The city of Norwich, chapter 3: Of the city under the Danes and Danish Monarchs

Pages 8-9

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.

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Thus the Danes settled here, and fortified themselves against all enemies, about 1011; and the next year, Turkil, or Turketel, a Danish Earl, took possession of all Norfolk, having expelled the English Earl Ulfketel, and held it under Swain to his death, which happened in 1014, upon which the Danish army chose Cnute or Canute, his son, for their king; but upon Swain's death, the English took courage, sent for Etheldred out of Normandy, who returned and drove Canute out, and forced him to go to Denmark for recruits; notwithstanding this, Turkil continued still governour of the East-Angles, by Ethelred's consent, and being trusted by the King, with his fleet of 40 ships, he sailed with 9 of them into Denmark, and persuaded Cnute to return, who with the assistance of his brother Harold, then King of Denmark, brought a navy of 160 ships, and landed at Sandwich in 1016, and immediately sent Turkil against the English, which he soon conquered, their King being then sick of his last illness, for he died on St. George's day in this year, and the Londoners crowned

Edmund, sirnamed Ironside, for their King, between whom and Cnute were fought many battles; but at last the affair was decided between them by a single combat, both the Kings by agreement entered a small island in the Severne, called Alney, and there they fought, first on horseback and then on foot, with great courage on both sides, till Canute received a wound, upon which he called for a compromise, and Edmund agreeing thereto, they divided the kingdom between them; but little while did Edmund enjoy his part, for being murdered by the traitorous Earl Edric, he died about St. Andrew in this very year, having reigned seven months only, and consequently

Canute became sole monarch of all England; and in 1017, assigned all Norfolk to Earl Turkil, who had enjoyed it ever since the expulsion of Earl Ulfketel, "and committed to him the custody of Cnute, which his father Swain burnt and destroyed; and to keep the East-Angles secure to him, he (Canute) was most like to be the builder of the present stone castle of Norwich; for when, by compact with the English nobles, the law called Engleshire was made with universal consent, for the safety of the Danes that were by agreement to remain in England, Canute sent home to Denmark his mercenary army of Danes; but in great caution built several strong forts and castles, garrisoning them with such Danes as had been settled in England before his time, intermixed with some such English as he had a confidence in," as the author of that ingenious Essay of the Antiquity of the Castle of Norwich has it, at page 18; and indeed I cannot say but that he produces arguments sufficient to show, that here was a building in the fortifications in Canute's time, and as I take it, had been, ever since King Alfred's time, though Canute might repair if not rebuild it; but as to the present building, I cannot imagine it older than Henry I. it being so like Rising castle and others, none of which exceed, if any comes near, the time of the Conquest, and therefore I suppose it was built by Roger Bigot, and much repaired by Thomas de Brotherton, in Edward the Second's time, as his arms, still on the stonework, plainly prove; and I doubt not but it was at this time, that it took the name of Blanchflower, as Sir Edw. Coke affirms it was called, (fn. 1) and that from the whiteness of the stones, then new mended and rubbed over.

From this time to 1021, Earl Turkil was governour here, but when he and Iric Earl of Northumberland began to be too powerful, the King banished them both, and took this county into his own hands, and gave it to

Harold, who was King at Cnute's death in 1036, and dying in 1059,

Hardicnute succeeded, who died at Lambhithe in June, 1041, being the last prince of the Danish blood that ever sat on the English throne.

Certain it is, that from the time of Swain's settling here in 1010, this city, by the Danes swarming hither, rose almost at once to great maturity, as will appear from the Confessor's survey in the following chapter, it having about 50 years only to grow to this magnitude in, which Mr. Kirkpatrick imagines to be an argument showing Norwich to be much ancienter than we think, it being unlikely, or, as he says, almost incredible, to raise so large a city in few more than 50 years, for it could not exceed 60 from its Danish destruction: but this is not only possible but highly probable, and if we will credit the best of authorities, (I mean the Saxon Chronicle,) it is certainly true, that it did rise from its ruins to this magnitude, in so little time: the Danes settling here, without doubt they immediately repaired the burnt city, for I agree with him that it was a considerable place in the Saxon times, (fn. 2) but as to its being a place of remark under the Romans, (as he insinuates, from a few coins found here,) I have no reason to think it so; perhaps Castor being so near, there might settle some few, before its total desertion, here; and that may account for such coins as are rarely found in this place: but why do we wonder at a city repaired and increased so much, in so few years, when we have so late an example as the great city of Petersburgh in Russia, first founded by Peter the great Czar, in 1703, who had 30,000 houses erected in one year's time, as I find in the life of that hero, at page 89, which is become in much less time than this did, one of the largest cities of Europe.


  • 1. Li. Instit. fo. 258.
  • 2. It was a burgh then, for Fuller, Ch. Hist. fo. 126, says that every burgh had liberty of one mint, as this had, and its having that liberty is a proof that it was then a burgh.