Norwich was the centre of a large textile industry but in the 16th Century (would this be better coming before the previous para’s reference to 18th and 19th centuries?) this industry was struggling. More workers were needed and they came over from an area now covered by Belgium, France and the Netherlands. These refugees were known as ‘Strangers’ – and they taught local workers to produce new types of cloth in different ways which boosted the textile industry. They also helped to rebuild an area north of the River Wensum after it was devastated by fire in 1507. They supported English parishes by donating money to them and Dutch and French schools were established in the area.
The Huguenots were responsible for draining Norfolk’s fens. Before moving to England their skills in this area had been deployed in draining the marshes from Dunkirk to Calais. Between 1627 and 1652 they reclaimed 40,000 acres of fenland. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the radical ideas of the French boosted industry so much that, at this time Norwich was the most important manufacturing city outside London.
Norwich City Football Club is known as ‘The Canaries’. A name that came from the Strangers. They were famous for breeding canaries, and the football club’s name is one of their most famous legacies. Many Norwich residents are descendants of these Strangers, whose influence can still be seen in buildings around the region, as well as in the way Norfolk people talk.