Norfolk history and historic sites to visit
Norfolk is a unique county filled with incredibly important history – that's why the county has always taken pride in treasuring its heritage with a wide range of museums and visitor centres.
From captivating castles and cathedrals to splendid stately homes, there's a fascinating array of historic intrigue to discover here. That’s what makes Norfolk such a wonderful county to visit and a Haven favourite; kids and adults alike are sure to learn something new as they discover the secrets of this ancient county through its many wonderful sites and engrossing museums. We’ve compiled this list of the best historic sites in Norfolk to help you plan your journey of discover through East Anglia.
1. Sandringham Estate, Sandringham
Sandringham House is perhaps one the most famous country houses in the UK. It is one of the royal residences of Elizabeth II and was the place in which her father and grandfather, George VI and V died. The building is listed as Grade II and stands in a 20,000-acre estate in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This estate is home to magnificent, landscaped gardens, parkland, and woodlands.
The 600-acre Royal Park has two marked trails winding through woodlands and parkland with further unmarked paths for you to explore by foot, by bike or with your dog. Sandringham House and Gardens are open Saturday – Thursday to visit via pre-booked tickets while the excellent restaurant is open for pre-booked afternoon teas in two sittings - 12-2pm or 2-5pm.
2. Felbrigg Hall, Felbrigg
Found near the village of the same name, Felbrigg Hall is a Grade I National Trust property. The building is unaltered since it was built in the 17th-century and is noted for its Jacobean architecture and beautiful Georgian interior. Outside, in the estate’s grounds lies the famous walled garden, an orangery, and several orchards. Most of the grounds are part of Felbrigg Woods, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
There is also the excellent Squire's Pantry tearoom for refreshments as well as a shop and second-hand bookshop. Felbrigg Hall is open from Saturday to Wednesday between 12pm - 4pm with last entry 3:30pm so make sure to get there early to give yourself plenty of time to look around one of the best historic sites in Norfolk!
3. Norwich Cathedral, Norwich
Norwich Cathedral took over 150 years to build – construction work began on this impressive Norfolk cathedral in 1096, yet it was not complete until 1145. This is testament to what a magnificent, detailed structure it is. The cathedral now dominates the city's skyline and is one of the Norwich 12 heritage sites. The awe-inspiring building has magnificent architecture, vibrant stained-glass windows, splendid art and a fascinating history. Today is welcomes the public of all faiths and none.
The cathedral is perhaps best explored with a free guided tour, available on the hour. You can learn about the destruction of the statues inside the cathedral, the secrets of the cathedral gardens, and the mystery of the standing skeleton. There is a £5 discretionary charge for entry, but you will find this is worth every penny!
4. Norwich Castle
This intact Norman castle keep was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1067, soon after the conquest of England. The stone keep which stands today was built some 60 years later and was used as a jail (or gaol as it was known back then) between 1220 and 1887 before it was bought by the city of Norwich to be used as a museum. It is now one of the foremost historic sites in Norfolk.
On your visit you can also enter the fine art gallery and museum with a combined ticket that allows visitors to browse displays of watercolour paintings, Dutch landscapes and modern British artwork. You can also see the well-stocked natural history exhibition and archaeology collection. The site is rich with history and culture and tours are also available at the dungeons and battlements.
5. Strangers' Hall, Norwich
Strangers' Hall is a marvellous Tudor merchant's house that has been used as a museum of domestic history since the 1930s, taking its place in Norfolk history. The museum is a Grade I listed building, the oldest parts of which date back to the 14th-century.
The building is named after Flemish weavers who migrated to Norwich to escape religious persecution. These weavers were the same ones who brought canaries to the UK, leading to the nickname for the widely supported football club Norwich City. Navigate your way through the interlinked rooms and maze of passages to discover the secret history of the building, and in warmer weather, take a wander around the lavender-filled garden. Strangers’ Hall is one of the oldest and most fascinating sites in Norwich, so history buffs would regret leaving this one off their itinerary when visiting the city. The museum is open on Sundays from 13:00 – 16:30 and you can get a discount if you book online before you go.
6. Dad’s Army Museum
For nine years from 1968 Thetford, Norfolk became Walmington-on-Sea, the fictional setting of Dad's Army. Originally a guided location tour was launched in 2004, but this proved so popular that a museum was established in 2007. Run entirely by a platoon of volunteers much like the characters of the television programme itself, the museum is located in the Old Fire Station to the rear of the Guildhall - the building that featured in several episodes as Walmington on Sea Town Hall – and now houses a large amount of Dad’s Army memorabilia. As of 2010, the museum has developed and expanded to also include the 1940s inspired Marigold Tea Rooms.
The museum has quite short opening hours - Saturdays from 10:00 to 15:00 – so make sure to combine your visit to this, one of the most interesting museums in Norfolk, with some other of count’s other coastal delights.