Links to Places in Norfolk Associated with Jane Austen

Great Yarmouth

THIS county is terminated on the north and north-east by the German ocean; on the south and south-east by Suffolk ; on the west by the Lincolnshire Washes, and by part of that county, and by Cambridgeshire. It is almost entirely insulated by the sea, and by the rivers which form its internal boundary. Its figure is very compact, presenting almost an unbroken convexity to the ocean, and a convex line somewhat indented, to the land; thus forming a pretty exact oval, of which the middle diameter from north to south measures about forty-eight miles, and that from east to west about seventy-four. The square miles are returned at 2013. It is divided into thirty-three hundreds. In number of parishes it exceeds any other county in the kingdom, being calculated at 756.

The face of the country in this large space varies less than in most tracts of equal extent in the kingdom. Not a single hill of moderate size is to be seen in the whole county, yet in many parts its surface is broken into gentle swells and depressions. At the western extremity, adjoining the counties of Cambridge and Lincoln, a considerable tract of flat fen land reaches from the border of Norfolk up to Lynn; and on the east near Yarmouth a narrow line of marshes runs from the sea to some distance up the country. Some marsh land also lies upon the northern coast, near Cley. Several of the western hundreds from Thetford northwards are open and bare, consisting of extensive heaths, the soil of which is a light sand or hungry gravel. The rest of the county in general is arable land, varying in its degrees of fertility. To the north-east the soil is a light sandy loam, fertile, and remarkably easy of tillage. The south-east has a moister and deeper soil. The middle and south abound in clay; and various parts yield chalk and marl. The northern and eastern parts are all enclosed: and being richer in timber than most of the maritime parts of the island, afford many cheerful and pleasant views, though none very extensive or romantic.

The products of the county vary according to the soil and situation. The lighter arable lands produce barley in great plenty, much of which is malted and exported. Wheat is cultivated in the stronger soils, and thrives best on the stiff loamy lands. But the article for which Norfolk is particularly celebrated is turnips, which are more generally grown here than in any other part of the kingdom, and form the basis of the Norfolk husbandry. This valuable root was only cultivated in gardens as a culinary plant in this country, till the reign of George I; when lord viscount Townsend, who had attended the king to Hanover as secretary of state, observing the utility of the field cultivation of turnips in that electorate, and on his return brought with him the seed, and recommended it to his tenants in Norfolk who occupied land of a similar quality. The experiment succeeded according to expectation; the practice gradually spread over the county, and made its way into several other parts of the kingdom. The peculiar excellence of this culture is, that the ground never lies fallow, as the turnips serve to prepare it for corn. This root is principally used for the fattening of cattle, of which great numbers bred in Scotland and other parts are fed in this county for the London and other markets. Crops of clover or other artificial grasses are generally taken alternately with the turnips. Much buck-wheat is also grown in the light soils of Norfolk, and is used for feeding swine and poultry.

The Lenny parts yield great quantities of butter, which is sent to London under the name of Cambridge butter. The sheep of Norfolk are a hardy, active, and rather small breed, horned, with a black nose and feet, carrying a fleece of nearly two pounds, and much valued for their mutton. Their wool is chiefly used in the Yorkshire cloths. Great numbers of the lambs are sold out of the county. The pig of this district is comparatively a small, thin, bristled breed; very prolific, and the flesh esteemed savoury. Their number, however, has been diminished by the decline of dairy farms, and the enclosure of the waste lands. Turkies are reared here to a larger size, and it is thought, with a more delicate flavour than in any other county. It has been computed that more have been bred in this and the adjoining county of Suffolk, than in the whole kingdom besides. Rabbits are extremely numerous on the sandy heaths in various parts, and produce considerable profits. This county is likewise celebrated for game, especially for pheasants, which abound in some manors where they are preserved, so as to prove a considerable nuisance to the farmers.

No greater proof of the industry and good husbandry of Norfolk need be produced, than an estimate of the value of the several articles of its own growth which it sends out of the county. By a calculation as exact as could be formed, the exported grain of various kinds, flour and malt, are of the annual value of more than £900,000, and that of the other provision-articles (reckoning only the profit of fattening foreign bred cattle), and of the wool, is about @225,000 more. The value of manufactures and fisheries is not included in this estimate.

The principal rivers of Norfolk are the following: the Great Ouse, which after forming a part of its south-western boundary, crosses the western side, and falls into the sea below Lynn. The Nen, forming the western boundary from Lincolnshire, empties into the sea at Lincoln Wash. It communicates by several channels with the Ouse. The Little Ouse rises in a swampy meadow near Lopham in the southern part of the county, and separating Norfolk and Suffolk as it flows westward, empties into the Great Ouse. It is navigable from Thetford. The source of the Waveney is separated from that of the Little Ouse only by. a causeway. It runs in a contrary direction; and forming the rest of the Suffolk boundary, at length joins the Yare a little above Yarmouth. It is navigable from Bungay in Suffolk. The Yare, rising near Attleborough, joins the Wensum and other small streams at and near Norwich, and becoming navigable there, flows to Yarmouth; when having received the Waveney and Bure, it discharges itself into the German ocean below that town. It may however be observed, that in the opinion of some critics, the Yare and the Wensum may properly change places with each other.

The Bure, rising beyond Blickling Hall, becomes navigable at Aylesham. After passing under Wroxham bridge, and being joined by the Thone flowing from a lake near North Walshamn, it passes through Acle bridge, and at length joins the Yare at Yarmouth. These rivers in general rising in marshy lands, and running through a level country with a slow pace, diffuse themselves over the lower tracts in their course, forming shallow lakes or pools. which are plentifully stocked with fish and water fowl. On some of them are kept decoys for wild-ducks. They are easily rendered navigable, and much resemble canals.

The sea-coast of Norfolk is formed either by clayey cliffs, continually a prey to the ocean, or by low sandy shores, covered with loose pebbles (called Shingle), and frequently rising into a kind of natural bank composed of sand, and held together by the root of the sea-reed grass. Behind these sand hills are in various parts salt marshes of considerable extent, occasionally inundated by the tides, which find entrance through gaps between the hillocks. Hunstanton Cliff, at the mouth of the Wash, is the only rocky eminence on the coast. Various ports are made on the northern side by creeksind little bays, but they are able only to admit small vessels, and are continually filling up with sand. Banks of sand lie off at sea from the Norfolk coast in various parts, which are the dread of the coasting mariners, and occasion frequent shipwrecks. Of these the most remarkable form the celebrated Yarmouth roads, a great resort for shipping, which ride there securely, though the entrance is difficult and hazardous.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Atkin M.D.

MapCary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc.,(1812) by John Cary.

Jane Austen References

The Letters

Letter to Cassandra Austen dated 7th January 1807