Peter is a local author and illustrator of twenty nine books including The Fortifications of East Anglia, the Children’s History of Norwich and The Fatal Gates of Norwich “an alternative history of the ancient walls, towers and gates and a litany of clerical mortality” He lives in Norwich, a long arrow shot from the wall.
Saturday 19th November at 2.00pm at Needham Village Hall, High Road, Needham, IP20 9LB. Members £2.00, non-members £3.00
A review of the November meeting
Medieval Norwich 1300 – 1500 with Peter Kent
19th November 2016
Peter gave an excellent introduction to the foundations of Norwich starting with the early Anglo-Saxon settlements which coalesced into the Anglo Scandinavian city and then following 1066 the shock brought about by the coming of the Normans and the radical transformation that created the city in its current form.
This is a city of superlatives. It boasts the biggest castle mound in England and following the Murage grant of 1297 which allowed the city to construct defensive walls; the 4.25 mile circuit became the longest in the country with the exception of London. This enterprise took 42000 tons of flint. 19000 tons of mortar and 1500 tons of Northamptonshire stone. The finished defences boasted 12 city gates as compared to London’s 8, and towers that featured both bow and gun loops which at the time were the very height of military technology.
Apparently part of the defences included a chain across the river which was funded by the Spink family in exchange for perpetual exemption from payment of local taxes – any extant members of the family could in theory still be enjoying this benefit!
Peter also related the story of the foundation of St Ethelbert’s gate which is in the corner of Tombland and was ordered by the king to be built by citizens in reparation for the destruction of church property which followed in the wake of the 1242 riots. Relations between church and laity were already at a low ebb over the question of taxes but the tinderbox moment was the arrangement of noisy entertainment close to the cathedral. This so upset the monks at prayer that they decided to shoot the revellers with bows thus sparking off three days of mayhem, during which the church of St Ethelbert was destroyed and church vestments and valuables were looted.
Peter also described Norwich at the zenith of its wealth with rich wool merchants constructing fabulous residences many of which can still be seen in the city today.
All in all, a very enjoyable and informative talk illustrated throughout with superb watercolours from his previous book which he described as a ‘whimsical’ history of Norwich.
Peter has a new book appearing shortly entitled ‘The Famed Gates of Norfolk’. A taster is available here