Why is Sprowston officially known as a town and what does it mean?

A sign for Sprowston on Wroxham Road 

A sign for Sprowston on Wroxham Road - Credit: Ben Hardy

It may not have a traditional town square or a market, but there are still plenty of reasons why the Norwich suburb of Sprowston is officially called a town. 

Sprowston Town Council decided to follow Thorpe St Andrew in becoming a town in October 2011 with a public consultation being carried out in which every household had their say. 

After the majority of residents stated they were in favour, the change of status from parish to town was voted through at an ensuing full council meeting. 

The population of Sprowston has increased to around 17,000 from the 14,691 which was recorded in the 2011 census at the time of the vote. This made it the most populous parish in Broadland at the time.

An aerial view of Sprowston from 2010.

An aerial view of Sprowston from 2010. - Credit: Mike Page

Being a town allows Sprowston to have a town mayor rather than just a council chairman.

Town mayor John Ward said: "Thorpe St Andrew, followed by Sprowston, became towns at a time when there was a threat of us being swallowed up in a Greater Norwich and it was felt that the status of being a town would add weight to our views." 

Sprowston mayor John Ward is pictured on the right with local business Dawn's New Horizon in Sprowston

Sprowston mayor John Ward is pictured on the right with local business Dawn's New Horizon in Sprowston - Credit: Contributed

John Fisher, town councillor and cabinet member for children's services at the county council, added: "The reason for Sprowston becoming a town was to help prevent full take over by Norwich city when local government review was on the cards and Norwich were looking to extend their boundaries to take in the fringe parishes of Thorpe, Sprowston, Old Catton and Hellesdon.

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"The other reason was that as a town there is increased recognition and considered increased importance being a town instead of a parish when responding to consultations, both local and central government, also more ability to raise sponsorship from businesses.

"I think Long Stratton is the latest village or parish council to go for town status." 

Sprowston Park and Ride near Norwich.

Sprowston Park and Ride near Norwich. - Credit: Steve Adams

The town is a very early settlement and was mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086.

Sprowston will welcome 1,834 new homes over the next few years in the Atlantic Avenue/White House Farm zone, Blue Boar Lane and Salhouse Road areas, some of which are already finished.

And there are also plans for a new skate park in the town, while a recent recreational facilities survey has shown a desire for a new swimming pool which the council are looking into.

Town councillor Bill Couzens, who has lived in Sprowston for 30 years, said: "Sprowston Town Council have, for decades, focused on the facilities that we can provide to our residents.

"All these are maintained from the precept we receive and have been budgeted for in the long term. For this we need a stable income which is what changing to a town has given us.

"It enables us to put our arms around an area and say this is Sprowston. We are bigger than several towns such as Fakenham, Holt and Aylsham."

Bill Couzens, deputy chair of Sprowston Town Council. Picture: Bill Couzens

Town councillor Bill Couzens - Credit: Bill Couzens

The name 'Sprow' is a Scandinavian personal name with 'ton' meaning town or village. 

Sprowston was originally a small rather run-down village with two holdings which united and dominated Sprowston until the late 19th century. 

Also standing on the town council is Ian Mackie, former mayor of Thorpe St Andrew and current county councillor. 

Thorpe Parish Council voted to become a town in 2006 for the same jurisdictional reasons as Sprowston.

Mr Mackie said: "Town status has been incredibly positive as it has given community events and public consultations extra gravitas, and I believe it has given a stronger identity to the area." 

Councillors Ian Mackie and John Ward with Norwich North MP Chloe Smith 

Councillors Ian Mackie and John Ward with Norwich North MP Chloe Smith - Credit: Contributed

Thorpe St Andrew has a population of over 14,000 with the growth of development accelerating rapidly after World War One with new homes and recreational areas. The Dussindale estate was then built in the 1990s increasing the need for public amenities. 

Mr Mackie added: "The historical centre of Thorpe is the River Green on Yarmouth Road, and it remains the jewel in the crown, enjoyed by hundreds of visitors. 

The River Green in Thorpe St Andrew 

The River Green in Thorpe St Andrew - Credit: Ian Mackie

"It's a great community, always with something going on despite the Covid restrictions."