Book tells tales of medieval north Norfolk port

Jonathan Hooton with a copy of his new book, This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley.

Jonathan Hooton with a copy of his new book, This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley. - Credit: Supplied by Jonathan Hooton

The fascinating history of a thriving medieval port on the north Norfolk coast is explored in a new book. 

Jonathan Hooton, 69 and from Norwich, has written This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley, which builds on his longstanding interest in the area's maritime history.

Mr Hooton said: "I was always fascinated at how such a little place with small, shallow channels could have once been an important harbour, so I chose it as the subject for my dissertation when I was studying geography at Cambridge."

The book This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley explores the history of the area. 

The book This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley explores the history of the area. - Credit: Supplied by Jonathan Hooton

Mr Hooton's first book on the topic, called Glaven Ports, was published in 1996.

He said: "That book sold out, and I thought it was time I brought out a cut down version with all the important facts. 


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"The ports were very important during the time of the sailing ship. 

One of the stories told in the book is about the ship Ravensworth.

One of the stories told in the book is about the ship Ravensworth. On a voyage from Hartlepool to Riga with a cargo of timber in 1869, she was wrecked in Blakeney Harbour, and her crew of six were rescued by the lifeboat Brightwell. - Credit: Supplied by Jonathan Hooton

"This was when overland transport was difficult and expensive and you stood a much better chance moving goods by ship. I was also fascinated by how the changing landscape changed the ships themselves. 

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"But over the years we got better at reclaiming land and turning it into areas suitable for grazing and growing crops, and that led to the marshes getting silted up. The battles between the landowners and the ship owners I found fascinating."

Mr Hooton said it was the development of the railways in the 19th century that dealt a real death blow to the Glaven ports. 

The book covers key dates in the history of the ports from the time of their medieval prominence to their gradual demise by the First World War.

The front cover of Jonathan Hooton's new book, This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley.

The front cover of Jonathan Hooton's new book, This was formerly a port called Blakeney and Cley. - Credit: Supplied by Jonathan Hooton

Wars, piracy, wrecks, dramatic rescues and entrepreneurial skills are some of the topics touched upon, along with descriptions of some of the characters who were involved.

There are also details of the remaining traces of the ports that can still be found int the area. 

"It's a guide to some of the stories that lie behind these captivating tourist destinations," Mr Hooton said.

The book, published by Poppyland Publishing, is available on Amazon or at The Holt Bookshop.  

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