Season of events mark the Norman imprint on Norfolk

Chris HillApart from blessing Norfolk's countryside with awe-inspiring churches, establishing Norwich as a medieval powerhouse and leaving a 900-year legacy on our culture.Chris Hill

Apart from blessing Norfolk's countryside with awe-inspiring churches, establishing Norwich as a medieval powerhouse and leaving a 900-year legacy on our culture... what have the Normans ever done for us?

That's the question which organisers of a three-month season of events hope to answer by bringing a new invasion of visitors to explore the rich heritage of one of the nation's major Norman counties.

The Normans in Norfolk programme was launched yesterday at the ruins of Castle Acre Priory, near Swaffham - itself a majestic reminder of the influence exerted over our landscape by England's last conquerors.

A wide range of educational events and activities between August and October have been co-ordinated by Norfolk Tourism and BBC Learning to tie in with the BBC's Norman season on TV, radio and online.

Some will take place at the fascinating and often unique monuments dotted around the county including Norwich Cathedral, Binham Priory and Castle Rising, while museums, libraries and archive centres are also taking part.

Lydia Smith, director of Norfolk Tourism said: 'The Normans had a big impact on Norfolk and their legacy is everywhere to be seen in our wonderful churches and castles, and on the streets of Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Thetford.

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'Norwich itself became much more important in Norman times, becoming the administrative centre for Norfolk and the second most important city in the country behind London.'

'When you live in Norfolk it is easy to overlook what significant buildings our churches are, and it's another reason for visitors to come and explore Norfolk.'

While the towering cathedral and castle which dominate the Norwich skyline are firmly engraved on Norfolk's historical landscape, other less-famed Norman sites are no less significant.

The scene of yesterday's event launch was home to a member of the conquering army which helped overturned the rule of King Harold at Hastings in 1066.

Dr Lucy Marten, director for the Centre for East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia, said: 'The buildings at Castle Acre are unique. The castle was actually a Norman country house, and it is the only surviving one in the country. It was built by William de Warenne, probably a distant cousin of William the Conqueror, but certainly one of his foremost lords.

'He is one of the very few people who we know fought at the Battle of Hastings, because he was named.

'His son, William II, established the priory, which was probably the finest building in Northern Europe when it was built.

'Everybody knows the date of 1066 but few people really know what happened in the years after the conquest. This project is a fabulous opportunity to explore that heritage.'

Madeleine Forrester, project manager for BBC Learning, said: 'The great thing about this is that, working with Norfolk Tourism, we have created a backdrop fro the Norman history in this county and this has incentivised all sorts of different partners to come forward and offered to run events and activities. It has created a tremendous buzz.'

For full details of the Normans in Norfolk programme, visit or see the EDP's Event supplement on Thursdays.