Norfolk is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in East Anglia in England. It borders Lincolnshire to the north-west, Cambridgeshire to the west and south-west, and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea, with The Wash to the north-west. The county town is the city of Norwich. With an area of 2,074 square miles (5,370 km) and a population of 859,400, Norfolk is a largely rural county with a population density of 401 per square mile (155 per km2). Of the county's population, 40% live in four major built up areas: Norwich (213,000), Great Yarmouth (63,000), King's Lynn (46,000) and Thetford (25,000).
The Broads is a network of rivers and lakes in the east of the county, extending south into Suffolk. The area is protected by the Broads Authority and has similar status to a national park.
The area that was to become Norfolk was settled in pre-Roman times, (there were Palaeolithic settlers as early as 950,000 years ago) with camps along the higher land in the west, where flints could be quarried. A Brittonic tribe, the Iceni, emerged in the 1st century BC. The Iceni revolted against the Roman invasion in AD 47, and again in 60 led by Boudica. The crushing of the second rebellion opened the area to the Romans. During the Roman era roads and ports were constructed throughout the area and farming was widespread.
Situated on the east coast, the homelands of the Iceni were vulnerable to attacks from continental Europe and other parts of Britain, and forts were built to defend against raids by the Saxons and the Picts. A period of depopulation, which may have been due to these threats, seems to have followed the departure of the Romans. Soon afterward, Germanic peoples from the North Sea area settled in the region. Though they became known as Angles, they were likely not affiliated to any tribe in particular at the time of their migration. It is thought that the settlement here was early (possibly beginning at the start of the fifth century, thereby preceding the alleged date of Hengist and Horsa's arrival in Kent) and that it occurred on a large scale.
By the 5th century the Angles had established control of the region and later became the "north folk" and the "south folk"; hence "Norfolk" and "Suffolk". Norfolk, Suffolk and several adjacent areas became the kingdom of East Anglia (one of the heptarchy), which later merged with Mercia and then with Wessex. The influence of the early English settlers can be seen in the many place names ending in "-ham", "-ingham" and "-ton". Endings such as "-by" and "-thorpe" are also fairly common, indicating Danish toponyms: in the 9th century the region again came under attack, this time from Danes who killed the king, Edmund the Martyr. Several place names around the Fenland area contain Celtic elements; this has been taken by some scholars to represent a possibly significant concentration of Britons in the area.
In the centuries before the Norman Conquest the wetlands of the east of the county began to be converted to farmland, and settlements grew in these areas. Migration into East Anglia must have been high: by the time of the Domesday Book survey it was one of the most densely populated parts of the British Isles. During the high and late Middle Ages the county developed arable agriculture and woollen industries. Norfolk's prosperity at that time is evident from the county's large number of medieval churches: out of an original total of over one thousand some 659 have survived, more than in any other county in Britain and the greatest concentration in the world. The economy was in decline by the time of the Black Death, which dramatically reduced the population in 1349.
Kett's Rebellion occurred in Norfolk during the reign of Edward VI, largely in response to the enclosure of land by landlords, leaving peasants with nowhere to graze their animals, and to the general abuses of power by the nobility. It was led by Robert Kett, a yeoman farmer, who was joined by recruits from Norwich and the surrounding countryside. His group numbered some 16,000 by the time the rebels stormed Norwich on 29 July 1549 and took the city. Kett's rebellion ended on 27 August when the rebels were defeated by an army under the leadership of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland at the Battle of Dussindale. Some 3,000 rebels were killed. Kett was captured, held in the Tower of London, tried for treason, and hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle.
By the late 16th century Norwich had grown to become the second-largest city in England, but over one-third of its population died in the plague epidemic of 1579, and in 1665 the Great Plague again killed around one-third of the population. During the English Civil War Norfolk was largely Parliamentarian. The economy and agriculture of the region declined somewhat. During the Industrial Revolution Norfolk developed little industry, except in Norwich which was a late addition to the railway network.
