Throughout the Middle Ages, Norwich was England’s largest city outside London and, until the eighteenth century, vied with Bristol to be the Sceptered Isle’s second metropolis. The original source of the city’s wealth was the wool trade (England’s principle foreign exchange earner in those far flung days). As the industrial revolution swept through other parts of the country, Norwich slipped down the civic rankings. The city was relatively untroubled by industrialisation and avoided most of the urban blight that followed it. Much of what did exist was flattened by the Luftwaffe in 1942. The blanket bombing was a bit of threadbare affair as the Jerrys missed both the enormous city hall and Jeremiah Colman’s mustard mill. Despite the bulldozing frenzy of the 60s and 70s that disfigured too many British towns, Norwich has managed to preserve much of its charming medieval legacy.
Apparently, Jeremiah Colman was one of those rare Victorian philanthropists who were good to their workers. This goes to prove that you can get filthy rich without screwing the poor. Until recently, Colman’s was the main sponsor of Norwich City Football Club. This crown has now passed to Delia Smith, Blighty’s most famous no-nonsense cook and obsessive football fan. However, St Delia (as she’s known in the pie trade) is not a local lass. Norwich’s most famous daughter is Edith Cavell. Nurse Cavell was shot for treason by the dastardly Germans in the Great War because she helped smuggle British prisoners of war out of occupied Belgium. It caused an international outcry at the time and badly damaged Imperial Germany’s image. Well, it just wasn’t cricket and not nearly as funny as ‘Allo, ‘Allo.
Like anywhere, I’m sure it has its problems but Norwich today is a sparkling hilly liberal jewel within a flat sea of true blue conservatism. The council is Labour-controlled and the city returns two members to Parliament. The current incumbents – Simon Wright (Liberal Democrats) and Chloe Smith (Tory) both have progressive social views, including a healthy understanding of LGBT issues. Right on Norwich, here we are.
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