Local Lit: Norwich

18th Aug 2014

Local Lit: Norwich
As England’s first UNESCO City of Literature (and one of only six in the world), you would rightly expect Norwich to be a place of pilgrimage for writers and bibliophiles. Apparently, people spend more on culture per capita than in any other region in the UK, and 5% of the publishing industry is located here. So what better place to visit for a bookish literary walk?

City of Stories

To celebrate the literary history and culture of Norwich, this summer sees the ‘City of Stories’ campaign which is launching today (18th August 2014). The campaign itself will run from now until mid-November and builds upon Norwich’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Filled with interesting and inspiring stories of all lengths and styles, from mini quotes, to flash fiction, and longer stories, the campaign aims to celebrate the city as well as challenge preconceptions about it.

Each week the stories will have a different theme, and in an artistic manner befitting Norwich these stories will be distributed on all sorts of objects and merchandise including beer mats, writing pads, and posters, to truly immerse the city in words.

Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library

The Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, housed in the modern Forum building is the most popular library in the country, with over 1.3 million visitors in 2012.

The Book Hive

When not borrowing books, buy them from the new and second hand book stores which grace the lanes. The Book Hive is an independent bookshop right in the heart of the city, and holds events all year round, and this summer is supporting launches from local writers Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, Sarah Perry and Lucy Morris.

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich survived the Black Death and in 1393, at age 30, wrote The Revelations of Divine Love. It was the first published book in the English language to be written by a woman and reflects on religious visions she had whilst in  residence as an anchoress in a cell attached to St Julian’s church in Norwich.

Despite growing up at a time when a third of the UK’s population was wiped out by the Black Death, she optimistically writes: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”.

Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau was a 19th century radical thinker (often said to be the first woman sociologist) and writer from Norwich . You can see a blue plaque dedicated to her at Gurney Court, Magdalen Street.

Her early years of ill health and poverty caused her prominent writings on social reform (Illustrations of Political Economy, 1832), education (On Female Education, 1821)  and the slavery trade (Society in America, 1837).

Some believe this radical thinking was influenced by a tradition in Norwich, by virtue of it being slightly cut off from the rest of the UK.

Harriet Martineau

[Image: Wikibooks]


All English students of a certain age will know that the University of East Anglia is famed for its literature courses, and it was here that the first British MA course in creative writing in was established 1970, with notable alumni including Angela Carter and Rose Tremain.

Agatha Christie

Just up the road is Agatha Christie’s holiday home.

During the 1930s the crime writer used to spend her summer holidays at the Beechwood Hotel in North Walsham, writing in the garden and discussing poison with the doctor owners.

The author’s pestle and mortar plus eight of her favourite leather-bound books were given to the hotel and can still be seen today.

Anna Sewell

Further away from the city is Great Yarmouth, the birthplace of Anna Sewell.

The Black Beauty author was passionate about ponies and horses, but never got to see the fruits of the fame of her biggest work, published in 1872 by Jarrold’s.

You don’t have to visit Great Yarmouth to pay tribute to Sewell.  In Norwich itself, there is also a memorial fountain to Anna Sewell located at the junction of Constitution Hill and St. Clement’s Hill – which also marks the entrance to Sewell Park.

Erected in 1917 by Ada Sewell – the writer’s cousin – it was originally a  horse trough but is now, thankfully, planted with flowers by Norwich City Council. Mary Sewell, Anna’s mother, is also featured on the pilaster of Jarrold’s shop front, a family owned independent store.

Norwich Cathedral

Just a few short steps away from Norwich Cathedral is the Writers’ Centre NorwichA literature development agency it supports and encourages creative writing all year round, and runs book clubs, creative writing workshops and author events.


Useful links:

Visit Norwich

UNESCO Norwich 

Writers Centre Norwich



Are you visiting Norwich over the next few weeks? Are you a local or student/grad of UEA? Let us know your favourite places by leaving us a comment or you can always find us on Twitter and Instagram.


[Image credit: Wikipedia – Luke H. Gordon on Flickr]