Mousehold Heath was famously painted by a number of the Norwich school artists including John Crome and John Sell Cotman. In his autobiographical work Lavengro George Borrow records his meetings with gypsies on the heath. The Norwich born novelist, and one time Lord Mayor, R. H. Mottram was another artist who valued the open space of Mousehold Heath. He once described it as "the property of those who have the privilege of Norwich birth".
At one time the heath was riddled with pits which were the result of gravel extraction. It was also the site of numerous brick kilns and clay pits.
The heath was given to Norwich City Council (then known as the local corporation) to look after on behalf of the citizens of Norwich in 1880. This was officially recorded by Parliament in an agreement called the Mousehold Heath Confirmation Act.
In 1884, Mousehold Heath Conservators, an independent governing body for the heath, was formed.
By the early 1900s, Mousehold Heath was open countryside with virtually no trees - a classic heathland landscape. The area was kept open by grazing animals and by local people collecting bedding and feed for livestock and fuel for the winter. As the way people lived changed, these traditions disappeared. This resulted in a gradual loss of open heath to scrub and woodland.
The area between the Salhouse and Plumstead roads (outside of the outer ring road) was originally the Cavalry training ground and then became the Royal Flying Corps Mousehold Heath aerodrome where Boulton Paul, among other manufactuers, passed over the aircraft they made for service. After the First World War, Boulton and Paul continued to use the site which then became the first Norwich Airport. The whole area is now the Heartsease Housing Estate.
Ron Saunders, the Norwich City Football Club manager, used to use the hills near the Britannia Barracks to train the players.
Today the heath covers nearly 200 acres. It is now mostly pleasant woodland with a range of wildlife and is much appreciated by Norwich people as a public open space and 'country in the city'. It contains two football pitches, a pitch-and-putt course, Zaks Restaurant and a band stand where performances are given in the summer. There is a fine view of the city of Norwich and Norwich Cathedral from Brittania Road. The facade of the old Britannia Barracks which also looks over the city is now the administrative offices and staff club and restaurant of Norwich Prison. The impressive barrack block which stood behind the facade served as a Category C prison for some years from the 1970s but was demolished in the 1980s and replaced by a modern Category B prison block. The Victorian Norwich prison which stands at the end of Knox Road behind the old Barracks site was built in the mid 19th century as part of the reformation of the penal system brought about by the great prison reformers of that time. These included Elizabeth Fry.
The original Rangers house has been bought for renovation and restoration and Gilman Road has been closed to traffic.
When it snows, St James' Hill near the barracks becomes a mecca for sledging.
Vinegar Pond is located on the heath and is a dew pond.The pond is an important site for breeding frogs.In recent years there have been problems with invasive weed growth.
Mousehold Heath is an area of heathland and woodland which lies in north east Norwich, England. It is now mostly covered by broad-leaf semi-natural woodland, although some areas of heath remain and are actively managed.
In the Tudor period, Mousehold Heath stretched as far north as South Walsham and was 35 km (22 miles) round. By 1779, it still stretched to Woodbastwick.
In 1549 Robert Kett, rebelling against the Duke of Somerset, led a large group of men who camped for six weeks on the heath before the rebellion was suppressed.