River Wensum

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The Wensum under trees.JPG
The River Wensum in Norwich
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Location of the river mouth within Norfolk
Country England
Counties Norfolk
Towns Sculthorpe, Fakenham, North Elmham, Lenwade, Norwich
Physical characteristics
  location Whissonsett, Norfolk
  coordinates 52°47′30″N0°50′47″E / 52.7917°N 0.8464°E / 52.7917; 0.8464
Mouth River Yare
Whitlingham, Norwich
52°37′17″N1°19′23″E / 52.6213°N 1.3230°E / 52.6213; 1.3230 Coordinates: 52°37′17″N1°19′23″E / 52.6213°N 1.3230°E / 52.6213; 1.3230
  locationCostessey Mill
  average4.05 m3/s (143 cu ft/s)
  minimum0.36 m3/s (13 cu ft/s)6 August 1991
  maximum34.0 m3/s (1,200 cu ft/s)29 January 1984
  location Swanton Morley
  average2.76 m3/s (97 cu ft/s)
  location Fakenham
  average0.87 m3/s (31 cu ft/s)
Basin features
  left River Tat, River Ainse (or Eyn)
  right River Tud

The River Wensum is a chalk river [1] in Norfolk, England and a tributary of the River Yare, [2] despite being the larger of the two rivers. The river is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest [3] [4] and Special Area of Conservation. [5] [6]


The Wensum is the principal river on which the city of Norwich was founded. [7] The river passes Carrow Road, the home of Norwich City F.C.; one end of the ground was originally named The River End in its honour, a name that still persists among fans. [8]


The river receives its name from the Old English adjective wandsum or wendsum, meaning "winding". [9]


The river viewed from Marriott's Way, Costessey River Wensum1.JPG
The river viewed from Marriott's Way, Costessey
Carrow Road, viewed from the river Carrow Road exterior.jpg
Carrow Road, viewed from the river
Boys bathing on the River Wensum by John Crome John Crome - Boys Bathing on the River Wensum, Norwich - Google Art Project.jpg
Boys bathing on the River Wensum by John Crome

The source of the Wensum lies between the villages of Colkirk and Whissonsett in northwest Norfolk. [10] The river flows westward initially, close to the villages of South Raynham, West Raynham and East Raynham, passing Raynham Hall, home of the Marquis Townshend. The Wensum then turns and flows north through a number of small villages until it reaches Sculthorpe, where it turns east through the market town of Fakenham. [10] The river then flows in a southeasterly direction through the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve and the village of Great Ryburgh.

The Wensum continues through or close to the villages of Guist, North Elmham, Worthing, Swanton Morley, Lyng, Lenwade and Taverham before entering the City of Norwich from the north-west via Drayton, Costessey and Hellesdon. At New Mills Yard, a former waterworks, the river becomes tidal and navigable by boat. Flowing through the city, the river forms a broad arc which would have influenced the site of the settlement for defensive reasons;[ citation needed ] remnants of boom towers can be seen near Wensum Park and Carrow Hill which formed part of the city wall and a large defensive tower can be seen on the bank near Barrack Street, called Cow Tower. This dates to the 12th century and was also used for collecting tolls. [11] Evidence of the river's historical use as a means of transport for goods and trade from the continent is still visible: mills, quays and industrial remnants can be found near the station and along King Street, and a slipway at Pulls Ferry marks the start of a canal originally used to transport stone from Caen in Normandy, in the 13th Century, to build Norwich Cathedral. This site was also a public house and used as a River Ferry until the 1950s.

The Wensum flows past Carrow Road football ground and then out of the city via Trowse to Whitlingham and its confluence with the River Yare. The Wensum is navigable from New Mills Yard in the centre of Norwich.



Bintree Mill, 2005 (photo by Mark Boyer) Bintree Mill by Mark Boyer.jpg
Bintree Mill, 2005 (photo by Mark Boyer)
Lenwade mill Lenwade5.JPG
Lenwade mill
The river below Hellesdon mill River Wensum.JPG
The river below Hellesdon mill

There were a succession of water mills on the Wensum, some of which are still standing and working. From the source these are

Other mills close on tributaries are

Norwich bridges

River Wensum
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A1065 Bridge
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River Tat
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Sculthorpe Mill (extant)
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A1065 Bridge
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Site of Hempton Mill (d.1954)
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Fakenham Mill (extant)
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Site of Gt Ryburgh Mill (d.1925)
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B1110 Bridge, Guist
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Bintree Mill (extant)
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North Elmham Mill (extant)
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B1145 Bridge, Billingford
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Site of Swanton Morley Mill (d.~1840)
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B1147 Bridge, Swanton Morley
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Elsing Mill (extant)
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Site of Lyng Mill (d.1868)
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Lenwade Mill (extant)
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A1067 Bridge
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River Ainse (or Eyn)
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A1067 bridge, Attlebridge
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Site of Tavenham Mill (d.1899)
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Site of Costessey Mill (d.1924)
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Site of Hellesdon Mill (d.1920)
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River Tud
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A140 Bridge
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A1024 Bridge
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A147 Barn Road Bridge
(Inner ring road)
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New Mills Compressor Station
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New Mill Yard Bridge
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New Mills yard
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Coslany Street Bridge
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Duke Street Bridge
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St Georges Bridge
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Fye Bridge
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Whitefriars Bridge
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Jarrold Bridge
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Bishopgate Bridge
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Foundry Bridge, Norwich
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Lady Julian Bridge
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Novi Sad Friendship Bridge
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A147 Carrow Bridge
(Inner ring road)
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Junction with River Yare
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River Yare

Bishops Bridge is one of five medieval bridges which span the River Wensum. Built in 1345 it formed part of the defensive structure along the river, with a gatehouse on the city side of bridge which was demolished in 1791. It is positioned on the site of a Roman Ford.

