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View of Hunstanton front from the beach
|Area||6.07 km2 (2.34 sq mi)|
|• Density||697/km2 (1,810/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Hunstanton (locally // (listen) HUN-stən) is a seaside town in Norfolk, England, with a population of 4,229 at the 2011 Census, It faces west across The Wash, making it one of the few places on the east coast where the sun can be seen setting over the sea. Hunstanton lies 102 miles (164 km) north north-east of London and 40 miles (64 km) north-west of Norwich.
An electoral ward in the same name exists, belonging to the Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk. The population of this ward at the 2011 Census was 5,420. Hunstanton has a mayor and a 17-member town council that meets twice a month.
The coastal cliffs include the type section of the Hunstanton Formation of lower reddish limestone which was laid down during the Lower Cretaceous. This is topped by a white chalk layer from the Upper Cretaceous period.
Hunstanton is a 19th-century resort town, initially known as New Hunstanton to distinguish it from the adjacent village from which it took its name. The new town soon exceeded the village in scale and population.
The original settlement, now known as Old Hunstanton, probably gained its name from the River Hun, which runs to the coast just to the east of Old Hunstanton. It has also been argued that the name originated from "Honeystone", a reference to the local red carr stone. The river begins in the grounds of Old Hunstanton Park, which surrounds the old moated hall, the ancestral home of the Le Strange family. Old Hunstanton village is of prehistoric origin and lies near to the head of Peddars Way. In 1970, evidence of Neolithic settlement was found. The quiet character of the village remains distinct from its busy sibling and complements it with clifftop walks past a redundant lighthouse and the ruins of St Edmund's Chapel, built in 1272.
In 1846, Henry Styleman Le Strange (1815–1862), decided to develop the area south of Old Hunstanton as a bathing resort. He brought a group of like-minded investors into the construction of a railway line from King's Lynn. In 1861, Le Strange, as principal landowner, became a director of the railway company and by 1862 the line had been built. However, Le Strange died in the same year, at the age of 47, leaving his son Hamon to reap the rewards of his efforts. The Lynn and Hunstanton Railway became one of the most consistently profitable in the country.
As a mark of his intentions, Le Strange had moved the ancient village cross from Old Hunstanton to a new site in 1846, and in 1848 the first main building was erected. This was the Royal Hotel (now the Golden Lion), the work of the renowned Victorian architect, William Butterfield, a friend of Le Strange. Overlooking a sloping green and the sea, and for several years standing alone, it earned the nickname "Le Strange's Folly". In 1850 Le Strange, an amateur architect and painter, appointed a land agent to survey the site and prepare a plan. Le Strange drew and painted a map and a perspective of the scheme, showing shops, a station and a church. He consulted William Butterfield on the design. Their shared passion was for an "Old English" style of architecture for domestic buildings, owing much to medieval precedents and the earnestness of the Victorian Gothic Revival. Hunstanton became an exemplar of a 19th-century estate seaside town. Most of the fabric and character of the original development survives.
For a period in 1915, during the First World War, Hunstanton served as headquarters of the West Norfolk training programme of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, as they prepared for active service in France.
Hunstanton was badly hit by the North Sea Flood of 1953. The wall of water on the night of 31 January – 1 February killed 31 people in the town, of whom 16 were American servicemen and their families. There were 35 more victims in neighbouring places such as Snettisham and Heacham.
In birth order:
Hunstanton's summer crowds tend to be smaller now than in the 1980s, although its relative popularity as a destination for day-trippers and holidaymakers has endured, weathering the general decline in British seaside holidaying. During the 1990s, businesses in villages south of Hunstanton (Dersingham, Ingoldisthorpe and Snettisham) complained of a loss in trade after being bypassed by the A149, which carries heavier, Hunstanton-bound traffic.
Hunstanton has a fairground, aquarium and seal sanctuary, leisure pool, theatre, large caravan parks with amenities (Searle's Holiday Park opened in 1936), a number of amusement arcades, and a long promenade. The centrepiece remains the large sloping green, which runs from one end of High Street to the promenade.
The town previously boasted a Victorian pleasure pier, with fine attractions, including a pavilion and miniature steam railway running up and down it. The pier pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1939, the pier was damaged by fire again in the 1950s, before almost the entire structure was washed away by a storm in 1978. What remained of the pier extended just fifteen feet outwards from the amusement arcade and cafe that was built on the site of the original entrance. In 2002, the entire building, with the remains of the pier, was destroyed in a fire. As the building was so badly damaged, firemen could not determine the cause. Today, a new arcade and bowling alley complex occupy the site. The pier featured in the 1957 Ealing Studios comedy film Barnacle Bill (released in the US as All at Sea) starring Alec Guinness.
