RSA Heritage Index: Norwich and Norfolk

Norwich Castle © David Gill

The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available and Norwich is ranked as number 3 as a centre for heritage in England (up from number 9 in 2016). The city’s particular strengths are in Historic Built Environment (3rd up from 4th), Museums, Archives and Artefacts (7th up from 12th), and Culture and Memories (2nd down from 1st). There has also been a marked improvement for Parks and Open Space (28th up from 40th).

Norfolk as a county featured prominently. North Norfolk came 25th (up from 36 in 2016). Its main strengths included Historic Built Environment (33rd up from 71st), Landscape and Natural Heritage (22nd up from 27th), and Culture and Memories (75th up from 86th). There were also improvements in Museums, Archives and Artefacts (135th up from 141st) and Parks and Open Spaces (131st up from 137th).

Great Yarmouth did particularly well moving from 64th in 2016 to 38th. Its particular strengths were Industrial Heritage (22nd up from 40th), Parks and Open Spaces (56th up from 115th), and Historic Built Environment (85th up from 159th).

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was ranked 54th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 39th), Breckland at 150th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 41st, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 117th), Broadland at 190th (with a strength in Landscape and Natural Heritage, 123rd), and South Norfolk at 219th (with a strength in Historic Built Environment, 63rd).

Across the region, Cambridge also featured in the top 10 at number 9 (up from 12th). Maldon moved from 40th to 37th (with moves in Historic Built Environment, 48th, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 125th), while Colchester remained unchanged at 140th (though with a move to 80th for Historic Built Environment). Ipswich fell from 70th in 2016 to 87th. East Suffolk was placed at 98th, and West Suffolk at 122nd.

Norwich as a centre for heritage

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Norwich Cathedral © David Gill

The RSA Heritage Index (published in 2016) has ranked the heritage assets for different local authorities in England. Norwich is the only locality in the eastern counties to feature in the Top 10: it is placed at number 9. It is ranked first in England for ‘Cultures and Memories’, fourth for ‘Historic Built Environment’, and 12th for ‘Museums, Archives and Artefacts’.

North Norfolk, and Kings Lynn and West Norfolk are placed 36th and 48th respectively.

Outside Norfolk, Cambridge is placed at number 12, and three parts of Essex are in the top 50: Southend-on-Sea (22), Maldon (40), and Castle Point (41).

See ‘Where in the UK has the most heritage?

The Walls of Norwich

The Boom Towers on Carrow Bridge
The Boom Towers by Carrow Bridge (2015)

The tour of the medieval walls of Norwich was extremely instructive. We started at the Boom Towers adjacent to Carrow Bridge. These structures allowed a chain to be raised to restrict river traffic along the Wensum (although the position of the chain and winding mechanisms was not immediately clear). The damage to the tower since 1934 can be seen quite clearly here.

Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)
The Black Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

We climbed up the hill from the river inspecting the well preserved walls and towers along the south side. For an image of the tower in the 1930s see here.

Detail of tower on south side of Norwich (2015)
Detail of the Black Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

Notice the wall walk and the way that the staircase is mounted into the wall.

Terminal bastion (2015)
Terminal bastion or Oak Street Tower (2015)

We crossed the river to inspect this terminal bastion adjacent to the river in the northern part of the circuit.

Further details about the medieval walls of Norwich can be found here. A photographic record of the walls can be found here.

Signs and the Walls of Norwich

Norwich City Wall
Norwich: The Old City Wall (2015)

A group of us walked the line of the city wall of Norwich today. Some of the sections are well preserved, and the line is marked out along pavements and even in the middle of one of the roundabouts. We came across a number of metal plaques that noted ‘This forms part of the old city wall built during the 13th-14th centuries’.

One of the suggestions is that they were placed on the wall by the Office of Works either in the early part of the 20th century or in the 1930s.

“How do we value cultural heritage?”

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Loyd Grossman at Culture Matters
© David Gill

Loyd Grossman, chair of The Heritage Alliance, gave the keynote address today at “Culture Matters: The International Cultural Heritage Conference”. This was a passionate and articulate plea to value heritage in our society. 

He initially posed the question, “Why is it hard to value culture?” This raised the concern that there are some in our society (or societies) who do not value culture and cultural heritage. The talk ranged from “flagship assets” (like the Tower of London and Stonehenge) to “the less aesthetic” such as bunkers from the Cold War. Interestingly “aesthetic response” was a theme that emerged from the “Not praising, burying” seminar at the McDonald Institute seminar in Cambridge last week.

Heritage has played its part in urban regeneration, but Grossman posed another question, “Why do we measure cultural value?” He suggested that we live in “an audit society” where heritage competes alongside health, education (and defence). 

His strongest section was the reminder that heritage policy making is not hampered by a lack of information. He cited the examples of Gateshead and the formation of creative industries, or of Liverpool as capital of culture. Indeed tourism is the fifth largest industry in the UK. What was important was that heritage drives tourism: tourists come to see the castles and the stately homes (and more!). Grossman urged the conference to articulate the link between heritage and tourism. He wondered if the ever increasing demand for more data and information was intended to ensure that the heritage sector was “kept busy” and not raising more difficult questions. 

Grossman made it clear that there was a hunger for authenticity and tradition, and this is why heritage in the UK was so important. He felt that the heritage sector “had lost its voice” and had rather taken comfort in the arms of statisticians. His main concern was that the cuts to the heritage sector, and English Heritage in particular, could be very damaging.

Grossman also reminded us that heritage adds to our quality of life, a quality that cannot always be measured.

This was a strong case for why Culture Matters to the people of the United Kingdom (and beyond).

 

Culture Matters to the UK PLC

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Cultures Matters Conference 2012 © David Gill

The Culture Matters conference in Norwich has made a vital statement. It was reported today, “… the UK’s rich heritage helped bring in £114 billion of visitor economy and supported more jobs than the car, film or advertising industries” (Kate Scotter, “Norwich’s unique character is worth millions of pounds to local economy“, Eastern Daily Press 15 November 2012). The Westminster Government, as well as devolved governments across the UK, need to acknowledge the unique and significant contribution that is made by the heritage sector to the UK economy. This was the clear message emerging from the International Cultural Heritage Conference meeting in Norwich.

Norfolk as a county recognises the benefits: “heritage tourism is worth £2.4b to the local economy and supports 35,000 jobs”. 

 

Culture Matters in Norwich

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Norwich Castle © David Gill

Two Heads of Division representing two aspects of heritage at UCS attended the
Culture Matters conference in Norwich today. There were some passionate words from Loyd Grossman in the plenary session. We will be reflecting on some of the sessions here.