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Have You Met Norwich’s Famous Female Figures?

As many of us already know Norwich is famously referred to as the ‘City of Stories’, and while our city most likely earned its moniker for its incredibly rich literary history, that’s not to say the exciting lives of many of those born and raised here aren’t part of the rich tapestry of our Fine City’s past!

There’s been a lot of shifting attitudes in the ways we evaluate history, it’s been a steady movement for many hundreds of years – an urge, and more importantly a need, to recognise those who have been marginalised by the prevailing ideas of yesteryear – and finally, we’re beginning to make some clear headway, and keep this valiant effort moving forward.

Manuscript of Revelations of Divine Love
Manuscript of Revelations of Divine Love

Norwich has been home to some of the greatest minds in history – from acts of immense bravery, groundbreaking discovery and unmatched creativity – our city knows how to make them, and it just so happens that many of these incredible minds belong to equally incredible women, from all different periods of history and walks of life. So join us, and let’s introduce ourselves to some of Norwich’s most famous female figures!

Harriet Martineau

Portrait of Harriet Martineau
Portrait of Harriet Martineau

Born in 1802 to a textile manufacturer, Martineau became incredibly prominent as an essayist, novelist, journalist, intellectual and scholarly writer in her time. Perhaps most importantly her writings as a social theorist put her in the eyes of most historians as potentially the first female sociologist.

Her work was so successful in fact, that not only was she considered one of the leading figures in her respective fields, but also was able to support herself independently from the earnings of her work – a rarity of her time.

Her prominence allowed her to come into contact with some of the most respected figures and greatest minds of the 19th century, including the likes of John Stuart Mill, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Florence Nightingale, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens.

Martineau's Norwich Childhood Home, Then and Now
Martineau’s Norwich Childhood Home, Then and Now

In 1834, Martineau travelled across the Atlantic to make a long visit to the United States, there she made clear her progressive views on the abolitionist movement and the reform of female education in both the United States and Britain. Upon her return to England, she published two books, Society in America and How to Observe Morals and Manners which are still today regarded as major contributions to the field of Sociology.

A controversial figure of her time, Harriet Martineau is surely a Norwich legend whom we should all know.

Julian of Norwich

Artist's depiction of Julian of Norwich
Artist’s depiction of Julian of Norwich

For our next figure, we’re going to have to jump back several hundred years even before Harriet Martineau – 1343 marks the birth of Julian of Norwich. Her contributions to the world of the written word are often cited as one of the main reasons Norwich is so highly regarded for its literary tradition – in fact, her writings, now known as Revelations of Divine Love, are the oldest surviving English language works written by a woman.

The details of Julian’s life are scarce at best, living in complete seclusion as an English anchoress (effectively, becoming a recluse for religious purposes), not much is known about her personal life outside of what little information can be lifted from her writings. In fact, there is no concrete evidence to suggest her name was even Julian.

We do know, however, that she had first had experiences during some of the most defining moments of the middle ages: living through, and experiencing the effects of the Black Death in 1348, and also the Peasants Revolt of 1381, which re-evaluated a lot of previous constants in medieval society.

Artist Depiction of Julian of Norwich
Artist Depiction of Julian of Norwich

At age 30, suffering from an unknown illness, Julian thought she was on her deathbed. What ensued were a series of visions or showings of Christ. After receiving a total of 16 visions over the period of 48 hours, she recovered a few days later and began to recount her experiences. The result was the Short Texts, that delved into the theology and potential meanings of her visions of Christ.

Julian of Norwich is considered in today’s theological tradition as one of the earliest and most influential female mystics and theologians of her time.

Amelia Opie 

Portrait Engraving of Amelia Opie
Portrait Engraving of Amelia Opie

For our final female figure today, we’re going to jump back ahead to just before Martineau’s time, to 1769, when Amelia Opie was born. Another deeply influential person to forward the linguistic heritage of Norwich, you may be able to form spot some parallels with our previous mentions!

Amelia’s life reflects the vivaciousness many women in the early parts of the 19th century approached a society that, in many instances, didn’t want to hear their voice. A celebrated writer of the Romantic movement (including the likes of Wordsworth, Blake, and Keats), she published her first novel, The Dangers of Coquetry, at the age of 18. Her career continued to flourish, and after marrying John Opie, who encouraged he to continue writing (a rare occurrence in their time), started to incorporate elements of social commentary and ideas of political reform into her creative work – 1804’s Adeline Mowbray, for example, focus in on women’s education, rights and the abolition of slavery, a cause she would eventually devote much of her life’s work towards. 

Illustration from Opie's book The Black Man's Lament
Illustration from Opie’s book The Black Man’s Lament

Over the years, more of Opie’s works would follow, and her interest to get more involved in the abolitionist movement would develop. She with Anna Gurney, a Norwich philanthropist and abolitionist, would create a Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Norwich. This group would later present parliament with a petition on 187,000 names, all sharing the same anti-slavery sentiment – Amelia Opie’s name was the first on that list.

1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention
1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention

So there you have it

Hopefully, we’ve been able to introduce you to some new fascinating figures in our rich local histories! We encourage you to keep digger deeper because you never know what you might find hidden in the stories of Norwich.

If you’re lucky, and you do stumble across something new, take us with you – let us take you on your next big adventure, book an ABC Taxi online or call 01603 666333, and experience travel the right way!

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Try the Best Brews in Norwich’s Coffee Shops!

Coffee. It’s been the beverage of choice for early rises for literally thousands of years – so ubiquitous in fact, that the smell of a brewing coffee pot alone can excite any morning routine, meeting or commute. Although, our love for coffee extends much further beyond its use as our morning energy boost – coffee is social, so social in fact that beyond making coffee for friends and family in our own homes, we have entire spaces, churches of coffee, simply made to give patrons a taste of the ‘better’ beans, and enjoy it in a place of their design

A coffee being poured.

