to Queen Victoria’s bouquet.

Greater Anglia once asked to borrow three steam trains from the National Railway Museum in order to improve its reliability.

Next year, the UEA School of Literature is launching a course in Norfolk dialect after one of its American mature students decided to call her baby Bishy Barnebee (the Norfolk name for a ladybird).

To boost tourism, First Bus is to advertise itself as a ‘Living bus museum’.

Hellesdon is to be demolished to make way for an extension of the runway at Norwich airport, necessary to accommodate larger aircraft.

Oh, and today’s date is April 1.

Paul Burall is chairman of the Norwich Society


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