Thursday, 23 April 2015

Happy People At Happisburgh

Except it isn’t pronounced Happys-Burgh, but Haze-Bruh. Bob and I visited this Norfolk coastal village on the last day of our holiday.

happisburghhillhouseWilliam Cowper, the poet, came in 1795, and he “ate Apple Pye at the Hill House Inn, the worst I ever tasted” Well, in 2015, I must tell you their coffee, and fresh scones were excellent. Hill House is clearly the hostelry to visit, and full of history. It seems that dozens of famous people called in here.

P1010091Daniel Defoe visited this ‘shipwreck coast’ in the 1720s and looked at the treacherous Happisburgh Sands. This was after he’d written Robinson Crusoe.

Next up was Joseph William Mallard Turner, the artist.

jmwturner hasbro sands

When he stayed, in 1834. he produced three pictures of “Hasbro Sands” which in recent years have fetched very high prices at auction.

Sixty years later, the landlord was one Mr Cubitt. His son Gilbert liked cyphers, and developed an alphabet of stick men, which he used to sign his name. This intrigued Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and led to one of his famous Sherlock Holmes Stories.


Not surprisingly, the local brewery calls itself after The Dancing Men.

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic Explorer, dropped by in 1908, to give a lecture about his travels, accompanied by lantern slides – the Church Hall was packed [after all, there isn’t much to do on cold winter evening’s in Norfolk]

And then more artists turned up


In the 1930s, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and other up-and-coming British sculptors spent their summers at Happisburgh. The were particularly fond of finding large ironstone pebbles on the beach and polishing them “They are good for carving and polish up like bronze” one of the artists wrote. I cynically wonder how much they sold these pebbles for when they got back to London…

I am intrigued as to why so many notable people have popped in to this tiny place, population less than 1500. But for the past ten years, an archaeological study, “the Happisburgh Project” has been going on here. And two years ago they discovered footprints which were believed to be around 900,000 years old! The earliest human footprints ever discovered outside of Africa.


Here’s a picture showing the British Museum archaeologists’ idea of a summer morning for Stone Age Man on the beach at Happisburgh. Clearly Happisburgh has always been a popular destination


When we visited on April 13th, we did not eat our picnic there.We went a few miles along the coast to Caister. We bought a bag of chips, and sat on the sand to eat them, looking at the boats and the windfarm, under the watchful eye of the lion!


All in all a very informative day out! [and more great scones]


  1. That's really interesting Angela.
    Will try to get myself over there sometime.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I enjoyed this post, thanks for giving us a 'tour'! xxx

  3. There's not as much of Happisburgh as there used to be; the field in front of the pub was a square of 3 or 4 acres and us kids used to gallop across there, from the pub end diagonally across to the lifeboat shed, yelling "GERONIMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" I haven't been there for years but I gather that most of that field has fallen into the sea. There's a bridlepath along the cliffs, too, called Lighthouse Loke, if I remember correctly.


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