Early military units included the Norfolk Militia. In the 20th century the county developed a role in aviation. The first development in airfields came with the First World War; there was then a massive expansion during the Second World War with the growth of the Royal Air Force and the influx of the American USAAF 8th Air Force which operated from many Norfolk airfields.
The local British Army regiments included the Royal Norfolk Regiment (now the Royal Anglian Regiment) and the Norfolk Yeomanry.
During the Second World War agriculture rapidly intensified, and it has remained very intensive since, with the establishment of large fields for growing cereals and oilseed rape.
In 1998 Norfolk had a Gross Domestic Product of £9,319 million, which represents 1.5% of England's economy and 1.25% of the United Kingdom's economy. The GDP per head was £11,825, compared to £13,635 for East Anglia, £12,845 for England and £12,438 for the United Kingdom. In 1999–2000 the county had an unemployment rate of 5.6%, compared to 5.8% for England and 6.0% for the UK.
Data from 2017 provided a useful update on the county's economy. The median hourly gross pay was £12.17 and the median weekly pay was £496.80; on a per year basis, the median gross income was £25,458. The employment rate among persons aged 16 to 64 was 74.2% while the unemployment rate was 4.6%. The Norfolk economy was "treading water with manufacturing sales and recruitment remaining static in the first quarter of the year" according to research published in April 2018. A spokesperson for the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce made this comment: "At a time when Norfolk firms face steep up-front costs, the apprenticeship system is in crisis, roads are being allowed to crumble, mobile phone and broadband 'not-spots' are multiplying, it's obvious that the key to improved productivity and competitiveness lies in getting the basics right". The solution was seen as a need for the UK government to provide "a far stronger domestic economic agenda ... to fix the fundamentals needed for business to thrive here..."
In 2017, tourism was adding £3.25 billion to the economy per year and supported some 65,000 jobs, being the fifth most important employment in Norfolk. The visitor economy had increased in value by more than £500 million since 2012.
Important business sectors also include energy (oil, gas and renewables), advanced engineering and manufacturing, and food and farming.
Much of Norfolk's fairly flat and fertile land has been drained for use as arable land. The principal arable crops are sugar beet, wheat, barley (for brewing) and oil seed rape. The county also boasts a saffron grower. Over 20% of employment in the county is in the agricultural and food industries.
Well-known companies in Norfolk are Aviva (formerly Norwich Union), Colman's (part of Unilever), Lotus Cars and Bernard Matthews Farms. The Construction Industry Training Board is based on the former airfield of RAF Bircham Newton. The BBC East region is centred on Norwich, although it covers an area as far west as Milton Keynes; the BBC does however provide BBC Radio Norfolk solely for the county. Brewer Greene King, food producer Cranswick and feed supplier ForFarmers were seeing growth in 2016–2017.
A Local Enterprise Partnership was being established by business leaders to help grow jobs across Norfolk and Suffolk. They secured an enterprise zone to help grow businesses in the energy sector, and established the two counties as a centre for growing services and products for the green economy.
To help local industry in Norwich, the local council offered a wireless internet service but this was subsequently withdrawn as funding has ceased.
The fishery business still continued in 2018, with individuals such as John Lee, a fifth generation crabman, who sells Cromer Crabs to eateries such as M Restaurants and the Blueprint Café. The problem that he has found is attracting young people to this small industry which calls for working many hours per week during the season. Lobster trapping also continued in North Norfolk, around Sheringham and Cromer, for example.
Norfolk's low-lying land and easily eroded cliffs, many of which are composed of chalk and clay, make it vulnerable to weathering by the sea. The most recent major erosion event occurred during the North Sea flood of 1953.
