A medieval chapel, a rebel’s ‘castle’, a gasworks manager’s garden and a piggery, the place in Norwich known as Kett’s Heights has been all these things in the space of 900 years. It now contains the remains of the medieval chapel, and The Conservation Volunteers in Norwich were out on a cold day in November to help protect the ruins from further destruction.
The chapel was built by the first bishop of Norwich in the late 11th century and dedicated it to St Michael. It was dramatically positioned; it jutted out over the highest point of the city and overlooked the river, the castle and the cathedral. For several centuries the monks of St Leonards held daily services in the oblong-shaped building.
Next the chapel was involved in Robert Ketts 1549 rebellion, he was denied access to the city itself and Kett was installed in what was left of the chapel as his headquarters. It was only when Kett abandoned the heights to fight on level ground at Dussindale that he was defeated and the heights were again left in peace.
During the 19th century the people of Norwich used the site for leisure and the romantic ruins were dubbed Ketts Castle. By the end of the century the whole area was sprawling with terraced houses for the new city dwellers and the manager of the gasworks turned the slopes of the heights into a garden.
During the second world war a piggery was created on the heights to meet the local demand for food, after the war the heights were neglected and soon became overgrown. It is now managed for wildlife and has fine views over the city, although there is not much left of the ruins, volunteers carefully cleared bracken, ivy and other vegetation from the ruins to ensure they remain.