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Norwich is a city in Norfolk, East Anglia which is in Eastern England. It is the regional administrative centre and county city of Norfolk. During the 11th century Norwich was the second largest city in England, after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom.
The suburban area expands far beyond its boundary, with extensive suburban areas outside the city on the western, northern and eastern sides, including Thorpe St Andrew on the eastern side. The Parliamentary seats cross over into adjacent local government districts. 121,600 (2006 est) people live in the Norwich City Council area and the population of the Norwich Travel to Work Area (i.e. the area of Norwich in which most people both live and work) is 367,035 (the 1991 figure was 351,340). Norwich is the fourth most densely populated local government district within the East of England with 3,319 people per square kilometre (8,592 per square mile).
The Department for Communities and Local Government recently considered whether Norwich should become a unitary authority, separate from Norfolk County Council. It was not selected as one of the new creations in July 2007 as its proposals did not meet the strict criteria.
The Romans had their regional capital at Venta Icenorum on the River Tas to the south which is near modern-day Caistor St Edmund, about 5 miles to the south of Norwich. This fell into disuse around 450 AD, before the Anglo-Saxons settled on the site of the modern city, founding the towns of Northwic (from which Norwich gets its name), Westwic (at Norwich-over-the-Water) and the secondary settlement at Thorpe.
There are two suggested models of development for Norwich. It is possible that three separate early Anglo-Saxon settlements, one on the north of the river and two either side on the south, joined together as they grew or that one Anglo-Saxon settlement, on the north of the river, emerged in the mid 7th century after the abandonment of the previous three. The ancient city was a thriving centre for trade and commerce in East Anglia in 1004 AD when it was raided and burnt by Swein Forkbeard the Viking. Mercian coins and shards of pottery from the Rhineland dating to the 8th century suggest that long distance trade was happening long before this. Between 924-939 AD Norwich became fully established as a town due to the fact that it had its own mint. The word Norvic appears on coins across Europe minted during this period, in the reign of King Athelstan. The Vikings were a strong cultural influence in Norwich for 40-50 years at the end of the 9th century, setting up an Anglo-Scandinavian district towards the north end of present day King Street.
At the time of the Norman Conquest the city was one of the largest in England. The Domesday Book states that it had approximately twenty-five churches and a population of between five and ten thousand. It also records the site of an Anglo-Saxon church in Tombland, the site of the Saxon market place and the later Norman cathedral. Norwich continued to be a major centre for trade, the River Wensum being a convenient export route to the River Yare and Great Yarmouth, which served as the port for Norwich. Quern stones, and other artifacts from Scandinavia and the Rhineland have been found during excavations in Norwich city centre which date from the 11th century onwards.
The main area of Saxon settlement south of the Wensum was destroyed by the construction of the Norman castle during the 1070s. The Normans established a new focus of settlement around the Castle and the area to the west of it: this became known as the "New" or "French" borough, centred on the Norman's own Market Place which survives to the present day as the City's Provision Market.