In the briefest, highly selective sketch of Norwich's history -
Norwich's origins can be traced back to three Danish-Saxon fishing communities which once dwelt upon the terraced shingle banks of the Wensum known as Conesford, Westwic and Norwic which unified under the name of of Norwic (North port or settlement) to become Norwich. Fully established as a town by the 10th century CE Norwich had its own mint which issued coins with the word NORVIC inscribed upon them. Following the Norman conquest of 1066, stone quarried from Caen in Normandy was transported across the North Sea and river to build and construct the City's two Norman architectural jewels, its Castle and Cathedral.
The City's independence and trading status were enhanced under a Charter granted by King Richard I (the Lion heart) in 1194 for an annual payment to the King which freed the City and its citizens from all rents, tolls and taxes previously paid and permitted them to elect their own Reeve, (the senior official responsible under the Crown who often acted as chief magistrate). King Richard's Charter, granted in reward for Norwich's contribution to his ransom when kidnapped whilst returning from the Crusades, effectively allowed the City to be self governing, giving Norwich the same rights as London.
From the 13th century onward Norwich became a manufacturing city, exporting a wide variety of goods including pottery, wool and textiles, via the river Wensum. The river effectively connected the City to trade as far afield as Scandinavia and Russia, Germany and the Baltic North Sea cities as well as the Netherlands and Flanders.
Norwich's trade and commerce with the Netherlands and Flanders in particular was vigorous throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Dutch and Flemish (modern-day Belgium) influences in fields as diverse as horticulture, architecture, textiles in particular wool, painting, religious denomination, civic social policy and not least, migration over the centuries have all been significant in contributing to Norwich's economic well-being and cultural heritage.
Like many cities in medieval Europe, Norwich built a wall around itself for defense, taxation of goods and control of entry to trade in the City. The city walls were built circa 1280 to 1340. At around 4 kilometres in length they enclosed an area larger than the city of London. Norwich's city walls were supplemented by Cow tower and Bishop gate bridge strengthening defenses at its weakest point, the exposed bend of the river which semi-circles around the Cathedral. The Wensum was integral to the defense of medieval Norwich. Its semi-circular bend from New Mills at the north of the City to Carrow south-east of the City effectively functioning as a wall.
The medieval river-gate at Carrow is unique to European city defenses. Consisting of two 'Boom' towers' one standing on each side of the river, by placing either a timber 'boom' or chains between them, effectively prevented any vessel from sailing further upstream. Their ruins at Carrow bridge, along with a long stretch of the city's medieval walls nearby, survive to the present-day.
England's first provincial newspaper the Norwich Post was printed in Norwich in 1701. Succeeded by the Norwich Mercury in 1737, its reflective of the city's high literacy rate as well as its radical politics. Support for the French revolution was initially high in Norwich, its leading intellectual William Taylor even visiting Paris in order to kiss the soil of Liberty. Norwich's radical and sane politics continues to the present-day. In the 2016 advisory Referendum it voted for the UK to Remain in the European Union.
Its been said that prosperity and literacy were the two factors which were the driving forces between 1750-1850 which contributed to Norwich's theatrical, artistic, philosophical and musical life. Together, they cross-fertilised Norwich's cultural life in a way that was unique outside London.
In contrast to its close continental connections Norwich was, and still is, geographically remote from any other English town in transport links, a situation which was not improved until the mid-nineteenth century with the advent of the railway. Indeed, its been said that it was sometimes quicker for a Norwich citizen to travel via river, sea and canal to Amsterdam than to London until the arrival of the railway. Travelling to London involved traversing marsh and forest on poor roads with the risk of robbery and overnight hostelry and rest for horses. In contrast, travelling to Amsterdam involved transportation via tidal river, sea and canal, its primary hazard being crossing the North Sea.
Whether because of its radical politics or more likely a received perception of the City as a 'back-water', Norwich was not officially recognized as a seat of learning until 1963 when elected as the host city to the University of East Anglia. The University was named 'East Anglia' as representative of the region as a whole rather than its host city, resulting in few even today knowing its location. The University didn't however hesitate to adopt Norwich City's 'Do Different' motto as its own.
Currently teaching over 17,000 students statistically UEA is the British University with the highest percentage of students nationwide who choose to settle in the city of their graduation, a major contributing factor to the City's 9% population growth in the past decade. Prestigious UEA alumni include the geneticist, Paul Nurse, awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Medicine and novelist, Kazou Ishiguru, awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 2017.
With its many continental connections and influences its not too surprising that Norwich is one of the most European influenced of all English cities. The City's 'Do different' mindset is in evidence today in its growth as a regional retail centre, as a place of academic excellence and as a place which has a unique blend of international and local artistic life.
According to the church historian Thomas Fuller (1608-61) 17th century Norwich was, 'either a city in an orchard, or an orchard in a city, so equal are houses and trees blended in it' . This blending of the urban with leaf continues in present-day Norwich with its reputation as one of greenest of English cities. Thomas Browne, the city's first botanist, natural historian, archaeologist and literary figure of significance, was a contemporary of the historian Thomas Fuller, and indeed a book by Fuller is listed as once in Browne's vast library.
