Five Norwich History Myths Debunked

by | Apr 18, 2024

Norwich is home to some fascinating history. But there are plenty of misconceptions about our fine city’s history too. Here are five of our favourites:

1) The plague pits underneath Tombland.

With a name like “Tombland”’, it’s unsurprising that many believe it was the home of Norwich’s plague pits. But there’s no evidence to suggest Norwich’s plague victims were ever buried there.

In fact, the name Tombland originates from the Saxon word Tõm, which means “open space”. Prior to the Cathedral, that area of Norwich would have been a patchwork of meadows stretching out beyond the river and towards Mousehold. Very much an open space!

2) “One pub for every day of the year”.

Whilst it was once true that Norwich had a pub for every day of the year (at one point, it was home to north of 600 pubs), this hasn’t been the case for a long time. A pub survey in 2023 by Norwich & District CAMRA visited 168 pubs (including the suburbs), 114 of which served at least one real ale.

3) “On the Ball City” is the World’s oldest football song. 

It’s true that “On the Ball City” is the oldest football song to still be in use today, but Edward Elgar (yup, that Elgar) wrote a song about his beloved Wolves in 1895 that never caught on amongst fans. It was called “He banged the leather for goal”. 

“On the Ball City” wasn’t adopted by fans until around 1902.

4) “Witches” were frequently burned at the stake at Lollards Pit.

Lollards Pit was the backdrop for plenty of executions, but it was heretics who were burned here, rather than witches. It was rare that criminals – suspected witches or otherwise – were burned at the stake. As a felony crime in England, so-called “witches” were almost always hanged, unless they’d committed treason or arson as well as witchcraft

5) The tunnels underneath Norwich.

Rumour has it there’s a whole network of tunnels underneath Norwich – well if there are tunnels, we certainly can’t get into them anymore! The employees of Ponds foot fitters, the shoe shop that used to occupy our Castle Meadow premises, were told that a tunnel connected its basement to the Castle. The idea is exciting, and it’s a wonderful tale, but it’s not a reality. 

You’re always welcome to come on our Hidden Street tour and take a look for yourself!