Coffee shops tend to have many different uses, for many different people (although most are themed around the hot drink). If you are there to study, finish up that last paragraph of that book you’re writing, if it’s your meeting place before school, or maybe even the spot of your first date, coffee shops are made for people.

Alchemista Coffee Co

Let’s face it – Coffee shops aren’t all about the coffee. It’s the ambience, the atmosphere – and if there’s one place in Norwich that has all of this in buckets, and is able to top it off with top quality artisanal coffee, it’s Alchemista Coffee Co.

Alchemista's shop window with logo

Easily the top spot for any coffee lover, Alchemista proudly touts their ability to make what they call ‘coffee potions’, incorporating a dash of the mystical into every drink they make – their custom, steam-punk inspired cold brew machine should speak for itself. 

The folks at Alchemista subscribe to the “its coffee, you get what you pay for” philosophy, and frankly, it pays off. You’d be hard-pressed to find another cafe with as wide a breadth of knowledge about beans from Asia, to Africa, to South America as this lot. 

Brilliant coffee, with a beautiful atmosphere, in one of the best spots in the city – the caffeine chemists are not worth missing! Did we mention they also mix cocktails?

Alchemista's steam-punk cold brew machine

No33 Cafe Bar

Every now and again, a cafe opens in a city or township, and instead of simply becoming a great place to fill up and regain some energy, becomes a part of the community – weaving itself into the fabric of day-to-day life in the city. No33 Cafe is one of those places.

Exterior of Cafe33

A literal stone’s throw away from the heart of Norwich Market, No33 has been serving happy locals and caring for visitors to our Fine City since 2006. With a passionate ensemble of professionally trained baristas at the helm, crafting their own proprietary blend of ethically sourced Arabica beans hailing from Brazil, El Salvador and India. 

A good cafe doesn’t leave out the option for some hearty food, and if No33 is anything, it’s a good cafe! Whether you have a sweet tooth or a fondness for the savoury, No33 serves everything from freshly baked cakes and sweet treats to full-on breakfasts like Egg’s Benedict, American style pancakes and lunchtime favourites!

Sahara Cafes & Patisseries

Exterior of Sahara, St Benedict's location

Coffee and North Africa have an age-old relationship, and the teams behind the two locations of Sarah Cafes understand this to the highest degree. Since its establishment in 2014, Faycal and Borhane have founded two of the most authentic North African coffee houses and patisseries in the city, if not the county. With rich flavours and culinary inspiration hailing from “as far back as the 1st century, French, Ottoman Turks, Carthaginians and Berbers all adding to the rich flavour.” 

Foodies rejoice, at either Sahara Cafe, although we are partial to their Benedict Street location, you can expect authentically prepared dishes hailing from around the world, why not step out of your regular routine and try some of their renowned vegetable tagine or shakshouka. Sahara also specialise in Saraha mint tea, and Arabic Coffee, so expect extremely rich, and caffeine heavy espressos from here!

A North African dish served in Sahara Cafe

Strangers Coffee House

We mentioned earlier how a cafe like No33 can transform into a community hotspot, we think the same rule applies to Strangers Coffee House too, but perhaps even to a greater degree. If you’re not from Norwich, we can imagine it’s quite easy to overlook Strangers – its minimalistic design, combined with its black & white colour scheme and that one of their three locations doesn’t even have seating inside makes it a bit unconventional. However, Strangers Coffee House might just be the most popular coffee spot on this list.

Two of the Maddock brothers with their bean roaster

Established in 2009, this family-run business is run by the three Maddocks brothers, who with now over a decade worth of experience, have been blending and roasting their own sustainably farmed and hand-picked beans for both purchases for home brewers and service in their three locations! 

Take a seat in their Pottergate cafe, and enjoy watching The Lanes go by with freshly made cakes, snacks and sandwiches. Perhaps pick up a bag of beans and watch the roasting take place in front of your eyes in The Roastery on Dove Street, or maybe just stop for a quick pick-me-up at the hole-in-the-wall cafe in All Saints Green. 

Strangers Coffee Pottergate loaction

While those are a few of our favourite coffee shops in and around our fine city,

Rest assured there are many more to find and explore – why not ask any one of our dedicated ABC Taxi drivers, who’ll surely have some of their own favourite picks for the best cup of joe in the city.

After all, at ABC we’re all about the adventure to find that new secret spot that you just can’t help but show others, so let us take you there – book your ABC Taxi online, or call 01603 666333

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The Best Mediaeval Tour of Norwich

If you’ve read or blog for a while, you’ll know we’re quite partial to a bit of local history – and the more we think about it, the more we realise that one of the biggest perks to living in the City of Stories is that pretty much every time you look around you’ll likely rest your eyes on something truly historical. There’s a reason our city is considered the most well preserved historical city in the country – in fact, our fine city is peppered with so much ancient architecture, that it’s often a surprise to learn something is as new as it is!

Painting of Ancient Cowgate

When you’re travelling across Norwich as much as we are, you tend to start to see the bigger picture – how the jigsaw puzzle of our city’s rich history fits together over hundreds of years, to form the Norwich we know today! Now we want to share it with you, so we’ve crafted our own timeline tour of Norfolk’s capital, so next time you’re in the passenger’s seat of an ABC Taxi, you can get a bit of time-travelling done too!

10th Century & Before

For about five hundred years from when they made their way into Britain in about 450 AD, the Anglo Saxons were a busy bunch – initially spreading out at the fall of the Roman Empire, it took them a good few centuries to settle down enough to form a settlement known as Northwic (North Farm), that cropped up at the north of the River Wensum, somewhere around 910 AD, during the rule of then King of East Anglia (yes, that was a thing), Guthrum II.

