The bulge of land between the Thames Estuary and the Wash, flat but far from featureless, sits aside from the main north-south axis through Britain, and for that reason it has succeeded in maintaining and preserving its distinctive architecture, traditions and rural character in both cities and countryside.
East Anglia’s name derives from the Angles, the people from northern Germany who settled here during the 5th and 6th centuries. East Anglians – Queen Boadicea in the 1st century and Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century – were famous for their stubbornness and their refusal to bow to constituted authority. During the Civil War, East Anglia was Cromwell’s most reliable source of support. The hardy people who made a difficult living hunting and fishing in the swampy fens, which were drained in the 17th century, were called the Fen Tigers. After draining, the peaty soil proved ideal for arable farming and many of the region’s towns and cities grew prosperous on the agricultural wealth, including Norwich. The sea also plays a prominent role in east Anglian life.
In modern times, the area has become a center of recreational sailing, both off the coast and on the inland waterway system known as the Norfolk Broads. East Anglia is also home to one of Britain’s top universities: Cambridge.
Let’s start exploring East Anglia with Peterborough Cathedral that was founded as Medeshampstede Abbey by King Peada of Mercia in 655 as one of the first centres of Christianity in central England. The monastic settlement with which the church was associated lasted until it was destroyed by Vikings in 870. Although damaged during the struggle between the Norman invaders and local folk-hero, Hereward the Wake, it was repaired, and continued to thrive until destroyed by an accidental fire in 1116. This event necessitated the building of a new church in the Norman style, begun by Abbot John de Sais in 1118. By 1193 the building was completed to the western end of the Nave, including the central tower and the decorated wooden ceiling of the nave. The ceiling, completed between 1230 and 1250, still survives. It is unique in Britain and one of only four such ceilings in the whole of Europe.
The Abbey’s relics included the supposed arm of St Oswald and various contact relics of Thomas Becket, brought from Canterbury in a special reliquary by its Prior Benedict (who had witnessed Becket’s assassination) when he was ‘promoted’ to Abbot of Peterborough. In 1541, following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, the relics were lost but the church survived by being selected as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Peterborough. This may have been related to the fact that Henry’s former queen, Katherine of Aragon, had been buried there in 1536. Her grave can still be seen, and is nowadays honoured by visitors and often decorated with flowers and pomegranates (her symbol). It carries the legend “Katharine the Queen”, a title she was denied at the time of her death. In 1587, the body of Mary Queen of Scots was also buried here after her execution at nearby Fotheringhay Castle, but was later removed to Westminster Abbey on the orders of her son, King James I of England.
Then our walk goes to Ely – the city rich in history, charm and beauty and the jewel in the crown of the Fens. Formerly an island and surrounded by dramatic lowland fens, the city rises into the big wide-open skies. Dominating the skyline is one of the England most beautiful and largest Cathedrals. This medieval cathedral is known locally as the ‘Ship of the Fens’ and is famous for its unique Octagon tower, which when lit can be seen for tens of miles. Within the cathedral itself there is the Stained Glass Museum, which now houses the national collection of British stained glass.
Ely’s most famous historical resident was of course Oliver Cromwell who lived in Ely for 10 years. The Cromwell family left in 1647, but you can still visit their house, the only remaining home of Cromwell with the exeption of Hampton Court Palace in London. It has been restored showing how Cromwell and his family would have lived. The house is comprised of eight period rooms including a reconstructed 17th Century Kitchen, Cromwell’s study and the famous haunted bedroom that portrays Oliver Cromwell on his deathbed. The commentary tells the sad story of his death and his subsequent exhumation and decapitation. Watch the portrait at the side of the four poster bed change from Cromwell to the Death Mask!