Jarrold Bridge is a footbridge linking the St James Place business park to Bishopgate.

Fye Bridge is arguably the oldest river crossing in Norwich and is the gate to the North of the City known as "Norwich Over the Water" this bridge was also the site of a cucking stool for ducking lawbreakers and undesirables.

Whitefriars Bridge Named after a former Carmelite (White Friars) monastery. The remains of which can still be seen in a small section of medieval wall and archway.

Foundry Bridge Near the railway station and the Yacht station on Riverside named after a foundry nearby, purported to have been built to take a railway line.

Lady Julian Bridge is a footbridge named after Julian of Norwich that links Riverside to King Street.

Carrow Bridge near Carrow Road football ground is a more recent cantilevered swing bridge, which can still be opened to allow large or high vessels through. It is positioned in close proximity to the Boom towers which originally had a chain suspended between them and would have been used as part of the city's defences and as a method of collecting tolls on goods travelling up river from Great Yarmouth.

Novi Sad Friendship Bridge is a cable stayed swing footbridge which spans the River Wensum in Norwich. The structure is named in recognition of the twinning ties between Norwich and Novi Sad in Serbia. The bridge was designed by Buro Happold and commissioned by Norfolk County Council. [12]

There are further bridges at Barn Road, Anchor Quay, Duke Street and St. Georges Street.


See also River Wensum SSSI

After many years of decline a survey was commissioned by Natural England in 2002. It showed that the ecological condition of the river had declined. The principal reasons for this were water quality and siltation. Water quality has been addressed and was improving, but the physical character of the river needs to be restored. In 2008, a partnership known as the River Wensum Restoration Strategy (RWRS) was formed between; Environment Agency; Water Management Alliance and Natural England [13] to restore the physical functioning of the Wensum. The 2002 report found that fourteen redundant water mills along the Wensum as having the most significant factor affecting morphology of the river channel, with 67% of the river backed up behind these structures. As a priority, the strategy recommended the lowering, removal or bypassing of these structures to allow more of the river to function naturally. [1] Since 2008, the (RWRS) has made several improvements to the river. The holistic whole river approach with co-operation from land owners, fisheries managers and other organisations has seen ongoing projects ranging from restoring gravel glides to removing silt. [13]

The Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association (NACA) carried out a successful river habitat restoration at their Sayers Meadow fishery at Lyng in the early 1980s. [14] After dredging and a major abstraction pipeline had a detrimental effect on the Costessey Point fishery, the association has taken action to restore this well known water. The ongoing work will be used as a blueprint for future river conservation projects. [15]

The Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) project is a joint initiative between the Environment Agency, (Defra), and the Welsh Assembly Government working in three UK catchments; Hampshire Avon; River Eden, Cumbria; Wensum, Norfolk to evaluate the extent to which on-farm mitigation measures can cost-effectively reduce the impacts of diffuse water pollution on river ecology while still maintaining food production capacity (Wensum Alliance, 2014). [16]


Between 1940 and the 1970s the river had a national reputation as a roach fishery with specimens exceeding 3 pounds (1.4 kg) being reported. [17] As the river declined through the effects of abstraction, dredging and modern farming methods these fish largely died out. [1] After an earlier introduction of a small amount of barbel – a fish not indigenous to the Wensum – the local river authority stocked the Wensum with over 150 fish in 1971 below Costessey Mill. [17] and subsequently stocked more fish at suitable sections of the Upper Wensum. [14] The fish became established albeit in small numbers at a few favourable locations. Specimens in excess of 20 pounds (9.1 kg) have been caught [18] with a specimen of 21 pounds 2 ounces (9.6 kg) landed in November 2008 from the Norfolk Anglers' Conservation Association (NACA) fishery at Lyng. [19]

Today (2011), much of the Wensum's upper reaches are privately owned or controlled by syndicates. However, opportunities for individual anglers can be found and as the river passes through the City of Norwich free fishing is available where accessible.

See also

Related Research Articles

Marriotts Way Disused railway now bridleway between Norwich and Aylsham

The Marriott's Way is a long-distance footpath, cycle-path and bridleway between Norwich and Aylsham, Norfolk, England. It forms part of the National Cycle Network (NCN) and the red route of Norwich's Pedalways cycle path network. It is open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Its total length is 24.6 miles (39.5 km). It has a mixture of surfaces; tarmac, compacted gravel, and earth. The name of the route originates from the chief engineer and manager of the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR), William Marriott, who held the position for 41 years.