The low-lying section of coast between Kelling and Lowestoft Ness in Suffolk is currently managed by the British Environment Agency to protect the Broads from sea flooding. Management policy for the North Norfolk coastline is described in the "North Norfolk Shoreline Management Plan" published in 2006, but has yet to be accepted by local authorities. The Shoreline Management Plan states that the stretch of coast will be protected for at least another 50 years, but that in the event of sea level rise and post-glacial lowering of land levels in the South East, there may a need for further research to inform future management decisions, including the possibility that the sea defences may have to be realigned to a more sustainable position. Natural England have contributed some research into the impacts on the environment of various realignment options. The draft report of their research was leaked to the press, who created great anxiety by reporting that Natural England plan to abandon a large section of the Norfolk Broads, villages and farmland to the sea to save the rest of the Norfolk coastline from the impact of any adverse climate change.
Before 2011, Norfolk had a completely comprehensive state education or "maintained" system managed by Norfolk County Council, with secondary school age from 11 to 16 or in some schools with sixth forms, 18 years old. Since then,a number of schools formerly in the "maintained" system have left it to become academies, or members of academy groups. Others have become free schools. Both academies and free schools are still publicly funded by the Department of Education, but are not with County Council management.
In many of the rural areas, there is no nearby sixth form and so sixth form colleges are found in larger towns. There are twelve independent, or private schools, including Gresham's School in Holt in the north of the county, Thetford Grammar School in Thetford which is Britain's fifth oldest extant school, Langley School in Loddon, and several in the city of Norwich, including Norwich School and Norwich High School for Girls. The King's Lynn district has the largest school population. Norfolk is also home to Wymondham College, the UK's largest remaining state boarding school.
The University of East Anglia is located on the outskirts of Norwich and Norwich University of the Arts is based in seven buildings in and around St George's Street in the city centre, next to the River Wensum.
The City College Norwich and the College of West Anglia are colleges covering Norwich and King's Lynn as well as Norfolk as a whole. Easton & Otley College, 7 miles (11 km) west of Norwich, provides agriculture-based courses for the county, parts of Suffolk and nationally.
The University of Suffolk also runs higher education courses in Norfolk, from multiple locations including Great Yarmouth College.
Norfolk is administered by Norfolk County Council which is the top tier local government authority, based at County Hall in Norwich. For details of the authority click on the link Norfolk County Council.
Below Norfolk County Council the county is divided into seven second tier district councils: Breckland District, Broadland District, Great Yarmouth Borough, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough, North Norfolk District, Norwich City and South Norfolk District.
Below the second tier councils the majority of the county is divided into Parish and Town Councils the lowest tier of local government, (the only exceptions being parts of Norwich and King's Lynn urban areas).
As of 2018 the Conservative Party control six of the seven District Councils: Breckland District, Broadland District, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough, North Norfolk District, Great Yarmouth Borough and South Norfolk District while Norwich City is controlled by the Labour Party.
Norfolk County Council has been under Conservative control since 2017. There have been two periods when the council has not been run by the Conservative Party, both when no party had overall control, these were 1993–2001 and 2013–2017.
For the full County Council election results for 2017 and previous elections click on the link Norfolk County Council elections.
The county is divided into nine parliamentary constituencies:
In the 2010 General Election seven seats were held by the Conservatives and two by the Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party no longer held the urban constituencies they once held in Norwich North and Great Yarmouth, leaving them with no MP's in the whole of East Anglia; the former Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke was a high level casualty of that election.
In the 2015 General Election seven seats were won by the Conservative Party, with Labour winning Norwich South and the Liberal Democrats winning North Norfolk.
In the 2017 General Election the 2015 result was repeated.
In October 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government produced a Local Government White Paper inviting councils to submit proposals for unitary restructuring. In January 2007 Norwich submitted its proposal, but this was rejected in December 2007 as it did not meet the criteria for acceptance. In February 2008, the Boundary Committee for England (from 1 April 2010 incorporated in the Local Government Boundary Commission for England) was asked to consider alternative proposals for the whole or part of Norfolk, including whether Norwich should become a unitary authority, separate from Norfolk County Council. In December 2009, the Boundary Committee recommended a single unitary authority covering all of Norfolk, including Norwich.
