A site of an extraordinary, if horrifying, turning point in Norwich’s history. In 1144, in Norwich’s Thorpe Woods (in an area now known as northern Mousehold Heath), the body of the 12-year old William of Norwich was found, and whose death at the time was attributed to Norwich’s Jewish community. The murder was seen as evidence of ritualistic sacrifice, apparently the first medieval instance of a blood libel against Jews. An increasing sense of anti-Semitism in the area (as well as the country in general) was to culminate in 1190, when the majority of Norwich Jewish community was massacred.
Local miracles attributed to the murdered boy quickly saw William regarded as a saint. A wooden chapel was erected on the site on which William’s body was originally found. This chapel never survived the sixteenth century, and is almost entirely forgotten today. The only remaining signs of its existence are four small moss-covered stone markers indicating its former boundaries. I managed to find three of the four. William of Norwich’s clear relationship to violent medieval anti-Semitism means he is little known today, even in his home city.