Old Hunstanton is a coastal village at the furthest tip of North-West Norfolk. In April 2007 the boundaries of Old Hunstanton were redrawn which gave an enlarged village community. The Parish contains 317 dwellings of which 106 are holiday homes. Old Hunstanton, standing at the western end of the Cromer Ridge and looking out over the entrance to the Wash, has always been an attractive place to live.
It appears to have been at the end of an ancient group of tracks known as the Icknield Way and, as long ago as 3000 BC, local Bronze Age people hid a precious hoard of copper alloy objects in the nearby saltmarshes. Less than a mile to the east of the Parish boundary is the Roman road, Peddars Way, and it is not surprising that, with a Roman fort a few miles away at Brancaster, a Roman stone-built farmstead prospered near the spring at the bottom of Waterworks Road.
During Anglo-Saxon times the settlement acquired its name ‘Hunstanestun’ or ‘farmstead of a man called Hunstan’ and seems to have spread further up the valley of the River Hun and south-west onto the higher ground. By the time the Norman conquerors carried out their census for the Domesday Book, there was a thriving settlement of mixed farming, with a church, a fishery and two water mills.
Once the L’Estrange family became lords of the manor in the twelfth century, the fortunes of the village became intimately involved with theirs. Although the family does not appear to have been in residence much in the early years, men from the village were probably involved in providing part of the garrison at the nearby castle of Rising. However when the family did come to stay, they enhanced the village by rebuilding St Mary’s Church and establishing their manorial buildings in Hunstanton Park.
When the Black Death swept through the country in 1349, Hunstanton suffered with everyone else, losing 172 people within eight months. So many died that eventually the hamlet of Little Ringstead was abandoned.
The L’Estrange domain was very unusual in that it extended out to sea as far as ahorseman could ride at the lowest tide and throw a spear. This is commemorated in the village sign, which shows such a horseman in front of Hunstanton Hall. During thesixteenth and seventeenth centuries the village enjoyed a long period of stability andprosperity under a series of benign lords of the manor. Later during the Civil WarSir Hamon L’Estrange, who supported the King, became governor of King’s Lynn in themonth-long siege against the Parliamentary forces and no doubt many villagers fromHunstanton joined them.
Besides worrying about what was happening to their menfolkin the besieged town, those left behind in Hunstanton would have been able to watchfrom the shore as Parliament ships blockaded the approaches to Lynn.The following century, as the L’Estrange fortunes declined, was a time of great turmoil,when conflicts between smugglers and local militiamen became widespread. Hunstanton was no exception. In 1782 a smugglers’ hoard was seized from the tower ofthe church and a few years later a customs officer and a cavalry soldier were killed in aviolent struggle with smugglers. Their graves can still be seen in the churchyard.Bryant’s Map of Norfolk 1826 shows that, apart from Hunstanton Hall itself and acluster of houses near the Church, the main houses of the village were in the HighStreet and Sea Lane. The current road to Holme-next-the Sea was just a ‘footway’,because the main road eastwards along the coast turned sharp right, past the Church andthen left across the River Hun and past the front of Hunstanton Hall.
The Village Sign was presented to the village by the Women’s Institute to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It was unveiled on Tuesday 13th September 1977 by the Chairman of the Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institute, Mrs. Jill Scott and blessed by the Reverend Paul Alton, Vicar of St. Mary’s Church, Old Hunstanton.
The Sign shows a man on horseback holding a javelin. When the le Strange family first came to Old Hunstanton they got the sturdiest manto ride the biggest charger and throw a javelin out to sea. The land to the seaward side became the le Strange property. Also shown are Old Hunstanton Hall, the le Strange home, and the crests of thele Strange family and the Women’s Institute. Buried under the sign is a set of today’s coins and a casket containing a record of today’s food prices.
Local craftsman, Mr. Harry Carter of Swaffham made the sign and the plinth, made of Norfolk flints and red brick was made by Mr. Tony Richardson of Old Hunstanton.