Anglo-Saxon Paintings

Northwic was particularly notable in its day due to its minting capabilities – literally making money was the settlement’s claim to fame, and many coins that have been discovered across Europe from this period bear markings that trace them back to here – Norwich’s early moneyers were probably largely responsible for expansion of the settlement throughout the 10th Century.

11th Century 

Sooner or later the 1000’s rolled around, and things were looking up for the Anglo-Saxons – the settlement’s surrounding the Wensum, including Northwic and Westwic joined forces with smaller colonies, and suddenly these localised river communities transformed into a major trading and marketing centre for Norfolk – Norwich was born!

Then, in 1004, a Viking named Sweyn Forkbeard burnt it to the ground. At the time, most Anglo-Saxon architecture was built around wood and thatch, which coincidentally burned really well – and so after hundreds of years of Anglo-Saxon progression, Norwich suddenly was reduced to ash.

Ancient Painting of Sweyn Forkbeard

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the new-Norwichians to rebuild, and learn a little lesson in fire safety, and over the next six decades or so, managed to rebuild itself to the point of becoming one of the largest and most influential cities in the country. 

Suddenly it was 1066, and a Norman man named William, who had a bit of an affinity for conquering things, showed up on the shores of Pevensey in the South. After trouncing Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, William turned his attention to what was then the shining city of England – Norwich! The Normans brought with them huge numbers of new settlers, a whole lot of money and also the resources to build some really nifty stone structures. 

William the Conqueror

One of William’s first major marks on the city was Norwich Castle – and he was pretty hasty about it too. Mere months after becoming the ruler of England, the foundations of Norwich Castle appeared in the form of a motte and bailey fort. The Normans also brought with them the revolutionary idea of writing things down, in the form of the Domesday Book of 1086.

Entries in the Domesday Book give us an incredible window into Norwich’s history – as of 1086, the city was home to 1358 households, putting it in the top 20% population-wise nationwide at that time – a far cry from today! Closing off the 11th century, construction of perhaps the most iconic building in Norwich, our Cathedral, started in 1096 by Herbert de Losinga, Bishop of Thetford. 

First entry of Norwich into Domesday Book

The Early Middle Ages

As Norwich started transitioning into the Middle Ages, many of what we now recognise as our iconic city sites began to crop up all over the place. Between the mid-1100s and into the 13th century, Norwich was host to a succession of sackings (as in sieges, not firings) perpetrated by a variety of different Mediaeval powers. 

Map of Ancient Norwich

The Flemings had a crack at it first in 1174 – while information on how successful the sacking was is scarce, it’s fair to say that this may be an important footnote in the interesting relationship the Dutch would have with Norwich.

It’s around the 13th century that more notable buildings and monuments you can visit start cropping up – one of which is the Great Hospital, dating back to 1249 – founded by Bishop Walter de Suffield, St Giles’ Hospital (as it was then known) was formed in order to care for the hungry paupers, ageing priest and poor scholars (some things never change).

The Great Hospital in Spring

It doesn’t end here 

 Unfortunately, while we could talk for pages and pages about Norwich’s fine history, we only have so much time – but fret not, we will be back with our follow up from out of the middle ages and all the way into what we know as modern-day Norwich!

Robert Kett under Kett's Oak

We’ve already taken some deep dives into Kett’s Rebellion and some of Norwich during the Second World War, along with other travelling tips across Norwich and Norfolk – and we hope to inspire you to get your local knowledge on and start exploring some of these historical-hot spots.

The beauty of Norwich is that our history is here to visit, and experience, so why not make a day of it, and let us take you on the tour – all our ABC drivers know Norwich like the back of their hands, so try booking yourself a journey to some of these ancient attractions, and start living history!

Safe travels!

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ABC Spotlight On: The Best Cocktail Bars in Norwich

It has often been said about Norwich that ‘for every church, there is a pub’ – from quite possibly one of the oldest pubs in the UK, to haunted taverns and ancient crime scenes, our fine city definitely has you covered if you need a pint and a place to sit. However, there’s been a cosmopolitan revolution taking place over the years, a trend that strays away from our old English tradition. A little less ‘pint of bitter’ and more ‘splash of bitters’ – that’s right, we’re talking about the great American pastime, cocktailing.

Bar at night, bathed in orange and yellow light

Other than being incredibly fun to say, cocktailing as a subculture has been taking the UK by storm – first by shaking up London with flash bars and restaurants serving the cutting edge of what mixology has to offer, cocktail bars have begun infusing themselves into towns and cities across the country – especially Norwich.

If you’re not in the know, then you might find yourself surprised to learn that some of Norwich’s ventures into cocktail culture could easily compare to some of London’s high-end bars and restaurants, and maybe put some of them on the rocks!

Of course, when it comes to talking about drinking out in the town, we’ve got to keep it responsible – cocktails are for savouring, not slamming! Although if you find yourself wanting to get on the happy side of happy hour, let us be the designated driver, and book one of our trusted ABC taxis. 

Gyre & Gimble

Norwich is fortunate enough to be home to some of the most forward-thinking young entrepreneurs, just visit any of the outstanding independent stores and businesses Norwich is home to – but make sure you stop at Gyre & Gimble for a drink on your way back. Taking the cocktailing scene by storm in Norwich, G&G not only prides itself on shaking up some of the most fantastic drinks in the city but also being one of the most sustainable bars in the county!

Interior of Gyre and Gimbles Eco-Bar

This second story eco-bar is easily missed, with a salubrious stairway serving as the only entrance – Gyre & Gimble doesn’t need the fanfare of flashy advertisements and booming music to attract its clientele, its simplicity speaks for itself. Priding themselves on their zero-waste policy – which is no simple feat for a full-sized professional bar – the only thing that matches the cool decor is their imaginative drinks menu – expect clarified bloody marys and the umami martini, alongside almost any expertly crafted cocktails that you’ve got a thirst for.

