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Visiting the Market Cross, Market Place, North Walsham, Norfolk, England: ecclesiastical generosity instead of carnage
Business as usual
In 1855 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners gave the Market Cross, North Walsham, Norfolk, England, to the townspeople. A new structure, maybe? Well, no; not exactly. In fact, the Market Cross had been in the Market Place for over 200 years; since 1602. What this act of ecclesiastical generosity meant, in practical terms, was that from then onwards the town was responsible to bear the cost of repairs to the Market Cross.
The ecclesiastical authorities in North Walsham had not always shown such a generosity of spirit. The Market Cross is in the shadow of the Parish Church of St, Nicholas, parts of which date from the 14th century. Some sources say that, in 1381, hundreds of local people — many of whom had taken refuge in the then partly built parish church — were massacred by forces loyal to the Bishop of Norwich. Notably, the Bishop in question, Henry Le Despenser (whose dubious nick-name was 'The Fighting Bishop')(1) is recorded as having personally assisted in hand to hand fighting against the local populace. Other sources claim that, really, it was rather benevolently that His Grace the Bishop executed the local ring-leader, omitting to mention the church massacre episode. In any case, the Battle of North Walsham has gone down in history as the decisive point when the Peasants' Revolt — or, probably more accurately, the Great Revolt — was crushed.
Of course, with this sort of local historical background, the authorities were nervous about letting the people of North Walsham congregate without some sort of control over them. For all its sanguinary past, Medieval North Walsham was quite a prosperous place, particularly through the influence of the Flemish weaving industry. The Market Place was, as the name suggests, where traders met, and thus the Market Cross structures were venues where townspeople could lawfully congregate.
While the present octagonal, domed structure, with wooden pillars, basically dates from 1602, a previous Market Cross was burnt down during the Great Fire of North Walsham, in the year 1600. The clock was added later. Nazi German aerial bombing damaged the structure in World War Two. A lead roof was restored in 1984.
November 28, 2012
(1) Bishop Henry Le Despenser (c.1341-1406) was also known for his battle skills in Flanders, where he led fighting among the forces of rival popes. He was in addition noted for his rigour against Lollards: Medieval, Bible preaching precursors of Protestants.
Also worth seeing
In North Walsham itself, the Parish Church of St. Nicholas has a conspicuous, ruined tower.
Worstead (distance: 5 kilometres), like North Walsham, was a prosperous, Medieval centre for the weaving industry; its large, Perpendicular, 14th century parish church still dominates the village; it also has an historic, baptist chapel.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. North Walsham is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. North Walsham is 248 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting Bishop Bridge, Norwich, Norfolk, England: sedate structure, dating from 1345, with sober me
- Visiting Hughes Hall, Cambridge, England: graduate College with 19th century Flemish Renaissance gab
- Visiting the Town Hall at Market Place, Aylsham, Norfolk, England: former corn hall dating from c. 1
- Visiting Wymondham, Norfolk, England, and its Market Cross: a remarkably well preserved 17th century
- Visiting architecturally impressive Oudenaarde, Belgium: outstanding craftsmanship in Flanders