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We Norfolk folk, or "North Folk of East Anglia," are firmly of opinion that there is no county in England to compare with our own. When people tell us of the Yorkshire moors, we ask them if they have seen Dersingham Heath and the Great Warren. When they go into raptures over Windermere and Killarney, we invite them to take a cruise on Wroxham Broad. When they grow enthusiastic about the cathedral cities of other counties, we suggest that they should see Norwich. When they try to impress us with descriptions of Norman castles outside our borders, we tell them of our castles at Norwich, Castle Rising, and Castle Acre. When they attempt to crush us with Stonehenge, we stand defiant on our Ancient British earthworks, or among the " Shrieking Pits " of Aylmerton. When they speak of abbeys and priories, we point to Bromholm, Binham and Walsingham; and when they are reduced to silence, and some friend, sympathising with their discomfiture, comes to their aid with his impressions of Chatsworth and Blenheim, we smile indulgently and ask him what he thinks of Houghton, Blickling, and Holkham. Content with having upheld the honour of our county, we can then spare our would-be detractors further humiliation by not reminding them of the manifold beauties of Broad- land, glories of Poppyland, and the popularity of our charming coast resorts.

And yet, notwithstanding all this, and in spite of the fact that so long ago as 1722 no less a personage than Daniel Defoe wrote a kind of guide-book to the Eastern counties, "particularly fitted for the reading of such as desire to travel," Norfolk's popularity as a holiday resort is of comparatively recent development. A century ago hardly anyone visited the county unless compelled by duty or business; as to coming here for pleasure, no one ever thought of such a thing. Fifty years ago there was only one place on the coast where casual visitors could find accommodation elsewhere than at inns. Yarmouth, then, was of little repute save as a fishing-port; Cromer had still many years to wait for fame; the Broadland meres and rivers were unexplored, save by native wherrymen and fishermen; and the ninety miles of East Anglian coast between Yarmouth and King's Lynn were less familiar to the English tourist than the sand dunes of the shores of Holland. Norwich, it is true, was a place of renown, and had been for several centuries; but the people who visited Norfolk for the purpose of seeing Norwich were few in number, and seldom strayed far beyond the bounds of the " City of Churches." Even so recently as 1884, Dr Jessopp, than whom no one knows Norfolk better, lamented that there were no important watering- places in East Anglia, and that no pleasure-seekers came here, " bringing their money with them and leaving it behind them." The "discovery" of the Broadland and the manifestation on the part of the Broadlanders and coast-dwellers of a disposition to welcome and accommodate strangers in their midst were practically contemporary events. Having once made up their minds that it would be to their interest to attract visitors to Norfolk, the inhabitants set about providing for them with enterprising expedition, and there is now no county in England where the comfort and convenience of tourists and less restless visitors are more considered and better attended to.

The result has been more than satisfactory to Norfolk folk. Of late years the annual incursion of "aliens" into Norfolk has probably been larger than into any other English county, excepting Middlesex. The county has become a playground of all classes. The most popular of the world's princes has made a home here; statesmen and city men, bishops and actors, have found rest on the quiet inland waters and health on the breezy cliffs of Cromer and Sheringham; and the "masses" of London have pronounced Yarmouth their ideal holiday resort. As a matter of fact, Norfolk only needed to be known to attain the widest popularity. A variety of attractions have combined to make it famous. Once considered simply a flat, monotonous, uninteresting county, it has been found to possess something to please almost everybody. Increased facilities of travel have revealed delights that before were not dreamt of. Seekers of the picturesque have been astonished at the loveliness of much of the Norfolk scenery. Antiquaries have been delighted with the county's wealth of antiquities - at its grand old ruined castles, abbeys, and priories; ecclesiologists with the number and stateliness of its churches. The quaint old-world hamlets of the interior and the quiet fishing villages of the coast have charmed people tired of less secluded places; and the bracing breezes which come to Norfolk laden with the salt savour of the North Sea waves have brought colour to cheeks which would have grown paler in the sunnier but more relaxing South. In the Broadland, yachtsmen and boating parties have found a district unique and full of delights unimagined by those to whom Norfolk is an unknown land, while anglers have gained a paradise. To sum up, Norfolk has revealed itself a county of infinite variety and charm - a county where pleasant pastoral scenery suddenly gives way to wild sea-shore; where wide heaths, purple with heather and golden with gorse or bracken, are found not only along the coast, but in the midst of lands given up to cultivation; where lazy rivers wind through green pastures and bear voyagers into many a lovely lowland nook and "haunt of ancient peace."

