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Status Ceremonial and Non-metropolitan county
Region East of England[1]
- Total
- Admin. council
Ranked 5th
5,371 km2 (2,074 sq mi)
Ranked 5th
Admin HQ Norwich
ISO 3166-2 GB-NFK
ONS code 33
- Total (2008 est.)
- Density
- Admin. council
Ranked 24th
158 /km2 (409/sq mi)
Ranked 7th
Ethnicity 98.5% white
Arms of Norfolk County Council
Arms of Norfolk County Council with supporters
Norfolk County Council
Executive Conservative
Members of Parliament
  1. Norwich
  2. South Norfolk
  3. Great Yarmouth
  4. Broadland
  5. North Norfolk
  6. King's Lynn and West Norfolk
  7. Breckland

Norfolk (pronounced /ˈnɔrfək/) is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast, including The Wash. The county town is Norwich. Norfolk is the fifth largest ceremonial county in England, with an area of 5,371 km² (2,074 sq mi).

Of the 34 non-metropolitan English counties, Norfolk is the seventh most populous, with a population of 850,800 (mid 2008). However, as a largely rural county it has a low population density, 155 people per square kilometre (or 401 per square mile.) Norfolk has about one-thirtieth the population density of Central London, the tenth lowest density county in the country, with 38% of the county’s population living in the three major built up areas of Norwich (259,100), Great Yarmouth (71,700) and King's Lynn (43,100).[2] The Broads, a well known network of rivers and lakes, is located on the county's east coast, bordering Suffolk. The area has the status of a National Park and is protected by the Broads Authority.[3] Historical sites, such as the centre of Norwich, also contribute to tourism.



Norfolk was settled in pre-Roman times, with neolithic camps along the higher land in the west where flints could be quarried.[4] A Brythonic tribe, the Iceni, inhabited the county from the first century BC, to the end of the first century (AD). The Iceni revolted against the Roman invasion in 47 AD, and again in 60 AD led by Boudica. The crushing of the second rebellion opened the county to the Romans. During the Roman era roads and ports were constructed throughout the county and farming took place.

Situated on the east coast, Norfolk was vulnerable to invasions from Scandinavia and northern Europe, and forts were built to defend against the Angles and Saxons. By the 5th century the Angles, after whom East Anglia and England itself are named, had established control of the region and later became the "north folk" and the "south folk", hence, "Norfolk" and "Suffolk". Norfolk, and several adjacent areas, became the kingdom of East Anglia, later merging with Mercia and then Wessex. The influence of the Early English settlers can be seen in the many "thorpes", "tons" and "hams" of placenames. In the 9th century the region again came under attack, this time from Vikings who killed the king, Edmund the Martyr. In the centuries before the Norman Conquest the wetlands of the east of the county began to be converted to farmland, and settlements grew in these areas. Migration into East Anglia must have been high, as by the time of the Conquest and Domesday Book survey, it was one of the most densely populated parts of the British Isles.

During the high and late Middle Ages the county developed arable agriculture and woollen industries. The economy was in decline by the time of the Black Death, which dramatically reduced the population in 1349, suffice to say that the current population has yet to equal the population from this time. Over one-third of the population of Norwich died during a plague epidemic in 1579.[5] By the 16th century Norwich had grown to become the second largest city in England, but in 1665 the Great Plague of London again killed around one third of the population.[6] During the English Civil War Norfolk was largely Parliamentarian. The economy and agriculture of the region declined somewhat, and during the industrial revolution Norfolk developed little industry except in Norwich and was a late addition to the railway network.

In the 20th century the county developed a role in aviation. The first development in airfields came with the First World War; there was then a massive expansion during the Second World War with the growth of the Royal Air Force and the influx of the American USAAF 8th Air Force which operated from many Norfolk Airfields. During the Second World War agriculture rapidly intensified, and has remained very intensive since with the establishment of large fields for cereal and oil seed rape growing. Norfolk's low-lying land and easily eroded cliffs, many of which are chalk and clay, make it vulnerable to the sea, the most recent major event being the North Sea flood of 1953.

The low-lying section of coast between Kelling and Lowestoft Ness is currently managed by the Environment Agency to protect the Broads from sea flooding. Management policy for the North Norfolk coastline is described in the North Norfolk Shoreline Management Plan which was published in 2006 but has yet to be accepted by the local authorities.[7] The Shoreline Management Plan states that the stretch of coast will be protected for at least another 50 years, but that in the face of sea level rise and post-glacial lowering of land levels in the South East, there is an urgent need for further research to inform future management decisions, including the possibility that the sea defences may have to be realigned to a more sustainable position. Natural England have contributed some research into the impacts on the environment of various realignment options. The draft report of their research was leaked to the press, who created great anxiety by reporting that Natural England plan to abandon a large section of the Norfolk Broads, villages and farmland face to the sea to save the rest of the Norfolk coastline from the impact of climate change.[8]

Economy and industry

River Wensum, Norwich.
Norwich Cathedral: Spire and south transcept.

