25 x historical finds

Published: Wednesday 1st Feb 2017

Written by: Lucy Downing

Welcome to the third instalment of our 25 x 25s looking at 25 old relics to be discovered around the county (and when we say old, we mean ancient!) … Fascinating no matter what your age...

1. The Norwich 12

Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral, The Great Hospital, The Halls – St Andrew’s and Blackfriars’, The Guildhall, Dragon hall, The Assembly House, St James Mill, St John Baptist Cathedral, Surrey House – Marble Hall, City Hall and The Forum.

2. Mammoth skeletons

First discovered on 13 December 1990 after a stormy night in West Runton, this mammoth skeleton is the most complete to have ever been found in the world.  It lived here almost 6-700,000 years ago – will you unearth the next?

3. Queen Boudicca and the Iceni tribe

This mighty woman led an uprising against the Roman Empire to protect their way of life.  Gold torcs, coin hoards and much more have been discovered throughout the county.  Visit the dedicated exhibition at Norwich Castle or walk the Boudicca Way between Norwich to Diss.

4. The Friendly Invasion

Norfolk has deep WW2 roots, especially with America.  As part of the war effort, we welcomed 50,000 young American Army Air Force troops - among them were legendry actors Jimmy Stewart and Walter Matthau.  Locals were given their first tastes of peanut butter and Coca Cola, as well as jitterbug dances and big band sounds.  Find out more at norfolksamericanconnections.com

5. Blickling Hall

Part of the National Trust, this Jacobean red brick mansion enjoys a magnificent garden, 950 acres of parkland and woodland and 3,500 acres of farmland.  With strong links to Lord Lothian, you can take a step back in time to the 1930’s, whilst also revelling at artworks by the likes of Gainsborough and Reynolds.

6. Castle Rising

Located just north of Kings Lynn in the west of the county, this is one of the most famous 12th Century castles in England.  Built in around 1140, it has served as both a hunting lodge and royal residence.

7. 850,000-year-old human footprints

Did you know the first ever tourists to the UK visited Norfolk?  Perhaps not, but following the tidal surge in 2012, the oldest human footprints to have been found outside of Africa were uncovered at Happisburgh. Visit and walk in their footsteps.

8. Houghton Hall

This privately-owned Palladian house was built in the 1720’s for Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.  It is renowned for hosting world-leading, contemporary exhibitions and events, and its award-winning walled garden – designed by Julian and Isabel Bannerman - is a treat.

9. Seahenge

In the late 1990’s two Bronze Age timber circles were discovered on Holme Beach.  One was excavated in 1999 and, after much preservation work at the Mary Rose Centre in Portsmouth, it is now housed in the award-winning Lynn Museum

10. Norfolk Museums

Norfolk is blessed with this fantastic organisation, made-up of eleven museums throughout the county.  These being… Norwich Castle, Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell, Strangers’ Hall, Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, Lynn Museum, Elizabethan House Museum, Time and Tide, The Tolhouse, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Cromer Museum and Ancient House.  Visit museums.norfolk.gov.uk for more information

11. Lord Horatio Nelson

Norfolk is the birthplace of this significant historical figure.  Born in 1758 in Burnham Thorpe, his life is celebrated at both The Nelson Museum in Great Yarmouth and at an exhibition at The Hoste, in Burnham Market.

12. Holkham Hall

A favourite with film and TV directors, this impressive hall, estate, nature reserve and beach is home to the 8th Earl of Leicester.  The estate hosts a calendar of exceptional events from live concerts to outdoor theatre, and its beach is recently referred to as one of the best in the world.

13. County of spires

Norfolk was once home to more than 1000 medieval churches, of which 659 still remain – the greatest concentration in the world.  Visit norfolkchurches.co.uk for a full list, or take part in one of the fun fundraising events organised by The Churches Conservation Trust (visitchurches.org.uk)

14. Hippodrome Circus

It’s not often historic buildings, wow visitors in the way our Hippodrome Circus does.  Located in Great Yarmouth, it is Britain’s only surviving total circus building.  Visit and enjoy the thrills and spills of the circus – their Summer and Christmas Spectaculars are not to be missed.

15. Steam railways

Take a nostalgic ride on one of our many vintage steam railways.  The Poppy Line, running from Holt to Sheringham, is a gem, with coastal views interlaced with rural vistas and quaint village stations on-route.  The Wells to Walsingham Light Railway offers a perfect opportunity to explore England’s Nazareth.  Whereas the Bure Valley Railway is a cute narrow gauge railway, running from Aylsham to Wroxham – the heart of The Broads.

16. NT Felbrigg Hall

Everyone falls in love with this 17th century elegant, country home. Walk to the church, throughout the grounds or potter around its walled vegetable and fruit garden.  The estate’s Honey and Chilli Fairs are a delight, as is the annual Christmas Carol Service held outside in the courtyard.

17. Castle Acre

The remains of a walled castle built in the 12 century by the Normans, this historic monument lies four miles north of Swaffham, on the Peddars Way in West Norfolk.  Have a good stomp around and then enjoy a meal in one of the village pubs, or a cuppa and cake in the café.

18. Sandringham

This country retreat of HM The Queen needs little introduction. Set in 24 hectares of garden within the 8,000-hectare estate, the house, museum and gardens are open from Easter to October to visitors.  The annual Flower Show is super, as is their Christmas Game and Country Fair.

19. Binham Priory

Situated in the middle of North Norfolk, this monastic ruin and church are looked after by English Heritage.  The Benedictine priory was founded in 1091 by Peter des Valoines, a nephew of William the Conqueror.  

20. Happisburgh hand axe

Discovered in 2000, close to where the human footprints were recently uncovered, this Stone Age tool is more than 500,000 years old.  Nice to look at as well as super useful, it was designed to scrape, chop, mallet and even for butchering.  

21. Davenport’s Magic Kingdom

Visit this wonderful and unusual attraction and marvel at 500 years of magical history, as well as live shows and play area.  Look out for the first edition of Discoverie of Witchcraft - written in 1584 – alongside a raft of great magic memorabilia. 

22. Caistor Roman Town

Free to visit, this was the largest and most important Roman centre of northern East Anglia.  The Roman fortifications can be seen in several places and the lines of the Roman streets are visible in dry weather. Grab a guidebook en-route, and explore on-foot.

23. Oxburgh Hall

Here there are secret doors, a Priest’s Hole and needlework by Mary Queen of Scots, to discover. Enjoy the views from the rooftop, visit the chapel, enjoy the formal gardens and stand in awe of this moated gem.

24. Lucy Lavers

75 years on from Operation Dynamo, this boat is now living in the working fishing port of Wells-next-the-Sea. Passionately restored by Rescue Wooden Boats, you can find out more by visiting the Maritime Heritage Centre in Stiffkey, or book a trip – visit rescuewoodenboats.com

25. Muckleburgh Collection

We dare you not to be fascinated by this awesome collection of tanks, artillery, missiles, armoured cars, anti-aircraft and more. Situated just outside of Sheringham, you can even drive a tank – booking essential.


Lucy Downing
Lucy Downing


I enjoy walking along Norfolk's beaches with my family and dog, theatre trips, dancing, laughing and knocking up a scrumptious feast for friends using local produce finished with a tipple of Norfolk Saffron's King Harry orange and saffron liqueur!


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