Statistics are dry literary diet to most readers, but some might complain if nothing were said concerning the dimensions, acreage, etc., of this county. Norfolk is one of the largest counties in England, only Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Devonshire exceeding it in size. Its greatest length, from east to west, is 67 miles; its greatest breadth 43 miles. Of its 14C miles of boundary about two-thirds consists of coastline. Its total area is 1,356,173 statute acres. Its population, at the time of the last census (1891), was 456,475. As to its natural features, its seaboard is of a varying character, being made up of wide, level salt marshes, once subject to periodical inundations, and still at times submerged; marram-grassed sandhills, arid shingle ridges, and here and there, as at Mundesley, Cromer (And at Sidestrand, too, one of the most charming seaside hamlets imaginable, with its perfect sands, its acres of poppies, and its " Garden of Sleep " by the cliff side.), Sheringham, and Hunstanton, of fairly lofty cliffs. The greater part of the interior is cultivated, the county being the most productive agricultural district in England. It contains no extensive woodlands, but innumerable plantations, some of considerable size, and is famous for its abundant game. The western portion comes within the bounds of Fenland, much of the land forming part of what is called the Bedford Level, a district which, until a few centuries ago, was almost entirely covered by water. It is difficult now to realise what West Norfolk was like in those days; but some idea may be gained from Messrs Skertchly and Miller's work, " The Fenland," which says: - " Great merest existed which received the surplus waters; and, surrounded with reed-brakes, such as even now the county produces with surpassing beauty, afforded shelter to myriads of wild birds, which found abundant food in the waters. Dank morasses, covered with sedge and rush and flags, abounded on the peat-lands, and the cushion-clumps of sedge afforded a hazardous foothold to the nimble wayfarer. On these morasses, and on the firmer, or rather drier, soil, grass attained a rank luxuriance; and here the cattle grazed and throve wondrously. But in winter, nearly all the peat-land was drowned, or as the old fenmen say, 'surrounded' and then the hardy inhabitants went from island to island in small boats, or travelled quickly over the smooth ice." Now, nearly the whole of this part has been drained, and changed into lush pastures and fruitful cornfields, and, instead of experiencing periodical floods, it sometimes suffers from a scarcity of water. The south-east corner of the county contains the marshlands, rivers, and meres of Broadland. In the neighbourhood of Thetford, Swaffham, and Sandringham, are considerable tracks of heathland, some of them wild and lonesome, and, like the Broadland, abounding with bird life. Although subject, in winter and early spring, to keen sea winds, Norfolk is a very healthy county.

Geologists are satisfied that ages ago that part of Eastern England which now comprises Norfolk and Suffolk was connected with the continent of Europe, probably by a wide expanse of fen and forest. Evidence of this is found in the similarity of the strata of the opposite shores of the North Sea, and the unearthing in Britain of the remains of animals which must have made their way into England before the connecting lands were submerged. Many of these remains are found in what is called the Norfolk Forest Bed, a geological division, belonging either to the base of the Pleistocene or the upper part of the Pliocene periods. For thousands of years the sea has carried on an incessant siege of the Norfolk coast, and the natural processes which resulted in the severing of England from the Continent are still going on. Since the days when Doomsday Book was written Norfolk has lost, or nearly lost, the villages of Shipden, Clare, Eccles, Whimpwell, Keswick, and Ness; and Suffolk has seen practically the whole of Dunwich, the erstwhile famous capital of East Anglia, sink beneath the waves. Extensive inroads of the sea have occurred at varying intervals, damaging not only the coast-line hamlets, but submerging vast tracts of low-lying land as far inland as the Norfolk capital; and even during the last decade great havoc was wrought by the waves.

The earliest inhabitants of Norfolk of whom mention is made in ancient historical records were an Aryan people the Romans called Cimmerii, whom Dr Thurnam identifies with the broad-headed neolithic race of Belgium and North-eastern France, and to whom he attributes the construction of the round barrows found in the Eastern counties of England. There seems little doubt, however, that these Cimmerii had conquered an earlier race, a short, dark, long-headed type, variously called Iberians, Silurians, and Euskarians, who were, in all probability, the makers of what are known as the "long barrows." (Mr Joseph Stevens speaks of the Silurians or Silures as "dark, short, narrow-skulled tribes... whose burial places are the {long barrows,' sometimes chambered, containing stone implements of the Neolithic type, and whose descendants are present, as their appearance testifies, particularly in South Wales and Ireland, though they now speak a Celtic tongue.") This earlier race were a Stone Age people of whom many traces, in the shape of prehistoric dwellings and stone implements, have been discovered in some parts of Norfolk. More particularly has this been the case in the neighbourhood of Thetford and Brandon, where not only stone axes and arrowheads have been unearthed in considerable quantities, but pits are still to be seen where the flints of which the weapons were made were dug up and fashioned.

