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The medieval street Elm Hill in Norwich is one of the best preserved in England

Every visitor of the small town Norwich in East Anglia mustn’t miss Elm Hill, the most significant and historic street in the city that offers the doorway of Norwich history.

Elm Hill is widely deemed as one of the best preserved medieval streets in England.

Elm hill on a rainy day.Photo Credit
Elm Hill on a rainy day.Photo Credit


Elm Hill Photo Credit
Elm Hill Photo Credit

The cobbled lane stretches from the Church of St. Peter Hungate, where the top of Elm Hill meets Princes Street, to the Church of St. Simon and St. Jude, placed at the bottom of Elm Hill on the corner with Wensum Street.


Elm Hill from the Wensum Street end. Photo Credit
Elm Hill from the Wensum Street end. Photo Credit

Elm Hill has taken its name from the elm trees that adorned the lane since the first quarter of the 16th century when the churchwardens planted the first one. Unfortunately, there are no more elm trees on the street because of their extinction caused by the Dutch elm disease in the UK.


Elm-hill-in-2006 Photo Credit
Elm Hill in 2006 Photo Credit

Even though there isn’t any verified record of the date when Elm Hill was first established, there is some evidence for its existence at the beginning of the 13th century.


Elm Hill, Norwich in winter sunshine Photo Credit
Elm Hill, Norwich bathing in the winter sunshine Photo Credit

Few houses that now stand in Elm Streets date before 1507, when an awful fire burnt down more than 700 buildings in Norwich.


Elm Hill Norwich Photo Credit
Elm Hill Norwich Photo Credit

Although it may not be immediately apparent today, the north side of Elm Hill runs on the parallel side to the river Wensum and in the past, many of the merchant houses had their own quays.

Elm Hill Photo Credit
Elm Hill Photo Credit


During the 15th and 16th century,  Elm Hill and the river were important commercial thoroughfares.


Elm Hill Photo Credit
Elm Hill Photo Credit

The river was the route from where raw materials were imported and finished products exported via Great Yarmouth.

Further Down elm hill Photo Credit
Further Down Elm Hill Photo Credit

At that time there was an industrial prosperity in Norwich mainly due to the arrival of religious refugees from Europe and the settlement of a large number of weavers, dyers, goldsmiths and other skilled craftsmen.

Elm-hill Photo Credit
Elm Hill Photo Credit

Many wealthy merchants had their houses facing Elm Hill with their factories and workshops at the rear. Between them and the river were the homes of their workers.

Norwich-Streets-elm-hill Photo Credit
Norwich streets, Elm Hill Photo Credit

Here is another one on Medieval streets in England from our vault:The most picturesque and best preserved medieval streets in England

The-cobbled-street.Photo Credit
The cobbled street Photo Credit

With the gradual decline of Norwich as a centre of the weaving industry in the 19th century, Elm Hill lost its importance and slowly degenerated into a slum area.

By 1926, on the same place where once stood the fine houses of the merchants, there were only neglect and decay. The areas leading down to the river, whilst still inhabited, displayed a scenery of poverty and squalor.