Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Norwich Riverside Walk

A simple 2 mile walk alongside the River Wensum through Norwich.

This picturesque walk through the centre of Norwich links the Marriott's Way at Barn Road roundabout on the inner ring road with The Wherryman's Way and Boudicca Way at Norwich Railway Station.

Norwich Barn Road roundabout to Norwich Railway Station Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Norwich Barn Road roundaboutView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Norwich Railway StationView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
2 miles
Walk difficulty

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
16:00 to 17:00
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm and sunny spring day

Walk Notes

Despite having worked in Norwich for the past four years, and crossing the Wensum every working day I had never walked the length of the river side path until this fine and abnormally warm spring day of 2012.

On this particular occasion we did not visit a pub, though there are some highly recommended establishments along the route serving some fine examples of Norfolks many and varied microbreweries. I will have to mention The Kings Head, just off route on Magdalen Street which always has an ever changing selection of up to 14 local ales and a personal favourite drinking hole in Norwich.

This walk can be treated as a circular walk as there are paths on both sides of the river for the majority of the route. Probably most notable thing throughout the entire route are the numerous bridges and the many historic buildings including the New Mills Pumping station which is the site of the old New Mills Corn mill, the former Bullards Brewery building, St Andrew’s Hall, the Victorian yarn mill, the Cow Tower and Pulls Ferry.

Pulls Ferry
Pulls Ferry


There are footpaths on both banks of the River Wensum for the majority of the distance through Norwich

Marriotts Way to Wherrymans Way

From the roundabout, on the city side of the road, there is a footpath that leads down alongside the river. Keep to this, past the former New Mills pumping station, Coslany Street Bridge and onto duke Street bridge. Turn left and cross the road and go around the back of the Travelodge and through to St Georges Street Bridge, cross the bridge and find an arch on the left between the Technical College and St Andrews Hall which leads through the former Blackfriars monastery grounds. Keep to the left and follow the path back to the riverside with the splendid medieval Georgian buildings on Elm Hill on the right. Continue onto Fye Bridge where the path emerges by the side of the Ribs of Beef pub. Fye Bridge is said to be the oldest river crossing in Norwich and the site of a roman ford. Cross the road and continue along Quay Side to Whitefriars Bridge. Cross the road and keep to the riverside path with a large Victorian Yarn mill on the opposite side which was originally the grounds to Whitefriars monastery. The path follows the river past the historic 12th century Cow Tower to Bishops Bridge. From here take the alley which eventually comes out at Pulls Ferry where the lane leads up to the Cathedral. From Pull’s Ferry the path continues along the riverside and crosses the terrace of the Complete Angler pub next to the Prince of Wales Road bridge with the railway station on the opposite side. This marks the start to both the Wherrymans Way to Great Yarmouth and The Boudicca Way to Diss.

Wherrymans Way to Marriott's Way

The reverse direction can be walked along the opposite bank for most of the river.

St. Miles Coslany BridgeFye Bridge
On the left St. Miles Coslany Bridge; On the right Fye Bridge


The Kings Head, Magdalen Street, Norwich View in OS Map | View in Google Map

The Kings Head, Magdalen Street, Norwich

This pub has been restored to a basic Victorian style bar and lounge and offers up to fourteen real local ales on tap and up to four more on stillage available, as well as a wide selection of Trappist and Belgian beers.

Whitefriars Bridge
Whitefriars Bridge


The Legend of Old BlunderhazzardView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Standing on the north easterly tip of what used to be known as Cowsholm, at a bend in the river Wensum is an ancient structure commonly known as the Cow Tower. The name probably originates from the 11th century when the area was a marshy cow pasture. It was originally built as a tollgate for the river and also used as a prison before falling into disuse when a new tollhouse was built. In 1378 it was conveyed to the city in a ruinous state, and completely rebuilt in 1390 when it was known as the Dungeon. This was probably incorporated into the city defences although there is no record of such or of its function from that period on.

