From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Heacham Church.JPG
Heacham Church
Heacham is located in Norfolk
Heacham shown within Norfolk
Area17.66 km2 (6.82 sq mi)
Population4,750 (2011 census[1]
• Density269/km2 (700/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTF675372
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townKING'S LYNN
Postcode districtPE31
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°54′25″N 0°29′24″E / 52.9069°N 0.49°E / 52.9069; 0.49Coordinates: 52°54′25″N 0°29′24″E / 52.9069°N 0.49°E / 52.9069; 0.49

Heacham (52°54′25″N 00°29′24″E / 52.90694°N 0.49000°E / 52.90694; 0.49000) is an English village in West Norfolk overlooking The Wash, between King's Lynn, 14 miles (23 km) to the south, and Hunstanton, about 3 miles (4.8 km) to the north. It has been a seaside resort for a century and a half.


There is evidence of settlement in the Heacham area over the last 5,000 years, with numerous Neolithic and later Bronze Age finds within the parish. This is presumably because the local geology consists of primarily cretaceous sands and underlying chalk, meaning that there is very little surface water for miles in any direction. This can also be seen along the banks of the Caudle Carr, just outside Dersingham, where numerous archaeological finds have been made. Running water, in conjunction with fertile surrounding lands, made Heacham an ideal place for settlement by early man. Evidence of habitation continues through the Iron age into the Romano-British era.[2]

However, the beginnings of the present village probably did not occur until the 5th century, with the Anglo-Saxon invasion and the beginnings of present-day East Anglia.

The name of the village purportedly derives from a 12th-century Norman lord, Geoffrey de Hecham.[3] Although this is possible, it is unlikely as the name "de Hecham" literally meaning "of Hecham", implying the place name was already in existence. The name Hecham was noted in the Little Domesday Book which was written around 1086 as part of the Smithdon hundred (Smetheduna). Prior to the Norman Conquest, Heacham was controlled by two Saxons, Alnoth, and Toki the king's thegn, whose estates were based around a hall in Castle Acre.[4][5] After the Norman Conquest, the lands passed to William de Warenne and his brother-in-law Frederick de Warenne, who was later killed by Hereward the Wake.

The name Heacham is more likely to have derived from the name of the river, the Hitch, in conjunction with the Old English word "ham",[6] which meant either "homestead, village, manor, estate" or "enclosure, land hemmed by water or marsh or higher ground, land in a river bend, river meadow, promontory".[7]

In 1085 the manor of Heacham was given by William de Warenne to a cell of Cluniac monks from the Priory of St Pancras of Lewes, to pray for the soul of his late wife Gundreda. After the dissolution, around 1541, the manor passed to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.


The Church of St Mary the Virgin is the oldest surviving building in the village. It dates from 1230 and is Norman in style. In the cupola on the tower hangs a bell dating from about 1100, making it the oldest in East Anglia, and the seventh oldest in the country. The transepts have been lost as well as 12 feet (3.7 m) from the east end, and the roof has been lowered.


Village sign depicting Pocahontas

Heacham has historic ties to Pocahontas, who married John Rolfe, a native of this village on 5 April 1614 at a church in Jamestown, Virginia. Rolfe took his wife, Rebecca (Pocahontas), and their two-year-old son, Thomas, to visit his family at Heacham Hall in 1616, but settled in Brentford. A year later, Rebecca died in Gravesend, when John was going to return her to Virginia. She was laid to rest at St George's parish churchyard. After that, John returned to Virginia with Tomocomo. Samuel Argall commanded the ship. Thomas was guarded by Lewis Stukley and later adopted by John's brother, Henry. John married Jane Pierce two years later. They soon had a daughter named Elizabeth. Perhaps John lost his life in the 1622 Native American massacre near Jamestown. The Rolfe family home, Heacham Hall, burned down in 1941.


