Festive Tudor and Stuart Norwich

Tudor and Stuart Norwich boasted a tremendously wide-ranging tradition of civic drama and festivities produced by the city corporation, small troupes supported by the county nobility, and schoolmasters of the city’s grammar school. It was a regular stop on the East Anglian professional circuit for travelling London-based playing companies, and staged a week of entertainments for Elizabeth I when she visited in August 1578. Norwich also had a very active culture of musical performance centred on the activities of its indigenous, civic-funded minstrels, known as the Waits, and on the choirmasters, singing-men, and composers linked with the Cathedral.

Now, you can discover Norwich’s festive Renaissance past for yourself and retrace the steps taken by players, entertainers, audiences, and visiting royalty by downloading our free Festive Tudor & Stuart Norwich Walking Map! Our map identifies exactly where different kinds of entertainments took place and reveals a variety of performance sites across the city, including many buildings or spaces later demolished or repurposed. Our walking map is based on new research into Norwich’s history by Professor Matt Woodcock and Dr Emily Mayne (UEA), who worked with local artist Claire Grasby and Norwich-based Darren Leader Studio to design the map, so that tourists, visitors, and residents might gain a renewed appreciation of Festive Norwich and its cultural history.

If you use our map to discover the festive histories of Tudor and Stuart Norwich, we’d love you to share your comments and photos with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging us @archiveunlocked!

Our walking map of Festive Norwich is part of the wider research project ‘Accessing the Records of Early English Drama in Norwich, 1540-1642’ carried out by Matt Woodcock and Emily Mayne (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council), which will result in a new edition of archival and printed records (many of them held in the Norfolk Record Office) detailing drama, entertainments, music, and sports staged in Norwich between 1540 and 1642. This collection of records will be published as a free, open-access resource as part of the Records of Early English Drama series.

Drawing on research into Elizabeth I’s 1578 progress to Norwich—and working in collaboration with the Forum Trust, Norwich and Sarah Power of Curious Spark—in 2018-19 we developed and piloted a literacy support programme called ‘Putting on a Pageant 1578’. This uses archival records relating to the queen’s visit as the basis for a variety of analytical and creative activities for school children at Key Stages 1 and 2. Click on the image below to find out more!