The extensive precinct at Norwich Cathedral – needed to provide space for the varied activities of a cathedral that was also a monastery – was surrounded by a wall from the outset, with gates controlling access. The precinct in c.1100 was similar in extent to the Close today, although it was extended northwards in 1318 to enclose the present grounds of the bishop’s palace and the later school.
The precinct wall
Today the precinct wall is incomplete and even where it does survive is often hidden within buildings built up against both sides. The best preserved and most easily visible part is the later extension enclosing the bishop’s palace: sections dating from the 14th century can be seen along the northern part of Bishopgate and along Palace Street. An earlier section is visible from Tombland, by the Cavell monument south of the Erpingham Gate: this appears to be of 12th-century, or possibly 13th-century, date.
The Erpingham Gate
Opposite the west front of the Cathedral, the Erpingham Gate dates from c.1420-35. The gate has a single tall, once stone-vaulted, arch and was constructed as part of a unified scheme with the west porch of the Cathedral.
The Ethelbert Gate
Providing access from the southern end of Tombland, the Ethelbert Gate is unique at Norwich for preserving evidence of the 12th-century gatehouse, but is essentially a rebuild of c.1320. The upper storey originally housed a chapel, and the gate is remarkable for its early and sophisticated use of flint flushwork.
The bishop’s gate
The bishop’s gate provides access from St Martin at Palace Plain to the bishop’s palace, as it has done from its construction c.1435. There are separate entrances for carts and horses, and for pedestrians.
The water gate
The river was an important route to the Cathedral, especially for bulky and heavy goods and materials (including building stone). The Cathedral’s surviving water gate – often referred to as Pull’s Ferry – dates from the 15th century and incorporates a wide arch that allowed boats to travel further into the precinct along a canal (filled in c.1772-3).