That some of the prehistoric inhabitants of Norfolk were lake-dwellers was proved in 1851, when the West Mere at Wretham, a parish a few miles from Thetford, was drained. Under the mud, in the centre of the mere, a circular bank of hard white earth, between twenty and thirty feet across and about four feet high, was discovered. Close to the inner circumference of this ring was a well-like circular hole, four and a half feet in diameter and about six feet deeper than the bottom of the mere. This hole was marked out by a circle of stout alder stakes, and separated from the larger ring by the remains of a flint-and-marl wall. In this hole were the remains of a rude ladder, and in and around it were also found bones of the Celtic ox (Bos longifrons) and antlers of the red deer, most of the former having been broken, evidently for the purpose of extracting the marrows, while many of the latter had been sawn from the skulls. No metal implements or weapons were discovered, but flint disks such as are known to antiquaries as " sling-stones " were found in large numbers; a fact which seems to prove that the tenants of this curious lake- dwelling were people of the Stone Age. Five years after the discovery of these prehistoric relics, another mere, the Great Mere at Wretham, was drained, and a number of oak posts, " shaped and pointed by human art," were found standing erect but entirely buried in the mud.

The Iceni, the conquerors of the Stone Age people, were a tall, muscular, broad-headed race, who fought with bronze weapons and were probably mentally as well as physically superior to the Iberians. It was one of their kings, Prasutagus, who when he died in the first century of the Christian era, bequeathed half his kingdom to the Romans and the other half to his wife Boadicea, in the hope that this equal division would result in the latter being allowed to enjoy undisputed dominion over her lands. But the Romans failed to respect the dead king's wishes, seized the whole of his country and ill- treated the widowed queen. This led to revolt and war, but in the end the Britons were defeated and their lands ravaged by Roman legions. Of the Roman occupation of Eastern England there are many relics in Norfolk, for the camps and forts erected to keep the vanquished inhabitants in subjection, the roads made, and the banks built to keep out the sea, were so constructed as almost to defy the ravages of time. At Caistor, Tasburgh, Brancaster, Castle Acre, and elsewhere in the county, the work of the Romans may still be studied; and in Norwich Museum are some of the most interesting Roman relics in England, most of which were found in Norfolk.

Subsequent to the departure of the Romans, England was invaded by certain tribes of Germanic origin, who, for convenience sake, have been described as Saxons. After a lapse of many years they divided the country into eight kingdoms, one of which comprised Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and perhaps a portion of Essex, and was known as the kingdom of the East Angles. Some of its kings held their courts in Norfolk, Norwich being the chief seat of Anna, and Thetford that of Edmund the Martyr. They soon had to contend against invasions of the Danes, who eventually gained possession of the whole of East Anglia, and whose settlement in Norfolk is not only referred to by ancient chroniclers, but indicated by the names of several hamlets.

After the Conqueror was firmly seated on the English throne, one of his followers, Ralph de Guader, was created Earl of Norfolk, but lost the favour of the king through treasonable acts. He was succeeded by Hugh Bigod, the first representative in England of a family whose name was for a long time closely associated with Norfolk, where castles and priories owing their erection and foundation to the Bigods are still to be seen. In the reign of William Rufus, however, one Roger Bigod took up arms against the king, and, as a consequence of his disloyalty, Norfolk became the scene of several conflicts and was frequently devastated. Civil discord was a feature of the reigns of the Norman kings, and in the times of Henry I. and John the inhabitants of Norfolk were seldom allowed to enjoy absolute peace. Later, the county was overrun by French invaders under Louis; and in the days of Richard II. the disaffection aroused by Wat Tyler spread into Norfolk and led to much fighting and loss of life. Of the Kett Rebellion which broke out in the reign of Edward VI., some account will be found in the description of the city of Norwich,- outside which a great battle was fought between the rebels and the troops of the Earl of Warwick. Norfolk took an active part in the civil wars of Charles I., Norwich, Yarmouth, and other towns being garrisoned by Parliamentary forces.

During these unsettled times, and in the wars waged abroad by the kings and queens of England, many Norfolk men distinguished themselves, and scarcely a battle was fought, either on land or sea, in which some Norfolk man did not gain renown. The Norfolk families of FastolfF, Paston, Wodehouse, De Vaux, and De Warrenne played a prominent part in the earlier conflicts; and since their day, the names of many Norfolk men and women have become famous. A county which has produced such heroes as Lord Nelson and Sir Cloudesley Shovel, such a statesman as Sir Robert Walpole, such philanthropists as Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton and Elizabeth Fry, such artists as Crome and Cotman - to say nothing of living men and women - may well be proud of her sons and daughters.

