TG2309 : The Great Hospital, Norwich - The Swan Pit

taken 11 years ago, near to Norwich, Norfolk, Great Britain

The Great Hospital, Norwich - The Swan Pit
The Great Hospital, Norwich - The Swan Pit
The Great Hospital > Link was founded in 1249 by Bishop Walter de Suffield. The hospital is situated by the river Wensum, to the north-east of Norwich Cathedral. It has cared for the people of Norwich for over 755 years - very few survived the upheavals of the Reformation but the Great Hospital, now a retirement home for the elderly, has retained both its medieval fabric and a major archive. Another rare survival is its swan pit which (together with the adjoining sluice) is Grade II listed and the only structure of its kind that has survived in the UK.

In medieval times swans were reserved for the table of the king and a handful of privileged nobles and clerics. Two creeks extended into the Hospital's precinct from the south bank of the River Wensum. At least one of them was navigable and small boats were able to travel within yards of the buildings in order to unload food, fuel and building supplies. One of the creeks fed fish ponds and both attracted many swans which in Stuart times continued to be protected. The Hospital acquired the right to herd swans soon after it was founded and they had the right to mark their swans with a distinctive sign that was lightly cut into the birds' beaks. Every year in August a so-called swan-upping took place during which ownership of all of the cygnets was established.

The cygnets were then confined and fattened on grain. The Great Hospital's cygnets were kept in a purpose-built Swan Pit, constructed in 1793 by William Ivory. It was in use until WWII when it was forced to close due to the grain shortage. By this time the Hospital was supplying oven-ready swans for the tables of the rich all over the country. The birds were dispatched by rail, travelling in wicker baskets.

The pit is adjoined in the north by a stone sided channel with two C19 sluice gates that link the pit with the River Wensum. The sluices ensure that the pit is filled at high tide, and unable to empty at low tide.
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TG2309, 1839 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Friday, 20 May, 2011   (more nearby)
Friday, 20 May, 2011
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  City, Town centre 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 237 091 [100m precision]
WGS84: 52:38.0202N 1:18.3358E
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TG 238 091
View Direction
WEST (about 270 degrees)
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Image classification(about): Geograph
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