Hunstanton front from the beach
|Council:||King's Lynn and West Norfolk|
|North West Norfolk|
Hunstanton is an east coast town but stands where the coast has curved all around Norfolk and down into the Wash, so the town faces west and is one of the few places on the east coast in England where the sun can be seen to set over the sea.
At Hunstanton are cliffs tumbling down to the Wash which have an unusual geological form, being layered in different colours, consisting of chalk, red chalk and Carr stone.
Hunstanton is a traditional family resort. Summer crowds tend to be smaller now than in the 1980s although the popularity of the town as a tourist destination for day-trippers and holidaymakers has endured, weathering the decline of the British seaside holiday. During the 1990s, businesses in villages south of Hunstanton (Dersingham, Ingoldisthorpe and Snettisham) complained of a loss in trade after being bypassed by the A149, which carries heavy Hunstanton-bound traffic.
- Hunstanton Sea Life Centre,
- Hunstanton Amusement Arcade on the site of the old Pier,
- The Green and other Parks along the promenade
- The Princess Theatre
In 2004, the Hunstanton lifeboats were the busiest in Norfolk (around 40 call-outs in 2004, 52 in 2003).
The town today
The town is notable for several stately Victorian squares, perhaps most notably Boston Square, which enjoys fine views across The Wash to Boston in Lincolnshire. On a fine day, one can see Boston Stump.
Hunstanton caters to holiday-makers: it has a fairground, aquarium and seal sanctuary, leisure pool, theatre, large caravan parks with amenities, a number of amusement arcades and a long promenade. In good weather, boats run by Searle's carry tourists out to view grey seals that have colonised sand bars in The Wash and to the north of Norfolk.
The centrepiece of the town remains the large sloping green, which runs from one end of High Street to the promenade.
The town once had a Victorian pleasure pier, with fine attractions, including a pavilion and miniature steam railway running up and down it. The pier pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1939; the pier was damaged by fire again in the 1950s; and then almost the entire structure was washed away by a fierce storm in 1978. What remained of the pier extended just fifteen feet outwards from the amusement arcade and café that was built on the site of the original entrance. In 2002, the entire building and the remains of the pier, were destroyed in a fire. As the building was so badly damaged, firemen could not determine the cause of the fire. Today, a new arcade and bowling alley complex occupies the site.
Hunstanton has regular markets on Wednesdays and Sundays selling fresh fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. The markets attract greater numbers in the summer months through to the autumn. The principal shopping streets of the town are elegantly laid out as stone buildings, some with glazed canopies, evoking the Victorian and Edwardian eras of their construction and retaining a vibrant mixture of outlets including England's largest joke shop.
The countryside surrounding Hunstanton is hillier than most of Norfolk and is sparsely populated and the only nearby large town is King's Lynn, 12 miles to the south.
Apart from the town itself and its beaches, holidaymakers are attracted by nearby Sandringham House (the Queen's winter residence), Castle Rising, the Burnhams (birthplace of Lord Nelson) and the RSPB reserves at nearby Titchwell village and Snettisham.
Hunstanton is a nineteenth century resort town, initially known as New Hunstanton so distinguished from the adjacent old village from which it took its name. The new town long ago eclipsed the village in scale and population.
The original settlement of Hunstanton is now known as Old Hunstanton, probably taking its name from the River Hun which runs to the coast just to the east of Old Hunstanton. It is also said that the name Hunstanton originated from the word "Honeystone", a reference to the local red Carr stone. The River begins in the grounds of Old Hunstanton Park which surrounds the old Moated Hall, the ancestral home of the Le Strange family. Old Hunstanton village is of prehistoric origin and is situated near to the head of Peddars Way. In 1970, evidence of Neolithic settlement was found. The quiet character of Old Hunstanton remains distinct from and complements that of its busy sibling, with clifftop walks past a privately owned redundant lighthouse and the ruins of St. Edmund's Chapel, built in 1272.