In 1998 Norfolk had a Gross Domestic Product of £9,319 million, making it 1.5% of England's economy and 1.25% of the United Kingdom's economy. The GDP per head was £11,825, compared to £13,635 for East Anglia, £12,845 for England and £12,438 for the United Kingdom. In 1999-2000 the county has an unemployment rate of 5.6%, compared to 5.8% for England and 6.0% for the UK.[9]

Much of Norfolk's flat and fertile land has been drained and converted to arable land. Chief arable crops are sugar beet, wheat, barley (for brewing) and oil seed rape. Over 20% of employment in the county is in the agriculture and food industries.[10]

Well-known companies in Norfolk are Norwich Union (part of Aviva), Colman's (part of Unilever) and Bernard Matthews. The Construction Industry Training Board is based on the former airfield of RAF Bircham Newton. The BBC East region is centred on Norwich, although covers an area as far west as Milton Keynes.

To help local industry in Norwich, Norfolk, the local council offers a wireless service.[11]


Primary and secondary

Norfolk has a completely comprehensive state education, with secondary school age from 11 to 16 or in some schools with sixth forms, 18 years old. In many of the rural areas, there is no nearby sixth form and so Sixth form colleges are found in larger towns. There are twelve independent, or private schools, including Gresham's School in Holt in the north of the county, Thetford Grammar School in Thetford - Britain's fourth oldest school, Norwich School and Norwich High School for Girls in the city of Norwich itself. The Kings Lynn district has the largest school population. Norfolk is also home to Wymondham College, the UK's largest remaining state boarding school.


The University of East Anglia is located on the outskirts of Norwich; and Norwich University College of the Arts (until November 2007, known as Norwich School of Art and Design) is situated at St. George's Street, in the city centre, and next to the River Wensum.

The City College Norwich and the College of West Anglia are colleges covering Norwich and Kings Lynn. Easton College, 7 miles west of Norwich provides agricultural based courses for the County as well as for parts of Suffolk.


Norfolk is a shire county, under the control of Norfolk County Council. This is divided into seven local government districts, Breckland District, Broadland District, Great Yarmouth Borough, King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough, North Norfolk District, Norwich City and South Norfolk.

In 2007 the Department for Communities and Local Government referred Norwich City Council's proposal to become a new unitary authority to the Boundary Commission for England.[12][13] The Boundary Commission consulted local bodies and reported that it was against the proposal and so Norfolk's local government structure remained unchanged.

However, on 10 February, 2010, it was announced that, contrary to the December 2009 recommendation of the Boundaries Commission, Norwich will be now be given unitary status.[15] This change has been strongly resisted, principally by Norfolk County Council and the Conservative opposition in parliament - see amongst many other sources. It remains to be seen whether the necessary legislation can be enacted by the incumbent Labour Government before the 2010 General Election; and if unitary status for the city is confirmed in law, whether it will remain thus should there be a change in national government. Norfolk County Council has said that it will seek leave to challenge the decision in the courts - see The leaking of a letter from Peter Housden, permanent secretary for the Department for Communities and Local Government, who wrote to his government minister on Monday warning the process would not be value for money and stood a “very high” chance of being successfully challenged in the courts has raised further doubts. Details of this letter and the minister's response have been published in a number of papers and on the internet.

The Conservative party ( Bob Neill. Conservative MP for Bromley & Chislehurst. - Shadow Minister (Local Government and Planning) ) has said that, if it wins the next election, it will stop the process, even if legislation has to be reversed. See

Norfolk County Council is Conservative-controlled and led by Daniel Cox. There are 60 Conservative councillors, 13 Liberal Democrat councillors, 7 Green Party councillors, 3 Labour councillors and 1 UKIP councillor.[14] There was a 63% turnout at the most recent local election.

In the House of Commons, Norfolk is represented by four Conservative Members of Parliament, three Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat. The Labour party represents the more urban areas of Norwich and Great Yarmouth, whilst the Conservatives represent the more rural areas. The former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, represents Norwich South. Following a review by the Boundaries Commission there will be an additional Parliamentary constituency (Broadland) at the next election bringing the Norfolk total to 9. There has been a significant political shift recently within the Norwich Urban area with the Green party taking 7 seats in the 2009 county election so the next election, predicted for 6th May 2010, may bring some upsets.