Hunstanton has regular markets on Wednesdays and Sundays selling fresh fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. The markets attract greater numbers in the summer months through to the autumn. The principal shopping streets of the town have stone buildings, some with glazed canopies, evoking the Victorian and Edwardian eras of their construction and retaining a mixture of outlets including England's largest joke shop.
In good weather, excursion boats carry visitors out to view the grey and common seals that have colonised sand bars in the Wash and to the north of Norfolk. The countryside surrounding Hunstanton is hillier than most of Norfolk and sparsely populated, the only nearby large settlement being King's Lynn, 12 miles (19 km) to the south.
The Smithdon High School (formerly Hunstanton Secondary Modern School) is an early building designed by the architects Peter and Alison Smithson, built in 1949–1954 in a radical style of international architectural significance. It is a Grade II*listed building.
The school epitomised the architectural experimentation of post-war Britain and the growing acceptance of modernism by public authorities. It was widely praised for its intelligent layout and formal elegance. The Smithsons deliberately left many of the service elements of the school exposed, making a feature of the water tank by turning it into a tower. The disposition, steel frames and panels of brick and glass most obviously echo the work of Mies Van Der Rohe at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Hunstanton is home to Glebe House School, an independent co-educational preparatory school.
The Princess Theatre is a 472-seat venue open all year round for a variety of shows from comedy to drama, music for all tastes, and children's productions. The venue also has a six-week summer season and an annual Christmas pantomime. Films are screened during the week. It opened as the Capitol Cinema in 1932 and is noted for its construction in Norfolk carr stone, of which it contains the largest gable wall in existence. It was designed as a theatre as well as a cinema, but closed in the 1960s and was sold in 1974. It reopened as the Kingsley Centre for summer seasons and films for about two years, but declined into a bingo hall before closing again. The Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk purchased it in 1981, and in honour of Lady Diana Spencer who married the Prince of Wales in July 1981, it was renamed the Princess Theatre and officially re-opened on 5 July 1981.
Hunstanton Concert Band plays at events in and around Hunstanton at a wide variety of venues including churches, fêtes, concerts and the town's band-stand. The Deaf Havana album Fools and Worthless Liars featured a track called "Hunstanton Pier", a nostalgic recollection of the town where James Veck-Gilodi its lead singer had grown up.
Between the world wars, P. G. Wodehouse frequently visited his friend Charles Le Strange at Hunstanton Hall and it became an influence on a number of the locations in his comic novels, as Aunt Agatha's country seat Woollam Chersey, and the inspiration for the setting for Money for Nothing (1928). The octagon in the garden featured in "Jeeves and the Impending Doom". Norfolk also furnishes names for many of Wodehouse's characters, such as Brancaster, Jack Snettisham and J. Sheringham Adair.
L. P. Hartley knew Hunstanton and the surrounding area well from childhood holidays and he used it as a setting for The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944), the first novel in his Eustace and Hilda trilogy. It is at Hunstanton Hall, fictionalised as Anchorstone Hall, that Eustace enters the privileged world of the aristocracy and eventually inherits a small fortune. The layered cliffs at Hunstanton (consisting of chalk, red chalk and carr stone) also provide the backdrop for Eustace and Hilda's games among the rock pools.
Patrick Hamilton's novel Hangover Square opens with George Harvey Bone walking on the cliffs in Hunstanton. Hamilton lived for many years at Martincross in Sheringham and spent some time in the 1930s in a cottage in Burnham Overy Staithe, with his first wife, Lois.
Hunstanton attracts thousands during a week in August, for the ITA Hunstanton Lawn Tennis tournament (the biggest in England after Wimbledon) inaugurated in 1920. All ages can play from the young (Under 8 Round Robin) to senior veterans. Apart from the tournament, it is a big social event.
Hunstanton Golf Club, founded in 1891 by Hamon Le Strange, is an 18-hole championship links along the sandy coast of Old Hunstanton. It has a classic "out and back" design on either side of a central spine or dune ridge. The 12th, 13th and 14th holes play across the ridge.
The town has hosted several international sporting events, including the 2005 World Water Ski Racing Championships.
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