Elm Hill - History and Facts | History Hit

Elm Hill

Norwich, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

25 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Elm Hill

In the heart of Norwich, England, Elm Hill is a charming historic cobbled lane and the most complete medieval street in the city. Today, most of what you see along Elm Hill was built during the 16th century after a fire destroyed many of the original medieval buildings.

Nonetheless, the street has echoes of the city’s flourishing medieval past and boasts many beautiful Tudor buildings that include homes, shops and small cafes for visitors to enjoy.

Elm Hill history

While there is no specific date for when Elm Hill came into being, there is a presence recorded around 1200. Few of the remaining buildings pre-date 1507 when a devastating fire destroyed over 700 houses across Norwich. The Britons Arms was the only surviving timber-framed and thatched-roof structure along Elm Hill and was established in 1347. The building likely had a semi-religious role because it was so close to St. Peter Hungate church.

The street gained its name in the 16th century after some Churchwardens of St. Peter Hungate planted elm trees in the square (although elm trees no longer stand at Elm Hill because of disease). The street was re-aligned in the 15th century to make space for the Dominican St Andrew’s and Blackfriars Halls.

Many wealthy merchants has their homes in Elm Hill, with houses facing the front and workshops in the back. The north end of the lane runs parallel with the River Wensum, and so many merchants even had their own quays backing onto the river, making Elm Hill an important commercial thoroughfare particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Elm Hill today

Elm Hill has aged remarkably well since the 16th century and all year-round is a ideal spot for photographers. Browse the specialty craft shops and antique galleries within the historic building fronts before stopping at a tea room or coffee shop for a slice of cake and a hot drink.

Then, make your way up to the imposing flint structure of St. Peter Hungate following in the steps of medieval travellers and pilgrims. You can take a great tour of the Cathedral Quarter by following the Elm Hill Norwich Trail map. At the bottom of the hill at the corner of Princes Street, see if you can spot the ‘fossilised keyboard’ artwork by Molly Sole, which has sparked many urban legends as to the keyboard’s origins since it was laid in 1999.

Getting to Elm Hill

Situated in the centre of Norwich city, Elm Hill is easily found on foot and is only 5 minutes walk from Norwich Cathedral. Otherwise, most Norwich buses stop at Tombland (stop CM) including the 10, 11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 28, 29 and 36 networks.