The war memorial in Holt's market place
|Area||12.19 km2 (4.71 sq mi)|
|Population||3,810 (2011 census)|
|• Density||313/km2 (810/sq mi)|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||127 miles|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
Holt is a market town, civil parish and electoral ward in the English county of Norfolk. The town is 22.8 miles (36.7 km) north of the city of Norwich, 9.5 miles (15.3 km) west of Cromer and 35 miles (56 km) east of King's Lynn. The town is on the route of the A148 King's Lynn to Cromer road. The nearest railway station is in the town of Sheringham where access to the national rail network can be made via the Bittern Line to Norwich. Holt also has a railway station on the preserved North Norfolk Railway, the 'Poppy Line', of which it is the south-western terminus. The nearest airport is Norwich. The town has a population of 3,550, rising and including the ward to 3,810 at the 2011 census. Holt is within the area covered by North Norfolk District Council.
The most likely derivation of the name Holt is from an Anglo-Saxon word for woodland, and Holt is located on wooded high ground of the Cromer-Holt ridge at the crossing point of two ancient by-ways and as such was a natural point for a settlement to grow. The town has a mention in the great survey of 1086 known as the Domesday Book. In the survey it is described as a market town and a port with the nearby port of Cley next the Sea being described as Holt's port. It also had five watermills and twelve plough teams and as such was seen as a busy thriving viable settlement. The first Lord of the Manor was Walter Giffard; it passed to Hugh, Earl of Chester, who then left it to the De Vaux family. By this time Holt had a well-established market and two annual fairs which were held on 25 April and 25 November. Over the years Holt grew as a local place of trade and commerce. The weekly market which had taken place since before the 1080s was stopped in the 1960s.
The great fire
On 1 May 1708, Holt was devastated by a fire which destroyed most of the medieval town in three hours. The fire started at Shirehall Plain and quickly spread through the timber houses of the town. The church was also badly damaged with its thatched chancel destroyed, the lead melted from the windows and the flames spreading up the steeple. Contemporary reports stated that the fire spread so swiftly that the butchers did not have time to rescue their meat from their stalls on the market. The damage to the town was estimated to be in the region of £11,000. The town subsequently received many donations from all over the country to aid reconstruction.
With most of the medieval buildings destroyed, the rebuilding made Holt notable for its abundance of Georgian buildings, that being the style of the day. However, the town repaired and retains its Norman parish church, which is dedicated to St Andrew.
1968 RAF mid-air collision
A mid-air collision over the town occurred on the night of 19 August 1968, involving a Victor Tanker from RAF Marham and a Canberra bomber from RAF Bruggen in West Germany. This followed an electrical storm that had disabled radar systems. A memorial stone hangs inside Saint Andrew's Church.
The school's former pupils include Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, Lord Reith, Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, President Erskine Childers, Sir Christopher Cockerell, Donald Maclean, Sir Lennox Berkeley, Sir Stephen Spender, Richard Hand, Tom Wintringham, Sir James Dyson, Ralph Firman, Sir Peter Brook, Paddy O'Connell, Sebastian Shaw, Olivia Colman, Sienna Guillory, John Tusa, Tom Youngs and Michael Cummings.
Holt Community Primary School is a state primary school for children aged 4–11. The Infant School was built in 1910 with the Junior School being built by 1928. The Infant School and Junior School was amalgamated in 1965 to form Holt County Primary School. The school has been extended and developed over the years. It changed its name in 1999 to Holt Community Primary School.
There is no state high school in the town so children are educated at Sheringham High School from the ages of 11–16.
Local points of interest
The hall was built in the 1840s and extended in the 1860s. The hall is located in an 86-acre (35 ha) estate made up of ancient woodlands, lawns, lakes and gardens.
It was owned by Henry Burcham-Rogers, who inherited it from his father John Rogers in 1906. Henry Burcham-Rogers kept the hall until his death in 1945.