However, on 10 February 2010, it was announced that, contrary to the December 2009 recommendation of the Boundary Committee, Norwich would be given separate unitary status. The proposed change was strongly resisted, principally by Norfolk County Council and the Conservative opposition in Parliament. Reacting to the announcement, Norfolk County Council issued a statement that it would seek leave to challenge the decision in the courts. A letter was leaked to the local media in which the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government noted that the decision did not meet all the criteria and that the risk of it "being successfully challenged in judicial review proceedings is very high". The Shadow Local Government and Planning Minister, Bob Neill, stated that should the Conservative Party win the 2010 general election, they would reverse the decision.
Following the 2010 general election, Eric Pickles was appointed Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 12 May 2010 in a Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. According to press reports, he instructed his department to take urgent steps to reverse the decision and maintain the status quo in line with the Conservative Party manifesto. However, the unitary plans were supported by the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, and by Simon Wright, LibDem MP for Norwich South, who intended to lobby the party leadership to allow the changes to go ahead.
The Local Government Act 2010 to reverse the unitary decision for Norwich (and Exeter and Suffolk) received Royal Assent on 16 December 2010. The disputed award of unitary status had meanwhile been referred to the High Court, and on 21 June 2010 the court (Mr. Justice Ouseley, judge) ruled it unlawful, and revoked it. The city has therefore failed to attain unitary status, and the two-tier arrangement of County and District Councils (with Norwich City Council counted among the latter) remains as of 2017.
Norfolk's county town and only city is Norwich, one of the largest settlements in England during the Norman era. Norwich is home to the University of East Anglia, and is the county's main business and culture centre. Other principal towns include the port-town of King's Lynn and the seaside resort and Broads gateway town of Great Yarmouth.
Based on the 2011 Census the county's largest centres of population are: Norwich (213,166), Great Yarmouth (63,434), King's Lynn (46,093), Thetford (24,883), Dereham (20,651), Wymondham (13,587), North Walsham (12,463), Attleborough (10,549), Downham Market (9,994), Diss (9,829), Fakenham (8,285), Cromer (7,749), Sheringham (7,367) and Swaffham (7,258). There are also several smaller market towns: Aylsham (6,016), Harleston (4,458) and Holt (3,810).
Much of the county remains rural in nature and Norfolk is believed to have around 200 lost settlements which have been largely or totally depopulated since the medieval period. These include places lost to coastal erosion, agricultural enclosure, depopulation and the establishment of the Stanford Training Area in 1940.
Norfolk is one of the few counties in England that does not have a motorway. The A11 connects Norfolk to Cambridge and London, via the M11. From the west, there are only two routes from Norfolk that provide a direct link with the A1: the A47 to the East Midlands and Birmingham, via Peterborough, and the A17 to the East Midlands, via Lincolnshire. These two routes meet at King's Lynn, which is also the starting point of the A10, providing West Norfolk with a direct link with London, via Ely, Cambridge and Hertford.
There are two main railway lines that link Norfolk with London. The Great Eastern Main Line hosts inter-city services from Norwich to Liverpool Street, via Ipswich and Colchester. The Fen line provides regular services between King's Lynn and King's Cross, via Ely and Cambridge.
In addition, the Breckland line provides access from Norwich and Thetford to destinations to the west including Peterborough, Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.
Norwich International Airport provides flights to various European destinations, including a link to Amsterdam which offers onward flights throughout the world.
The Norfolk dialect is also known as "Broad Norfolk", although over the modern age much of the vocabulary and many of the phrases have died out due to a number of factors, such as radio, TV and people from other parts of the country coming to Norfolk. As a result, the speech of Norfolk is more of an accent than a dialect, though one part retained from the Norfolk dialect is the distinctive grammar of the region.
People from Norfolk are sometimes known as Norfolk Dumplings, an allusion to the flour dumplings that were traditionally a significant part of the local diet.
More cutting, perhaps, was the alleged pejorative medical slang term "Normal for Norfolk", alluding to the county's perceived status as a quirky rustic backwater due to a high level of inbreeding among residents.
