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Thorpe Hamlet celebrates its past and exciting future

PUBLISHED: 15:13 25 July 2011

Musician Tony Ireland with the Thorpe Hamlet School Jazz Band. Photo: Bill Darnell.

Musician Tony Ireland with the Thorpe Hamlet School Jazz Band. Photo: Bill Darnell.

Archant © 2006

Join in the celebrations in Thorpe Hamlet this weekend as the community shares its rich and colourful history.

The Hamlet with a big heart has a lot to celebrate and this weekend the residents are inviting you all to share the delights of their community and its rich and colourful history.

Thorpe Hamlet is the village within the City of Norwich and it is opening its arms and welcoming visitors with a whole host of activities starting this Friday.

The people of Thorpe Hamlet have every right to be proud of their parish and all that it offers – a community with an important past and an exciting future.

The community spirit has grown in recent times.

A delightful book, Memories of Thorpe Hamlet, published a few years ago helped to bring people of all ages and all walks of life together. They all shared a love of the place they lived in or grew up in.

It was in 1852 that Thorpe Hamlet became a separate parish – independent of Thorpe St Andrew and within the City of Norwich boundary.

This is a village community within the city – sitting on high ground east of the River Wensum, it keeps an eye on the city below.

The Wensum curves round the city, also forming the west and south boundaries of the parish, while to the north and east the forest and heathland of Mousehold surrounds it.

You could call the villagers the “EastEnders” of Norwich – enjoying cooling breezes in summer and hills for sledging in winter. Many of the big city factories were on their side of the river.

This quarter of Norwich has always been a hive of activity – stretching back to Mesolithic and Neolithic times when man first occupied the higher ground and cleared some of the thick forest for farming.

The Romans built their road east-west through what later became the grounds of Mousehold House. Later still, the Domesday Book of 1086 refers to a wood at Thorpe. It was used for fattening pigs and providing firewood, until it was given to the Bishop of Norwich for hunting.

St Leonard’s Priory was built before the Norman cathedral, and beneath it are great caves and chalk works where flint, chalk and lime were extracted to build the new bishop’s seat.

To the north of the Priory of Kett’s Heights are the remains of St Michael’s Chapel, which was founded to replace St Michael’s Church on Tombland, demolished to make way for the cathedral. The old chalk pits became a terrible place, Lollards’ Pit, where crowds watched as heretics were burned.

Major changes came in Victorian times.

First the Gas Works in the 1830s. Then Carrow Bridge and Foundry Bridge along with the railway and Prince of Wales Road turning Thorpe Hamlet into a prime residential area. The riverside factories, including Boulton & Paul and LSE and Colman’s, still going strong, provided work for generations of people.

In 1851 the population of the Hamlet was 1,811 – a century later it has grown to more than 10,000.

It has been home to the Canaries – first The Nest before they flew to Carrow Road on the other side of the Hamlet.

And there’s more... it was the first place in the country to get street gas lighting and the first post-codes in the land were introduced at the sorting office.

Yes, the Hamlet has a lot going for it...so why not give it a look.

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