A new publication from Norwich Heritage Regeneration and Economic Trust (HEART) challenges the stereotype of Norwich and Norfolk as a cultural and racial backwater. Not many people think of Norwich as a cosmopolitan city with a multicultural population, but research shows that the city has benefited from immigration throughout time.

Local historian Frank Meeres, in Strangers – A History of Norwich’s Incomers, looks at the contributions that newcomers have made to Norwichover many centuries and the role incomers have played in creating today’s vibrant city. Strangers – A History of Norwich’s Incomers is HEART’s fourth book, following the award-winning Norwich 12 guidebook, and local bestsellers The Medieval Churches of the City of Norwichand The Blue Plaques of Norwich.

Norwich has always had incomers – from Romans, Saxons and Vikings through to the Normans, Jewish communities and ‘Strangers’ from the Low Countries – with each group adding to the richness of city life. Some of Norwich’s most iconic structures – the Cathedral, Castle and Market Place – were created by the Normans, whilst older incomers left their mark on the city’s street patterns and names.

The book also includes a fascinating walk around Norwich illustrating features where incomers have left their mark upon today’s urban landscape.
Michael Loveday, Chief Executive of HEART, said: 

“The clichéd view of Norwich and Norfolk is often insularity, isolation and mono-culture. This book comes a long way to exploding that mythology and rightly holds up the City and County as a microcosm of England itself – culturally and ethnically diverse from its earliest times. Norwich is welcoming, open-minded and eager to embrace new ideas and ‘different’ people.”

He continued: 

“A glance at just a few of the icons coming out of the City throughout its history makes the point eloquently – Martineaus (French); Fanque the first black circus proprietor in the country, the first English Hebrew poet, Meir; the country’s first Delftware pottery, the City’s first printer, some of Europe’s finest goldsmiths and the Norwich canary (Dutch); George Borrow and the Romany connection; Marchesi (Swiss) founder of the Round Table Movement and even the UK’s first million pound black footballer.”

Frank Meeres has worked for many years at the Norfolk Record Office, and has given many historical talks and workshops. He is the author of many books, including The Story of Norwich (2012), and co-wrote a book on the history of Great Yarmouth which was given to every child in the town to celebrate the Millennium.

Frank said: 

“Incomers to Norwich over the centuries have shaped the city’s landscape and character in ways that are still visible today. This book uses original archive sources from the Norfolk Record Office to tell the stories of immigrants from all over the world: it will help both residents and visitors to discover the effects that incomers have had on today’s city.”

The book is supported by Norwich HEART’s SHAPING 24 project, which aims to increase awareness of the longstanding historical links between Norfolk and the Low Countries.
SHAPING 24 is being led by HEART with Ghent City Council as the partner organisation. The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA 2 Mers Seas Zeeën Cross-border Cooperation Programme 2007-2013.

‘Strangers – A History of Norwich’s Incomers’, priced £6.95, is available from Thursday 19 July from Norwich HEART offices at The Guildhall, Colman’s Mustard Shop and Museum and all good bookshops including Jarrolds, Waterstone’s Castle Street, The City Bookshop, as well as at Norwich Castle and Norwich Cathedral.

To find out more about Lowestoft College ring 0800 854695