Gyre and Gimble also offer their “Gin Acadamy” to any budding botanical boozers, who might want to try their hand at infusing the next best craft gin, perfect for birthdays and special occasions, you can book here.

Arboretum

Speaking of salubrious, you really can’t get more secretive than Arboretum. Those in the know will likely despair at even the slightest mention of this literal hidden gem, but we’ll try our best to keep the mystery location of this top spot as close to our chest as possible!

Interior of outside annex of Arboretum, filled with antiques

Hidden behind the facade of what many assume to be an abandoned building, Arboretum takes the idea of “ordering off the menu” to a whole new level – as in, there isn’t one. This antique-store-bar hybrid isn’t really playing to anybody’s tastes other than the owner’s – from old tattered paintings to vintage surgical equipment and plantation chairs in the garden, soundtracked to forgotten songs of the ’20s and ’30s, the entire venue feels like the set of a lost Tim Burton film, and better yet, you can drink there too.

Arboretum brings an almost entirely forgotten cocktailing tradition back to life in their hide-away – straying away from the American heritage, this mixologist harks back to a time of tinctures and tonics, long before the term cocktail even existed, sparking a conversation with this bartender has previously led to explanations of Benjamin Franklin’s methods of clarifying milk… so take that how you will.

Owner of Arboretum

Find a seat down the rabbit hole, if you can find it, name your spirit and your flavours, and get transported to a tipsy time long ago!

Chambers Cocktail Company

Just because Chambers is the last entry on this list, doesn’t mean that it’s any less of a necessary stop on our curated cocktail list! In fact, Chambers Cocktail Company might just be the healthy middle ground between our previous two spots. With the sleek professionalism of Gyre & Gimble, and the healthy dose of tradition a la Arboretum, Chambers feels like what you always imagined a cocktail bar to be.

Bartender pouring a drink in Chambers Cocktail Company

Just off the beaten track on Wensum Street, this quaint wooden bar exemplifies ‘quiet charm’, and immediately after stepping in, you can feel that this is a bar built off passion. Husband and wife duo Nick and Briony have had over twenty-five years of industry experience, and it shows. From developing five separate pubs, this quiet bar feels like the much-needed passion project for a lifetime in a hectic industry.

In a lot of ways, it’s a ‘barman’s bar’, and they pride themselves in cultivating the enjoyable side of the service industry – even going as far as to host industry nights on Sundays. For 30% off all your drinks, simply provide a recent payslip and cap off the working week with a hard-earned cocktail! 

Female patron holding tiki-themed cocktail in Chambers Cocktail Company

So there you have it,

a small taste of some of Norwich’s finest bars to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere, and of course sip on some of the top-shelf stuff! Always remember to drink responsibly, respect the location and others around you, and never drive or even cycle when under the influence, if in doubt, or want to keep the fun fun, keep everyone safe, and give us a call!

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Get into the Spring of Things – Norwich’s Best Events

Perhaps it’s the freedom of truly being able to be outside again, or the excitement of seeing people out and about in our beautiful historical parks, or winding roads around our fine city, either way, we can tell that spring is here, and we want to make every moment last! 

A boat passing under Bishopgate's Bridge, with daffodils on the bank of the river

Norwich is home to some of the largest arts and cultural events in the East of England – our rich history of literature and creativity attracts like-minded creators, writers and artists, many of which are deeply involved in some of the most interesting festivals, fairs and events that Norwich is host too!

From easter fairs for the young ones to one of the largest arts festivals in the UK, Norwich in springtime is a cornucopia of fun activities for all the family – let’s take a look at what’s going on in the next few months!

Take an ABC Taxi tour with us to help find the best activities for you and your family this springtime! 

13th – 18th April

Chapelfield Easter Funfair

With the start of spring being as warm and as sunny as it has been, it should be a given that this year’s Easter Funfair is shaping up to be a much needed outdoor extravaganza for all the family. 

A Helter Skelter and a Merry-Go-Round erected in Chapelfield Gardens

Being held in Chapelfield Gardens, the Easter Funfair has been a staple of springtime in Norwich for many years and promises to be fun for all the family! While only on for five days, families should expect all the fun and festivities that come with the fair coming to town, cotton candy and fair games are sure to be a staple, as well as Easter-themed activities for all ages!

If one thing is for sure, make sure to get the time off to take your little ones out for an Easter they’d be sure to remember!

13th – 29th May

Norfolk and Norwich Festival 

If you’ve lived in Norwich, or even visited for any amount of time, we’re sure you have noticed that it’s rather small, which obviously comes with a few detractions – however, for every flaw in living in a miniature metropolitan area, there is always a trait – a major one being the Norfolk and Norwich Festival!

N&N has been a staple of Norfolk springtime since 1788 (or rather, the origins of the festival) when the four-day concert for Norfolk & Norwich Hospital became an annual event – using St Peter Mancroft Church by day, and St Andrew’s Hall by night – beginning a trend of a festival where the city itself was the venue, and almost definitely making it one of the oldest arts festivals in the UK.

St. Andrews hall in the 19th century, people are dressed for a concert in top-hats and dresses

Two hundred years later, what we now know as the Norfolk and Norwich Festival became an annual event, acting as the flagship of the artistic expression the East of England has to offer! For 17 days, Norwich is turned into a living gallery, as arts, music and cultural events are hosted in both public and private venues, many family-friendly exhibitions being free to enter. 

