How a north Norfolk holiday hotspot was before tourists

The Green and Memorial at Burnham Market.

Peaceful and busy times at Burnham Market over the years. Photos: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection. - Credit: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection

Today they say it’s “Chelsea tractors” clogging up the roads in and around beautiful Burnham Market.

But in days of old it was horses and carts or ponies and traps.

Horses and carriages in Burnham Market

Horses and carriages on the village green in Burnham Market.  - Credit: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection

These wonderful old photographs come from the Mike Adcock Collection. Pictures and postcards which illustrate the way we were so well.

And these come with a question from Frances and Michael Holmes of the Norwich Heritage Projects who are cataloguing the collection.
Just what was going on in Burnham Market all those years ago?

Front Street in Burnham Market

Front Street in Burnham Market in north Norfolk.  - Credit: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection

In more recent times it has become one of the most sought-after villages in north Norfolk and it is easy to see why. It’s a wonderful part of our county.

The first recorded charter of Burnham Market was in 1209 although the market itself is older.


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The community grew around it and until about 1850 there was a weekly provisions market on a Saturday and then a livestock market behind the now famous Hoste Arms.

A tranquil scene at Burnham Market

A peaceful scene at the village green in Burnham Market.  - Credit: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection


In the first half of the 19th century two mail coaches left each day for London, one going via King’s Lynn, and two more left for Wells.

The arrival of the railways in 1866 opened up this part of Norfolk and in the largest of the Burnhams there was also plenty going on with small businesses in many of the front rooms of houses.

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Next to The Hoste lived the Kendall family for almost a century. They worked as blacksmiths and farriers with their workshop behind what became Jack Wills’s shop.

Nearby lived William Readwin, a saddler and harness maker in 1836 and the post office also operated from his home.

Then there was the Tweedy family who ran a shoemaker’s business for many years until about 1920.

In Sunnyside one of the first “supermarkets” opened up, the much-loved International Stores, (I suspect many of you may remember them) which were opened until the late 1960s.

A busy scene at Burnham Market.

A busy scene at Burnham Market in north Norfolk. - Credit: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection


Then there was the Cosy Cinema on Herring’s Lane in what was first built as a town hall and used for concerts and meetings. They said when the “talkies” came along you could hear the film from the road outside.

There was a story behind every family business and public house which made village life tick along.

In 1830 Henry Nash opened a chemist shop, later called The Pharmacy. It closed in 2018 following the death of the then owners.

Last year there was a mock “English Heritage” sign put up on the premises which proclaimed:

“The Pharmacy: 1830-2019. Burnham Market.

“A dying village, poisoned by wealth, Finally Dispensed with. RIP.”

At the time we spoke to Mike Oldfield, a lifelong resident of north Norfolk, who lived in Burnham Market. He said the incomers and second-home owners were a major factor in keeping the village alive but stressed how important it was for those in local government to encourage and facilitate social housing development.

A woman with her bike in Burnham Market.

A woman with her bike in Burnham Market.  - Credit: Courtesy of Norwich Heritage Projects and the Mike Adcock Collection


“I realise just how lucky we are to live in such a wonderful place, however we need to confront what problems we have and hold those to account who are responsible for sorting it out, or take control of our own destiny,” he said.

If you can tell us more about the way of life in Burnham Market all those years ago drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com

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