Norfolk is a popular tourist destination and has several major holiday attractions. There are many seaside resorts, including some of the finest British beaches, such as those at Great Yarmouth, Cromer and Holkham. Norfolk contains the Broads and other areas of outstanding natural beauty and many areas of the coast are wild bird sanctuaries and reserves with some areas designated as national parks such as the Norfolk Coast AONB.
The Queen's residence at Sandringham House in Sandringham, Norfolk provides an all-year-round tourist attraction whilst the coast and some rural areas are popular locations for people from the conurbations to purchase weekend holiday homes. Arthur Conan Doyle first conceived the idea for The Hound of the Baskervilles whilst holidaying in Cromer with Bertram Fletcher Robinson, after hearing local folklore tales regarding the mysterious hound known as Black Shuck.
Norfolk has several amusement parks and zoos.
The Pavilion Theatre (Cromer) is a 510-seater venue on the end of Cromer Pier, best known for hosting the 'end-of-the-pier' show, the Seaside Special. The theatre also presents comedy, music, dance, opera, musicals and community shows.
The Britannia Pier Theatre (Great Yarmouth) mainly hosts popular comedy acts such as the Chuckle Brothers and Jim Davidson. The theatre has 1,200 seats and is one of the largest in Norfolk.
The Theatre Royal (Norwich) has been on its present site for nearly 250 years, the Act of Parliament in the tenth year of the reign of George II having been rescinded in 1761. The 1,300-seat theatre, the largest in the city, hosts a mix of national touring productions including musicals, dance, drama, family shows, stand-up comedians, opera and pop.
The Norwich Playhouse (Norwich) hosts theatre, comedy, music and other performing arts. It has a seating capacity of 300.
The Maddermarket Theatre (Norwich) opened in 1921 and was the first permanent recreation of an Elizabethan theatre. The founder was Nugent Monck who had worked with William Poel. The theatre has a seating capacity of 312.
The Norwich Puppet Theatre (Norwich) was founded in 1979 by Ray and Joan DaSilva as a permanent base for their touring company and was first opened as a public venue in 1980, following the conversion of the medieval church of St. James in the heart of Norwich. Under subsequent artistic directors – Barry Smith and Luis Z. Boy – the theatre established its current pattern of operation. It is a nationally unique venue dedicated to puppetry, and currently houses a 185-seat raked auditorium, 50 seat Octagon Studio, workshops, an exhibition gallery, shop and licensed bar. It is the only theatre in the Eastern region with a year-round programme of family-centred entertainment.
The Garage studio theatre (Norwich) can seat up to 110 people in a range of different layouts. It can also be used for standing events and can accommodate up to 180 people.
The Platform Theatre (Norwich) is in the grounds of City College Norwich (CCN), and has a large stage with raked seating for an audience of around 200. The theatre plays host to performances by both student and professional companies.
The Sewell Barn Theatre (Norwich) is the smallest theatre in Norwich and has a seating capacity of 100. The auditorium features raked seating on three sides of an open acting space.
The Norwich Arts Centre (Norwich) theatre opened in 1977 in St. Benedict's Street, and has a capacity of 290.
The Princess Theatre (Hunstanton) stands overlooking the Wash and the green in the East Coast resort of Hunstanton. It is a 472-seat venue. Open all year round, the theatre plays host to a wide variety of shows from comedy to drama, celebrity shows to music for all tastes and children's productions. It has a six-week summer season plus an annual Christmas pantomime.
Sheringham Little Theatre (Sheringham) has seating for 180. The theatre programmes a variety of plays, musicals and music, and also shows films.
The Gorleston Pavilion (Gorleston) is an original Edwardian building with a seating capacity of 300, situated on the Norfolk coast. The theatre stages plays, pantomimes, musicals and concerts as well as a 26-week summer season.
According to estimates by the Office for National Statistics, the population of Norfolk in 2018 was 903,680, split almost evenly between males and females. Roughly 24.3% of the population was aged 65 or older, compared to 18.2% for the whole of England.
The following people were not born or brought up in Norfolk but are long-term residents of Norfolk, are well known for living in Norfolk at some point in their lives, or have contributed in some significant way to the county.
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