Some exciting events of this coming year include DOMINOS – a city-wide sculpture project that claims to turn the city centre into one massive domino line, 250 Fanfares – to celebrate their 250th anniversary the National Youth Jazz Orchestra dazzles the market with a heavenly fanfare, and Lost & Found Films of Norfolk, a mini film festival for 11 and 13-year-old budding directors – along with so much more.

Hundreds are gathered outside Norwich Cathedral at night, observing a show of large illuminated inflatable puppets

While the festival is based entirely in the city, those travelling in large groups, or those who need assistance in walking, our ABC team are happy to make you get to all the events you need to, on time, every time!

28th – 29th May

Let’s Rock 2022

While arts and culture festivals tend to engage with the more ephemeral sides of enjoyment, sometimes we just want to let our hair and boogie – this one is for the free spirits out there, and nostalgia is the name of the game!

After having a string of cancellations over the last couple of years, due to you-know-what, Let’s Rock is back again, traversing the nation with some of the greatest acts of the 1980s, to get you dancing down memory lane this spring!

Four women at Lets Rock are dancing in neon clothes, holding drinks and inflatable microphones

While Let’s Rock is a family-friendly event, this might be a good one to have just for the grown-ups, so you can really relive the good times! The self-professed “Retro Festival” is proudly hosting some of your favourite acts of the ’80s, with headliners including the likes of The Human League, Billy Ocean, Level 42 and so much more!

The event will take place over one weekend in Earlham, and while a shuttle will be running, it’s a perfect opportunity to stay a little bit safer, and more comfortable by booking a journey with us all the way to the festival’s gates!

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World War Norfolk, 1940, Terror from the Sky

Here at ABC, we take our home’s history and heritage very seriously – just take a look at our blog!

We love being able to offer not only top-quality transportation solutions for both locals and visitors to our fine city, but a slice of local knowledge of hidden gems, and secret spots. We’re prepared to help you choose the path less trodden! Norwich, and Norfolk by extension, is famed for its rich and ancient history, and while we tend to focus on the age-old stories, it is important to remember Norwich’s place in modern history – and with that, perhaps the most significant piece of history still in living memory: World War II. 

Norwich and Norfolk was a crucial strategic location during the second world war – with its close proximity to Europe, and its generally quite flat terrain (it comes in handy, sometimes), it was perfect for landing stips and air bases for both the RAF and the American Air Force, with an estimated 50,000 US Air Force personnel located within a 30-mile radius of Norwich, between 1942 and 1945.

Black and white photograph of ten American Airman in flight jackets

With that many people, from not even just the British forces, there is no surprise that we simply cannot fit all we want to share with you in just one blog, so expect more exciting wartime stories in the future – however, we do want to shine a light on some interesting moments, and maybe even point you in the direction for some exploration of your own. Be you a military history veteran, or a new recruit, we’re glad to present our ABC Guide to WWII Norfolk!

Before the Storm  

In the years between 1938 and 1945, the world was enveloped by a period of fear, battle and determination. It was the second time during the twentieth century that the world had been thrust into a war of an unprecedented scale, and once again the future of Europe hung in the balance. From the unspeakable hardships of the western front to the brutal conditions of the eastern front, no place could be considered untouched by the second world war – especially Norfolk.

The United Kingdom stood in one of the most unique positions of any nation during the war – while it was clear that a potential invasion would not be as easily achieved as other nations in Europe – the threat of aerial attacks was high even before war on Germany was declared. A knock-on effect of the first world war, the fear surrounding the use of chemical weapons meant Norwich was already taking precautions in early 1938, appointing an Air Raid Precautions officer in May of that year.

Collage of Air Raid precaution pamphlets, and ARP recruitment posters

While the looming threat of war waxed and waned, ARP and newly created commissions were designating churches and large buildings as first aid posts, emergency hospitals. Shelters were designed and implemented and trenches were dug in Chapelfield Gardens, all while government issued leaflets gave advice in the event the “Invader” were to arrive.

Norwich Blitz

As the location of the United Kingdom never saw the likes of an armed invasion, Axis forces had to rely upon aerial bombardments. These tactful and organised bombings of the UK by the Luftwaffe between the periods of 1940 and 1941 were to be become known as the Blitz, derived from the German word Blitzkrieg, meaning ‘lightning war’. Most historical references to the Blitz, especially in popular history books, pertaining to the London Blitz – which is entirely understandable due to the sheer scale and impact laid upon the country in the 1940s. However, less discussed is the period of bombing that firstly, predates that of the London Blitz – in fact, Norwich was the first city to be bombed in the UK – and secondly endured bombing and ariel attacks up until 1943, considerably longer than London.

Unlike the London Blitz, Norwich was subject to a series of bombing raids known as the “Baedecker Blitz”. Named after Baedeker Guides, a popular series of tourist guides, the cities that were on the destructive end of the eponymous Blitz were decided upon based on their cultural and historical value, rather than any strategic or tactical advantage. In other, our favourite aspect of our city was precisely why it was such a target.

An Air-Raid response team and fire department asses the damage following a raid in Norwich - many buildings are totally destroyed

The first of the bombings took place on the 9th of July, 1940, and the events that occurred were to set the tone and feeling that Norwich would face over the coming years – and it would not be a positive one. 

It was a warm day, and while there was an effective air raid siren system in place around the city, the two planes that were spotted at around five o’clock – around the time many factories and businesses closed for the day – were not accompanied with the wailing of warning signals.

The first of the bombs were dropped near the Barnards Factory, in Sprowston. While the assault was short – all of six seconds – it was long enough to cause three casualties. In the loading dock of the factory, packer, Harry Leonard Dye and driver, Arthur Shreeves, were going through their daily work routine, unaware of the threat above them. Both men died from their injuries. The third casualty was Ronald Green, a dispatch foreman – luckily, Green was able to throw himself to the ground, sustaining injuries to his toe, which was later amputated.