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Every visitor is impressed by the number of churches the county contains. Norwich alone boasts of over fifty; there are several high spots in the rural districts from which as many as a score may be seen; while from one coast-line height no less than forty are visible. But it is not only their number that surprises: their stateliness and architectural beauty also excite admiration. Some of the village churches are of almost cathedral proportions, and their lofty towers are landmarks for miles around. In many cases their size and grandeur indicate that the villages in which they stand once enjoyed great prosperity; and, indeed, some of them, such as those at Worstead, Castle Rising, and Cley, were the churches of important and prosperous towns. Others owe their imposing proportions and lavish endowments to the liberality of individuals or old county families, who delighted to extend, improve, and beautify their village shrines. Norman work is much in evidence in Norfolk churches, and in some of them are traces of even more ancient architecture. As to the country seats of Norfolk, few counties can show as many fine old halls, mansions, and moated granges. Houghton Hall, which Sir Robert Walpole built; Blickling Hall, which replaces the old home in which Anne Boleyn spent her childhood; Holkham Hall, where " Coke of Norfolk " made a wilderness " blossom as the rose "; Kimberley Hall, the home of the Wodehouses; and Sandringham Hall, where kings, queens, and princes are yearly guests, are among the stateliest homes of England.

Norfolk is a convenient county for tourists, who, in consequence of its admirable railway system and other means of travel, such as coaches, brakes, and river steamers, are able to visit a fair number of places of interest during even a brief stay here. Hardly any of the castles, abbeys, and fine churches for which the county is famous are far from some railway station; and in the few instances where they are in out-of-the-way localities, means of conveyance are seldom difficult to obtain. By the cyclist - and now-a-days it is the cyclist who knows best the general aspect of rural England - Norfolk has long been considered the ideal county for a holiday tour. Its roads are, for the most part, level, and in excellent condition; indeed, cyclists who are familiar with Eastern England say that, without being acquainted with the precise boundaries of its counties, they can tell on the darkest nights when they cross the Suffolk border and enter Norfolk, and this because of the difference in condition of their respective highways. Norfolk has always been noted for its good roads. Ogilby, in his Itinerarium Anglix, writing of a journey through the county, says: " The way was for the most part hard and gravelly, the lanes being here and there a little washy, but not incommoding the traveller." He was especially delighted with the road from Lynn to Norwich and on to Yarmouth, which he describes as " everywhere good, much open and healthy." Charles II., when in 1671 he visited Norfolk, remarked that the county " ought to be cut out into strips to make roads for the rest of the kingdom." Perhaps the excellence of the roads has had something to do with the survival of carriers' vans in considerable numbers in Norfolk. In spite of increased facilities of travel there are probably more carriers in Norfolk to-day than in any other county in England. As to the rivers, for centuries they have been means of communication between the coast and several of the inland towns; and now they are navigated, not only by the picturesque wherries which are characteristic of them, but by such fleets of pleasure craft as no other English river - unless it is the Thames - can show. In the Broadland alone are two hundred miles of navigable waterway.

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If anyone is desirous of knowing the kind of life Norfolk country folk lived until a few years ago, and, in some districts, are living to-day, he cannot do better than turn to the pages of Dr Jessopp's " Arcady." Probably, if he has had any experience of the county, he will not agree with the author of that delightful book when he suggests that notable changes have robbed its country life of its romantic interest; but a perusal of his pages will help him to understand and appreciate the Norfolk countryman. Taken as a whole, the farm hands, of whom the greater portion of the rural population consists, are good-natured folk, markedly lethargic, but generally willing to put themselves to a great deal of trouble on behalf of strangers. Some of them, in whom traces of Norse descent are still evident, are sturdy handsome fellows, whose massive frames, fair hair, and clear blue eyes make them look like vikings. Near the coast this type is especially in evidence; and the readiness with which not only fishermen and beachmen, but farm labourers and cattle tenders respond to calls for the lifeboat, proves that the danger- defying spirit of the old sea-rovers is far from being extinct among them. To the various Broadland types special attention is drawn in the chapters dealing with the Broads.

