Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Carrstone Affect

Hunstanton's Historic Buildings

During the wintery months, any visitor not wishing to brave the blustery beaches of Hunstanton with it's freezing winds, might like to take a walk around some of the town's notable historical buildings. This blog highlights some of those known in the town, three of which display Civic Society coloured plaques. For those of you not familiar with the area, please note the honey-coloured bricks that many of the buildings are made of. It is a sandstone known locally as Carrstone.

Valentine Court

According to Jim Whelam, writing in the Hunstanton Newsletter:
The establishment of a convalescent home at Hunstanton was first suggested in 1869 in Ely Cathedral, so that sick and poor people from Ely could recover their health with the assistance of sea air . . . The Prince and Princess of Wales agreed to officially open the home on Easter Monday, 14th April 1879. As soon as the date was known, all the villages between Sandringham and Hunstanton began making preparations on a grand scale to honour the visit. During the Easter weekend the weather was foul with keen east winds, rain and snow. The day of the visit commenced with a dull leaden sky, no apparent sign of an improvement, and not even the numerous decorations could make Hunstanton look anything less than miserable. However by noon the clouds lifted and the sun shone, crowds gathered, the railway brought in 3,000 visitors and thousands of others entered by road.
Now a block of flats, the building appears on google searches mostly under property sales. Jim Whelam's account in the local newsletter is really interesting and can be read here:
The Royal Opening of Hunstanton Convalescent Home

Old Police Station

This old police station is great. It just looks like a 'regular' terraced house. However from 1875 to 1954 it was Hunstanton's police station. I wonder if the three cells were in the basement. One can only assume that crime was a relatively minor issue in Britain until the mid 50s, as the current police station, on the main road, is pretty big in comparison.

Children's Recovery Home

Health, for the Victorians was a major concern, some would say even an obsession, and the seaside was a perfect place for convalescing. This, once, children's recovery home is now the council offices for the town. Now that our children are not dying of diphtheria, tuberculosis and typhus these old Victorian buildings are put to other uses. I don't have the mortality figures handy for Hunstanton, but in Leeds in 1867 most people who died were 4 years old and under, and in one book I have - To prove I'm Not Forgot - Living and Dying in a Victorian City by Sylvia M. Barnard - the under one's were classed separately, because their chances of living beyond one year old was so slim.

The Old Vicarage

This is the old vicarage and is located in Northgate, at the town end of the street. Again, it is now apartments and it is difficult to find information on it online other than that on estate agents sites. However, I have included another photo of the building (below). This type of architectural detail is very popular in Hunstanton, and manifests in various forms on a number of buildings.

Often this kind of inlay appears in a square shape, which produces a tiling effect. I really like it and I wonder if it is a common style from that period that was produced mostly in this area, or whether it is more generic.

My little psychogeographico-historical trip around Hunstanton was interesting. The more time I spend in the town looking at the architecture and soaking up the ambience, the more I get in touch with its aesthetic, which feels like it is very particular to the area.

For information on my other work on Hunstanton please go to: Reading the Arcades/Reading the Promenades and look for the links for Hunstanton

Hunstanton Civic Society


  1. I once had a very strange experience in Hunstanton. Had driven east for hours, (heading for Walsingham, as it goes) and arrived in the late afternoon. I had a stroll, an ice-cream, and then watched the sunset into the sea. At this point, I became gripped with horror. The sun is setting in the west... apparently into the sea. But I'm on the east coast. For a few seconds, I could think of no explanation other than this must be the Apocalypse, and that the sun was running backwards. A look at the map calmed me down, and I resolved never to smoke Nepalese Temple Balls while driving ever again. But I was hugely freaked for a few moments.

  2. Interesting, and amusing, account. I only just found out myself, in the last couple of weeks, exactly which way it was facing, when I read somewhere that it is the only west facing norfolk resort (or something like that). In my mind it was a tiny bit further around the coast on the most Northerly part.