The small town of Hingham lies on the western border of the District and is home to just over 2,000 people. Hingham is a delightful place, with attractive period houses and two greens, one of which was originally the town's market place. Hingham has the finest collection of Georgian houses in the District. The large parish church of St. Andrew was built just after the Black Death, in the early 14th century, by Remigius of Hethersett, who was rector of Hingham from 1316 to 1359. The church is normally kept unlocked, offering visitors access at all reasonable times. Amongst the many interesting features, the north-east window has some fine German glass which dates from around 1500. The very impressive red stone Morley Monument, which commemorates Thomas Lord Morley, dates from the 15th century and was probably used as an Easter Sepulchre. A bust of Abraham Lincoln was unveiled in St. Andrew's in 1919. Ancestors of the Lincoln family emigrated from Hingham to America in 1637, together with other local weavers who were seeking a new life across the Atlantic.
Wymondham is the focal point for this north-western part of the District. It lies nine miles south-west of Norwich and is surrounded by attractive villages, set in pleasant countryside which extends north to the River Yare and the suburbs of Norwich. Wymondham stands alongside the A11, which by-passes the town; the railway station is on the Norwich to Ely line.
Wymondham is the largest town in South Norfolk with a population of over 11,000. It is a fast-growing community, but still retains all the character of an ancient market town. The town has a thriving market and a good selection of speciality and other shops. Market Day is Friday; some shops close early on Wednesdays.
Throughout its history, Wymondham has had a number of flourishing industries and for three centuries it was noted for its wood-turning trade and for brushmaking. In the days of the Norwich weavers, Wymondham's craftsmen and women were making crepe, satin and bombazine; in the mid-19th century there were said to be some 600 cottage looms in the town. The weaving industry has long since gone, to be replaced by modern, high technology concerns and notably, by the world famous Lotus Cars, which are based nearby at Hethel.
Wymondham has one of the most delightful town centres in East Anglia. Many of the buildings are over 300-years-old, having replaced those which were destroyed by the great fire which swept through the town in 1615. Wymondham boasts more listed buildings of architectural and historic interest than any other town of comparable size in the County. The town's Market Cross, which houses the Tourist Information Office during the summer months, was rebuilt in 1618. The 12th century chapel of St. Thomas Becket houses the public library. Wymondham has one of the oldest inns in England - the Green Dragon dates from the 14th century. A walk through the town will reveal a wealth of lovely old houses, some of which are Georgian and all bringing a quiet charm to the streets. The Wymondham Heritage Centre contains many exhibits which trace the history of this ancient market town.
The jewel in the crown of Wymondham is the Abbey Church of Wymondham, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Thomas of Canterbury. Building began in 1107 by William de Albini to accommodate up to 20 monks, it was raised to Abbey status in 1448. The building has a long history and was not always the beautiful, tranquil place it is today. The two towers serve as a reminder of a quarrel over the use of the building between the priory and the town, which continued for hundreds of years. The matter was referred to the Pope, who decreed that the town should have use of the nave, the north aisle and one tower, whilst the rest of the building, including the other tower, should be used by the monks; the quarrel lasted until the Dissolution.
The towers may still be looked upon as one for the Abbey and one for the town. The Abbey's treasures include a fine example of a rich gilt imitation Gothic altar screen by Sir Ninian Comper.
The Abbey features architectural examples from the 12th and 15th centuries, probably the most remarkable of these being the magnificent hammerbeam roof. The Abbey also contains a fine memorial to local men who were killed in the 1914-1918 war.
Just over 120 people live in the very pretty small village of Kimberley. Picturesque thatched cottages and St. Peter's Church surround the village green. The church contains many memorials to the Wodehouse family of Kimberley Hall. The original Hall was demolished in 1659. The present Hall dates from 1712; it was designed by William Talman and stands in a 600-acre park which was laid out in the 1760s by Capability Brown. The building has been subsequently much enlarged and altered.
Carleton Forehoe, just to the north-west of Wymondham, is a small hamlet which derives its unusual name possibly from Celtic times. The word Forehoe meant four burial mounds or barrows. The King sat upon one hill, presiding over his courtiers, who occupied the other three hills.
Nearby, is the attractively named village of Barnham Broom, which boasts a country club hotel and championship golf course. 530 people live in the village. The Barnham Broom Old Hall, which is privately owned, dates from Tudor times and was extensively altered during the 17th century. A fine 15th century tower surmounted by three statutes of evangelists is a feature of the parish church of St. Peter & Paul; the fourth statue, of St. Matthew, apparently fell down and this was kept in the church porch. The church contains some interesting carvings and painted panels.
