Friday, 02 August 2019 00:00

‘Matthew Shardlake Stayed Here’ – Maids Head Hotel Celebrates CJ Sansom’s Tombland

Written by  Paul Dickson
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‘Matthew Shardlake Stayed Here’ – Maids Head Hotel Celebrates CJ Sansom’s Tombland
‘Matthew Shardlake’ (Paul Dickson) and Maids Head Hotel General Manager, Christine Malcolm unveiled a plaque outside the hotel on Friday, August 2 to celebrate the Maids Head appearing in CJ Sansom’s best-selling novel Tombland.
 
Tombland is the seventh in CJ Sansom’s series of historical novels featuring Tudor lawyer Matthew Shardlake. In the book, he heads to Norwich to look into the circumstances of a horrific murder and stays at the Maids Head, before getting engulfed in Kett’s Rebellion in the summer of 1549.     
 
“We have been offering a special Shardlake’s Norwich package since February,” said Christine Malcolm. “Guests on the package are given a copy of Tombland and have the option of booking a Shardlake tour with our resident tour guide, Paul Dickson.”
 
“The package has proved very popular, with Shardlake fans heading to Norwich from all over the UK, “ continued Christine. “We have even had visitors from Norway who love the series. It’s the first visit to Norwich for many of our Shardlake guests and the feedback that we get is that they love the city and can’t wait to return.”
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“Our plaque, celebrating Matthew Shardlake’s residence at the hotel, is already proving a good talking point, with guests taking selfies as a reminder of their stay.”
 
Paul Dickson added: “As well as taking Maids Head guests on my Shardlake’s Norwich tour, I offer a series a public bookable tours. People enjoy discovering Kett’s Heights, seeing the remains of Kett’s headquarters, St Michael’s Chapel, and taking in the fabulous view of Norwich and discussing the story of the rebellion.”
 
“My Shardlake costume, which was made by Penny Knee of the Paston Heritage Society, had its first outing on my Norfolk Day tour. It really added to the whole experience and drew lots of ‘second looks’ from drivers on the inner ring road and Kett’s Hill.”
 
For more information about the Maids Head Hotel’s Shardlake package see www.maidsheadhotel.co.uk.
 
For more information about the Shardlake’s Norwich tour see www.pauldicksontours.co.uk.  
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The Maids Head Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in the UK, based on the site being used for hospitality from the end of the 11th century when the first Norman Bishop of Norwich, Herbert de Losinga had his initial palace there.
 
An inn on the site, the Murtel Fish, is mentioned in court records in 1287. The name, the Maids Head, first appears in a Paston letter, dated 22 November 1472. 
 
Several legends associate the hotel with Kett’s Rebellion. Royal commanders, the Marquis of Northampton and the Earl of Warwick are said to have had breakfast at the Maids Head before their respective battles. Robert and William Kett are thought to have used the hotel as their Norwich headquarters after the defeat of the Marquis of Northampton at the Battle of Palace Plain. 

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    Throughout 2019, Break was the Maids Head Hotel's local charity. During the year staff and guests raised £1,184.06. We invited Danielle Gravestock from Break to receive the cheque and celebrate the fundraising success with our staff.

    The money was raised through collection buckets, a Christmas raffle and donations at special events including resident tour guide Paul Dickson's Shardlake's Norwich tours during English Tourism Week and Norfolk Day and Rob Knee from the Paston Heritage Society who gave talks about the Pastons and the Paston Letters on Norfolk Day and on 22 November. The second talk was on the anniversary of the Maids Head getting it's first official written mention in a Paston letter. A team from the Maids Head – Jonathan Brasnett, Andrew Shorthose and Rose Taylor - also completed the City of Norwich half marathon in aid of Break.

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    The three-course menu, which will change with the seasons, also features an amuse bouche and a pre-dessert as part of the offer. Diners can opt for three or two course meals. 

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    The Maids Head Hotel in Tombland, Norwich, has purchased an elegant Edwardian style Frolic 31 electric launch and, following a winter refit, the boat will take to the River Wensum in Norwich, when it will be officially named The Murtle Fish.

    The boat will be driven by a Maids Head skipper, assisted by a steward, and can take 12 passengers. The Murtle Fish will be available to hire from the spring for afternoon tea afloat, wedding photography and receptions, business away days, drinks receptions and guided river tours.

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    Sir John Fenn (Rob Knee from the Paston Heritage Society) unveiled, on its 547th anniversary, a facsimile of the Paston Letter dated 22 November 1472, which gives the first mention of the Maids Head, the name of the inn that had taken over from the 13th century Murtle Fish. The facsimile is located just outside the entrance of the Maids Head's Wine Press Restaurant.

    Rob Knee was at the hotel to give a costumed Paston talk about the work of antiquarian Sir John Fenn from Dereham, who edited, over eight years, a volume of some 200 of the Paston Letters that had come into his possession in 1771. The volume was published in 1789 and the initial print run of 750 sold out within a week.

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    All Things Norfolk have teamed up with the Maids Head Hotel to provide you with the chance to win a meal for two up to the value of £80 at their new contemporary look AA 2 rosette Wine Press Restaurant, which is located in the former courtyard of the 15th century inn that first took the name Maids Head.

    The Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Vaughan Thomas and the Sheriff of Norwich, Dr Marian Prinsley visited the hotel on Thursday, November 14 to officially reopen the restaurant following its £60,000 makeover.

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