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Prior to the Doomsday Book and the Norman conquest of 1066 Norfolk history is in the main uncharted. There is however ample evidence of Roman occupation in the area, such as the flint workings at Grimes Graves, the Roman camps at Brancaster and Castle Rising, numerous "straight as an arrow" Roman roads like Peddars Way and Watling Street and remains of forts at Thetford and else where. There is also much evidence of the Danes occupation of the area with many towns and villages bearing names that have Danish origins. Horning, Holt, Darum - Dereham, Kjelling " Kelling, Horsted " Horstead to name but a few.

The Domesday book lists many towns, villages and small settlements in Norfolk and an unusual number of "free men" who were independent land owners and small freeholders

Norfolk was divided up amongst William the Conquerors followers. In all, the 1.4 million acres that make up the county were divided roughly into, on average, manors of 800 acres. The Normans built themselves substantial fortified homes and castles in the area, the most famous and important being Norwich Castle, built by Ralph de Guader, the Earl of the East, on the site of an original built by Canute. It was built at such speed, that by 1074 he defended it in a rebellion against the king. He, not surprisingly, lost albeit honorably and the castle passed in to the hands of Robert Bigod. Another large Castle was built, by William de Warren, at Castle Acre near Swaffham and its ruins are still to be seen to this day. Many of the other castles built over the following centuries also have remains that are worth a visit, in particular Caister Castle circa 1415, Baconsthorpe Castle, and the manor houses of East Barsham and Outwell.

From 1066 to the 1300's the rich and pious in Norfolk helped build and financed many monasteries in the area. Nearly every great family founded at least one. This swelled the numbers of those already existing before the Norman invasion. By the 13th century there were around 80 monastic establishments in Norfolk alone. The monastery at Walsingham can trace its origins to 1061 and St Benets Abbey near Ludham is believed to have been founded by Canute around 645 ad. Sadly nothing is now left of this except some rather forlorn walls and an arch. But in its time the monks were all-powerful in the area and ran amongst other things, all the peat diggings in Broadland and they oversaw and profited from the farming and other industry for a large area around the abbey.

Norfolk also has more than its fair share of churches dating back to the middle ages. In fact there are over 700 churches and parishes and this equates to one every 2.7 sq miles compared with the national average of 1 to every 5.1 sq miles. The reason why is not altogether clear, but the result is that Norfolk has an unusual number of very fine buildings. Particular mention should be made of the church at Salle near Reepham. It's the largest and most splendid parish church in the county yet is in one of the smallest villages! Others, such as Worstead, built between 1379 and 1450, owe their size to the wool trade and wealth of their benefactors.

After the rebellion in Norwich in 1074 Norfolk, apart from building and towns expanding, remained fairly quiet until the mid 13th century and the persecution of the Jews, and in 1272 a riot by the monks and citizens of the area. From here we travel to the mid 1300's when the black death made its first of two appearances in Norfolk killing a large percentage of the population. Wat Tyler led the rebellion of 1381 (The Peasants Revolt) which was caused by the taxes levied at the time and in particular the Poll tax.

The rebellion caused widespread unrest in Norfolk, although short lived. The rebels gathered at Thetford collecting together men from Brandon and Diss before moving across Breckland towards Norwich where they assembled on Mousehold Heath and then onward into the city where they killed Sir Reginald Eccles, a JP and Sir Robert de Salle. They then moved on to Great Yarmouth plundering and burning as they went. Within 2 weeks the uprising was fragmented and largely confined to the north east of the county. The rebellion was finally quashed in Norfolk a few days later near North Walsham and the leader Geoffrey Lister was tried and executed.

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