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Brancaster is located in Norfolk
 Brancaster shown within Norfolk
Area  21.43 km2 (8.27 sq mi)
Population 797 
   – density  37/km2 (96/sq mi)
OS grid reference TF775438
Civil parish Brancaster
District King's Lynn and West Norfolk
Shire county Norfolk
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town KING'S LYNN
Postcode district PE31
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
List of places

Coordinates: 52°57′44″N 0°38′29″E / 52.96219°N 0.64132°E / 52.96219; 0.64132

Brancaster is a village and civil parish on the north coast of the English county of Norfolk. The civil parish of Brancaster comprises Brancaster itself, together with Brancaster Staithe and Burnham Deepdale. The three villages form a more or less continuous settlement along the A149 at the edge of the Brancaster Manor marshland and the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve. The villages are located about 3 miles (5 km) west of Burnham Market, 22 miles (35 km) north of the town of King's Lynn and 31 miles (50 km) north-west of the city of Norwich.[1]

Burnham Deepdale St. Mary
St Mary the Virgin, Brancaster, Norfolk

The civil parish has an area of 8.27 square miles (21.43 km2) and in the 2011 census had a population of 797 in 406 households. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of King's Lynn and West Norfolk.[2] The Clerk to Brancaster Parish Council has recently reached 40 years of service in this post.

St Mary's church at Burnham Deepdale is one of 124 existing round-tower churches in Norfolk; it also has a carved Norman font.

Geography and geology[edit]

A petrified forest can be seen on the foreshore near Brancaster at low tide. It is about three-quarters of a mile west of the golf clubhouse and consists of material similar to compacted peat or brown coal (lignite). Remains also wash ashore after storms and can be found along the high tide line. The material resembles black rubber but can be broken easily to reveal plant remains inside.

Branodunum - Roman settlement[edit]

Main article: Branodunum

There was a Roman fort and settlement here named Branodunum to the east of the modern village. The Saxon Shore fort and related civilian settlement (much of which was destroyed during the construction of a locally opposed housing development in the 1970s) is not visible and remains mainly unexcavated. The site of the fort and the land around it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The use of metal detectors on site is a criminal offence.

Shipwreck on the beach[edit]

The wreck of the SS Vina. The wreck should not be approached due to the deep tidal channel. (2010)
RWNGC clubhouse at high tide
Brancaster Outlet north view with wind farm

The wreck that can be seen off the harbour is the 1021grt coaster SS Vina which was used for target practice by the RAF before accidentally sinking in 1944. The Vina was built at Leith by Ramage & Ferguson in 1894 and was registered at Grangemouth. She was a coast-hugging general cargo ship which would have worked the crossings between the east coast of England and through to the Baltic states.

As she neared the end of her useful seagoing life in 1940, Vina was requisitioned as a naval vessel for wartime use as a blockship, carrying a crew of 12. With Great Yarmouth being a strategic port on the east coast, the ultimate fate for the ship would have been to have had her hold filled with concrete and explosives and she would have been sunk at the harbour mouth, blocking entry in the event of a Nazi invasion. Once this threat passed, she was taken out of blockship service and towed up the east coast towards Brancaster where she was used as a target for the RAF before the planned invasion of Normandy in 1944.

Originally anchored further out to sea on the Titchwell side as a target for cannon shell trials, she dragged her anchor on 20 August 1944, in a north-westerly gale and ran ashore. Numerous efforts have been made to remove the wreck from the sandbank as the ship is not only a danger to navigation but also attracts holiday makers who walk out to the vessel's remains at low tide. Various parts have been removed and, in 1968, her bronze propeller was blown off by salvagers and floated across the harbour channel. Removal efforts have long been abandoned as uneconomic.

Lives have been lost due to ill-advised attempts to reach the Vina as it is on the far side of a fast-flowing tidal harbour channel. Local lifeboats and RAF rescue helicopters have been pressed into service on many occasions. A warning sign on the wreck advises anyone reaching it to return to the beach immediately.[1] The wreck may safely be viewed on YouTube, where at least two films have been posted.

National Trust and the beach[edit]

The beach area and some of the marshes are managed by the National Trust. The beach may be used for wind surfing and kite karting within the permitted area. Refer to beach maps near the car park for more details. Normal National Trust UK regulations apply on the beach - these include no metal detecting without a written permission from the National Trust; no vehicles on the beach; no horse-drawn vehicles on the beach; no overnight camping on the beach or in the car park and no open fires anywhere. At present gas-operated barbecues only are being permitted. The National Trust banned radio-controlled 'drones' from all UK sites in early 2015. There is no litter collection so please take your litter home with you. Dog waste must be disposed-of beside the toilets. There is a toilet block with good disabled facilities near the car park and a refreshment bar is open most days during spring, summer and autumn. At the eastern end of the beach there is a Schedule 1 nature reserve clearly marked and fenced to protect nesting ground birds. Please observe the warning signs as there are severe fines for disturbing nesting birds in a Schedule 1 reserve. At the western end there is a small, occasional, seal colony of two to 22 seals. Be aware that most of the North Norfolk coast including Brancaster beach is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with further legal protection for the foreshore, habitat and wildlife. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 also applies, as it is now an offence to cause damage or disturbance to wild life both by recklessness as well as deliberate intentions. Please bear this is mind when bird-watching or seal-watching. Seals should not be approached within 50 metres and all dogs should be kept away from them due to the risk of cross-infection from canine distemper.

Royal West Norfolk Golf Club[edit]

The village is home to the Royal West Norfolk Golf Club, one of the most famous links golf courses in the UK. It is a 6457 yards long, Par 71. In general golfing standards, this is not considered as being particularly long, however, the closing nine holes can often be played directly into a strong westerly wind which can more than make up for this lack of length.

The Royal West Norfolk Golf Club was founded in 1892, its design being from Holcombe Ingleby. There has been little alteration to Ingleby's design which can be seen at the Clubhouse and many of the original holes are still played today. Two holes in particular, the 8th and 9th, are played over salt marsh, which can be flooded to some considerable depth when the tide is in.

The course is one of the last remaining "Artisan" clubs in the country, this being the original right of the working men and women of Brancaster and Brancaster Staithe to play on the course themselves, the right coming from the fact it was built into common land. The Village club was formed to accommodate the village players, and relations between them and the parent club are mostly cordial and positive. Another indication of its Artisan history is that the gates to the course also serve as a war memorial for club members of all social classes and military ranks who died in WWI and WWII.

Despite the course's renown and reputation, its inaccessibility and lack of surrounding land means it will never hold a major championship. Rising sea levels mean that it is expected to be lost to the North Sea.[citation needed]

Space programme[edit]

In the 1950s and 60s, Brancaster was considered as a possible location for the launching site for the British space programme.[2] This idea was expanded to include the village becoming the base for a facility that could be used by a spaceplane to undertake secret flights over the USSR. Development would have meant that the village would probably have been razed and the villagers rehoused.

The eventual installation of oil rigs in the North Sea saw the idea shelved, as the risk, however slight, of atmospheric re-entry material hitting the rigs, was too great.

Lord Nelson[edit]

Admiral Horatio Nelson born in nearby Burnham Thorpe, is said to have learned to sail, as a young child, in the creeks and channels near to Brancaster. The ghost of Nelson's nurse is alleged to haunt the remaining village pub, "The Ship".


  1. ^ Dowse, Julian. "TF7846 : SS Vina - Safety warning sign". Geograph Britain and Ireland. Retrieved 18 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Norfolk's place in the space race" BBC Norfolk

External links[edit]