I have said that it is difficult to agree with all Dr Jessopp has written concerning the change which has come about of late years in the nature of Norfolk scenery and rural life. For instance, in a paragraph which is well worth reproducing, even if it does not faithfully represent the existing state of things, he says: - " The small fields that used to be so picturesque and so wasteful - where one could botanize with so much interest and pick up all sorts of odd pieces of information - have gone or are rapidly going; the tall hedges, the high banks, the scrub or the bottoms where a fox or a weasel might hope to find a night's lodging; the bye-lanes where the gipsies' tents used to pitch, where one could learn Rommany words, and, if we were very liberal and very wary, even listen to a Rommany's song and the scraping of his fiddle - all these things have vanished - 1 been done away with, sir' - ... the broad tilths are clean as gardens, and the face of the land looks up at you with a shiney, luxurious self-complacency, suggesting rather a smirk than a smile."

Now, this seems to me a rather deceptive picture of the general aspect of rural Norfolk to-day, and suggests that Dr Jessopp judged the whole county from some district where a "new broom" landlord had carried out alterations in a somewhat merciless fashion, playing havoc with old- established rural institutions. Even though some of the smaller fields have been " thrown together " to make large ones, you may still botanize as profitably in Norfolk as ever, and with a likelihood of discovering not a few rare and interesting "aliens" which Dr Jessopp could never have i 2 hoped to find in his " small fields." Then there are plenty of weasels in Norfolk if anyone wants them; and only recently I sat by a camp fire on a Norfolk heath and heard a genuine gipsy crone " rokker Rommany " with a fluency as impressive as her physiognomy. The Greys, Coopers, Smiths - the Griengres, Wardo-engres, and Petulengres of Borrow's day - are still represented in the county; and though they are not so numerous as they once were, mainly in consequence of intermarriage with the once despised kairengres (house-dwellers), the tourist seldom travels far without meeting with some of them. In spite of extensive enclosures, Norfolk still has its wild heathlands, where the peewits cry mournfully and the thick-knees whistle on summer nights; otters still dive for bream in its rivers; stoats still play havoc with the eggs and young of birds which nest in the alder copses; and if the bittern and bustard are gone from its fens and warrens, there are herons on its marshes and wild fowl on its shores.

No one can deny, however, that a welcome change has taken place in the pastimes of rural Norfolk. At the beginning of the present century a rough and rowdy game called " camping" was very much in vogue (See the account of villagers' former rough games, in " Hampshire " (Guides to the English Counties)). It took the form of a kind of football match between teams representing different villages, districts, or counties. There were practically no rules to prevent rough, and what would now be called " foul," play; free fights were a common accompaniment of the game, which was often attended with fatal results. There are men still living who can remember the last of these camping matches, and they speak of them as having been riotous and terrible encounters. Wrestling of a kind that would astonish a present-day pugilist was often indulged in on general holidays and at the hiring fairs, and found keen supporters among the bucolic squires. Cock-fighting was a favourite pastime with sporting farmers and others, and badger - baiting attracted large crowds to the backyards of the least reputable inns. Now-a-days the farm hands who seek recreation find excitement enough in quoits; and the football matches which have taken the place of the old-time "campings" are conducted under English Association rules.

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During the last few months it has been my pleasing experience to renew acquaintance with many parts of Norfolk I had not visited for some time, and to see not a few places in the county of which my knowledge had hitherto come through books or by hearsay. In the course of my journeyings I have done my best to put myself in the position of a total stranger to Norfolk, and to imagine what impression its towns, villages, and rural scenery would have upon one who had seen most of the notable centres and famous beauty-spots of our country. At times, when travelling through districts wholly given up to cultivation, I have had misgivings, and have asked myself how anyone familiar with Devonshire lanes, Hampshire highlands, and the hills of Wales, could possibly find pleasure in an unbroken succession of corn-fields; but almost invariably something has appeared which banished my doubts and made me not only content with but proud of my homeland. Perhaps it has been only a thatch-roofed farmstead, with its eaves brooding over a garden of fragrant, old-fashioned flowers, and a few corn-ricks beside it, overhung by storm-scarred elms; yet it has seemed to me that the traveller's day would not be wholly without profit and pleasure to him if, in the course of his rambles, he came upon just such a farmstead. Or it may have been that some isolated hamlet was suddenly discovered, and in it a church containing some memorial associating the place with a great historical event or world-famous personage; and again I have found consolation. So, at the end of my journeyings, when I can look back upon them as a whole, I am assured that there is scarcely a district or hamlet in Norfolk that has not something in it to delight or interest the tourist who can appreciate pastoral scenery and has his share of the blessed gift of imagination. And when I remember that there are not only pleasant pastures and rich corn-fields, but purple heathlands, breezy cliffs, bird- haunted woods, the Broadland, and a wealth of historical and ecclesiastical buildings and relics, in Norfolk, I am not simply proud of my county, but anxious that everyone should know what a fine county it is and hasten to become acquainted with it.

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