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Walk through 1000 years of Norwich history

PUBLISHED: 17:46 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:27 01 July 2010

Eagle Ward at the Great Hospital

Eagle Ward at the Great Hospital

Peter Walsh

Families are being given the chance to walk their way through 1,000 years of Norwich history as part of a series of guided tours taking place in the city this summer.

Families are being given the chance to walk their way through 1,000 years of Norwich history as part of a series of guided tours taking place in the city this summer.

From July this year Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), in conjunction with Norwich Tourist Information Centre (TIC) and the Blue Badge Guides, will be running a series of four walking tours each taking in a selection of the iconic buildings that make up Norwich 12.

Norwich 12 tours are a chance to get a taste of the heritage Norwich has to offer and experience some of Norwich's 1,000 years of history in just a few hours.

Led by an experienced Blue Badge Guide and knowledgeable staff from the individual buildings, each tour takes in three of the Norwich 12 buildings, visiting the interiors where possible. Many of the buildings are not normally open to the public so this is a unique opportunity to explore some of Norwich's hidden history.

Norwich 12 is the UK's finest collection of individually outstanding buildings from the Norman, medieval, Georgian, Victorian and modern eras, and comprises buildings as diverse as Dragon Hall, Norwich Castle and Surrey House.

Started by Norwich HEART in 2006, it is a pioneering heritage initiative to develop the 12 buildings into an integrated family of heritage attractions. Last year HEART secured funding from the European Regional Development Fund for SHAPING 24 - an exciting and innovative new project which is taking forward the successful Norwich 12 initiative, in partnership with the Belgian city of Ghent, until 2011.

Michael Loveday, chief executive of Norwich HEART said: “Many of the 12 venues are working buildings and therefore not usually open to the public, so these tours are a great way of making Norwich's heritage more accessible.”

Michelle Hurren, tourism development manager at Norwich TIC said: “The Norwich 12 tours are an exciting addition to the programme of walking tours already run by the TIC and they should appeal to both local people and visitors. If the demand is high enough we will look at increasing the frequency of the tours next year.”

The tours will run on Thursdays and Fridays from Thursday July 15 until Friday September 24 and last around three hours each. The price of £10 per person includes an exclusive voucher sheet with money-off vouchers valid at many of the Norwich 12 buildings. Each tour is limited to a maximum number of 20 people so it is advisable to purchase tickets in advance, although there may be some availability on the day.

For more information or to book, visit Norwich TIC in The Forum or call 01603 213999.

Are you doing something to celebrate the city's heritage? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

Norwich 12

Norwich Castle (1067 - 1075) The castle is one of the finest surviving secular Norman buildings in Europe. The Castle mound is the largest in the country. From the 14th to the 19th century the keep was used as a county gaol. The Castle was converted to a museum in 1894.

Norwich Cathedral (1096-1145) Most of Norwich Cathedral's Norman architecture is still intact and it forms one of the finest examples of the Romanesque style in Europe. Norwich Cathedral has the highest Norman tower (40 meters) and largest monastic cloisters in England, as well as a unique and world-renowned collection of medieval roof carvings.

The Assembly House (1754-1755) The Assembly House is a Georgian building designed by the architect Thomas Ivory. It incorporates the original layout of a previous building, the medieval college of St Mary in the Fields. Today the rooms appear almost exactly as they did at the height of the Regency period, and are used for exhibitions, concerts, conferences and weddings.

St James Mill (1836 - 1839) St James Mill is the archetypal English Industrial Revolution mill in perhaps an unexpected part of the UK. It was built on a site occupied by the White Friars (Carmelites) in the 13th century, and an original arch and under croft survive. Jarrolds have twice been owners of the mill the last purchase being in 1933, today it is a private office complex.

The Great Hospital (1249) Norwich's Great Hospital has been in continuous use as a caring institution since it was founded for the care of poor chaplains in the 13th century. The six-acre complex of buildings and extensive archives provide a unique living history of the last 750 years. The site includes the ancient parish church of St Helen and Eagle Ward with its lavishly decorated 'eagle ceiling', originally the chancel of the church. Today the hospital provides sheltered housing and a residential care home.

The Halls - St Andrew's and Blackfriar's (1307 - 1470) St Andrew's Hall is the centrepiece of several magnificent flint buildings, know as The Halls, which form the most complete friary complex surviving in England. During the reformation, the site was saved by the City Corporation which bought it from the king for use as a 'common hall'. Since then the complex has been used for worship, as a mint and as a workhouse. Today the two halls, crypt, chapel and cloisters host conferences, fairs, weddings and concerts.

St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral (1884 - 1910) St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral is a particularly fine example of 19th-century Gothic revival architecture. Designed in the Early English style by George Gilbert Scott Junior, St John's contains some of the finest 19th-century stained glass in Europe. It also has a wealth of Frosterley marble and exquisite stone caving.

Surrey House (1900 - 1912) Surrey House, the historic home of Aviva (formally Norwich Union), is a spectacular piece of Edwardian architecture by George Skipper. He was commissioned by The Norwich Union Life Insurance Society's directors to produce a 'splendid yet functional office space', incorporating Greek influences and the themes of insurance, protection and wellbeing. The building has a commanding Palladian exterior and an interior adorned with 15 varieties of marble, classically inspired frescos and a stunning glass atrium.

The Guildhall (1407 - 1424) The elaborate design and size of the Guildhall reflect Norwich's status as one of he wealthiest provincial cities in England in medieval times. The building represents the growing economic and political power of the new ruling elite that was emerging - wealthy freemen who were merchants and traders. Norwich was given more self-governing powers in 1404 and the Guildhall was built to house the various civic assemblies, councils and courts that regulated its citizens' lives.

Dragon Hall (1427 - 1430) Dragon Hall is a medieval trading hall, built by Robert Toppes, a wealthy local merchant, for his business. The first floor of the 27 metre timber-framed hall has an outstanding crown post roof with a beautifully carved dragon, which gives the building its name. After Toppes' death, the building was converted for domestic use and then, in the 19th century, subdivided into shops, a pub and tenements. Today Dragon Hall is a heritage attraction open to visitors and is a unique venue for weddings, private and corporate functions, and performances.

City Hall (1936 - 1938) Norwich City Hall was build when the Guildhall and existing municipal offices could no longer accommodate the growth in local government duties in the early 20th century. City Hall has an exceptional art deco interior and many fine architectural features, including a top-floor cupola, rich in mahogany panelling and one of the longest balconies in England.

The Forum (1999 - 2001) The Forum is the landmark millennium project for the East of England and a striking example of post-war architecture. Funded by a Millennium Commission grant and matching support from Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and the business community, it houses the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium and the 2nd Air Division Memorial Libraries BBC East's regional headquarter, Norwich Tourist Information Centre, a shop, a cafe, restaurant, Fusion - a giant digital gallery, BBC open studio and The Curve auditorium.

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