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Norfolk Tales

Chapter B : Potted History

(Paras. 1 to 10)

2. Danes :  3. Normans :  4. Weavers :  5. The French   7. The Mixture :  8. The Decline :  9. The Yanks
10. The Three R's

Want to confirm a Norfolk person's true heritage??
  • Listen for the Oo sound, a reliable  tell-tale; or
  • Ask the "passport" question. (If you ARE a native,
            be ready to respond with the correct answer - of course)

1 : Anglo-Saxons

The Romano-British regime was overwhelmed
from 400 AD, or thereabouts, by a motley crowd
of "anglo-saxons" from the Netherlands, North
Germany and Jutland.
The basis of the E. Anglian dialect(s) can be
taken, for practical purposes, to be Anglo-Saxon.

This is only the first time that a Dutch influence
was brought to bear. See 4. below  (Weavers).

2 : Danes

East Anglia later became part of the "Danelaw".
With the intermingling of the earlier Saxon
invaders, the population grew apace : such that,
by the Norman Conquest, it was the most
densely-populated region in all of England.

Village names ending in  -by  proliferate in
East Norfolk. This Viking feature is mirrored in
Lowestoft etc. with the word  score  ("scar" in
Yorkshire) meaning a steep cliff descent.

Such terror was caused by their invasion that,
within living memory, the carrion-crow has
been called  Harra (Harold) The Denchman.

3 : Normans

Little needs to be said, 1066 being
one of the "two memorable dates".
It is obvious that, as the Normans ruled all of
England and e.g. built Norwich Cathedral and
Castle, their influence was great indeed.

Nevertheless, we speak English, not French
today; despite any of the latter which may have
been "bolted-on" e.g. beef, pork, mutton . . .

4 : Weavers

The 14th Century saw Flemish weavers
encouraged by the Crown (Edward III) to settle.
Cloth was therefore able to be made here,
rather than just shipping E. Anglian wool
across the North Sea.

The once-important town (now village) of
Worstead was at the forefront of the new trade.

A further impetus was given by Elizabeth I,
from 1564, re Dutch and Walloon [Flanders]
weavers, who were suffering Spanish
persecution i.e. they were the first sets of
Protestant refugees.

5 : The French

Though smaller in numbers than the earlier
refugees/settlers, they had the distinctive
name of  "Huguenots".
The impressive-sounding reason
for their hasty departure was -
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (17th C.);
and they arrived in the late-1680's.

Their arrival seems to have little in effect in
persuading the successors of William I to
speak French . . . ever.

The combined effects of at least three French
"invasions" did, however, leave some words
stuck in the vernacular e.g.  lucom,
(an attic window, Fr.  lucarne)
and  plancher   (a wooden floor).


6 : Strangers

By the 16th Century, this term had been coined,
so that indigenous folk did not have to sort-out
Dutch from French or Flemish from Walloon,
or wonder where Flanders actually was !

Of course, the Dutch and French languages
"remained" - in the sense that  the two  did not
mix (any more than in modern Belgium).

Predictably, what happened was the absorption
of both by the "main" language; giving rise to
the various interesting "non-saxon" aspects of
the local dialect . . .

7 : The Mixture

In population terms, the mixture was now
larger than ever, as well as more skilled
and prosperous. By the start of the
17th Century around one-third of the
population of Norwich was of foreign origin.
The majority of these had a "first language"
of Dutch, rather than French.

Norwich duly became the  second city  of
England (i.e. after London). [ Birmingham,
Manchester, Bristol etc. please note!! ].
It held this position until towards the end of
the 18th C., when the Industrial Revolution
changed all that . . .

8 : The Decline

The relative poverty of the late 18th C. and
most of the 19th C. is a matter of great
sociological interest, but of little relevance
to the dialect.
But see  references  to dumplings and gruel.

Agriculture had always been the chief
occupation in Norfolk; now it was nearly the
Eventually the shoe-trade (based in Norwich)
became a major player, and replaced weaving
as the primary industrial activity.

9 : The Yanks

Arriving in the latter stages (N. B.) of the
Second World War, they were welcomed
with very mixed feelings.

It is doubtful if they had any lasting effect
on the language; where American influence was
already weighing-in via the "movies" and public
fascination with the Hollywood lifestyle.

The rest (from T.V. soaps to McDonalds) is
20th C. social history; mercifully beyond the
scope of this project!.

10 : The Three R's

I can't resist - under the cover of "language" -
mentioning a perennially "hot topic".
In early 1999 some Junior School discovered
that the best way to inculcate reading-skills is :-
  • some very fancy name with the word
    phonetics  in it, better known as -
  • C -A- T = Cat (not See, Ay, Tee of course!)
Wal Oi Navver.  Can that possibly be the same
C -A- T = Cat that I  larned  at school in 1938?

Surely not?!

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