A brief history of Hunstanton by Ken Arnott

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.

Getting About

Once in HUNSTANTON, why not take the opportunity to explore by bus, by cycle or on foot. It’s a great way to really tune in to the pace of the countryside.


The Coasthopper bus service is a really great way to explore the Norfolk coast. You can use it to travel between King’s Lynn, Hunstanton, Wells, Sheringham and Cromer. The service operates daily up to every hour during early spring, late autumn and winter and up to every half hour from April to October.

The combination of the Norfolk Coast Path and the Coasthopper bus offers excellent opportunities to leave the car behind and discover this beautiful part of our coastline. Most services from King’s Lynn to Hunstanton are timetabled to connect with First Capital Connect rail services, with through-ticketing available. See www.coasthopper.co.uk or email enquires@coasthopper.co.uk.

Cycling in and around Hunstanton

Much of the Peddars Way is open to cyclists. The Norfolk Coast Path is NOT. Two long-distance cycle routes pass through Hunstanton: National Cycle Route 30 (Norfolk Coast Cycleway) and National Cycle Route 1. For a list of Norfolk cycle paths and information about free cycling maps, see www.sustrans.org.uk.

Norfolk has a host of cycle routes including the 59 mile Norfolk Coast cycleway from King’s Lynn to Cromer and the Peddar’s Way. Sandringham is another lovely spot where families take young children to enjoy their bikes.
You don’t even have to bring your own bikes on holiday. There are many places to hire cycles along the way.

Explore on Foot

There are many paths, bridleways, local and national trails to take you across the wide expanses of West Norfolk, and through our charming villages, on foot.

www.visitwestnorfolk.com – where you can find information about the Norfolk Coast Path, Peddars Way, Peter Scott Walk, Fen Rivers way and nar Valley Way.

For circular walking routes visit www.countrysideaccess.norfolk.gov.uk

To find more information about the Norfolk coast Path and Peddars Way, please go to www.nationaltrail.co.uk

www.sandringhamestate.co.uk – which will tell you about the country park of the Queen’s private estate where you can walk..

www.holkham.co.uk – which also has a country park where you can walk and also along the award winning beach.

Hunstanton remembers the great flood of 1953

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.

Reis Leming

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. 

Cliffs & Beach Information

Hunstanton is famous for its striped cliffs and is otherwise known as Sunny Hunny.

The beach and cliffs face west which means they capture the sunshine and are the perfect spots for viewing some spectacular sunsets. The shallow beach runs for two miles along the coast to Brancaster and the tide can go out a mile, allowing rock pools to appear around the groynes.

The cliffs show an amazing slice of Britain’s history over many million years. Here is the geology – White Chalk from the Upper Cretaceous era forms the top layer, followed by a layer of limestone, known as red chalk from the Lower Cretaceous period formed over a period of 15 million years and finally beneath is grey/green Carstone. As both the red and white chalk contains fossils the beach below is a magnet for keen fossil hunters. On top of the striped cliffs is Hunstanton North Promenade, which has lovely gardens and walks overlooking the sea.

Ideas to keep the children happy!

Playground by the Crazy Golf, swings, seesaw and rocking horse.

Crazy Golf at Esplanade Gardens / Pitch and Putt by the Lighthouse – phone resort services for opening times 01485 535150.

Visit Paint me Ceramics – 22 Westgate, 01485 534340 to make your own pot etc.

Do the bug hunt on Boston Sensory Park, pick up details at TIC.

Oasis Leisure centre – Swimming (indoors) Fun Castle Adventure Play area and Eco Ice Skating – 01485 534227.

Beach combing (rock pools under cliffs when tide out) and sandcastle building.

Paddling and swimming in the sea.

Donkey and Pony rides on the beach.

Visit the Sea Life Centre and Seal Hospital (indoors) – 01485 533576. Use the new pirate ship adventure playground there.

Fairgrounds rides at the end of the promenade and amusements arcades around the town.

Sea Monster Tour or Sea Tours to Seal Island – 01485 534444.

Blackbeard’s Adventure Golf along the promenade– 01485 535737.

Captain Willie’s Soft Play Activity Centre at Searle’s (indoors) – 01485 534211.

Bowlers Ten Pin Bowling Alley and amusements (indoors) – 01485 534960.

Take a Trip on the Land Train from Searles Holiday Park to the lighthouse at Old Hunstanton and back.

Learn to sail, windsurf or kite surf 01485 534455 or 07897 563734.

See a show or a film at The Princess Theatre (indoors) – 01485 532252.

Play Tennis. At the recreation ground, to hire courts contact oasis leisure centre. 01485 534227.

Children’s playgroundat the Recreation Ground.

Watch a game of cricket or football up at the recreation ground.

Swim at Old Hunstanton Beach and have an ice cream at the Old Beach Cafe.

Visit the RNLA Lifeboat Station at Old Hunstanton on a Sunday Morning.

Blue Flag Beach

Hunstanton’s main beach has been awarded Blue Flag status for a third consecutive year. Blue Flag is an environmental award given to resort beaches throughout the world that achieve the highest standards.
Blue Flag beaches meet specific criteria relating to:
• Environmental education and information.
• Environmental management.
• Safety and services.
• Water quality.

Beach Conduct

• Use the litter and recycling bins on the beach.
• Use public transport, walk or cycle to the beach.
• Follow the beach code of conduct.
• Enjoy the nature of the beach and the surrounding area but treat it with respect.
• Stay away from wildlife areas, especially at nesting-time.

Beach Safety

Be safe while visiting Hunstanton’s beach. Some Safety Tips:
• Children’s inflatable’s should always have a line connected, held securely by an adult on the shore.
• Always check the tide before you enter the water. The TIC sell tide books for the whole year, or www.easytide.ukho.gov.uk
Remember to protect yourself against the sun’s ray: ‘Slip – Slap – Slop’
• Slip on a shirt.
• Slap on a hat.
• Slop on sunscreen.

Beach patrols are on duty from Easter to the end of the school summer holidays in September and first aid is available. A lifeboat is based at Old Hunstanton, about a mile along the coast.

Dogs are not permitted on the beach, from the power boat ramp to the northern extremity of the promenade, between Good Friday and 31st October.
Dogs on the promenade, must be kept on a lead at all times and, under the dog fouling legislation, dog owners will also be required to remove dog faeces deposited by their dogs wherever they are in Hunstanton.

• There are ramps onto the beach and toilets for people with disabilities.

Beach Chalets

Located along Hunstanton’s North Promenade, each chalet offers you wonderful sea views across The Wash and your own guaranteed space away from the crowds on the beach.
Chalets are available to hire throughout the season, from the 1st April each year, on a daily, weekly or seasonal basis.
Chalets are an ideal base for a family trip to the beach and even include a free reserved parking space.
Chalets are priced at: £17.60 per day, £82.00 per week or £576.00 per season.
Advanced booking can be made by contacting the on 01485 536148