St Peter's Street.
St Peter, or Simeon Peter, was the first Pope, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He was crucified by the Roman emperor Nero, and in the next world presides over the Pearly Gates as a bouncer-slash-bureaucrat. He is the patron saint of horologists, longevity, frenzy, and the cities of Cologne, Sunderland and Las Vegas. He gives his name to St Peter Mancroft, the massive and beautiful limestone church at the south end of the street. "Mancroft" comes from the Old English ġemǣne croft, or 'great field', which was the name for the area back when the village of Norwich was centred on Tombland. The Normans plonked the Castle and the Market on the ġemǣne croft so they could keep an eye on the rebellious Anglo-Saxons. The rich folk of the city built the church over 25 years in the 15th century.
The first level of the church tower contains a museum of bell-ringing, which is far more complex an art than you might think. According to a stone plaque on the tower wall:
On monday April.11.1831, were rung by four of
St Peter's Mancroft Ringers, 2,520 changes of
Stedman Triples. this astonishing piece of science
Was accomplished in very superb style and on
The scientific principles of double hand ringing
And to preclud all doubt of the truth that might
Have been entertained owing to the difficulty of
The process, it was Rung in the presence of JAMES
TRUEMAN an Impartial Umpire ...
The museum of English change-ringing.
St Peter's Street lies at the top end of the Market, but until the 1930s it was surrounded by slums of wonky old houses. The whole neighbourhood was demolished to make way for the art deco City Hall, opened by King George VI in a massive ceremony in 1938.
Pope's Head Yard in 1935, shortly before it was bulldozed. The photo below is in almost the same spot, from the reverse angle.
It is a popular fact among Norvicians that the City Hall, whose green copper bell tower surveys the whole city like an Orwellian beacon, was admired by Adolf Hitler. In the event that the Nazis invaded East Anglia, Hitler planned to make the Hall his regional centre of government, and wanted particularly to give a speech to the local Blackshirts from the balcony.
For the year 2000, the Forum was unveiled, a horseshoe of glass and metal opposite St Peter Mancroft. It contains the Millennium Library—the most popular civic library in the UK, giving weight to Norwich's self-proclaimed status as a literary "city of stories"—as well as a BBC radio studio and a set of rather disgusting toilets.
Under City Hall, the market drops down in tiers from a concrete war memorial "garden" (in the loosest sense of the term) where pigeons and seagulls battle for supremacy. The garden is a good place to overlook the Market, towards Gentleman's Walk and the Castle on its mound. Traders in incense, vintage trousers, gin and Nigerian cuisine mingle at the mouths of the Market's sheltered passageways. Under your feet is the Undercroft Gallery, a subterranean exhibition space hollowed out of the concrete, and prone to flooding. The east stairs dropping down onto Gaol Hill are somehow always flooded too (how does a staircase flood? you may ask, and the answer is that UK rain does not abide by the laws of nature or decency).
These are the feral pigeons, Columba livia domestica, the hardiest and most streetwise of all birds. They like the stone walls of the labyrinth because it reminds them of their ancestral homes in cliff-tops. They will surround you in droves, asking for a fag-end or a soggy chip. Contrary to popular belief, feral pigeons do not pose a significant health risk to humans, although it is true that they do shit everywhere, coating the heads of statues in their piebald gunk. The city's nooks and ledges bristle with anti-pigeon spikes — the way a city treats its pigeons is a good measure of the way it treats its people.