In six seconds, the Luftwaffe had dropped 12 high-explosive bombs, killing two, injuring another, and putting the danger of aerial warfare into perspective for an entire city. It was not long before some Norwichians noticed one aircraft banking back around towards the city for a second time…

Unfortunately, that’s all we have time for today, however, Norfolk and World War II are too fascinating to just leave here, so expect some time in the future more stories from the Blitz, to the Home Front to even top-secret bases!

Special thanks to Joan Banger, and her book Norwich at War

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The Best Guide to Norfolk Folklore, Part 1

If you haven’t realized already, Norfolk is weird and proud of it! In fact, when you really start to think about it, our county is the perfect candidate as a folklore capital – it’s certainly old enough, with stories easily dating back to the Roman period, and with our rural roots still standing strong, it comes as no surprise that Norfolk is home to a cornucopia of cryptids, it’s fair share of fairies and more than a handful of horrors… 

Folklore is responsible for much more than simply scary stories and old wives tales, and in fact, local myths and legends can be more relevant to the way things are now than we think. Being as historically and culturally rich as it is, Norfolk has many fanciful and frightening legends, from ancient kings to magic cows (yes, seriously) to things that go bump in the night – we hope you’re sitting comfortably because here is our first part of our ABC guide to Norfolk Folklore!

King Gurgunt 

Norwich castle is thought to have been built by William the Conqueror, not long after their conquest sometime between 1066 and 1075. Originally built as a motte and bailey style fortification, over the next several hundred years the castle found itself being home to some of the most important moments in Norfolk’s history!

Painting of Norwich Castle

Now, what if we told you none of that was true, and in fact, the castle was built by a mysterious and unknown mythical king named Gurgunt? While yes, technically this isn’t the truth, and the historical record shows that old Gurgunt probably didn’t exist, isn’t thinking that an ancient king is ready to burst forth from Castle Hill, armour and all, when Britain is in danger more fun? As legend has it, Gurgund was the son of Belanus, a Celtic god of healing – and after falling in love with Norwich, decided to build the castle and the city that surrounded it! When it came time for Gurgunt to die, he decided he would be buried at the base of his castle, surrounded by his worldly treasures and possessions, waiting to rise again when truly needed.

This legend clearly was popular in the 16th century too, as during a visit by Queen Elizabeth I in 1578, the Mayor of Norwich Robert Wood, dressed in his likeness and followed the royal procession through the city, hoping to present the story of Gurgunt to the monarch. As the party reached Town Close, Wood (as Gurgunt) had his chance and began to tell his story, just as it began to rain, causing the Queen to find shelter, and cutting Gurgunts tale short, and relegating it to mere local legend.

The Lantern Man 

While folklore can be fun and fanciful, it can also strike fear in the hearts of locals and even folks county wide – such stories have been known to keep children awake at night, and even cause people to walk a little quicker home from the local public house. One such tale would be that of the Lantern Man… This folklore figure is far less enjoyable than our friend Gurgunt and actually has been purported to be the reason behind multiple deaths in the area – as is the story of Joseph Bexfield. 

Man In  A dark Field With a Lantern

It was 1809, and Joseph Bexfield was a wherryman – a now antiquated profession of rowing a certain type of boat known as a wherry. Joseph, and his fellow sailing friends found themselves one August evening in the White Horse in Thurlton. It was a pitch-black night, as cloudless nights on the marshes tend to be, when Bexfield remembered he had left a package for his wife on his wherry. His friends pleaded for him to stay, not for the darkness, but for the lights that punctuated the pitch blackness – the Lantern Man was making his rounds. Of course, Joseph’s story would not be a memorable one if he had decided to stay – stepping confidently out into the darkness, Bexfield was never seen alive again.

The Fairy Cow of South Lopham 

Often, a story’s title is so interesting that you can’t help but read on – as is the case of the fairy cow of South Lopham. Located just east of Diss, the village is a small one at that, but like all places, South Lopham has its own secrets and legends. 

Technically, this is the story of the locally fabled ‘Ox-Foot Stone’, a large sarsen stone that has an impression that looks, apparently very much like, that of an ox or cow’s hoof pressed into it. Located on the eponymously named farm in the village, the stone has garnered a handful of local stories and fables around it, some a little more fanciful than others.

Photo of the Ox Foot Stone responsible for The Fairy Cow of South Lopham legend

As one legend has it the print was that of not just any cow, but a fairy cow, who in an act of fairy friendliness would appear on the stone during a time of drought, offering milk to the thirsty townsfolk. The mystic bovine would only appear for as long as the drought, and when the hardship was over, the animal would stamp its hoof once upon the stone and vanish.

Another tale suggests that the impression in the stone had less to do with fairies, and more to do with people drinking too much, which immediately is more believable. As the story goes, a villager one night, who had ‘drunk too deeply of the Norfolk nut-brown ale’, made his merry way down to the meadow to milk the very ordinary cow. Alas, in his stupor, the villager had mistaken his sieve for his pail! Soon enough, he had milked the cow dry, but in his stupidity, kept milking the poor animal, so much in fact he drew blood, causing the creature to moan in pain, and stamp its hoof so hard, it left its print in the stone!

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A Guide To The Love Light Festival Norwich

The Love Light Festival held in Norwich is a vibrant and exciting celebration of light that delivers an eclectic range of events and showcases throughout the city.

The festival runs from 17 -19 February 2022 from 5.30pm – 10pm and will feature various beautifully illuminated art installations, performances and incredible video mapping projections on some of the cities most famous buildings. This fantastic festival is free and open to anybody who wishes to attend and promises to be three days of wonderfully enchanting fun for all ages. The festival will see landmarks like the Cathedral and Norwich Castle transformed into stunning pieces of art and amazing animated spectacles that will blow your mind.

