Watton and Hingham
PUBLISHED: 08:25 25 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:13 20 February 2013
A look at the two Wayland towns
Waylands historic heart
The towns are steeped in hundreds of years of history, yet proud of life in the modern day too. Ian Clarke discovers more about Watton and Hingham. Pictures: Denise Bradley
You have to turn the clock back more than 800 years to trace the early days of Watton. The market charter was granted by King John in 1204 and eight centuries on from that landmark year, markets are still a key aspect of life in the Wayland town.
A wide range of stalls line the long and busy High Street each Wednesday and attract browsers and buyers from far and wide. And for the past 10 years, Watton has also been able to boast the thriving Wayland Farmers Market. It started as a pilot scheme but became permanent and is held on the first Saturday of the month.
For centuries Watton was the centre of the local agricultural economy and most of the buildings in the High Street date from the 18th and 19th centuries.
One of the most striking structures is the Watton Clock Tower built in 1679 to house a warning bell after the great fire in the 1670s. The old corn hall is another building of note. It is now the home of the town council but over the years has been a magistrates court, dance hall, cinema and library.
While in many communities, large national chains dominate, Watton has been able to maintain a high proportion of independent shops and eateries that attract loyalty from customers.
For a town of around 7,000 residents, it is no mean feat to have a large sports centre, golf club and green spaces at Loch Neaton and the Memorial Garden.
Much time and effort has been spent on developing Wattons cultural reputation and the Dragonfly Gallery is used by artists to stage exhibitions as well as its own events. The gallery is part of Wayland House, base of the Wayland Partnership, the catalyst for many of the successes in the local community.
Queens Hall, which stages music and drama as well as a range of other community events, opened in 1956, four years after a public meeting was called to discuss the best way to mark the coronation.
Watton is at the heart of Wayland and the area has a collection of paths and bridleways for walking and riding including the Peddars Way which links to the Great Eastern Pingo Trail with its Ice Age pools.
Wayland Wood, now owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and home to a number of rare species, was once a forest in which, legend says, the Babes in the Wood were lost.
Along the B1108 road from Watton is Hingham, described as the Georgian gem of Norfolk due to the grand buildings from the era that surround the old market place.
It is also famed as the birthplace of Abraham Lincolns ancestor, Samuel Lincoln, who emigrated to America in the early 17th century with other residents and founded the town of Hingham, Massachusetts.
Born in 1622, Samuel Lincoln spent his childhood and early youth in Hingham where he had been baptised in St Andrews Church.
Samuels bloodline was to follow a route of monumental historical significance. More than 200 years later Samuels great-great-great-great-grandson Abraham became 16th president of the United States in 1860.
In the 18th century in Hingham, socialites of high society took residence and it became fashionably known as little London.
Today the town maintains links to its famous descendant with Lincolns tea shop and bistro. It also has its very own Harrods a general store in Church Street.
TV chef Chris Coubrough has recently added the White Hart in the centre of Hingham to his culinary empire, which includes four other gastro pubs in Norfolk hotspots. He will be revamping the 15th century pub over the next few months, so expect to enjoy delicious food and drink in a relaxed, stylish atmosphere early in the New Year.
Another major name of Hingham is Margaret Sheridan, the specialist interior design and decoration company which has a new showroom just outside the town at The Workrooms, Gurneys Manor, where it offers clients the benefit of its 40-plus years of experience and its vast collections of fabrics, wallpapers, carpet and flooring samples, as well as lighting, hand-made sofas and chairs.