Sea Palling

Coordinates: 52°47′N 1°36′E / 52.78°N 1.60°E / 52.78; 1.60
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Sea Palling
Sea Palling Gap
Sea Palling is located in Norfolk
Sea Palling
Sea Palling
Location within Norfolk
Area11.05 km2 (4.27 sq mi)
Population655 (Including Horsey and Waxham, 2011 census)[1]
• Density59/km2 (150/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTG420260
• London140 miles (230 km)
Civil parish
  • Sea Palling
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townNORWICH
Postcode districtNR12
Dialling code01692
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°47′N 1°36′E / 52.78°N 1.60°E / 52.78; 1.60

Sea Palling, also historically spelled Pawling and Pauling,[2] is a village and civil parish covering 11.05 km2 (4.27 sq mi) in the English county of Norfolk.[3] The village is 19.6 miles (31.5 km) south-east of Cromer, 19.6 miles (31.5 km) north-east of Norwich and 140 miles (230 km) north-east of London. The village lies 4 mi (6.4 km) east of the A149 between Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth. The nearest railway station is at North Walsham for the Bittern Line, which runs between Sheringham, Cromer, and Norwich.

Historically it was known as Palling, the parish was renamed on 2 October 1948 from "Palling" to "Sea Palling".[4]


Village signpost, carved by Henry Barnett and depicting a lifeboat with crew. It was refurbished in 2002

The Domesday Book (1086) records that Palling consisted of nine villagers and fourteen smallholders. There were 20 acres (8.1 ha) of meadow, 14 wild mares, two cobs, 23 pigs and 71 sheep with a total value of £4.00. It was surrounded by areas of salt marsh.

The community's primary economy has been are linked to the sea since prehistory. Additional economic endeavours included agriculture and making bricks. Bricks were transported by wherry along the New Cut to various Broadland staithes. The brick industry ended around in the early 20th century, and the kilns were dismantled.

In the 13th century, the town of Waxham Parva disappeared into the sea during a storm, along with its church and some of the land that was part of the large estate of Gelham Hall.[5] One of the earliest accounts was written by John of Oxendes, a monk at nearby St Benet's Abbey, in which he relates the destruction of the great storm of 1287:

the sea, agitated by the violence of the wind, burst through its accustomed limits, occupying towns, fields and other places adjacent to the coast ... it suffocated or drowned men and women sleeping in their beds, with infants in their cradles ... and it tore up houses from their foundations, with all they contained and threw them into the sea with irrevocable damage.[6]

Several incursions occurred over the centuries and by 1604 neighboring Eccles on Sea had lost 66 houses and more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land. Three years later Palling's defenses were breached and Waxham was flooded in 1655 and 1741. Sir Berney Brograve—the 18th century owner of Waxham, Sea Palling and Horsey—tried to have the sea breaches repaired after many destructive inundations of his estate. He attempted to do so by reviving a previous Act of Parliament, but was unsuccessful. Lack of proper maintenance of the dunes led to continuous water breaches until a “programme of sea defence” was established in the 19th century.

Within the 20th century, the North Sea flood of 1953 took the lives of seven villagers—some of the 100 who perished in Norfolk alone. A memorial plaque was built in St Margaret's Church. Following this tragedy, the sea wall was extended in 1986. In 1995, the Environment Agency undertook a multimillion-pound project erecting four barrier reefs. Five more reefs were later added in 1998 to make them more effective.

Historically, smuggling was an issue, which reached its peak in the mid-1770s. Revenue cutters patrolled the coast and there were several seizures of tea, jenever, and other spirits. It is reputed that Palling was the headquarters of a band of armed smugglers. To counter this, a coastguard service was established in 1822 and a station built at Palling, which contributed to a decline in smuggling. At the same time, there was also salvage work available. Local fishermen organised into companies and bought fast sailing yawls. There were two beach companies based at Palling, known locally as the Blues and the Whites. The dangers of the occupation led to demands for high wages. The companies prospered with the increase in maritime shipping. By 1838, the shipping companies had built brick sheds for storage and a lookout to watch over the Haisborough Sands. On 16 December 1842, one of the boats was lost with five crew, and a few weeks later a yawl went down with the loss of seven crew. The impact on the village was immense, as most of the drowned were young men with families.

In December 1948, a steamer called the The Bosphorous ran aground on the offshore Haisborough Sands, and its cargo of oranges was jettisoned. To a populace emerging from the strict rationing of World War II, seeing beaches strewn with loose and crated oranges was called "miraculous."[by whom?]

The practice of looting shipwrecks in the area goes back centuries. Traditionally, scavengers of wrecks were known as "pawkers." Despite the attempts of the Lords of the Manor to claim all shipwrecks, looting persisted. A famous incident occurred during the wreck of Lady Agatha in 1768. The cargo was valued at £50,000 (equivalent to £6,708,860 in 2019) and none of it was recovered by authorities.

Sea Palling Lifeboat Station[edit]

Sea Palling inshore lifeboat station

Sea Palling Lifeboat Station is a voluntary-staffed and charitable-funded lifeboat station located in the village. First established by private funds in 1840, it was taken over by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) in 1858 and operated until 1931,[7] when it was closed in a rationalisation of regional lifeboat stations. During its 91 years of service, the station had one of the best rescue records of all the lifeboat stations in the UK. In 400 launches, 795 lives had been saved, a record bettered by only three other UK stations. Crews had gained four RNLI silver gallantry medals, with a replica of the one awarded to Tom Bishop still on show at St Margaret's Church.[7]

Revived in 1974 by local people through private funds, business and charitable donations, today the charitable Palling Voluntary Rescue Service runs a single 5.7 metres (19 ft) Ocean Pro RIB, covering the area between Eccles-on-Sea and Winterton-on-Sea.[8] Between mid-May and mid-September each year, the RNLI maintains a lifeguard station on the beach at Sea Palling,[9] located just below the PVRS lifeboat station.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nicol, Cheryl (2016). Sir Berney Brograve: A Very Anxious Man. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN 978-1518771972.


  1. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 4 September 2015.[dead link]
  2. ^ Pestell, R.E. (1986). Palling A History Shaped by the Sea. North Walsham: Poppyland. ISBN 094614818X.
  3. ^ OS Explorer Map 24: Norfolk Coast Central (Map) (Edition A 1997) ed.). Ordnance Survey. ISBN 0-319-21726-4.
  4. ^ "North Walsham Registration District". UKBMD. Retrieved 30 September 2023.
  5. ^ "Waxham". Retrieved 16 January 2021.
  6. ^ Pestell 1986, p. 1.
  7. ^ a b "Sea Palling Lifeboat Station". Sea Palling & Waxham. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Sea Palling independent lifeboat crew back on duty". BBC News. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Sea Palling Lifeguard Station". RNLI. Retrieved 20 August 2012.

External links[edit]