The parish of Runhall also includes the villages of Welborne and Brandon Parva. Runhall's church of All Saints is mainly 13th century, with a Norman tower. Much of the chancel was destroyed by fire, but a door with magnificent ironwork and some unusual bottle glass in the south windows remain intact. The church of Brandon All Saints can be reached down an isolated lane. The tower has some fine battlements and interesting carvings on the outside of the chancel windows.
The church at Barford, dedicated to St. Botolph, stands proudly above the village. It dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The Royal Arms of George III can be seen on the chancel arch. A ford runs over the River Yare in Barford. The river is very narrow at this point.
Just to the south of Barford is Wramplingham. Here the parish church has a fine round tower, which is typical of East Anglia. The chancel has a range of lancet windows on both the north and south sides, and the church is consequently very light and attractive. It is accessible at most times.
Nearby Marlingford has a population of over 350. The Old Hall dates from the 17th century. Close to the Hall, grouped by the River Yare are the watermill and miller's house. The parish church of The Blessed Virgin Mary has some good stained glass windows in the chancel, an early 19th century engraved Commandments Board, an hour-glass stand and a large black slab memorial in the floor of the chancel.
Close to Marlingford, on the River Yare, is Bawburgh. This is one of the most attractive villages in the District, featuring a narrow bridge over the river. The church dates from the 14th century and is unusually dedicated to St. Mary and St. Walstan, a local saint who died in 1016. St. Walstan is commemorated by a chapel in the church and by a holy well, in the grounds of a farm to the north of the church. Pilgrims used to visit the well, leaving their shoes at the Slipper House, one of two square buildings in the grounds of Bawburgh Hall.
To the north of the A47 is Costessey, which stands on the banks of the River Wensum. This large village, which is home to over 10,000 people, is virtually linked to the suburbs of Norwich by New Costessey, which has become a dormitory for the city. The once small village has now grown out of all recognition; Costessey has several well planned housing developments, schools, shops, churches of several denominations and industrial estates. Industry here includes engineering and high technology activities. Bus links to the city are frequent, enabling many residents to commute to Norwich. The 14th century parish church stands in the old part of the village, close to the river. The building was restored during Victorian times. Costessey Hall stands in the grounds of Costessey Park, surrounded by the golf course. The Hall, which is now in ruins, was built in the 16th century. It was the family home of the Jerningham family. Edward Jerningham, a local poet, built the Gothic Chapel in about 1800. The Coach House, in Townhouse Road, now serves as an art gallery.
An important feature of Costessey is the permanent showground of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, which is located alongside the A47. The showground has plenty of space and all the facilities necessary to cater for the exhibitors and visitors who attend the annual County Show, which attracts many thousands of people from all over the UK and increasingly, from the continent.
The villages of Colney and Cringleford, south of Costessey, are close to the city boundary and the campus of the University of East Anglia. Cringleford has grown in size in recent years and now has a population of over 2,000. Some old houses remain, and the village features a two-arched bridge over the River Yare. The University Broad Nature Reserve is close to the village. The parish church contains fragments of Saxon sculpture and some early wall paintings.
Close to the banks of the River Yare is the village of Keswick, where the mill house and dovecote are a picturesque feature.
Keswick Hall shows evidence of several different architectural periods, the latest major additions being built in the 1950s when the Hall became a teacher training college. The Hall has since been sold as several separate privately-owned residences.
Swardeston was the birthplace of Nurse Edith Cavell, whose father was vicar of the parish for 46 years. The parish church, which is partly Norman, has a fine tie-beam roof and 17th century carved woodwork. Also in the village is Gowthorpe Manor, a Jacobean house which has the date 1574 over the porch and 1669 on a gable. As it would appear that neither date is correct, the actual date of the house is somewhat uncertain.
Nearby Mulbarton has one of the largest commons in the county - over 50 acres - which is overlooked by the church, the Long Barn and several fine period houses including the Georgian Mulbarton Hall.
Hethersett still retains much of its original charm, despite much recent development. Now bypassed by the busy A11, the village street is flanked by houses from the Tudor, Stuart and Georgian periods. Houses of particular interest are the Georgian Old Hall and the 16th century Priory. The parish church of St. Remigius was much restored during the 1890s. Close to Hethersett, on the B1172, stands Kett's Oak. Robert Kett, a Wymondham landowner, was the leader of smallholders protesting over the enclosure of common land. On 9th July 1549, he is reputed to have met with his followers under the oak tree and delivered a rousing speech before leading them to Norwich and the Norfolk Rising, known as "Kett's Rebellion".