For centuries Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and the capital of the most populous county in England. In the Middle Ages it served a hinterland of East Anglian wool producers, whose produce was transported to the city and then taken via the Wensum and Yare to Great Yarmouth from where it was exported to the Continent.
By Anglo Saxon times Norwich was already one of the country's most important towns, developed from a collection of small settlements along the Wensum. Its position in rich agricultural land and close proximity to river and sea made it an excellent location for trade.
In 1096, Herbert de Losinga, the Bishop of Thetford, began construction of the Cathedral. Norwich was granted city status in 1194 because of its bustling market, the expanding textile industry and strong agricultural roots. During the Middles Ages, the wealth generated by the wool trade financed the construction of many fine churches; consequently, Norwich still has more medieval churches than any other city in Western Europe north of the Alps.
At this time religion was a powerful influence on civic life with everyone being made to pay a tax or 'tithe' to the church, usually a tenth of their earnings in either cash or goods. Even the poorest paid up, lest they go south rather than north, and so medieval Norwich had 57 churches – one for every week of the year. At the time the city also had so many public houses there was one for every day.
The canary bird was introduced by Flemish refugees, fleeing from Spanish persecution in 16th century Holland. They brought with them not only advanced techniques in textile working but also their pet canaries, which is why Norwich City Football Club is nicknamed The Canaries.