** UPATED WITH NEW EVIDENCE JUNE 2015**
Is it true that Norwich has more medieval parish churches in its walls than any other English city?
It even says it’s got more than most of Europe, in some daft marketing phrase that is so beloved of Norwich’s promoters. I can personally only account for the former, so that is what I’m sticking to – places I know and have actually counted myself in England.
Norwich also likes to boast it has as many churches as York, London and Bristol – England’s three other greatest medieval cities – put together. That claim has never felt right. It is also misleadingly phrased. The claim can only be to have more medieval churches in the centre – that’s medieval fabric today, not medieval foundation. There will follow some lovely tables to put this matter to rest.
Norwich has been a little sneaky with its boast because lots of other important medieval towns spread its walls but Norwich was neatly contained by them till medieval church building was done. And “medieval” is vague, as most central parish churches were founded in medieval times, but have often been rebuilt, whereas Norwich’s are all the same style of Gothic, built in the 14-16th centuries: remarkable, or dull?
I’ll come to that question in another post. This one is about numbers. Here are my definitions:just outside the wall = allowed; but not ones in the suburbs, nor who have been moved, nor utter ruins; and I count only Anglican parish churches, not cathedrals, friaries or private chapels.
I’ve enjoyed comparing the English cities with multiple medieval parish churches – mainly the 10+ group of Bristol, York, Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich and London. Multichurches does seem to be an English phenomenon – Scottish or Welsh cities seem to have had one of two original parish churches. It’s interesting that several important medieval towns (Edinburgh, Hull, Coventry, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth) had only 1-3, opting for few large churches, which makes me wonder something for my next article… I’m aware of larger former numbers in Lincoln, Winchester and Exeter but I don’t know those cities well enough to personally vouch. Here is my table:
|City||# churches now||medieval now||prewar||reformation|
Colchester has 6 (+1 further out) and Worcester 6 (with 2 just outside the walls); Chester 6 including St John’s (had 9), Nottingham 3, Newcastle 4, Northampton 4…. this is sounding like football results!
But what’s more interesting – the greatest number or the greatest collection? There are going to be four more on this subject.
I made a full list of the churches in the 10+ cities but it won’t fit on these pages!
Reeling it off makes me feel like that character in a Count Duckula episode whose party trick is to recite the digits of pi – suffice to say the list is available to the curious and I do know the names and locations/look of all the churches in my chart. I have seen and visited many of them and made an effort to count personally, not copy figures from other sources.
I am being generous with “medieval now” as Norwich claims that title for churches that have been bombed who have been substantially renewed and rebuilt by the Victorians, and whose furnishings nearly all come from other eras – the can also include glass. Nearly all its churches, whilst appearing medieval, actually have some fabric that isn’t. There is a blatantly C17th tower, also counted among its 31. So I am offering the same spirit of generosity in my definition of medieval to other cities. St Martin le Grand of York counts as it has a roof, windows and is used for worship..
Does Norwich really have as many medieval churches as Bristol, York and London?
|Norwich 31/31||Bristol, London, York|
|1||All Saints||All Saints B 6/10|
|2||St Andrew||St James|
|3||St Augustine||St John on the Wall|
|4||St Clement||St Mary Redcliffe|
|5||St Edward||SS Philip and Jacob|
|6||St Etheldreda||St Stephen|
|7||St George Colegate||All Hallows by the Tower L 7/39|
|8||St George Tombland||St Andrew Undershaft|
|9||St Giles on the Hill||St Bartholomew the Great|
|10||St Gregory||St Ethelburga|
|11||St Helen Bishopgate||St Helen Bishopgate|
|12||St James||St Olave Hart Street|
|13||St John Maddermarket||All Saints North Street Y 19/19|
|14||St John de Sepulchre||All Saints Pavement|
|15||St John Timberhill||Holy Trinity Goodramgate|
|16||St Julian||Holy Trinity Micklegate|
|17||St Laurence||St Andrew, Andrewgate|
|18||St Margaret||St Cuthbert|
|19||St Martin at Oak||St Denys|
|20||St Martin at Palace||St Helen Stonegate|
|21||St Mary Coslany||St John the Evangelist, Micklegate|
|22||St Mary the Less||St Margaret|
|23||St Michael at Plea||St Martin le Grand|
|24||St Michael Coslany/Miles||St Martin-cum-Gregory, Micklegate|
|25||St Peter Hungate||St Mary Bishophill|
|26||St Peter Mancroft||St Mary Castlegate|
|27||St Peter Parmentergate||St Michael le Belfrey|
|28||St Saviour||St Michael Spurriergate|
|29||SS Simon and Jude||St Olave|
|30||St Stephen||St Sampson|
|31||St Swithin||St Saviour|
No – it’s the same. It has AS MANY medieval churches NOW as those three cities.
Adding up Bristol, London and York’s full set would mean 10+39+19 =58 – somewhat higher than Norwich’s 31!
So Norwich, your boast is wrong! I will never get a job at Norwich’s HEART now.