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Celebrating Norwich’s rich history of literature just became even more interesting as eight benches are nestled around the city for you to find… Introducing the Norwich Book Benches!
All eight of these benches are inspired by books and authors from the local area, which is also represented in their appearance. And they’re truly gorgeous. Some are open, as if marking the place you want to pick up next; some are piles of books with engravings depicting famous authors from our county; others are books waiting to be chosen from a shelf; one is resting on its spine, with open pages to sit on.
To see them all as part of a trail takes around 1 hour 15 minutes, is about 5.7km long (around 7000 steps), and is fully accessible. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon walk while stopping off at shops, cafés, and restaurants. Plus, it means you might just discover a new favourite!
It is not a surprise that the theme of books was chosen for the benches, as Norwich is a UNESCO City of Literature and our #CityofStories has been a literary city for over 900 years. Our city has birthed a thriving community of authors, poets, historians, novelists, and story tellers, as well as the National Centre for Writing at Dragon Hall, King Street, Norwich, where people come together to share, learn, and collaborate.
The benches made from stone have an extra special dimension as they have been engraved with book titles or authors who have either lived in or relate to Norwich, or whose literature has been set in Norfolk. The works have been chosen to include a wide range of genres, interests and reading enthusiasts.
Walking around the benches can start at any point, however the trail map suggests starting at Gentleman’s Walk, a stopping place that is often frequented by visitors to Norwich Market, grabbing some street food or a coffee and watching the hustle and bustle of the city passing by. Made from wood and metal, this pair of benches sits on its spine and where you sit and unwind on the open pages.
From here, you can work your way around the market, enjoying the sights of Guildhall, City Hall, The Forum and St Peter Mancroft – which are all beautifully picturesque.
Arriving at the entrance of St Stephen’s Church on Rampant Horse Street, you can find our second pair of benches made of wood and representing a shelf of books with a curved back, designed in sympathy with the curved flint wall behind.
Head down the street and around our flagship Marks and Spencer store, and turn right, you will find Surrey Street on the left, a street that is home to Aviva and Marble Hall (well worth a peek when you are passing). Past the bus station and to the top of the street you will find our most contemporary bench made of metal and finished in a range of eight colours, each representing a district of Norwich.
After walking past the blue plaque celebrating Pablo Fanque, who was born in Norwich in 1810 and the first man of colour to own a circus in Great Britain, head beyond John Lewis and down to Rose Lane, while soaking up the most perfect view of Norwich Castle and the Castle Gardens – with Norwich Cathedral in the background – turning right down Rouen Road.
This is where you find the next bench, this time made of stone and featuring a range of authors and titles whose books have been engraved into the stone, quarried from the United Kingdom, designed, and created by Ryan James.
The six books mentioned on this bench are:
From here, you walk past the Julian of Norwich church and past the National Centre for Writing, before crossing the river Wensum and arriving at the Riverside complex. On the water’s edge, you can find another beautiful stone bench, where you don’t have to wait long to see canoes, paddleboards and rowing boats passing by!
Walk along the river towards Norwich Rail Station and drop down through The Compleat Angler pub terrace and down a few steps (For a non-step alternative route, please follow Prince of Wales Road and turn right via St Faiths Lane to The Close).
Along this stretch of river, you’ll come across Pulls Ferry, the gateway to the Cathedral Close. Follow this up towards the Cathedral and you can break your trail journey by taking some time to enjoy the largest monastic Cloisters in the country, and spend some time exploring this gorgeous historical landmark.
Walking around the East End of the Cathedral, you exit The Close and turn left along Bishopsgate. This route takes you past the iconic Adam and Eve pub, which claims to be the oldest in the city, with the earliest record going back to 1249. Past the law courts you come across St Martin-at-Palace Plain and the largest of our benches.
This double fronted bench hosts a stack of stone books in the shelf at the back and features an incredible 25 titles with four covers, which are:
The other titles to feature on other books in the stack are:
From this bench you can walk over the Wig and Pen pub and carry on your journey by foot by the river on Quayside, observing the fabulous opportunities of a picturesque photograph over the water.
Left by the Ribs of Beef pub, the perfect stop for a drink, you can walk up Norwich’s best known medieval street, Elm Hill, enjoying the independent shops and cobbled streets. At the top of the street is a car park where you link through to St George’s Street, and subsequently the next bench made of wood.
Head up the street back into the city and up Bridewell Alley, passing the Museum of Norwich, before you turn right on Bedford Street and walk through the centre of the wonderful Norwich Lanes. And why not enjoy a browse of the award-winning independents you’ll find here? Whenever you’re ready, get back on your route and pass the iconic family-owned department store of Jarrolds, who are also responsible for many publications from its print side.
Then, follow the road up to Pottergate, where you’ll reach the Grosvenor Fish Bar. From here, turn left to Lower Goat Lane and follow it all the way up St Giles to Upper St Giles, where you’ll find the eighth and final bench.
On this gorgeous street, you’ll find three equally gorgeous book stacks made of stone from United Kingdom quarries and engraved by stonemason Ryan James. Chosen by the Norwich Centre for Writing, each stack features four books with a cover illustration on the top, creating the bench seat
The title books are:
Ritual Murder by S T Haymon. S T Haymon was born and raised in Norwich and became an extraordinarily successful crime writer winning a Crime Writers Association Silver Dagger and being reviewed in the New York Times. Her crime novels are all set in Norwich and Norfolk and take key local and regional myths and legends as their starting points. Her memoirs are a brilliant snapshot of Norwich in the early parts of the 20th Century. Norwich-based publisher Propolis reissued her work in 2023.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Anna Sewell is the author of the multi-million selling Black Beauty, a book that transformed animal rights globally. Published by Jarrolds of Norwich, this book is said to have sold over 50 million copies, and is therefore one of the bestselling books of all time. UEAPublishing Project reissued a special edition of Black Beauty in collaboration with Redwings Horse Sanctuary in 2023.
The other titles to feature on other books in these stacks are:
And that concludes your walk around Norwich! We hope you spend some time enjoying some of the less beaten track locations around the city and experience the hospitality locations, as well as diving into a retail shop or two! You may even feel inspired to read one of the books mentioned, in which case we’d highly recommend visiting one of our many independent book shops, or borrow a copy from the library!
Thanks to all the partners who have brought the book benches to Norwich as part of the EXPERIENCE project including Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council, National Centre for Writing and Norwich Business Improvement District (BID).
EXPERIENCE was a €24.5 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (€16.9 million) through the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, delivered from September 2019 to June 2023.
Managed by Norfolk County Council, EXPERIENCE aimed to capitalise on the emerging global trend for local tourism and engagement with the great outdoors, heritage, and culture. The project also supported local tourism and hospitality businesses across Norfolk in developing new, low-environmental impact, off-season tourism experiences.