Norfolk Election Results
Parliamentary 5 May 2005 County Council 4 June 2009
Party Votes Votes % Seats Seats % Party Votes Votes % Seats Seats %
Conservative 163224 40% 4 50% Conservative 115396 45.91% 60 71.4%
Labour 122650 30% 3 38% Green 18786 10.87% 7 8.33%
Liberal Democrat 103805 25% 1 13% Labour 33873 13.48% 3 3.57%
Others [1] 19371 5% 0 0% Liberal Democrat 56998 22.68% 13 15.47%
Others [2] 17764 7.06% 1 1.2%
Totals 409050 8 251351 84
Turnout 64% 38.61%

[1] UKIP, Green, LCA, Independents, Others
[2] UKIP, LCA, Independents, Others


Norfolk's county town and only city is Norwich, one of the largest settlements in England during the Norman era. Norwich is home to Norfolk's only university, the University of East Anglia, and is the county's main business and culture centre. Other principal towns include the port-town of King's Lynn and the seaside resort and Broads gateway town of Great Yarmouth. There are also several market towns: Aylsham, Downham Market, Dereham, Fakenham, Diss, Holt, North Walsham, Swaffham, Thetford and Wymondham.


Norfolk is one the few counties in England that does not have a motorway. The A11 connects Norfolk to Cambridge and London via the M11. From the west there only two routes from Norfolk, the A47 which runs into the East Midlands via Peterborough and the A17 which runs into the East Midlands via Lincolnshire that have a direct link with the A1. Both of these routes meet at King's Lynn which is also the starting place for the A10 which provides West Norfolk with a direct link to London via Ely, Cambridge and Hertford . The Great Eastern Main Line is a major railway from London Liverpool Street Station to Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Norwich International Airport, offers flights within Europe including a link to Amsterdam which offers onward flights throughout the world.

Dialect, accent and nickname

The Norfolk dialect, also known as "Broad Norfolk", is the accent/dialect of people living in Norfolk, although over the modern age much of the vocabulary and many of the phrases have died out due to a number of factors, such as radio, TV and people from other parts of the country coming to Norfolk. As a result, the speech of Norfolk is more of an accent than dialect, though one part retained from the Norfolk dialect is the distinctive grammar of the region. [citation needed]

More cutting, perhaps, was the pejorative medical slang term "Normal for Norfolk", alluding to the county's perceived status as an illiterate incestuous backwater. Use of term has ever been unofficial, and is now discredited, its use discouraged by the profession.


Norfolk is a popular tourist destination and has several major examples of holiday attractions. There are many seaside resorts, including some of the finest British beaches, such as those at Great Yarmouth, Waxham, Cromer and Holkham bay. Norfolk is probably best known for the Broads and other areas of outstanding natural beauty and many areas of the coast are wild bird sanctuaries and reserves with some areas designated as National Parks. Tourists and locals enjoy the wide variety of monuments and historical buildings in both Norfolk and the city of Norwich. The Queen's residence at Sandringham House in Sandringham, Norfolk, provides an all year round tourist attraction, whilst the rural parts of the county, notably the area around Burnham Market, are also popular locations for people from the conurbations to purchase weekend holiday homes. Arthur Conan Doyle first conceived the idea for The Hound Of The Baskervilles whilst holidaying in Cromer with Bertram Fletcher Robinson after hearing local folklore tales regarding the mysterious hound known as Black Shuck.

Notable people from Norfolk

People associated with Norfolk

The following people were not born or brought up in Norfolk but are long-term residents of Norfolk, are well-known for living in Norfolk at some point in their lives, or have contributed in some significant way to the county.

See also


  1. ^ Hierarchical list of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics and the statistical regions of Europe The European Commission, Statistical Office of the European Communities (retrieved 6 January 2008)
  2. ^ Norfolk Government Statistics
  3. ^
  4. ^ John Barwell, n.d. "A History of Norfolk."
  5. ^ "BBC – Radio 4 Voices of the Powerless – 29/08/2002 Plague in Tudor and Stuart Britain". Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  6. ^ Anon, 2002. Norfolk History.
  7. ^ "Shoreline Management Plan". 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  8. ^ Elliott, Valerie (2008-03-29). "Climate change: surrender a slab of Norfolk, say conservationists". The Times. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  9. ^ Office for National Statistics, 2001. Regional Trends 26 ch:14.7 (PDF). Accessed 2006-01-03.
  10. ^ Invest in Norfolk, Agriculture and Food.
  11. ^ Hayes Computing Solutions (HCOMS) ::
  12. ^ Unitary Norwich City Council - The business case for unitary Norwich
  13. ^ Communities and Local Government - Proposals for future unitary structures: Stakeholder consultation
  14. ^ BBC News, Election 2009, Norfolk County Council. [1].

External links



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