Norwich seems to have more superlatives about it than any other city! (61 collected so far, 62 if you count this sentence.)

  1. Norwich is the capital city of Norfolk, which the Domesday Book shows during the 11th century was one of the most heavily populated counties. This remained the case until 1600. 
  2. Norfolk has 150 deserted villages, almost more than any other English county. (See the causes of desertion.
  3. It is said to be one of the most complete mediaeval cities, with many nationally significant historic buildings. 
  4. In the Middle Ages, wool merchants built churches to show off their wealth and there were 57 within the City walls, more than any city north of the Alps. 
  5. It was the biggest English city in the Middle Ages and it was second in size to London before the industrial era. 
  6. By the end of the Middle Ages, Norwich had more big houses (with ‘more than ten hearths’) than any other provincial town in the kingdom. (The Duke of Norfolk’s palace had 60 hearths, in the 17th century.)
  7. Dragon Hall, in King Street in Norwich, is the only medieval merchant’s trading hall known to have survived in Western Europe.
  8. The Guildhall is the largest medieval city hall in England. 
  9. The first ever true peal of bells was heard in St Peter Mancroft church, in 1715.
  10. Cow Tower is one of the earliest artillery blockhouses in England. 
  11. The cathedral spire is the second largest in the country at 315 feet high.
  12. At 365 feet, the balcony of Norwich City Hall is the longest balcony in the UK.
  13. Norwich makes the UK’s top five for the number of pubs per square mile.
  14. The first city in the UK to pedestrianise a street. It pedestrianised London Street in 1967 and went on to pedestrianise several more.
  15. It has the largest outdoor covered market in Europe, which has existed since the Norman Conquest.
  16. Norwich was the first place of any size to be bombed in WW2 (July 1940) and the first British city recorded as having been attacked by the Luftwaffe. 
  17. Mile Cross was the first specially designed social housing estate in the UK.
  18. It has the first library to be housed in a building owned by a corporation (a literary society) and not a church or school, (1608).
  19. It’s the only English city to be located within a national park (the Broads).
  20. 44% of the population are now listed as Christian, 42% no religion, and 8% unwilling to say, which has made it the least religious city in England. 
  21. Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), one of Europe’s great mystics who wrote Revelations of Divine Love in an anchorite cell in Norwich, was the first woman to be published in English.
  22. Norwich had more hermits and anchorites between 1370 and 1549 than any other English city.
  23. The City has the largest man-made mound for a castle in England, perhaps in the UK.
  24. Norwich has the most complete medieval street plan than any other UK city.
  25. Norwich was excommunicated from the Catholic Church as a whole city, by the Pope, in 1272 after the Riot of Tombland. This was the first and only time in history this had happened.
  26. Norwich is the only cathedral north of the Alps to retain its ‘cathedra’ or Bishop’s throne, facing the worshippers and behind the altar.
  27. Norwich is the only English city to have supported beguinages – religious sisters living as nuns but without formal vows. 
  28. Thomas Bilney was the first Protestant Martyr, in the lead-up to the Reformation. He burned to death at Lollard’s Pit. 
  29. Johannes Elison, minister of the Dutch Reform Church in Norwich, and his wife Mary were the only English residents to be painted by Rembrandt.
  30. It has the first non-denominational burial ground in England, Rosary Cemetery, opened in 1819 by Thomas Drummond, a non-conformist minister.
  31. It was the first place in the UK to turn a church into a non-ecclesiastical use. In 1929 Hungate Church was converted and became a museum of ecclesiastical art in 1931.
  32. Harriet Martineau, the first published female sociologist.
  33. Norwich Museum was founded in 1824, one of the earliest provincial museums in the country.
  34. It’s the most vegan-friendly city in the UK, with more plant-based eaters and vegan food providers per population. (This status may no longer apply as at least three vegan cafes and one vegan shop have closed.) 
  35. It’s the only UK city in the International Cities of Refuge Network – a Sanctuary city status
  36. larger number of anti-slavery campaigners, compared to cities of similar size in the 18th century – Thomas Paine, Thomas Fowell Buxton (the campaign leader after Wilberforce), William Cowper, William Stevenson, Elizabeth Fry, Joseph Gurney, Hannah Gurney, and the Nigerian former slave / Norwich weaver James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.
  37. Mabel Clarkson (1875-1950) was the first female councillor in the country.
  38. John Hunt is a largely forgotten figure today and yet British Ornithology, which he wrote, illustrated, printed and published in Norwich in three volumes between 1815 and 1822, is one of the earliest and most ambitious attempts to describe and illustrate the entire wild bird species of the British Isles.
  39. Archant is the largest independent regional newspaper publisher in the UK.
  40. Argyle Street was the UK’s longest-running squat, for 17 years. 
  41. Stranger’s Hall was the first folklife museum in England, opened in 1923.
  42. The Norwich Post was England’s first provincial newspaper, first printed in 1701 by Francis Burges.
  43. The Norwich Mercury was the longest-running local paper, started in 1714. 
  44. Residents spend more per head on culture than anywhere else in the UK. 
  45. Strangers Hall was the first folk museum in the UK.
  46. For five consecutive years, The Millennium Library issued the highest number of books of any library in the country. 
  47. Norwich boasts the oldest city arts festival in the UK (Norfolk & Norwich Festival).
  48. The Norwich School of Painters was the first provincial art movement in Britain. 
  49. The football chant, ‘On the Ball, City’ is the oldest that is still sung by any football team supporters.
  50. The earliest known hop plant remnant was discovered suggesting that hopped beer was brewed in Norwich before the practice was thought to have been introduced from Flanders in the 1400s. 
  51. Before the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the foremost textile manufacturing city in England, particularly known for its shawls. 
  52. The first metal framed plane was built in Norwich, by Boulton & Paul. 
  53. Shoemaker James Smith created the first ready-made stock shoes rather than bespoke shoes. (1792)
  54. Charles Barnard invented wire netting and the wire netting weaving machine.
  55. The first large-scale heat pump in the UK was developed by John Sumner in 1945 for the Norwich City Council Electrical Department. Sumner, the City Electrical Engineer “cobbled together” a system from salvaged parts based on a SO2 refrigerant.
  56. Sir James Edward Smith founded the Linnean Society. 
  57. Thomas Browne invented over 700 neologisms, many still in common use today.
  58. Sarah Ann Glover invented the tonic Sol-fa singing system. (1820s)
  59. Norwich was the place where postcodes were first trialled, in 1959. They weren’t fully rolled out until 1974.
  60. The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital holds the largest collection of bladder stones in the world, due to both a high incidence of them in Norfolk and studies on them.
  61. Norwich has been named (by Saga) as the best city in the UK for cycling in.