Medieval Churches of Norwich
This walking trail is approximatley 2.5 miles long and takes you to eight of the parish churches that are still in regular use for worship. On the way you will pass by some of the many repurposed churches, particularly those now in the care of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust.
Most of the churches that you will see have their origins in the Middle Ages (1000 – 1350), but enlargements and improvements (such as towers and large windows) will date from between 1350 and 1530.
Local materials such as flint were used extensively, supplemented by stone and brick. During the Reformation in the sixteenth century many church interiors suffered great damage with statues being removed or destroyed, and wall paintings covered up.
Our parish churches have a rich inheritance to share with their visitors and most will have their own trails or guidebooks available inside.
Although it is their desire to be open for visitors, sometimes security issues have forced changes at short notice, so it’s always a good idea to check the individual websites to find out about opening times for any particular church.
Begin at the iconic landmark of Norwich – its cathedral. With its photogenic architecture, multiple chapels and peaceful cloister, you need to allow plenty of time for a good look round and bite to eat in the Refectory.
Leave the cathedral by the door at the end of the South transept, and turn immediately left, walking past the memorial to Edith Cavell as you head towards Bishopsgate.
As you pass through the gate, continue straight on for a short distance and you will see The Great Hospital, including the church of St Helen, to your left.
Founded in 1249 as a place of care for the vulnerable, the medieval buildings housed both hospital and church under one roof. St Helen’s Church still functions as both a parish church and a chaplaincy to the current Great Hospital sheltered housing, though the residents no longer sleep in the aisle! The church is open for Sunday worship, but otherwise closed to the public, though monthly tours of the medieval building can be booked.
Turn back to face the cathedral and turn right in front of the black gates to follow the road around to the north. Passing the medieval pub The Adam and Eve on your right, you will come to St Martin at Palace Plain on your right, opposite the gate to the Bishop’s House. There has been a church on the site of St Martin for over a thousand years, so it’s an appropriate place for the Norwich Historic Churches Trust to have as its base. The Visitor Centre there is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays (10-4).
Use the pedestrian crossing to cross over Whitefriars, and then turn right immediately after the Wig and Pen to reach the riverside walk. Follow Quayside until it meets the Fye Bridge, then cross the road and turn right to cross the river. Pass the church of St Clement on your left and then turn left into Colegate.
Known to some as ‘Norwich over the Water’, this area was once the industrial heartland of the shoemaking industry. Passing the Octagon Chapel (Unitarian) on your right, continue until you reach St George, Colegate, a 15th century church with a peaceful interior and a variety of memorials that you are invited to explore at your leisure.
With your back to the church, cross the road and turn left and then right past the Last Wine bar, heading back towards the river on a pedestrianised street.
Just over the river, you will pass The Halls on your left, a former medieval friary but now a venue for public and private events. As you reach the main road, the church of St Andrew stands opposite you, a splendid fifteenth century building which is open for worship on Sunday mornings and at times listed on their website during the week.
Cross St Andrews Street and walk up St Andrews Hill, keeping the church on your right. As you reach the top of the hill, turn right on to London Street, and keep right along Castle Street.
At the end of the pedestrianised section, cross Red Lion Street and walk up Timberhill, until you reach the church of St John the Baptist on your left at the top.
This medieval building was closed for many years after the second world war, while Norwich gradually recovered and rebuilt after severe bomb damage. However, in 1980 it was reopened and reordered for use in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
It is usually open for prayer during daylight hours.
Leaving the church, turn slightly left and head towards John Lewis, then turn right down the hill with the church of All Saints on your right. Now in the care of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust, this hosts an antique centre and tearoom.
Walk down Westlegate, cross Red Lion Street and head up the wonderfully named Rampant Horse Street until you reach the church of St Stephen on your left.
This early sixteenth century building almost collapsed in 2009 due to subsidence, and after a three year closure for repairs re-opened with a transformed interior that is used as a multi-function welcoming space, complete with weekday café.
Leave the church by the north porch, and turn left up Theatre Street until you reach Chapelfield Gardens. Turn right into the Little Bethel Street as a cut-through to Bethel Street, where you need to turn left and follow the road to its end, where you will see the beautiful church of St Giles on the Hill – its tower the highest in the city.
This church has limited opening hours, but is worth a visit for its peaceful, light interior.
Return back down Bethel Street, but follow to the end, passing between the Forum and City Hall to arrive at the magnificent church of St Peter Mancroft. Information in the church is plentiful, and there are often exhibitions of local interest at the west end. You may be fortunate enough to hear some organ practice, as music is a big part of life here. If you get a chance to visit the belltower, it is worth the climb!
Exit St Peter Mancroft by the main west door, coming out in front of the Forum, and turn right, following the road between City Hall on your left and the covered market down below on your right.
At the end of the market, turn right down Gaol Hill, passing the Guildhall on your left which was the medieval seat of government. Cross over Exchange Street and head back up London Street towards the cathedral.
Take a slight diversion when you reach the top of London Street. Instead of continuing straight down Queen Street, turn left and then take the next right into Princes Street, a characterful cobbled street that will lead you to St George, Tombland on your left just before you reach the open space of Tombland.
Surrounded by restored 17th and 18th century houses, this little church houses some hidden gems, including ‘Snap’ the dragon puppet used annually in the Mayor’s procession! It is open regularly for worship and to visitors.
St George Tombland, Norwich
Leaving St George’s turn left to return to the Cathedral.
If you have enjoyed your visits to the churches, please do drop by for a service. Visitors are always welcome and details of times can be found on the individual church websites.