The festival plays host to an ensemble of fantastic performers and artists as well as a procession that weaves its way through the city centre. The theme of the festival is love and belonging and organisers invite everybody to come and join in the fun.

Come and see the incredible nighttime transformation, with shops opulently decorating windows with elegant displays and beautiful artwork exhibited everywhere you look. 

Luminous Pareidolia by Nick Azidis will feature on the Norwich Cathedral
Luminous Pareidolia by Nick Azidis will feature on the Norwich Cathedral

Look out for Love City Food Trail featuring cupids very own love-themed menu as part of the celebration. Those dark February evenings will be illuminated for this 3 day festival with events taking place around every corner. Check out the interactive mobile light graffiti projection on St Andrews Plain and watch an ever-evolving illustration embellish the historic walls of The Halls in light.

Mobile Light Graffiti by Nikola Dicke
Mobile Light Graffiti by Nikola Dicke At St Andrews Hall

Pay a visit to the forum and gaze in awe at the ‘Our Beating Heart’ installation by Studio Vertigo. An incredible spectacle of dancing lights reflected off the 11,000 mirrored tiles used to create this fantastic piece. Discover ‘Out of the Cocoon’ by Amber Lights on Gentlemans Walk, a wonderful solar-powered sculpture that glimmers with iridescent light, and captures the translucent effect of butterflies wings. The installation was created with sustainability at its heart and aims to remind us of our impact on the planet whilst celebrating the delicate beauty of nature.

Out Of The Cocoon by Amber Lights will be o Gentleman's Walk, Norwich
Out Of The Cocoon by Amber Lights will be o Gentleman’s Walk, Norwich

Come and enjoy Norwich in a different light this February 17 – 19, from 5.30pm – 10pm with this eclectic range of illuminating events and performances.  For more information about the festival and the events check out the Love Light Norwich website, and be sure to book your taxis early to avoid missing any of these incredible art installations, ice sculptures and much more. Love Light Norwich is a great event for the community and is sure to be a fun experience for local residents and visitors alike.

We are always looking for new drivers to join our ever-expanding fleet. If you are interested in a new career path then check out our careers page on the website for more information.

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The Best Guide To Village Hopping in Norfolk

If you weren’t already aware, Norfolk is pretty old. So old in fact, that archaeologists have discovered evidence that suggests peoples and communities existed in our Eastern county since the last Ice Age – about twenty-two thousand years ago. As the Anglo-Saxon period rolled around, Norwich began its transformation into becoming a defined region in Great Britain – serving as the home for tribes like the Iceni, led by their rebel, Boudica. If you find yourself thinking that after all that time there should be some historic remnants of this time capsule of a county – and you’d be right, and they’re everywhere, you just have to explore…

Boudicca was married to Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia.
Boudicca was married to Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia.

Here at ABC Taxis, exploration is our M.O, if you’ve followed our dedicated blog for any amount of time, you’d know that we try to offer you, our intrepid traveller’s inspiration for your next adventures and hopefully tie in a bit of local history along the way. This time we want to take a step out of Norwich, and offer some of the county’s ancient villages a spot in the limelight! There are more than seven hundred towns and parishes in Norfolk – far too many to wrap up nicely in one blog, but we’re sure we can offer a handful of exciting ‘village hopping’ destinations to excite the traveller in you!

Great and Little Snoring

Little Snoring is a village and a civil parish in Norfolk, England.
Little Snoring is a village and a civil parish in Norfolk, England.

The image of the picturesque English village is known all over – and while many towns and villages promote themselves as such when the real thing comes along, there is no comparison. These two villages stand only a mile from one another just northeast of Fakenham, and while their names do hint at their sleepiness, it seems only right that somewhere so historical should remain so untouched. 

Ironically, Little Snoring is the larger of the pair. Although with a population of under six hundred, it’s hardly metropolitan – although its hidden nature is truly made up by its rich history. William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book has Little Snoring being listed as a village as early as 1085. 

Little Snoring was a settlement in Domesday Book, in the hundred of Gallow and the county of Norfolk
Little Snoring was a settlement in Domesday Book, in the hundred of Gallow and the county of Norfolk

The Snorings in some way act as a sort of time capsule for listed buildings and churches. Little Snoring is home to St Andrew’s Church – a “round-tower” church, of which only 124 exist in the county. Great Snoring is home to even more ancient artefacts, including the 13th century Church of St Mary, and the Manor House, a 14th-century gothic manor house built by the Shelton family.

Cromer

Cromer is a traditional seaside resort and is famous for Banksy's Great British Spraycation artwork,
Cromer is a traditional seaside resort and is famous for Banksy’s Great British Spraycation artwork.

We understand that the quaint lifestyle of some of the smaller villages in Norfolk might not pique everyone’s interests – but don’t think we don’t have you covered! There are a plethora of towns and villages that balance their cultural and historical importance with a busy town mentality, and active tourist industry.  As much as Norfolk is known for its agricultural heritage – driving into Norwich from the south should show you as much – its coastal heritage is still very much a major part of the county, with Cromer leading the way.

Originally Cromer was simply another fishing town, but over decades became one of the East of England’s most treasured year-long fisheries, with the iconic Cromer crab and lobsters in summer periods, and herring and later cod throughout the remainder of the year. If the English seaside and all the roll-mops and dressed crabs that come with it are your passion, then the gem of Norfolk’s Coast is definitely a must-see.

Happisburgh 

Happisburgh was held by King William I and Count Alan and was named 'Hapesburc', an Old English word meaning 'the stronghold of a man called Haep'.
Happisburgh was held by King William I and Count Alan and was named ‘Hapesburc’, an Old English word meaning ‘the stronghold of a man called Haep’.