On the opposite side of the river to the Cow Tower is an area of Norwich beyond the city walls called Pockthorpe which contained within it the monastery of White Friars, founded by William de Cowgate, in 1268. The manor house at Pockthorpe was known by both Monks Grange and Lathes Yard and after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 the land passed into private hands. In 1551 the lease was passed to William Blennerhassett and stayed in the Blennerhassett family name until 1702. During this period the name of the manor house at Monks Grange came to be known as Hassetts Hall and the Cow Tower as Hassetts Tower, although the reason for such is not known, maybe the family were entrusted to it, or maybe some family members even lived within it but there is no record of this. Hassetts Hall was said to be a brick building with a court-yard before it and a flight of stone steps up to the door and the whole grounds surrounded by a large walled garden. These buildings, together with Pockthorpe gate and the city walls were demolished in 1792 when they were replaced by the Cavalry Barracks which covered ten acres of land surrounded by a large brick wall. The barracks lasted until 1973 when the land was redeveloped as housing with a small section of the original wall incorporated into the corner of Barrack street and Gurney Road.

Hassetts Hall was reputed to be haunted and after it had been demolished, soldiers recuperating in the Barracks hospital, which stood on the site of the old manor house, would tell tales of being disturbed by strange apparitions during the night. The house was also supposed to have had a closet which had never been opened, and no one knew what was behind the doors of two rooms which had been plastered up, legend stating that any attempt to open them would result in the perpetrator being struck blind, with the testament of two such people who had suffered such a fate.

Probably the more renowned tale that came out of Hassett Hall was that of the Old Man Hassett. To what family member this reference was made is unclear, but the tale related to the ghostly apparition of Old Man frequently riding his coach and four horses over Bishopgate and over the tops of houses. It was said that the coachman and horses were all without heads, and when the whip was cracked, flashes of fire came out which illuminated the whole city. A similar story stated that 'Old Blunderhazard' would be seen each Christmas eve, just before midnight, in a coach and six headless horses flashing fire from their nostrils, on his journey to visit Hassett's Tower at Norwich, and to return to Barsham in Suffolk before 'he may snuff the morning air'. It is never made clear exactly how headless horses can flash fire from their nostrils!

It is uncertain where and when the tales originated though it is known that a relative also with the name Blennerhassett resided at Barsham Hall, near Beccles in Suffolk. A good piece of detective work was undertaken by Ivan Bunn and his findings were published in The Lantern, the Borderline Science Investigation Group monthly publication from the late 1970's. This suggests that this legend could emanate from Thomas Blennerhasset(b.c1546 d.1599), the son of John Blennerhassett from Barsham although this is only speculation based on the fact that his last will and testament left a coach and horses to his wife. Quite why such a legend should come about is open to conjecture and speculation; maybe he was a bit of a tyrant, maybe there is some tragic deed or untimely death which sentenced Old Blunderhazard to his eternal journey.


The Wensum BridgesView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The bridges that span the Wensum through Norwich are steeped in history. Starting from the Marriots Way end and heading to the Railway Station there are seven bridges in total.

Standing next the old Bullards 'Anchor' brewery is St. Miles Coslany Bridge, which is the oldest cast iron bridge in Norwich, built in 1804 when it replaced a c16th century stone bridge.

The modern Duke Street Bridge which was installed in 1972 when the road was widened, the previous cast iron bridge dating from 1822 now forms an arch to the entrance for the Castle Mall car park in the city centre.

Blackfriars Bridge, named after the order of monks who settled in the area, was built in 1783 and replaced a three arch stone bridge of 1586 which itself replaced a timber bridge from the 15th century.