In 1846, Henry Styleman Le Strange (1815–1862), decided to develop the area south of Old Hunstanton as a sea bathing resort. He persuaded a group of like-minded investors to fund the construction of a railway line from King's Lynn to the town: the railway would bring tourists and visitors to Hunstanton. It was a great success (the Lynn & Hunstanton Railway became one of the most consistently profitable railway companies in the country). In 1861, Le Strange, as the principal landowner, became a director of the railway company and by 1862 the line had been built. Hunstanton was ready to take off commercially. In the same year Le Strange died at the age of forty seven, and it was left to his son Hamon to reap the rewards of his efforts.
As a mark of his intentions, in 1846 Le Strange had moved the ancient village cross from Old Hunstanton to the new site and in 1848 the first building was erected. This was the Royal Hotel (now the Golden Lion), the work of the renowned Victorian architect, William Butterfield, a friend of Le Strange. Overlooking a sloping green and the sea, and for several years standing alone, it earned the nickname "Le Strange's Folly". In 1850 Le Strange, an amateur architect and painter, appointed a land agent to survey the site and prepare a layout, while he himself drew and painted a map and a perspective of the scheme, showing shops, a station and a church. He consulted William Butterfield on the design of the development plan. Their shared passion was for the "Old English" style of architecture for domestic buildings. This owed much to mediæval precedent and to the earnestness of the Victorian Gothic Revival. Hunstanton is the exemplar of a model nineteenth century estate seaside town and most of the fabric and character of that original development survives.
Theatre and cinema
The Princess Theatre is a 472-seat venue, open all year round, hosting a wide variety of shows from comedy to drama, music for all tastes and children’s productions. The venue also has a six-week summer season and an annual Christmas pantomime. Films are screened during the week.
The theatre opened as The Capitol Cinema in 1932 and he is noted for its construction in Norfolk Carr stone as it contains the largest gable wall of carr stone in existence. It was designed as a theatre as well as a cinema but closed in the 1960s and was sold in 1974. It changed its name to The Kingsley Centre and provided summer seasons and films for approximately two years but declined and eventually operated as a Bingo Hall, before closing and reopening as a theatre in 1981. In honour of the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer on 29 July 1981, the theatre was renamed The Princess Theatre.
Hunstanton Concert Band plays at events in and around Hunstanton performing at a wide variety of venues including churches, fêtes, concerts and the town band-stand.
- Roger Le Strange (1616–1704) was an ancestor of Richard Le Strange. He led an audacious, but failed, attempt to recapture King's Lynn for King Charles I in 1644. He was betrayed and sentenced to death but managed to escape from prison before being executed and fled abroad. He returned at the Restoration and started one of the first ever newspapers, the Public Intelligence and translated Aesop's Fables.
- PGWodehouse (1888–1975) frequently visited his friend Charles Le Strange at Hunstanton Hall: it became the model of Aunt Agatha's country seat Woollam Chersey and also the inspiration for the setting for Money for Nothing (1928). The octagon in the garden also featured in Jeeves and the Impending Doom. Norfolk also furnishes the names of many of the colourful characters in the books for example Lord Brancaster, Jack Snettisham and J Sheringham Adair.
- LP Hartley (1895–1972) visited Hunstanton for his childhood holidays and later used it as a setting for The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944). Hunstanton Hall was fictionalised as Anchorstone Hall ans Hunstanton's famous layered cliffs provide the backdrop for Eustace and Hilda's games among the rock pools.
- Patrick Hamilton (1901–1962) wrote Hangover Square, which opens with George Harvey Bone walking on the cliffs in Hunstanton. Hamilton lived for many years at Martincross in Sheringham and also spent some time in the 1930s in a cottage in Burnham Overy Staithe.
- "2004 a quiet year for lifeboats". http://new.edp24.co.uk/search/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&itemid=NOED09%20Jan%202005%2020:00:19:443&tBrand=EDPOnline&tCategory=search&archive=0. Retrieved 2005-01-24.
- Source: Hunstanton Civic Society
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|