1–3 Shirehall Plain – The building is thought to be the oldest house in Holt (the cellar dates back to the 15th century), a survivor of the great fire of Holt in 1708 and a further fire in the building in 1906. The premises traded as a hardware shop or ironmonger's for over 100 years under the ownership of the Byford family. Byfords is now run as a café, delicatessen and B&B
Blind Sam is the name given locally to the Queen Victoria Jubilee Lantern located in Obelisk Plain. From the year of Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 until 1921 it stood in the Market Place, where it had two functions, to provide light to the Market Place and to provide drinking water from two fountains at the bottom. The light was powered by the town's gas supply, which at the time was sporadic and unreliable, hence the nickname "Blind Sam". It was moved to Obelisk Plain in 1921 to make way for the war memorial. Made by ironmongers in Glasgow, it was restored in the 1990s.
The pineapple-topped obelisk at Holt is one of a pair gateposts from Melton Constable Park, the other having been given to the town of Dereham in 1757. Each gatepost had the distances to various places from Holt and Dereham respectively carved into the stone. At the start of the Second World War, to avoid assisting the enemy in the event of invasion, the townspeople of Dereham dumped their obelisk down a deep well, where it remains to this day. The people of Holt whitewashed their obelisk at the start of the Second World War and it remains in good condition and a cause of great interest.
Holt Water Tower
The town's water was pumped from the common land at Spout Hills to the water tower in Shirehall Plain. The tower was made from bricks, built in 1885 by Erpingham Rural Sanitary Authority and was 56 ft (17 m) high. It held 15,000 gallons of water and the water level inside the tank could be read from the ground. The tower was in use until 1955 and was demolished in 1957.
A brick-built windmill was erected in the late 18th century: when put up for sale in the summer of 1792 it was described as "newly built". It was used by many different owners until the early 1920s. The sails were removed in 1922 and the rest of the machinery was removed in the 1930s. The brick tower was then used for storage until deemed unsafe. The brick tower was demolished in the 1970s. There are now homes on the site, known as Mill Court.
Holt Country Park
Holt Country Park is a short walk from the town. Its history includes a horseracing course, heath, farmland, forestry and woodland garden. It is now woodland dominated with Scots pine and native broadleaves. Its rich ground flora supports wildlife including deer. The park has achieved a Green Flag Award every year since 2005.
The Lowes is an area of heathland of around 120 acres (0.49 km2) to the south of Holt set aside by the Inclosure Act of 1807. The poor of Holt had grazing rights for an animal and also had the right to take wood and gorse from the land for their own use. It is likely that the land was never used by the poor of Holt as the land was not wholly suitable. The Lowes was used for military training during the First World War. It is open to the public along with Holt Country Park. The Lowes has long been recognised as an important area for wildlife, with records going back to the 18th century. It was declared an SSSI in 1954 and for a while managed as a nature reserve by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, which continues to act as managing agents for the trustees. As on all lowland heaths, there is a constant need for management to prevent the encroachment of trees. Recent work has concentrated on clearing a large part of the mixed valley mire, an area of sphagnum bog that supports plants like sundews and several species of dragonfly, including one, the keeled skimmer, found nowhere else in East Anglia.
These consist of 14 acres (57,000 m2) of green space, which provided the town of Holt with all of its water needs, enabling it to grow and flourish. An old reservoir still exists but the pumping station was dismantled in the 1950s.
Holt railway station, opened in 1887, was served by the Midland and Great Northern Railway. Most of this network was closed by British Railways in 1959 but the short section from Melton Constable railway station via Holt to Sheringham (services continuing on to Cromer and Norwich) escaped closure for a few more years – finally succumbing in 1964 when the branch was cut back to Sheringham (now the nearest national rail-head, served by frequent services to Norwich along the 'Bittern Line'). In 1965, within a year of the closure of this line, the North Norfolk Railway was formed to restore part of the line as an independent heritage steam railway. Initially it operated between Sheringham and Weybourne; later it was extended to the eastern edge of Holt. Until a few years ago,[vague] a horse-bus service, the "Holt Flyer", ran between the Railway Tavern in the town centre and the new railway station, timed to connect with trains. The horse-bus has now been replaced by an AEC Routemaster bus. There are now plans by the Norfolk Orbital Railway to extend the railway back towards the town centre and on to Melton Constable and Fakenham.
