Wander through Wymondham and you you could be forgiven for thinking that it's always been a quiet little place where nothing has ever happened. You'd be wrong of course.
I've written before about Robert Kett and how he led a rebellion against the wealthy landowners of these parts. How he and his followers took over the City of Norwich, only to be defeated by an army of mercenaries hired by the king. Kett was hanged from the battlements of Norwich Castle, but his brother was brought back to Wymondham and hanged from the Abbey tower as a warning to the town to mind its ways in the future. Kett is remembered on the town sign.
In the centre of the town stands this rather strange-looking octagonal building which is known as the Market Cross. King John issued a charter proclaiming the market in 1204 though it may have been in existence before that date. This building dates from 1617 and cost £16 7s 0d, money which had to be borrowed from a prominent citizen.
The reason the Market Cross had to be rebuilt in 1617 was because, in 1615, the previous building had been burned down along with a large part of the town. Such fires were not uncommon in the days of open fireplaces, candles and oil lamps, straw mattresses, rush matting, wooden beams, thatched roofs.....It's a wonder it didn't happen more often!
But this fire was no accident and three gypsies and a local woman, all of whom held a grudge against the town, were arrested, found guilty and hanged for the crime. Some buildings such as the Green Dragon pub (below), which dates from the late fifteenth century, survived the inferno.
Like many towns in this part of the world Wymondham relied on the wool-trade for its wealth and when the market for wool went through one of its periodic troughs in the nineteenth century the town hit very hard times. The number of hand looms in the town fell from over 600 in 1836 to about 60 in 1845. The town did not recover which is why the buildings of that era still stand today.
There were also other industries associated with Wymondham in the past, particularly the making of small wooden objects such as spoons. This is commemorated on the reverse of the town sign and in the name of the nearby settlement of Spooner Row. On top of the sign, incidentally, is a monk behind whom is a representation of the Abbey as it must have looked before its east end was destroyed.
However it's not a town that has been completely by-passed by the modern world. Just down the road is the headquarters of Lotus sports and racing cars, all of which are well out of my price range. I'll take the train!