Guide to East Anglia

Situated north-east of London, East Anglia is a historic and rural region in the East of England. The region is home to scenic windmills in the Norfolk Broads, a network of rivers, lakes and marshes partially contained within the newly formed Broads National Park. East Anglia is also home to the historic cathedral city of Norwich and the university town of Cambridge.

Defining East Anglia

Situated in the eastern-most part of England, East Anglia traditionally refers to the area occupied by the ancient kingdom of the same name. The region traditionally included the countries of Norfolk and Suffolk, although parts of Cambridgeshire are also included. East Anglia proper is bordered by the North Sea to the East, Cambridgeshire and Herefordshire in the West, and Essex to the south. Visit East Anglia, the region's main tourism board, includes Essex, Herefordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire in addition to Norfolk and Suffolk. The Oxford Dictionary defines East Anglia as consisting of Norfolk, Suffolk, and parts of Essex and Cambridge.


East Anglia has been used since the rise of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Angles, which was formed in the sixth century. The Germanic tribe established themselves following the end of the Roman occupation, forming one of several Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain. As rival kingdoms grew and the influence of East Anglia declined, the kingdom became part of Mercia following the death of King Æthelberht II of East Anglia in 794. East Anglia regained independence during a rebellion between 825 and 827, although it would change hands between the Danes and Anglo-Saxons over the next two centuries. The territory was conquered in 869 by the Danes until it was reclaimed by the Anglo-Saxons in 918 when it was incorporated into Wessex, a forerunner to the Kingdom of England. The Anglo-Saxons lost control again between 1015 and 1017 when the Danes occupied East Anglia until 1044/45.

Much of East Anglia was marshland and bog until the seventeenth century, when land was converted for agriculture. Many Puritans from the region immigrating to the United States during the 1630s, which led to the loss of much of East Anglia's culture due to the population shift. Textiles and wools were major economic drivers and employers until the Industrial Revolution, when mechanisation moved these industries to emerging industrial centres in the Midlands and the North of England. In the twentieth century, East Anglia became an important base for Allied Forces during the Second World War. Many American and British forces were based in the region, which was a launching point for Allied attacks into mainland Europe as well as a significant target for Nazi Germany.


Much of East Anglia remains rural. Agriculture continues to be an important segment of the economy, particularly in Norfolk and Suffolk although service sectors are major employers in urban centres. Norfolk, which lies in the northern half of East Anglia, covers an area of 5,371 square kilometres or 2,074 square miles and is home to 859,400 people, according to the 2011 Census. To the south, Suffolk covers an area of 3,798 square kilometres or 1,466 square miles and has a population of approximately 730,100 people. The East of England as a whole is home to over 5.8 million people.

Major Towns and Cities

Major urban centres in East Anglia include Norwich and Ipswich. A UNESCO City of Literature, historic Norwich was one of England's most important cities during the Middle Ages. The city in the heart of Norfolk is home to the Norman-era Norwich Cathedral and Dragon Hall, a restored medieval trading hall. While traditionally manufactured-based and focused on shoemaking, Norwich's economy is now largely service oriented with a large number of insurance and financial firms present in the city. Situated on the estuary of the River Orwell, Ipswich in Suffolk traces its roots to the Roman period and and grew from an Anglo-Saxon period dock. Major employers include the insurance, wholesale and retail sectors. Ipswich's port continues to handle cargo in the millions of tonnes each year.

Other important towns in East Anglia include Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. The market town was founded in the tenth century, although it is also famous for its twenty-first century Gothic revivalist architecture. Also in Suffolk is Lowestoft, the most easterly point in Great Britain. The former fishing port is one of many communities along the eastern coast that feature inviting sandy beaches. Great Yarmouth in Norfolk is another popular seaside town in East Anglia. One of Britain's most popular resorts with some five million visitors each year, the town was once a major fishing hub. It is also home to the Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach amusement park, Brittania Pier and Wellington Pier.

If East Anglia's broader definition is used, the region includes the world famous University of Cambridge. Founded during the thirtieth century, the university has established a strong reputation for technology and science. The city of Cambridge itself also supports cutting-edge businesses and `leading research and development in the technology sector. Other communities within the East of England include the historic towns of Chelmsford and Colchester in Essex. Chelmsford and Colchester are also important commuter towns, serving as a home for workers that travel regularly from Essex to London. Built on a chalk hill, Ely in Cambridgeshire is the site of a historic cathedral. Founded by Saint Æthelberht in 673, the cathedral building dates to the eleventh century. The isolated city harkens back to a bygone area, retaining much of its rural charm that is a common characteristic for East Anglia.