In East Anglia you can also see one of the most fascinating Neolithic sites in Britain – Grimes Graves. Despite its name, it is not a grave, or burial place, but a flint mine worked between about 2200 and 2500 BC. Located in open heath country near Thetford Forest, Grimes Graves consists of over 350 hollows in the ground marking the location of the former mine shafts. Some of the shafts are sunk as deep as 30 feet below the surface – a remarkable accomplishment when you consider that the Neolithic miners used antlers for picks and animal shoulder-blades for shovels. On one of the antler picks found at Grimes Graves archaeologists found a miner’s fingerprint – still intact after 4000 years! The miners sunk their shafts to find seams of flint for making axes which were highly prized tools, and were traded up and down the length of the British Isles. When they had reached the flint seams the miners dug horizontal galleries to follow the flint deposits.
Although a Royal residence for only 150 years, Sandringham abounds in history. It has seen the deaths of two monarchs; suffered its share of wartime tragedy; and been the venue for the first ever Christmas Broadcast. The story began in 1862. Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, was looking for a country home for his eldest son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, before his twentieth birthday. The idea was to find a healthy retreat for his young son, away from the distractions of the city. Before a decision had been reached, the Prince Consort died suddenly of typhoid in December 1861. It was left up to his eldest son to conclude the house-hunt. After paying a visit to Sandringham on 3 February 1862, the Prince of Wales was impressed enough to have decided by the end of the day that he wanted to buy the house. For the house and furnishings, the Prince paid ?220,000.
Sandringham’s first role was as a home for newly-weds. Prince Albert Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark on 10 March 1863, and they travelled to Norfolk 18 days later. The young couple made many extensions and improvements to the house and estate, including the construction of new roads, the rebuilding of cottages and landscaping. A new garden wall was built to accommodate the magnificent gift of the famous Norwich Gates – spectacular ironwork gates designed by Thomas Jekyll and presented as a wedding gift by the people of Norwich and Norfolk. It became obvious that the existing house was not suitable for large social gatherings and a growing family, so the Prince of Wales rebuilt it completely. As home to the heir to the throne and his wife, Sandringham was venue to many glittering occasions. Social life ranged from visits by Heads of State (1881, 1899 and 1902 by Kaiser Wilhelm) to informal retreats by the Royal Family. Three times a year there was a ball – for the gentry, for the farmers and for the servants.
One of the main activities at Sandringham was shooting. The Prince of Wales liked to be outdoors as much as possible and he devised the idea of ST – Sandringham Time. The idea was to make the most of the winter daylight hours for his passion for shooting and so the clocks all over the Sandringham Estate were advanced by half an hour. King George V maintained this custom during his lifetime, but King Edward VIII abolished it on his accession in 1936.
Sandringham was the setting for some dramatic events. Queen Victoria did not pay her first visit to Sandringham until 1871, when the Prince of Wales suffered an attack of typhoid fever (the illness of which his father had died) while staying there. To the relief of Queen Victoria and the nation, the Prince survived and made a slow recovery.
Sandringham became the home to a second Royal couple when Prince George, the second son of the Prince and Princess of Wales and by then heir to the throne, married Princess May of Teck, the fiancee of the late Duke of Clarence. They moved into a house on the estate which came to be known as York Cottage.
One of Prince George’s innovations at Sandringham was the founding of the first Royal pigeon loft in 1886. Almost annually several were entered in international contests; pigeons from the Royal lofts also saw active service with the Royal Air Force in the Second World War.
The First World War sowed death and destruction even in sleepy Sandringham. On 19 January 1915 Zeppelin L45 crossed the North Sea on the first raid of the war, and several bombs landed on and around the Royal estate. One of the craters filled with water; King George VI later had it enlarged and turned into a duck pond.
King George V’s reign also saw the birth of a new Christmas tradition at Sandringham. The first Christmas broadcast to the Empire was made live on Christmas Day, 1932, from Sandringham’s “business-room”. History was made again in 1957 when The Queen made her first televised broadcast live on Christmas Day from Sandringham’s library.
King George V died at Sandringham on 20 January 1936, and Sandringham passed to his eldest son. In his brief reign King Edward VIII spent less than one day at Sandringham. After his abdication, he retained rights to Sandringham and Balmoral, since both estates are held privately and not as Sovereign. Under a financial settlement the two estates were transferred to his brother, the new King George VI.
