Hunstanton is a small Norfolk seaside resort that lies at the mouth of the Wash and is affectionately known, for obvious reasons, as “Sunny Hunny”. It is the best kind of resort with its award winning beaches that are among the safest in England, plenty of seaside sports and entertainments and a climate that boasts more sunshine and less rainfall that the great majority of resorts in Britain – What a combination!
A special bonus, thanks to Hunstanton being the only East Coast resort that faces West (check the map!), visitors can enjoy the extraordinary sight of the sun setting over the sea – a memorable experience.
Hunstanton’s motto is “Alios delectare iuvat” which freely translates to “It is our pleasure to please others”
Let’s get the confusing bit over to start with. The village of Hunstanton was mentioned in the Domesday Book so it has a long history. The seaside resort, on the other hand, was created in the middle of the 19th Century by the Squire of Hunstanton Hall, the largest landowner in the area. In the early days it was known as “the sea-bathing station of Hunstanton St Edmund”
At the time there was nothing between the lighthouse and the neighbouring village of Heacham apart from an extensive sheep run, so when the resort’s oldest building, The Golden Lion Hotel, opened in 1846 it was nicknamed “le Strange Folly” But the critics were unaware that the Squire, who not only conceived but designed the resort, had made careful plans for the town’s development, plans that included a railway. When the line opened in 1862, the year that Henry Styleman le Strange died, the future was secure.
Officially Hunstanton embraces both the resort and the old village, but the latter is still known as Old Hunstanton.
The le Strange family have been associated with Hunstanton for nearly a thousand years. Indeed the present Squire lives in the town today. The family’s ancestral home, Hunstanton Hall, was sold in 1948 and converted into flats. It is reputed to have a ghost!
The le Strange’s came from Brittany after the Norman invasion and married into a leading Saxon family in the area. Probably the best known le Strange was Roger who translated Aesops Tales into English, fought unsuccessfully to dislodge Cromwell’s forces from King’s Lynn and, in 1663, produced the country’s first newspaper “The Public Intelligencer” earning him the title “Father of the English Press”.
Hunstanton has long been associated with Sir Edmund who, as King of East Anglia, led a small army against the invading Vikings, was captured and, after refusing to give up his Christian faith, was tied to a tree and shot by Danish archers. Legend has it that when St Edmund first came from Saxony in AD855 he landed near Hunstanton cliffs.
The ruined Chapel near the lighthouse was built in his memory in 1272. Nine stained glass windows depicting the life of the saint can be found in St Edmund’s Church.
The cross on the top Green is a bit of a mystery. It is assumed to be the reeded shaft of an ancient village cross that was moved from Old Hunstanton to the present position when the Golden Lion Hotel was built but its previous history is unknown.
Blazing beacons and lanterns warned ships of dangerous sandbanks in the Wash centuries before the first lighthouse in 1666. The present lighthouse, built in 1844, ceased operations in 1921 when it was replaced first by a lightship, then by a remote-control fog buoy. It is now a holiday home.