Festivals and cultural events
Holt Summer Festival
The Holt Summer Festival started in 2009 is an arts festival. The event runs for a week and included music, theatre, literature, cinema and art.
The Doctor Who events
On Sunday 25 June 2006, Holt was "invaded" by Daleks. The event was a celebration of BBC Television's classic science fiction series Doctor Who. The Doctor Who Midsummer Invasion attracted many fans of the ever-popular show to the town as well as some of its previous stars. Organised by Planet Skaro, a local sci-fi store that has subsequently closed, the highlight of the day was a Dalek parade through the town centre.
Due to the success of the first Invasion, another science fiction themed event took place in Holt on 30 June 2007.
Sport and recreation
Holt has a Rugby football club, formed in 1961. The club's first match was played against West Norfolk on Gresham's School playing field. In the early days the team used the White Lion Hotel (now closed) for their changing rooms and hospitality. In 1967 the club was able to purchase 9 acres (3.6 ha) of land on the eastern side of Bridge Road in nearby High Kelling. The club began playing their home games at their new facilities in 1969. At Bridge Road the club has three full-size pitches, six dedicated mini pitches and a clubhouse which was built in 1970. There are changing room facilities for up to 100 players. The club has three senior sides, a junior side and mini rugby sides for age 6 to 12-year olds.
Holt United Football Club was formed in 1894 and was a founder member of the North Norfolk and Norwich League, which began in 1895. In 1927 the club joined the Norwich and District League and went on to win this league on five occasions. In 1935 the club was in the Norfolk and Suffolk League and did not suffer a league defeat until December that year, when they lost to Norwich City A at Carrow Road. Holt was the first amateur team to play at the newly built Carrow Road ground. In 1985 Holt United left their ground at Jubilee Road, which was sold to finance the new Sports Centre complex on Kelling Road. For one season Holt played their matches at Gresham's School. In 1986 the club moved to their new ground at the Sports Centre. Four years later they dropped into junior football. During the past three seasons the club have remained in Division One of the Anglian Combination. At present[when?] Holt United runs three sides, the first team playing in the Anglian Combination and the Reserves and colts teams in the North East Norfolk League.
Holt Harlequins Hockey Club (formerly Cromer Hockey Club) plays at the astroturf ground at Gresham's School.
- Geoffrey Gillam (1905–1970), consultant cardiologist
- Dr Thomas Girdlestone (1758–1822), physician
- Sir John Gresham (1492–1556), merchant, founder of Gresham's School
- Sir Richard Gresham (1494–1549), merchant and member of parliament
- Billa Harrod (1911-2005), architectural conservationist
- John Holmes (1703–1760), educationist
- Logie Bruce Lockhart (born 1921), writer and journalist
- Robert Pilch (1977–1957), footballer
- Sir Matthew Pinsent (born 1970), Olympic gold medallist in rowing
- Edmund Rogers (1823–1910), journalist and spiritualist
- Sebastian Shaw (1905–1994), actor
- Gareth Sibson (born 1977), writer and broadcaster
- Sir William Stanley (1435–1495), soldier, Lord Chamberlain
- Kieron Williamson (born 2002), landscape artist
- Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council, 2001. "Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes"
- "Town/Ward population 2011". Retrieved 1 September 2015.
- Brooks, Peter, Holt, Georgian Market Town, (Cromer: Poppyland Publishing, second edition 2001, ISBN 0-946148-53-8)
- "Memorial unveiled to plane crash airmen". BBC News. 19 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
- greshams.com – official web site of Gresham's School
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 January 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Holt Rugby Football Club". www.holtrfc.com.
- Holt United Archived 18 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "Geoffrey Gerrard Gillam" (sic) in William Munk, ed., The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London: Continued to 1975 (The Royal College, 1982), pp. 196–198
- Oppenheimer, P. M. "Wilhelmine Margaret Eve [Billa] Harrod [née Cresswell], Lady Harrod (1911–2005)". ONDB. OUP. Retrieved 23 November 2017. (subscription required)
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