The current Fye Bridge, by the side of the Ribs of Beef pub, was constructed in 1933 but records of a bridge on this site date back to 1132 with evidence of a crossing point during Saxon times. The site is supposedly the location of a medieval ducking stool used to determine if a woman was a witch. Is she drowned she was innocent but if she survived it constituted prrof that she was indeed a witch and she would have been forced to carry her faggots, the name for the wood to start a fire, to the stake when she would be burned alive. Local folklore states that ghostly apparitions of the unfortunate women have been seen at the bridge, carrying their faggots and walking to their ultimate fate. The road north of the bridge is Magdalen Street and number 19 is reputedly haunted by the shadowy figure said to be the victim of a murder at the premesis. The premesis was a pub during the 19th century and was named The Key Merchants Arms which was said to harbour a den of vice in its upper rooms. One of the girls who worked here got into an altercation with a man who got the wrong idea and in the commotion he strangled her. Although he was caught, tried and executed at Norwich Jail, the spirit of his victim does not rest and is said to be one of the citys most violent poltergeists which has caused terror and fear for many of the occupants of the premesis which have included Stirling Travel, Oxfam and Ron's Reptiles in the years since the pub stopped trading. Since the 1960's there have been many reports of ghostly occurences such as phantom footsteps in the upper empty rooms of the building, objects moving on their own accord including a typewriter operating itself. During the Oxfam ownership a bin bag of donated clothing was found one morning to have been taken out and neatly folded in a pile although none of the staff had been at the shop. From the exterior numerous folk have witnessed a ghostly apparition of a young woman staring out of the upstairs window although the window in question had been bricked up from the inside. Because this obtained a mark of notoriety the window was also boarded up from the exterior. These days the window appear to be back in place Eventually a session with a Ouija board was performed which contacted a woman called Sarah who was the victim of the murder. The reason she is so angry is because she doesn’t understand she is dead. She thinks she’s alive so she will say something to you and if you ignore her, which you are likely to do because you cannot hear her, then she will think you are being rude and she’ll get angry Despite an exorcism by the bishop of Norwich, the shop still retains its ghostly occupant.However the person who toom it over in 2005 Brian Roberts as a craft shop has reported no menacing issues. In 1872, number 19 Magdalen Street was the Key Merchants Arms, a well known drinking den downstairs, but upstairs it was used for more adult pastimes,” he said. “Sarah was in the pub with a man friend who got the wrong idea and tried to take her upstairs. She struggled but he overpowered and murdered her. “The man was caught and executed at Norwich Jail, but Sarah is very much still with us.” He describes Sarah as the city’s most violent poltergeist and said through the years she has made life difficult for many of number 19’s occupants. The Man in Black said some light was shed on Sarah when contact was made with her via a seance. “The reason she is so angry is because she doesn’t understand she is dead. She thinks she’s alive so she will say something to you and if you ignore her, which you are likely to do because you cannot hear her, then she will think you are being rude and she’ll get angry.”

Whitefriars Bridge was opened in 1925 with the first bridge on this site dating back to 1106 when it was known as St. Martins Bridge. The original timber bridge was swept away in a flood during the 13th century. This was rebuilt and lasted until the mid 16th century when the Earl of Warwick ordered its destruction to prevent the rebels, led by Robert Kett and protesting against the land enclosures, from entering the city. It was eventually rebuilt as a stone structure in 1591 and this lasted until the start of the 20th century when it had to be pulled down due to river widening, and replaced by the present bridge.

Peter's Bridge is a new footbridge opened in January 2012 and is named after the former Jarrolds chairman Peter Jarrold. Staff at the Adam and Eve pub report a sighting of a ghostly hand holding a head in the car park, the terrifying sensation of somebody running hands through their hair and odd noises. Lord Sheffield, who died at the inn in 1549 is believed to be the culprit here.

Bishop's Bridge is the only surviving medieval bridge in the city, built in 1340 and originally part of Norwich's defensive walls but even this is predated by an older timber bridge. This was the first stone bridge to be constructed in Norwich and was part of the city’s defensive walls, originally with three fortified arches and a large gatehouse at the western end.

Foundry Bridge was opened in 1888 and gains it's name from the foundry which used to stand just downstream of it.

The Cow TowerBishop's Bridge
On the left The Cow Tower; On the right Bishop's Bridge


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery


Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-16


  1. Wonderful city. But I am biased.

  2. Great blog post.

    Since you seem to be very well informed, can I ask what are those stone arches (or part of walls, I am not sure what they really are...) that are visible on Barn Road, a little after the retail part that is there. The arches are very near the traffic lights (they stand on your left, if you are waiting at the traffic lights to turn right and get on Dereham Road, I hope you know which ones I am on about).

    I see them daily and wander what part of what structure from when are they, but cant find anything on the internet. Thanks :-)

    1. I believe these are parts of the old City Wall and date from the 14th century. The City wall protected the south and west side of the city whilst the river offered protection for the north and east sides. There are other sections of the old wall still visible, notably the section by the St Stephens Street roundabout. I have found an interesting hand drawn map of the old city gates at


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