Taverham Human settlement in England

Taverham is a village and civil parish in Norfolk, in England. It is approximately 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Norwich. Taverham sits on the River Wensum.

Costessey Human settlement in England

Costessey is a civil parish situated 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Norwich in Norfolk, England. The parish comprises two settlements: the long-established town of Costessey, and New Costessey, which developed during the first half of the 20th century and has become a suburb of Norwich. The two settlements are separated by the River Tud and by arable land. Costessey's northern boundary with Taverham, Drayton and Hellesdon follows the course of the River Wensum.

Norwich North (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1950 onwards

Norwich North is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2009 by Chloe Smith, a Conservative.

Bawburgh Human settlement in England

Bawburgh is a village and civil parish in the South Norfolk district of Norfolk, England, lying in the valley of the River Yare about 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Norwich city centre. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 466, increasing to 595 at the 2011 census. Bawburgh is very close to the relatively new Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Bowthorpe Estate.

Broadland (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 2010 onwards

Broadland is a Norfolk constituency, which has been represented in parliament since the 2019 general election by Jerome Mayhew, a Conservative.

Lyng, Norfolk Human settlement in England

Lyng is a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. It is situated on the River Wensum, some 10 km (6.2 mi) north-east of the town of East Dereham and 20 km (12 mi) north-west of the city of Norwich.

The following are lists of recreational walks in Norfolk, England.

River Tud river in Norfolk, United Kingdom

River Tud is a tributary of the River Wensum, Norfolk in the East of England. The Tud's source is just south of East Dereham and it flows in an easterly direction for 27 kilometres (17 mi) to its confluence with the Wensum below Hellesdon mill.

Lenwade Human settlement in England

Lenwade is a village in the civil parish of Great Witchingham, Norfolk, situated in the Wensum Valley adjacent to the A1067 road 14 miles (23 km) south-east of Fakenham and some 11 miles (18 km) north-west of Norwich. The River Ainse joins the Wensum at Lenwade. The population of the village is included in the civil parish of Great Witchingham.

Drayton, Norfolk Human settlement in England

Drayton, Norfolk, is a suburban village in the county of Norfolk and district of Broadland 4.3 miles (6.9 km) north west of Norwich. It is situated on the A1067 road between Hellesdon and Taverham.

Hellesdon railway station is a former railway station in Norfolk, England, which served the area of Hellesdon, today virtually an outer suburb of Norwich. It opened on 2 December 1882 and was closed on 15 September 1952, six years before passenger service was withdrawn along the rest of the line.

Pensthorpe Natural Park nature reserve in the United Kingdom

Pensthorpe Natural Park is located in Pensthorpe, Norfolk, England and is approximately one mile from Fakenham and close to the A1067 road. The park covers 700 acres (280 ha). The River Wensum, which runs through the site, is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

2009 Norfolk County Council election election for Norfolk County council election, England

The Norfolk County Council election took place on 4 June 2009, coinciding with local elections for all county councils in England.

River Wensum SSSI

The River Wensum SSSI is a 'whole river' Site of Special Scientific Interest located on the River Wensum that flows through the English county of Norfolk. The river was designated a SSSI in 1993 and a Special Area of Conservation SAC in 2000. It covers 44 miles (71 km) of the Upper Wensum from its source close to South Raynham downstream to Hellesdon Mill an area of 971.9 acres (393.3 ha).


  1. 1 2 3 River Wensum restoration strategy, Natural England Retrieved 21 March 2011
  2. "River Wensum". Encyclopaedia Britannica . Archived from the original on 17 November 2017.
  3. "Designated Sites View: River Wensum". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  4. "Map of River Wensum". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  5. "Designated Sites View: River Wensum". Special Areas of Conservation. Natural England. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  6. River Wensum, Special area of conservation, Joint Nature Conservation Committee Retrieved 13 October 2008
  7. "Norwich". Encyclopaedia Britannica . Archived from the original on 10 July 2018.
  8. Cuffley, David (22 January 2011). "Boosting Norwich City crowd potential would turn back the clock". Norwich Evening News. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  9. Ekwall, E., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names (1974), p. 496. ISBN   0-19-869103-3
  10. 1 2 Ordnance Survey (2016). Sheet 132: North West Norfolk, King’s Lynn & Fakenham (Map). 1:50,000. Landranger. ISBN   9780319262306.
  11. Cow Tower Archived 26 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 15 December 2010
  12. Design of the Novi Sad Friendship Bridge – A Case Study, accessed 14 March 2010
  13. 1 2 Environment Agency- River Wensum Restoration Strategy Retrieved 30 March 2011
  14. 1 2 Norfolk Anglers Conservation Association, Sayers Meadow, NACA Retrieved 23 March 2011
  15. Costessey Point Retrieved 15 April 2011
  16. River Wensum DTC Retrieved 28 February 2014
  17. 1 2 Wilson, J Where to Fish in Norfolk and Suffolk (1989) ISBN   0-7117-0183-0 p23, 132. Jarrolds Retrieved 22 March 2011
  18. Wensum barbel Retrieved 22 March 2011
  19. News of the World news report 23 March 2011

Further reading

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