King George VI loved Sandringham as much as his father had done, spending many happy months on the estate. He spent his first Christmas as king there in 1936. Having been born there in York Cottage, he also died at Sandringham House, passing away in his sleep on the night of 6 February 1952.
The first visit by Princess Elizabeth to Sandringham was Christmas 1926, aged just eight months, when she visited her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary. Throughout her reign, The Queen’s attachment to Sandringham has remained as strong as that of her father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
The Queen and other members of the Royal Family regularly spend Christmas at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year.
The county town of Norwich was once one of the wealthiest and largest in England. The town’s wealth was built on the wool trade, and prosperous wool merchants were responsible for building over 30 parish churches and some of the finest medieval town houses in England.
William the Conqueror built a castle at Norwich in 1067, using the townsfolk as forced labour, and the present stone castle was built on the same mound some 60 years later. It is now a museum housing local art, silver, glass, and porcelain, as well as archaeological remains and armour.
Norwich Cathedral was begun in 1075, and remains a superb example of Norman architecture. In 1463 a fire, caused by lightning, destroyed the spire and the wooden roof so it was decided by Bishop Walter Lyhart to replace this with stone vaulting. The stone ribs are joined by 255 carved and painted bosses, telling the story of the Bible, from the Creation, to the Last Judgement. These bosses are considered one of the finest art treasures of medieval Europe. The west window contains stained glass by the Victorian artist Hedgeland, and are scenes from the life of Christ in the upper part and of Moses in the lower. One of the Cathedral’s most noticeable features is the Saxon Bishop’s throne. It was brought from North Elmham by the Normans and placed behind the high alter, where its stone fragments can be seen today, underneath the modern wooden throne.
The biggest Millennium project in the east of England, the Forum is a magnificent focal point for Norwich city centre. Apart from the library, the spacious and airy building houses the US 2nd Air Division Memorial Library, Origins – a brilliant tourist attraction illustrating the history of the region, a tourist information centre, and BBC East TV and radio.
Do the crossword.
1. A round fruit that has a lot of small seeds, red juicy flesh, and a thick reddish skin, it was the symbol of Katherine of Aragon.
2. One of a race of Scandinavian people in the 8th to 10th centuries who sailed in ships to attack areas along the coasts of northern and western Europe.
3. A place you can go to that is quiet or safe.
4. An area of Great Britain, the US and some other countries that contains several towns that are governed together.
5. A legendary queen, who led a revolt against Roman rule: her followers burned down London.
6. An old, well-known story, often about brave people, adventures, or magical events.
7. A curved mass on the surface of something, usually caused by something under or inside it.
8. A roof that rises steeply to a point on top of a tower, especially on a church.
9. A container for religious objects that are connected with holy people.
10. Connected with the latest period of the stone age about 10,000 years ago, when people began to settle in villages and make stone tools and weapons.
11. An area of low flat wet land, especially in Eastern England.
12. A town in East Anglia where a person in 22 spent 10 years of his life.
1. A bird that served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
13. English chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury under Henry II.
14. Name of the royal residence from where Queen Elizabeth II made her first televised broadcast live on Christmas Day.
15. Such building is believed to be visited regularly by the spirit of a dead person.
16. A place where something such as a concert or a meeting is arranged to take place.
17. A piece of this stone or a small piece of metal that makes a small flame when you strike it with steel.
18. Name of the first wife of Henry VIII.
19. An act of giving up the position of being king or queen.
20. Name of Queen Victoria’s husband.
21. The period of time during which someone is king or queen.
22. England’s Lord Protector, who was the leader of the Roundheads during the Civil War.
Across: 1. pomergranate; 2. Vikings; 3. retreat; 4. county; 5. Boadicea; 6. legend; 7. bulge; 8. spire; 9. reliquary; 10. Neolithic; 11. fen; 12. Ely
Down: 1. pigeon; 2. vaulting; 13. Becket; 14. Sandringham; 15. haunted; 16. venue; 17. flint; 18. Katherine; 19. abdication; 20. Albert; 21. reign; 22 Cromwell