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Happisburgh Village Sign cropped.png
Happisburgh village sign
Happisburgh is located in Norfolk
 Happisburgh shown within Norfolk
Area  10.78 km2 (4.16 sq mi)
Population 1,372 (Happisburgh parish, 2001 census[1])
   – density  127/km2 (330/sq mi)
OS grid reference TG 388 311
   – London  137 miles (220 km) 
Civil parish Happisburgh CP
District North Norfolk
Shire county Norfolk
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town NORWICH
Postcode district NR12
Dialling code 01692
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament North Norfolk
List of places

Coordinates: 52°49′27″N 1°31′51″E / 52.8242°N 1.5309°E / 52.8242; 1.5309

Happisburgh (Listeni/ˈhz.bɜrə/ HAYZ-bur-ə) is a village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. It is situated off the B1159 coast road from Ingham to Bacton.[2]

Happisburgh became a site of national archaeological importance in 2010 when flint tools over 800,000 years old were unearthed. This is the oldest evidence of human occupation anywhere in the UK.[3] In May 2013, a series of early human footprints were discovered on the beach at the site, providing direct evidence of early human activity at the site.[4]

The civil parish has an area of 10.78 km2 (4.16 sq mi), although this is declining due to cliff erosion. In the 2001 census, before the creation of Walcott parish, it had a population of 1,372 in 607 households. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of North Norfolk.[5]

Local features[edit]

St Mary's church[edit]

Saint Mary's, Happisburgh.

In 1086, The Normans built a church on the site of the current one in Happisburgh. It was demolished and rebuilt in the 15th century. The tower of St Mary's church is an important landmark to mariners warning of the position of the treacherous nearby sandbanks. In 1940 a German bomber released a trapped bomb from its bays during its return to Germany and the shrapnel from the bomb can still be seen embedded in the aisle pillars of the church. The church's octagonal font, also of the 15th century, is carved with figures of lions and satyrs.[6]

Lighthouse 2[edit]

Happisburgh lighthouse.

The red-and-white striped lighthouse, 0.5 miles (800 m) to the south of the church is the only independently operated lighthouse in Great Britain. It is also the oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia having been constructed in 1790. It is open to the public on occasional Sundays during the summer.[7]

Lifeboat station[edit]

Happisburgh lifeboat station and RNLI shop.

In 1866 the first lifeboat house was built on the cliffs above Old Cart Gap at a cost of £189. The location of the station here was prompted by its proximity to the treacherous Haisborough Sands. It closed in 1926 and the lifeboat was withdrawn.[8]

A small boathouse was built in a similar site (52°49′28″N 1°32′10″E / 52.824326°N 1.536101°E / 52.824326; 1.536101) during 1965 to house a D class inshore lifeboat that went into service in June of that year. In 1987 the boathouse was replaced by a new, more modern building with better facilities for crews. This was further extended in 1998. A new D class lifeboat, Colin Martin, was placed on service on 13 September 1994.[8]

In December 2002 the lifeboat launching ramp was washed away due to massive erosion. A temporary station was opened within three months at Old Cart Gap. The original station is now used for training and souvenir sales.[8][9]

On 22 October 2003 a new D class lifeboat, D-607 Spirit of Berkhamsted, was placed on service.[8][9]

The station has been honoured with an RNLI Silver Medal.[8]

Coastal erosion[edit]

The view of the cliffs from the end of Beach Road showing the precarious position of several houses, as the cliffs are being eaten away by coastal erosion.
Road in Happisburgh that was washed away by coastal erosion.

The part of the village near the coast regularly experiences severe erosion and houses that used to be over 20 feet (6 m) from the sea now sit at the edge of a cliff and will later fall into the sea. Sea defences were built in 1959 to stop the tide from eating away at the coast. Changes in government policy mean that coastal protection in Happisburgh is no longer fundable from central government. The road (Beach Road) that leads into the sea is being constantly eroded due to the sea, and the nearest houses shown in the adjacent photograph have now been demolished as part of a coastal management scheme (2013), please see North Norfolk Pathfinder Project for more information.


The stone tools discovered at Happisburgh

In 2010, Simon Parfitt and colleagues from University College London discovered flint tools near Happisburgh.[3] The tools were dated to "somewhere between 866,000 to 814,000 years ago or 970,000 to 936,000 years ago",[10] around 100,000 years earlier than the finds at Pakefield. The flints were probably left by hunter-gatherers of the human species Homo antecessor who inhabited the flood plains and marshlands that bordered an ancient course of the river Thames. The flints were then washed downriver and came to rest at the Happisburgh site.[11] In May 2013 the oldest human footprints outside of Africa, being more than 800,000 years old, were reported to have been discovered on the beach.[4]


There is a local legend dating from the 17th century that Happisburgh is haunted by the ghost of a murdered smuggler. The ghost was reported as having no legs, and its head hanging behind its back by a thin strip of flesh. The legend says that the smuggler's mutilated body was later found in a well.[12]

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]

Local offshore sandbanks dangerous to shipping:


  1. ^ Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes. Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council (2001). Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  2. ^ Ordnance Survey (2002). OS Explorer Map 252 - Norfolk Coast East. ISBN 0-319-21888-0.
  3. ^ a b Miriam Frankel. "Early Britons could cope with cold : Nature News". Nature.com. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Pallab Ghosh, science correspondent (7 February 2014). "Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk; BBC News". BBC. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council (2001). Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  6. ^ AA Illustrated Guide to Britain, London, 5th edition, 1983, p. 285.
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ a b c d e [2][dead link]
  9. ^ a b Happisburgh gets set for new lifeboat, North Norfolk News, 4 September 2008.
  10. ^ [3][dead link]
  11. ^ Ian Sample, science correspondent (7 July 2010). "First humans arrived in Britain 250,000 years earlier than thought | Science | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  12. ^ "Norfolk Myth - The Happisburgh Torso". Norfolkcoast.co.uk. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 

External links[edit]