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.Read More
Family of flood rescue hero Reis Leming fly from America to take part in memorial which included the unveiling of a bus named after him.
Mr Leming was just 22, and stationed at RAF Sculthorpe, when he waded into the icy flood water, towing a rubber dinghy. An action made all the more remarkable because he could not swim.
Within an hour of the tidal wave striking, American serviceman had arrived to offer help.
The first house Mr Leming, who was 6ft 3ins tall, waded out to was in ruins, its occupants dead. Afterwards he admitted to being “scared to death” but had pressed on regardless.
Further down the street he found a huddle of people on the roof of house. He helped them into the raft, pulled them to higher, drier ground, and turned once more into the water.
For hours he waded back and forth, plucking a total of 27 people from the water until eventually he collapsed.
He became the first non-Briton ever to receive the George Medal and was also awarded the Soldiers Medal – America’s highest honour to any serviceman for heroic action outside of conflict.
A howling wind today greeted the family of a man who is known to one West Norfolk town as a hero.
A crowd gathered at a memorial on Hunstanton seafront to remember the 31 people who died on the night of the great storm. They also remembered Reis Leming, the American serviceman who saved 27 lives.
His wife Kathy and two children, Michael and Debra, were guests of the town and visibly moved by the event which included the unveiling of a bus named after Mr Leming specially liveried with pictures from the floods.
The images, including one of Mr Leming, who died in November, were taken from the EDP archives.
Pictured (from left) Debra Ross, Kathy Leming, Michael Leming, Fr John Bloomfield and Hunstanton mayor Elaine Clutton. Picture: Ian Burt
The Norfolk Green bus also featured a tide mark indicator on the top deck, which showed the depth of the waters on the night Mr Leming waded through the waves with a dinghy to rescue people.
“We are so moved and have got through a lot of tissues today,” said his daughter.
“Dad never really never talked a lot about what he did, but when we came over ten years ago he was treated like a hero by everyone here. It was so touching and I know he wanted to come back.”
His son Michael proudly wore a flying jacket which was specially made for his father and would have been presented to him last November when he was due to return to Hunstanton where a path has been named in his honour.
Sadly he died just days before the trip aged 81, and the jacket was given to Michael.
Mrs Leming said she was deeply moved by the esteem in which her husband was held by the people of Hunstanton.
The City of Norwich Pipe Band paraded along the sea front prior to the service and Mr Leming’s family followed in an American 1941 Plymouth car.
Members of the American air force’s 67th Special Operations Squadron from RAF Mildenhall were also on parade during the service.
The squadron was previously 67th Air Rescue and had been based at Sculthorpe when Mr Leming served.
Lt Col Shelley Rodriguez said the unit was honoured to be taking part in the event, as it had done in November to mark the path naming.
“It is humbling to see how people remember and we are honoured to be here today to mark the anniversary,” she said.
Members of the US airforce based at Sculthorpe were living in Hunstanton at the time of the flood and 16 Americans died.
During the service at the memorial, the names of all 31 victims were read out by town councillor John Maiden and Lt Col Rodrigiuez.
Prayers were led by Fr John Bloomfield who also took a service at St Edmund’s church.Read More