9th May 2017

Great Norwich History Competition

The Norwich High School for Girls pupil triumphed in the tough event which saw six teams from schools across Norwich give presentations to a panel of three academics and history experts.

“The judges had no hesitation in naming Grace Jackson as the winner after her skilled presentation,” said Nigel Back, chair of the Freemen of Norwich committee. “She commanded great timing, knowledge and argument as well as a confident performance which impressed the judges and the audience.”
The Great Norwich History Competition was organised by the Freemen of Norwich as part of their Freemen700 programme of celebrations to mark their 700th anniversary.
It commemorates the signature of the first Freemen in the ‘Old Free Book’ or register of members kept at the Norwich Archive Office. He was a butcher called Walter Fleighe and he signed his name in July 1317.
In centuries past the Freemen of Norwich governed the city. The ancient privileges are gone, but the title and its associated Norwich Town Close Estate Charity survive.
The competition launched in March with more than 100 sixth-formers attending lectures and workshops at the Theatre Royal in March where teachers and academics set out the case for and against whether Norwich was still a great city.
The pupils from Norwich School, Hewett Academy, Norwich High School for Girls and Notre Dame High then went away to research and prepare presentations focused on the proposition that ‘Norwich ceased to be a great city after 1750’. They were also given the opportunity to attend a presentation skills workshop with Simon Floyd, from the Common Lot Theatre Company.
Six teams went head-to-head in the final gala evening at Open, Bank Plain where they presented their own arguments to the judges – academic historian Dr Elizabeth Griffiths, county archivist Gary Tuson and Simon Floyd.
Around 50 people attended the event, including the schools, freemen and parents. The pupils were judged on their presentation skills, historical accuracy and range of argument.
Winner Grace Jackson, who presented on her own, scooped the £150 top prize. She will also be a guest of honour at the Freemen’s Great Feast which will take place at St Andrew’s Hall, on 29 September.
Second prize of £120 went to Anabele Davidson and Michael Yates, from Notre Dame High School. The third-ranked team was Zoe Blacklock, Ella Sharrock and Chelsea Crawford, from Norwich High School for Girls who won £90. Fourth prize of £60 was won by Ben Holland, from The Hewett Academy.
The two runner-up teams of Dominik Gabriel, Ben Worsley and Daniel Redston, from Notre Dame High School; and Robin Steed, James Curtis and Leo Taylor, from Norwich School were awarded £40 each. The history departments in each of the four schools were also awarded a £125 bursary by the Freemen for taking part.

“All the debates were well researched and set out strong cases for whether Norwich is still great – or not. One of the key themes in more than one presentation was how Norwich has been home to so many great women, such as Edith Cavell,” said Nigel Back.
“It was also pointed out that it is a city known for being first for major inventions and achievements – from the first hip replacement to internet start-ups. Norwich is at the cutting edge of technology,” he added.
“Shoes, mustard and creative arts were also top of many presentations, as well as the subject of the early immigrants from the Low Countries, known as The Strangers. Norwich welcomed them and their textile skills in the seventeenth century and this helped Norwich grow into England’s second city.”
“The competition is an important part of our 700 celebrations this year,” said Nigel Back. “It has been a great opportunity to raise awareness of the incredible history of Norwich.”
Alexandra Atherton, head of history at The Hewett Academy, said her students had embraced the project with enthusiasm. “They pulled out all the stops and it was a team effort on their part. They did the research together and it was 100% their work. It’s been great to take part in an event that involved a mix of Norwich schools.”

Following on from the launch of the Great Norwich History Competition in March, here’s a video of the key for-and-against presentations by Simon Everett, head of history at Notre Dame High School and Alex Atherton, head of history at Hewett Academy.

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