Literary Norfolk Header and Logo


Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral is located in a hollow inside a loop of the River Wensum. It was founded in 1096 by Herbert de Losinga who, as a penance, was required to move his see from Thetford to Norwich.

The cathedral, which is one of the most distinctive buildings in the county, is constructed from Caen stone - brought to Norfolk from Brittany by boat along the River Yare. Originally there was a canal between Pull's Ferry and the cathedral along which the stone was transported. At 315 ft, the spire is the second highest in England after Salisbury cathedral.

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

The cathedral close is home to the Norwich School - whose ex-pupils include George Borrow, Augustus Jessopp (see Scarning), D. J. Taylor and the poet Robert Greene. The cathedral itself also has a number of literary connections:

Sir Thomas Erpingham (1357-1428)

Thomas Erpingham, who led the English archers at the Battle of Agincourt and who was immortalised by Shakespeare in his play Henry V, was responsible for constructing the Erpingham Gate in about 1420. On the gable of the gate there is a sculpture of him, kneeling and praying.

The Erpingham Gate

The Erpingham Gate

According to Sir Thomas Browne, Erpingham and his two wives (both called Joan) are buried inside the cathedral next to Queen Elizabeth's seat. However, today it is thought that Sir Thomas is actually buried at Erpingham.


Thomas Tusser (?1524-1580)

After leaving his farm at West Dereham the poet Thomas Tusser moved to Norwich Cathedral where he obtained a job as a lay clerk - thanks to the good offices of John Salisbury. He recorded his impressions of the city in his verse autobiography The Author's Life :

At length by yew, to shore I drew,
Discharging straight both ship and fraight,
At Norwich fine, for me and mine,
     a citie trim:
Where strangers wel may seeme to dwel,
That pitch and pay, or keepe their day,
But who that want, shall find it scant
     so good for him.

While in Norwich Tusser experienced a stoppage of the bladder which made him unable to pass water for 138 hours. After leaving the city he returned to farming at Fairstead in Essex.

Thomas Gooding

Thomas Gooding was buried vertically inside Norwich Cathedral - in order that he could spring up and be first into heaven. His tomb is now known as 'the skeleton'.

The Skeleton, Norwich Cathedral

The Skeleton

It features a wonderfully poetic epitaph:

All you that do this place pass bye
Remember death for you will dye.
As you are now even so was I
And as I am so shall you be.
Thomas Gooding here do staye
Wayting for God's judgement day.

Richard Corbett (1582-1635)

Richard Corbett was educated at Christ Church, Oxford and later became Bishop of Oxford. In 1632 he became the Bishop of Norwich. He was noted for his satirical verse and ballads. His work was widely circulated in manuscript form during his lifetime but little (with the exception of his Latin verses) was actually published.

During his spell as Bishop he tried to ban the 'strangers' from the cathedral - i.e. Dutch and Walloon refugees who had sort sanctuary in the city.

His final words were 'Good night, Lushington' - which were spoken to his chaplain. Corbett is buried inside the cathedral.

He is best remembered for A Proper New Ballad, entitled The Fairies Farewell.


Henry Charles Beeching (1859-1919)

Another poet who lies inside the cathedral is Henry Charles Beeching. His ashes were interred at the back of the apse behind the high altar. Mourners at his funeral included the poet laureate Robert Bridges.

Beeching, who published several volumes of poetry, was the Dean of the cathedral. He is particularly remembered for his poem the Boy's Prayer.

In 1913, he also delivered a sermon in the cathedral about the Norfolk-born writer George Borrow.


L.P. Hartley (1895-1972)

In The Go-Between Leo Colston visits Norwich with Marian Maudsley in order to buy some new clothes. While in the city Leo walks round Tombland and the cathedral - and his time in the city is crucial to his development as a character:

'My spiritual transformation took place in Norwich: it was there that, like an emerging butterfly, I was first conscious of my wings.'

In his film of the book, the director Joseph Losey's uses many of the actual locations from the novel including: the interior of the cathedral, the cloisters, the Cathedral Close and the nearby Maid's Head Hotel.

The cathedral also provided a location for the off-beat 2008 film Dean Spanley which starred Peter O'Toole.

John Gordon (1925-

The Close appears in Gordon's first novel The Giant Under the Snow (1968). Gordon was working at Eastern Counties Newspapers in the city while he was writing the book and there are a number of Norfolk locations involved. The book is a children's fantasy adventure about a magical Celtic buckle.


More Norwich Cathedral Photographs





Supported by Norfolk County Council logoSupported by Norfolk Tourism


Home | About Us | Advertise on Literary Norfolk

©Cameron Self 2007-2014                                                                                                                Hosted by UK Web.Solutions Direct