9 reasons to visit Hunstanton
PUBLISHED: 12:47 16 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:47 16 November 2018
Most people know that Hunstanton is the east of England resort with a west-facing beach, but there are a whole host more fascinating facts that light up this east-west-both-best seaside town
1. Sunny Hunny
Hunstanton is known for its beautiful sunsets across the Wash, but if you’re watching from the beach, turn around and it is just as colourful. The cliffs themselves are striped red and white and orange. If you want to get geological, the orange is carrstone, the white chalk and the red limestone. And there is vivid green to add to the palette at low tide, when striking lines of seaweed-clad boulders emerge from the sea.
Hunstanton is where England’s first patron saint is said to have stepped ashore to claim his kingdom in 855. Thirteen years later King Edmund was killed by a Viking army, after refusing to renounce his Christian faith. King Canute began his abbey shrine in Bury St Edmunds, which was visited by pilgrims from across Europe.
In Hunstanton the ruins of a 13th century chapel built in honour of St Edmund still stand beside the lighthouse. Edmund was patron saint of England until usurped by St George in the 14th century and there are still people who believe we should celebrate our national day not on April 23 but this month, on November 20 or St Edmund’s Day.
3. Little and large
The Hunstanton Lawn Tennis tournament, launched in 1920, is second only to Wimbledon in size, attracting thousands of competitors every August.
Hunstanton also boasts the world’s largest gable wall of carr stone, at the Princess Theatre, which opened as a cinema in 1932 and was renamed, for the Princess of Wales, in 1981, when Prince Charles married Diana.
Hunstanton is named after the diminutive River Hun, one of the shortest rivers in the country, which rises in the grounds of Old Hunstanton Park and flows into the sea after an epic journey of a little over three miles.
Hunstanton pier, complete with its own zoo and miniature steam railway, once stretched more than 800 feet into the sea. The name still exists as a seafront entertainment centre, but the pier itself, often called the finest in East Anglia, was destroyed by storm and fire. The Victorian marvel opened in 1870 and by 1882 paddle steamers were ferrying passengers across the Wash, docking at Hunstanton and Skegness piers.
The last of the Ealing comedies, Barnacle Bill, was filmed on Hunstanton Pier in 1957, starring Alec Guinness. But 21 years after its big-screen role, most of the pier was destroyed in a storm. In 2002 a fire ripped through the remaining sections.
For now Hunstanton has a pier in name only, but there are many who would love to be able to tread the boards out to sea once again.
Smithdon High School, designed by Peter and Alison Smithson and completed in 1954, is of international architectural significance. It is one of the best examples of New Brutalist design and is noted for its extensive use of glass and steel and its exposed structure and services, for example the water tank as a tower.
Whether you want a whoopee cushion, wind-up teeth or a wig, Britain’s largest joke shop can help. World of Fun, on St Edmunds Terrace, Hunstanton, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is still run by founder Paul Beal.
His first stock included itch and sneeze powder and joke sweets. Fart spray was invented here two years later and he now sells everything from gadgets to costumes, in-store and online.
During the night of January 31, 1953, floodwater raged ashore during a deadly combination of high tides and winds surging down the North Sea. Thirty one people died in Hunstanton, out of 100 altogether in Norfolk, with more than 300 drowned along the east coast of England and more than 2,500 in the Netherlands. Sixteen of the Hunstanton dead were American servicemen and their families. Another US serviceman, Reis Leming, was one of the heroes of the night, wading into the icy water pulling a rubber dinghy and plucking 27 people from the water before passing out from shock and cold. A footpath through the Esplanade Gardens is named for him.
Two amphibious vessels called the Wash Monsters take passengers from Hunstanton out to sea to see seals, admire the coastline and even land on a sand-bank island. Searles Sea Tours began offering trips by speedboat in 1929 and, after the Second World War, bought two amphibious landing craft from the government – on the understanding they would go back into military service in the event of another war. These have since been replaced by two more amphibious vessels, including one used by American marines in Vietnam.
9. What ho, Jeeves!
Jeeves and Wooster author PG Wodehouse often stayed at Old Hunstanton Hall and the house and park feature in several of his novels. Nearby towns also inspired the names of comic characters including Lord Brancaster, Jack Snettisham and J Sheringham Adair.