There are over 1,500 historic buildings in the regional capital. Out of these, which are the 5 oldest buildings in Norwich?

Norwich itself grew out of several small Saxon settlements at the lowest fording point along the River Wensum.

Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, Norwich was one of the largest towns in England.

The conquerors built the first of the 5 oldest buildings in Norwich, Norwich castle, and the second on the list, Norwich cathedral.

They also established a new market place which is still in use today and can be seen in original drawings of the castle.


1068 – 1075 Norwich Castle

Once William the Conqueror had, well, conquered, he wanted to build a fortress in East Anglia.

Norwich Castle, or ‘Keep’, was the result.

It was built as a palace for the Norman Kings and for the Norman-French people in the locality.

Its construction was continued by his son.

It remains one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in the whole of Europe.


1094 – 1096 Herbert de Losinga establishes Norwich Cathedral (consecrated in 1278)

The fantastic thing about the resplendent Norwich Cathedral, one of the 5 oldest buildings in Norwich, is that it is still so much part of the living city.

Built of Caen stone, brought over from Normandy, the pale, honey-coloured limestone contrasts with Norfolk flints that form the core of the Cathedral and stone from Northamptonshire.

Running from east to west, the stone ribs are joined by painted bosses that tell the story of the Bible.

One of the Cathedral’s most notable features is the Saxon Bishop’s throne, brought from North Elmham Cathedral and placed by the Normans behind the high altar.

Its stone fragments can still be seen under the wooden throne.

With this, Norwich Cathedral is unique in northern Europe in having retained the throne in this position throughout its history.


1175 – the Music House, built by Isaac Jurnet, is the oldest domestic building in Norwich that is also one of the 5 oldest buildings in Norwich

The music house, now part of Wensum Lodge and an Adult education centre, is in King Street, one of Norwich’s oldest streets.

The original vaulted cellars still survive.


1398 – Cow Tower built

Cow Tower was built to a height of over 15 metres to defend the approach to the city across the River Wensum on the north east side.

Its aim was to guard against the French and English rebels, housing cannon combined with arrow loops for crossbows and small guns.

The Tower was specially designed to support the use of gunpowder artillery, making it a very rare structure in England for this period as well as being one of the 5 oldest buildings in Norwich.

It is thought the name derives from the surrounding meadow, previously called Cowholme.


1407 – 1413 – Guildhall under construction

The picturesque Norwich Guildhall with its galleted and knapped flint walls, served as the seat of city government from the early 15th century until 1938 when the new City Hall was built.

It is the largest surviving medieval civic building in the country outside London.

It is also one of a group of 12 historic buildings which are part of a project to develop an integrated group of heritage attractions in Norwich.

Of particular note is the large amount of fifteenth-century Norwich glass by the workshop of John Wighton in the windows.