At the edge of the jurisdiction of the City of Norwich
Location: Bishop Bridge, Norwich, NR1 4AA
Hardley Cross marks the ancient boundary between the jurisdictions of Yarmouth and Norwich. It sits on the River Yare and the River Chet, and has been marked since the 1400s. Burghers used to meet there for the Hardley Inquest each year. They would discuss the 'abuses and privileges' of trade along the river. Both herring and eels were a key part of this trade.
As Hardley Cross is further out of the city on the Yare, we are visiting Bishop Bridge for this part of the trail.
Listen to the poem
Read the poem
A herring and an eel meet
at Hardley Cross. They are traveling east
and west and stop for a while to talk.
The herring escaped from the salt barrels
of Yarmouth, journeyed inland instead,
adapting to the lightness of river water,
feeling its close-call with preservation
enough salt for one lifetime. The herring
is shaken but strong, swimming upstream to, it hopes,
a new life in the big city. The eel is less optimistic.
Sliding down the Yare from an eel basket in the fens,
this eel has seen some things. It tells the herring
of the busy, brown waters of Norwich,
and sheds a tear for its ancestors, paid to the friars
in rent. The eel didn’t like to tell the herring
about the riverside houses, the rich herring merchants
setting up shop in the city, nor did the eel like to dwell
on its own likely fate, as jelly, as currency, as a wedding-band
for a young fen girl. In a century, a stone cross will mark
the spot where they met, and fish in the rivers
will forever remember it as the meeting of two
downtrodden water creatures. The people
won’t know this. They’ll think the cross
marks a boundary, a line between Norwich
and Great Yarmouth, a passing of food and responsibility.
They won’t understand, have never understood,
in this watery landscape, how slippery a boundary can be.
Follow the trail
Go to Dragon Hall for poem 15: Robert Toppes - Mayor of Norwich, builder of Dragon Hall