Back to our favourite tome – the Domesday Book! Happisburgh is first noted as a location in 1086 as Hapesburc, or ‘Hæp’s fort’ as a translation. Exactly who Hæp was is still widely unknown – yet what his fortification transformed into over nine hundred years later is something worth finding out. 

This hidden gem of Norfolk’s coastline is the perfect balance of the quiet lifestyle of smaller village living, and the lifestyle dictated by the sea that those familiar with Cromer, or any other coastal town for that matter, would appreciate.

The village is also home to St Mary’s Church, a structure from 1087 that was demolished and rebuilt in the 15th century, the oldest independently operational lighthouse in East Anglia dating from 1790, and the first-ever lifeboat house built by the RNLI in 1866. 

Ringstead 

Great Ringstead is a small village situated just inland from Hunstanton within the borough of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk and is known locally as Ringstead
Great Ringstead is a small village situated just inland from Hunstanton within the borough of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk and is known locally as Ringstead

Often, what attracts folk to certain villages and towns in the seclusion of them – often many of these locations have been left largely untouched for centuries, and what major changes have been made, have taken place over long stretches of time, as the community moulded around certain changes. Ringstead, in many ways, is emblematic of the serene seclusion. Ringstead is in the northwest of Norfolk, quite a ways out of the bustle of the more central and northern parishes. 

Technically, Ringstead should be called Great Ringstead, as to differentiate it from the deserted medieval village of Little Ringstead. This deserted community appears as no more than a grassy mound, yet its round shape and surprisingly large stature are eerily recognizable as a forgotten community! Ringstead is also home to over sixteen listed buildings, which may pale in comparison to larger communities, yet for a village of around three hundred, we think that’s a pretty exciting feat!

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A Spotlight on the Best Local Businesses in Norwich. Pt1

Lowell Vintage (@lowellnorwich)

As we’re sure you already know, we love Norwich – just take a look at our blog! Our ‘Fine City’ is full of ancient history, boutique bars and restaurants, and a healthy dose of curio-filled shops and emporiums! While we are fond of trying to give you a helpful overview to give you a little head start in your exploration, we think something with a little more focus might help bring a little more love to some of the folks who love our city just as much as we do!

In our age of modern living, we’ve grown all too used to big brands and even bigger waste. Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep green and stay fashionable? Enter Lowell vintage. We touched on Lowell vintage in our vintage shopping guide a few months back, but after having a small chat with co-owner Cat, we fell in love with this indie gem just that much more and wanted to share what we learnt about this vinyl and vintage cornucopia with all of you. So here’s our spotlight on the best Norwich has to offer!

I think Lowell feels quite individual because it’s a direct product of mine and Jack’s personalities”

I don’t think it would come as a surprise to know that starting a business isn’t easy – especially one with such an established scene as Norwich. With a continuing stream of young trendsetters waltzing through the fine city from both universities, the vintage and vinyl scene is a dense one at that – then along came Lowell. 

Lowell Vintage is the puzzle piece that Pottergate had been waiting for – their shopfront almost suggests everything was built around them, and it’s really no coincidence. “We let our own tastes and interests influence everything we source from music to clothing” Cat explained, and it shows. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself inside their quaint (yet cool – this sensation needs a word!) store, you’ll immediately be taken by Jack and Cat’s unwavering stylistic vision. 

The groovy mid-century furniture that dresses the vinyl area, the writing on the walls from previous events and happy customers and their personal record collection soundtracking the whole experience, “so whilst we aim to provide a broad selection of stock, within that is a precisely curated, quality array of characterful pieces that represent us as creative individuals”

“Our key focus when sourcing vintage is quality and authenticity”

When stepping into Lowell, it’s difficult not to hear the adage ‘quality over quantity’ echoing around their store. It’s always incredible to find a spot that does do much, with so little. Cat’s affinity for vintage wear has been cultivated for a long time, having made her name on the online market long before Lowell stepped onto the scene. We asked her what makes Lowell’s vintage side so special.

“Our key focus when sourcing vintage is quality and authenticity. It’s very easy in this day and age to buy bulk bales of 90s and 00s clothing and resell it” Cat explains, “but we take real pride in being able to provide older vintage to the masses and bring it into a modern wardrobe”

Cat, Co Founder, Lowells Vintage

“It’s so lovely to see customers come into the shop, pick out things they might not necessarily choose online and fit them into their outfit”

In our modern world, we are affronted by so much wasteful nonsense, be it from big high street giants, or the endless stream of online shopping and social media – Lowell is a breath of fresh air.  They practice what they preach, and with their cool throwback attitude, it’s clear to see why their pad is quickly becoming the most noticed stores and scene epicentres in Norwich.

With all of this feel-good attitude dripping from the humble store, we asked Cat about the types of folk who would dig a spot like this (other than pretty much everyone worth listening to), she told us, 

“Lowell was founded with the intention of creating a community beyond that of a shop; we like to think of it as “counter-cultural”, for creative, self-expressive individuals who paddle against the flow”, and that is clear. Lowell has been the host of some of the most creative groups in Norwich – holding listening parties for fundraisers, showing off local acts to showcase their music, and even publishing parties for No Glum, a music and art zine based in Norwich.

“The kind of people who hang around Lowell define us, and they’re all forward-thinking people who have a lot of love for community and for the independents of Norwich, along with small businesses and their owners”

We’d like to thank Cat for taking the time to talk with us, and Lowell for continuing to be the freshest old-school-time trip in Norfolk. We hope to see many more years of this place, and are excited to see what comes next from the duo! 

 “I think we have a grounded, comforting vibe, like a 1970s living room, and I think this is what draws people in more than anything else; a gentle, warming feeling of inclusivity … Lowell’s founding ideology was community first, so you can expect to see much more from us in the near future – watch this space.”

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