Secret meanings behind Norwich street names revealed

Norwich Streets -- P
Pottergate looking towards Lower Goat Lane
Dated -- 10 November 1988
P

Pottergate - pictured in November 1988 - actually derived its name from a Danish influence - Credit: Archant Library

As shoppers race about the bustling city streets, few will look up to mark the signs and plaques adorning historic walls and shops.

But the names of the Fine City's lanes and thoroughfares give little-known insight into the complex past of Norwich - and its global influences.

Paul Dickson, of Paul Dickson Tours, has been guiding visitors through the city's 2000-plus streets for eight years now.

Fishergate - A Scandinavian street name.

Fishergate - A Scandinavian street name. - Credit: Archant

And by exploring every corner of the city he has uncovered a thing or two about Norwich's multilingual background.

Paul said: "The thing many people don't know is that the streets we have ending in 'gate' don't have anything to do with gates.

"Places like Fishergate, Colgate, Westlegate and Pottergate all actually derive from the Danish word 'gata' - meaning street.

The Barclays Bank building in December 1984

The Barclays Bank building in December 1984 - Credit: Archant

"Each street was named after the people who lived there. Potter gata was the street where potters lived and worked while Fisher gata was where fisherman where."

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He explained: "The Danish influence comes from the fact the Danes ruled much of Norwich from the 880s to the 920s.

The way it was in Westlegate, Norwich, of 1948. Picture: Archant Library

The way it was in Westlegate, Norwich, of 1948 - Credit: Archant Library

"Alfred the Great split the area up with them. He shared lands with the Danes everywhere north of London to Chester.

"What would become the East Anglian Danes established a new quarter north of the River Wensum - with Magdalen Street sitting roughly right down the middle of it."

Paul Dickson pictured at Norwich Market on a walking tour

Paul Dickson pictured at Norwich Market on a walking tour - Credit: Paul Dickson

He added: "Tombland derives from 'tom' - Danish for empty space as it was when they arrived - so they set up the first market the city had seen there."

Prior to Norwich getting the name everyone knows today the Danes named the Fine City Norvic. 

Moving into the 1600s more streets would be named by those discovering the city from abroad.

St Mary's Works, St Mary's Plain, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

St Mary's Works, St Mary's Plain, Norwich.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Paul added: "In the mid-16th century there was an influx of Dutch and French religious refugees who were fleeing the Spanish Netherlands.

"They ended up representing nearly 30pc of Norwich's entire population.

Demolition work being carried out in the 1923 alterations of the Bank Plain Branch. Note the old ba

Demolition work being carried out in the 1923 alterations of the Bank Plain Branch. Note the old bank building in the background and the removal of the redundant buildings in the foreground. submitted by Barclays Bank - Credit: Archant Library

"They helped the city by delivering textile industry innovations as well as bonuses such as printing, land drainage, painting and a slice of the local dialect.

"This is why we have Bank Plain, St Mary's Plain and St Andrew's Plain - it comes from the Dutch word 'plein' - meaning square."

First premises at Norwich. G.N.C. Mann & Co. Electrical Engineers. Corner of Bank Plain and Queen st

First premises at Norwich. G.N.C. Mann & Co. Electrical Engineers. Corner of Bank Plain and Queen st. Picture: Archant library - Credit: Archant

Twinned with Norwich

Norwich is twinned with four cities across the globe: Rouen in France, Koblenz in Germany, Novi Sad in Serbia and El Viejo in Nicaragua.

Rouen and Norwich are centres of important agricultural areas and thrived on the wool trade during the middle ages sharing a common heritage dating from the time of the Vikings.

Bank Plain

Bank Plain, pictured, also derived its name from a Dutch influence - Credit: Archant

Novi Sad and Norwich are both the main cities in a fertile agricultural area with associated food processing and industry - with imposing castles and important churches.

In April 1978 Koblenz and Norwich came together to extend links.

Norwich Streets -- P
Pottergate looking towards Lower Goat Lane
Dated -- 10 November 1988
P

Pottergate - pictured in November 1988 - actually derived its name from a Danish influence - Credit: Archant Library

Since then a wide range of collaborations on education, cultural and sporting levels has developed.

The Norwich-El Viejo link was set up in 1986. 

Norwich Streets -- PPottergate looking towards Dove Street/ Maddermarket junctionDated -- 12

Norwich Streets -- P Pottergate looking towards Dove Street/ Maddermarket junction Dated -- 12 November 1985 Photograph -- C3053 - Credit: Archant Library

It was initiated by the Norwich Central America Group - a solidarity group with countries - in Central America.

The aim of the link was to set up friendly relations with the people of El Viejo and to establish a relationship between the two communities.

NORWICHWESTLEGATEDATE ?PLATE P1141

NORWICH WESTLEGATE DATE ? PLATE P1141 - Credit: Archant Library