Sunset at Heacham beach

Heacham started to become popular as a seaside resort with the Victorians due to the opening of the railway between King's Lynn and Hunstanton in the early 1860s. This culminated in the building of the Jubilee Bridge in 1887 to replace an old wooden bridge, using unspent subscriptions from parishioners to the celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Heacham is still popular today as a seaside resort. Both the North Beach (Jubilee) Road and South Beach Road are lined with caravan parks.

The beaches at Heacham are on the east banks of The Wash. They are among the few beaches in eastern England where the sun sets over the sea instead of over the land.

On 29 July 1929, Mercedes Gleitze became the first woman to swim The Wash, completing the crossing on her third attempt. Originally aiming for Hunstanton, she finally came ashore at Heacham after battling strong tides for over 13 hours.[8] Heacham was severely affected by the North Sea flood of 1953, when nine people died after the sea broke through. In early 2013, an exhibition of the North Sea Flood was held at St Mary's Church, with contributions from Heacham infant and junior schools and from other villagers.

Norfolk lavender[edit]

Lavender fields

Norfolk Lavender Ltd was founded in 1932. Linn Chilvers supplied the plants and the labour. Francis Dusgate of Fring Hall provided the land. The first lavender field was planted on Dusgate's land at Fring and in 1936 Dusgate acquired Caley Mill on the River Heacham and the ground around it, not for the building but for the land. Lavender has been grown there ever since. A kiosk was erected from which bunches of lavender were sold to passing pre-war traffic.

By 1936 Caley Mill was already disused and no significant repairs were carried out until 1953–1954, after a new A149 road had been built, which cut the lavender field in half. At that time a new lay-by and kiosk were constructed. Further repairs and restoration work were carried out at the mill in 1977–1978 and in the late 1980s. Since the early 1990s it has broadened its range to include other typical English floral fragrances. These are sold at home and abroad.[9]


Frequent bus services are operated by Lynx between the towns of King's Lynn and Hunstanton, calling at Heacham en route.[10] The town had a railway station, which was open from 1862 to 1969.

Notable people[edit]

In birth order:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ward/Parish population 2011". Retrieved 28 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Aerial photo showing Iron Age or Romano British enclosures in Heacham". English Heritage. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  3. ^ "About Heacham". Heacham On-line. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  4. ^ Wareham, Andrew (2005). Lords and Communities in Early Medieval East Anglia. Boydell & Brewer. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-84383-155-6.
  5. ^ Harper-Bill, Christopher (1999). Anglo-Norman Studies. Boydell & Brewer. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-85115-796-2.
  6. ^ Rye, James (1991). A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names. Lark Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-948400-15-5.
  7. ^ Mills, Anthony David (1998). A Dictionary of English Place-names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280074-9.
  8. ^ "13 Hours' Battle with the Currents". Nottingham Evening Post. British Newspaper Archive. 21 June 1929. Retrieved 27 June 2014. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ Norfolk lavender Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 26 October 2011
  10. ^ "Bus times from King's Lynn to Hunstanton from Lynxbus". Lynx. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  11. ^ The Domesday Book: England's Heritage Then and Now, ed. Thomas Hinde (UK: Coombe Books, 1996).
  12. ^ Robert S. Tilton, "Rolfe, John (1585–1622)". In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004). Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  13. ^ John A. Vickers, "Atmore, Charles (1759–1826)". In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004). Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  14. ^ Roger Hutchins, "Gunther, Robert William Theodore (1869–1940)". In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004) Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  15. ^ Brian Stableford: "Metcalfe, John". In: David Pringle: St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers (London: St. James Press, 1998), pp. 405–6. ISBN 1558622063
  16. ^ Eric Wetherell, "Hadley, Patrick Arthur Sheldon (1899–1973)". In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004). Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  17. ^ Goodman, Geoffrey (14 January 2002). "MEO". The Guardian. London.
  18. ^ Author site. [1]; blog site. [2]. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  19. ^ Place of residence mentioned Retrieved 18 February 2016.

External links[edit]