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Walk in the footsteps of Matthew Shardlake on free walking tour

PUBLISHED: 10:22 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:44 28 March 2019

City of Norwich tour guide, Paul Dickson, by the 15th century fireplace in the Maids Heads Hotel, which is the date that the bestselling book Tombland by author, C.J. Sansom, is set, and whose central character stayed in the hotel. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

City of Norwich tour guide, Paul Dickson, by the 15th century fireplace in the Maids Heads Hotel, which is the date that the bestselling book Tombland by author, C.J. Sansom, is set, and whose central character stayed in the hotel. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

A tour that celebrates both the fictional world of Matthew Shardlake and the facts about Kett's Rebellion will be offered free to celebrate English Tourism Week.

Author CJ Sansom launches new book Tombland at Norwich CathedralAuthor CJ Sansom launches new book Tombland at Norwich Cathedral

It was arguably the closest thing that Tudor England ever saw to a class war and the scars it left on Norwich can still be seen to this day.

When Wymondham tanner Robert Kett led a rebellion of 16,000 peasants against unfair land enclosures and barriers to a free market, it ended with pitchfork and spear-wielding rebels scaling the city walls and taking control of Norwich.

“When the Duke of Somerset sent John Dudley, the Earl of Warwick and his trained army, Kett was ordered to surrender – on hearing the news, one of the rebels lowered his trousers and showed the King’s men his bum,” tour guide Paul Dixon tells us.

“An archer took aim and shot him.” We all wince.

Ketts Heights, a hidden gem in Thorpe Hamlet, that affords an enviable view of Norwich. Friends of Kett's Heights are gradually restoring the previously neglected woodland walk to be enjoyed by the public. Photo : Steve AdamsKetts Heights, a hidden gem in Thorpe Hamlet, that affords an enviable view of Norwich. Friends of Kett's Heights are gradually restoring the previously neglected woodland walk to be enjoyed by the public. Photo : Steve Adams

Paul, who has worked in the tourism industry in Norfolk for more than three decades, is a City of Norwich tourist guide and runs a variety of tours which include The Great Market, an Introduction to Norwich and Rail, Trails and Sails, a full day tour which involves a walking tour of Norwich and then a train ride to Reedham.

This weekend, Paul will be offering his guided walking tour which celebrates author CJ Sansom’s best-selling novel Tombland for free to those who book a coveted place: the tour usually costs £8.50 per person, which includes refreshments.

This Saturday’s tours are part of the English Tourism Week celebrations and will kick off a week of free tours being offered which include a tour of Colegate on Sunday and Sunday April 7, Tombland on Monday, Norwich Market on Wednesday and Saturday April 6 and Elm Hill on Thursday and Friday.

Sansom’s most recent Shardlake novel, his seventh in the series, sees the lawyer embroiled in a new murder case on behalf of Lady Elizabeth which takes him to Norwich where he finds himself caught up in the midst of Kett’s rebellion during the peasant revolt of 1549.

The entrance to the oldest part of the Maids Heads Hotel, which is the time that the bestselling book Tombland by author, C.J. Sansom, is set, and whose central character stayed in the hotel. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe entrance to the oldest part of the Maids Heads Hotel, which is the time that the bestselling book Tombland by author, C.J. Sansom, is set, and whose central character stayed in the hotel. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The tour, explains Paul, allows him to talk about the fictional character and the real-life backdrop on which the book is based – the full tour, which lasts an hour and 45 minutes includes visits to Tombland, the ancient Anglo-Scandinavian Market Place, Augustine Steward’s House, Norwich Cathedral Close, Bishopgate (Holme Street in the novel) and the Great Hospital, Bishop’s Bridge, the site of Bishop’s Gate and Lollards Pit, followed by a climb up to Kett’s Heights to see the remains of St Michael’s Chapel, known as Kett’s Castle.

When Robert Kett’s army camped on Mousehold Heath, Kett was installed in what was left of the chapel as his headquarters, a vantage point where he could see precisely what was happening beneath him in the city he’d been denied access to.

His forces eventually fought a battle at the Bishop’s Bridge before looting the city, bombarding Cow Tower from the heights using captured artillery. It was only when Kett left the heights to fight that he was defeated.

The return journey includes a walk along the north side of the River Wensum, passing Cow Tower and the site of the city’s guns on July 21 1549, Jarrold Bridge past the old city walls and the Adam and Eve pub, where Lord Sheffied died after the Battle of Palace Plain. The tour ends at the Maid’s Head Hotel, where Shardlake stays in the book.

The tour is fascinating for fans of Shardlake – who will discover where the melancholy lawyer stayed, the location of Gawen Renolds’ house, where Holmstreet and the Blue Boar where Jack Barack stays are, the bridge under which a body is found and the churchyard where the bodies of those killed in the fighting are taken.

Descriptive passages in the book are paired with the genuine article, whether it’s the gate where Shardlake meets Canon Charles Stoke (the Cathedral’s Erpingham Gate) the pub where Jack Barak stays (The Red Lion) the place where John Boleyn’s fate is decided (the Shire Hall)

It is also fascinating for anyone keen to learn more about a rebellion which truly changed the face of Britain and a man who started out as one of the bad guys and became a hero of the people.

“We’ll be asking for donations to Break charity at the weekend and we hope that people will really enjoy seeing a different side of the city. Even if you know Norwich, I hope you’ll discover something new on one of the walks,” said Paul.

• Tours must be pre-booked through Norwich Tourist Information Centre, 01603 213999.

• For more information about the tours Paul runs, visit www.pauldicksontours.co.uk.

Robert Kett:

• Robert Kett was the fourth son of Tom and Margery Kett and was born in Wymondham in 1492. He was a tanner and had extensive landholdings

• During the early part of the 16thcentury, large numbers of farmers changed from growing crops to raising sheep which involved enclosing arable land and turning into pasture

• Wealthy landowners increasingly began to enclose common land used by poor villagers and rebellions and riots began to spring up around the country

• In July 1549, rebellion broke out in Norfolk with attacks on enclosers including Kett, who then admitted he had been wrong to enclose common land and offered to help protesters persuade other landowners to stop the practice

• Kett’s Rebellion grew rapidly and a gathering of around 16,000 people camped at Mousehold Heath just outside Norwich

• After declining a pardon in exchange for dispersal, the rebels stormed the city, taking control

• The Earl of Warwick, John Dudley, brought an army of 12,000 English troops and 1,200 German mercenaries and after several days of fierce fighting and 3,000 deaths, the rebels retreated and Kett was captured

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