In many ways Thomas Browne (1605-82) is one of most dazzling and valuable jewels in the crown of Norwich's cultural heritage. Known of world-wide, contributing to diverse fields of knowledge Browne's star is currently in the ascendent with a resurgence of interest in the physician-philosopher and his diverse literary works. Browne was also, as the archaeologist Alan Carter noted, one of the first to speculate upon Norwich's origins. In Urn-Burial (1658) he alludes to coins minted in Norwich (the earliest with the inscription name Norvic is dated 850 CE), to the city being established sometime after the Roman occupation of Britain, and to it being a place of size before destruction by fire following a Viking raid by King Swen Forkbeard in 1004 CE-
'Vulgar Chronology will have Norwich Castle as old as Julius Caesar; but his distance from these parts, and its Gothick form of structure, abridgeth such Antiquity. The British Coins afford conjecture of early habitation in these parts, though the City of Norwich arose from the ruins of Venta, and though perhaps not without some habitation before, was enlarged, builded, and nominated by the Saxons. In what bulk or populosity it stood in the old East-angle Monarchy, tradition and history are silent. Considerable it was in the Danish Eruptions, when Sueno burnt Thetford and Norwich', 
More often than not Thomas Browne refers to the Wensum simply as 'the Norwich river'. Its been speculated that the word 'Wensum' is a corruption of the old English of 'wendsome' meaning winding, and this, as almost all old rivers, the Wensum certainly is, as can be seen in the photo below of the river Wensum at Drayton, a few miles north-west of Norwich.
Geographically speaking, the Wensum is an old or senile river, that is a river with a low gradient and low erosive power and with having flood-plains. Today the Wensum is listed as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and as a Special Area of Conservation. Nevertheless it is under threat of environmental damage from a proposed Western Link Road (WLR) which will seriously damage river wildlife and its immediate environment with little, if any benefit to the easing of traffic in the region whatsoever.
On several occasions in his Natural History notes Thomas Browne refers to the network of shallow lakes in the north-east quarter of Norfolk as 'broad waters' . In all probability its from his description that the nomenclature of these shallow lakes originated from to become known as the Norfolk Broads. Today, the Norfolk Broads have National Park status and protection 'however it was not until the 1960's that aerial photography determined the Norfolk Broads were in fact not natural but man-made, the product of many years of digging for peat as a source of heat which following flood and inundation from the sea, formed the present-day Broads.
On the river upstream between New Mills to Hellesdon Mills its possible to often spot the iridescent blue plumage and bullet-like flight of the kingfisher zipping low over the water. As a keen ornithologist who at one time or another kept an eagle, cormorant, bittern, owl and ostrich to study, Browne noted of Norfolk -
The number of rivulets becks & streams whose banks are beset with willows & Alders which give occasion of easier fishing & slooping to the water makes that handsome coloured bird abound which is called Alcedo Ispida or the King fisher. They build in holes about gravel pits.. their nests wherein is to bee found great quantity of small fish bones. & lay very handsome round & as it were polished eggs.
Browne was a keen botanist and noted of the aquatic plant Acorus Calamus known as Sweet Flag (photo below).
The weeping willow is a naturally occurring mutation of Salix babylonica which was introduced to England from China in the early 17th century during a time of fascination with all things Chinese ts cultivated for it's beautiful appearance. The more common willow Salix fragilis, 'crack willow', is named for the loud noise it makes when it breaks. Grown on the river-bank so that its binding roots protect the bank from erosion its used for commercial willow farming (withey beds) and is managed by pollarding. Some of humans' earliest manufactured items may have been made from willow. A fishing net made from willow discovered by archaeologists dates back to 8300 BCE and basic crafts, such as baskets, fish traps, wattle fences and wattle and daub house walls, were often woven from osiers or withies (rod-like willow shoots, often grown in coppices). 
The Dictionary of British Place-names states that the name Hellesdon comes from Hægelisdun (the spelling of the location 985 CE), meaning 'hill of a man named Hægel', with the spelling changed to Hailesduna by 1086. Hægelisdun is recorded traditionally, as the place where King Edmund was killed by Viking invaders in 869 CE, although there remains no agreement on exactly where King Edmund died.
Its intriguing to think that momentous history such King Edmund dying in battle near Norwich remains ultimately unknown, such speculation returns our far from exhaustive essay where it began, the remote in time origins of the city, whilst also exploring the fascinating relationship between city, river and artist.
At the current time of writing, Norwich faces the same challenge as many cities throughout the world in the wake of the Pandemic (2020 - ?) how to make the city, in particular its centre, a safe place to visit, work, socialise and be entertained. Norwich, having survived war, plague, flood, fire, famine, rebellion and riot in its thousand plus year history, will surely become a busy, enterprising city, proud to 'Do Different' once more in the near future.