Holkham is a village and civil parish in the north-west of the county of Norfolk, England. Besides the small village, the parish includes the major stately home and estate of Holkham Hall, and an attractive beach at "Holkham Gap". The three lie at the centre of the Holkham National Nature Reserve.


The parish has an area of 23.92 km² and in the 2001 census had a population of 236 in 104 households. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of North Norfolk. [cite web | author=Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council | year=2001 | url=http://www.norfolk.gov.uk/consumption/groups/public/documents/general_resources/ncc017867.xls | title=Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes | accessdate=2005-12-02 | format= | work= ]

The village of Holkham is located on the coast road (the A149) between Wells-next-the-Sea and Burnham Overy Staithe. [cite web | url=http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=52.9601&lon=0.8094&scale=100000 | title =Multimap.com | accessdate = 2007-01-31 | format= | work= ] At one time the village was a landing with access to the sea via a tidal creek to the harbour at Wells. The creek succumbed to land reclamation, much of which created the grounds of the estate, starting in 1639 and ending in 1859 when the harbour at Wells was edged with a sea wall. The land west of the wall was subsequently turned to agricultural uses. Aerial photographs show traces of the creek in the topsoil, and the lake to the west of the hall appears to be based on a remnant of it. Now the village serves principally as the main entrance to the hall and deer park, and to Lady Anne's Drive which leads to the beach. Among the houses of the village are several estate-owned businesses, including a hotel ('The Victoria') and art gallery.

Holkham Hall is one of the principal Palladian houses of England, built for an ancestor of Thomas William Coke, noted agricultural innovator and later 1st Earl of Leicester of Holkham. The hall is still the home of the current Earl and is surrounded by an attractive park, with a herd of fallow deer, a lake that was once a tidal creek, several monuments and drives, and its own church. Both hall and park are open to the public.

From the main coast road Lady Anne's Drive, a toll road owned by the Holkham estate, crosses the reclaimed salt marshes to Holkham Gap. This is a gap in pine-fringed sand dunes which form the outer coastline. From here, an uninterrupted sandy beach runs both ways to Wells and Burnham Overy Staithe. To the west of the gap is a nudist section of beach.

A Holkham railway station was located about half way along Lady Ann's Drive (to the east). The railway line through to Holkham was built in 1864. [cite web | url=http://www.holkham.co.uk/victoria2/Pages_H.asp?Page=15 | title =The Victoria At Holkham - History | accessdate = 2007-02-01 | format= | work= ] The line made up part of the Great Eastern Railway network, which ran from Wells-next-the-Sea station, through Holkham and on to Burnham Market railway station. The line was closed in 1952. [See also List of Closed Railway Stations, etc., below.]

Holkham Pines is the name of the large belt of pine trees which runs west to east inland from the beach; the eastern end is known as Wells Woods. Holkham Freshmarsh is the name which refers to the series of wet meadows which sit inland from the pine belt, and north of the A149. They are bisected by Lady Ann's Drive, which gives access to the woods and the beach. The marshes are important for their wintering population of pink-footed geese, and have been designated a National Nature Reserve.



The last of the ancient Celts to inhabit East Anglia were the tribe of the Iceni. They are believed responsible for the earthworks of the Roman Iron Age visible in the marsh. [See under External links below.] A Roman road runs along the west side of the estate. Their provincial capital under Roman occupation was Venta Icenorum near Norwich. [Historical Atlas page 24.]


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the years 449-454 records the arrival of large numbers of Angles and Jutes under Hengest and Horsa, defeating the British king, Vortigern, in 455.

By about 600 the distribution of cruciform brooches, a diagnostic of Anglo-Jutish society, show that the culture had displaced the Celtic on the east coast of Britain, including coastal East Anglia. A similar displacement was true of Saxon culture in southeast Britain, diagnosed by saucer brooches. Two bands of Saxons protruded into East Anglia, one down the rivers that empty into The Wash and the other into the centre. ["Historical Atlas" Page 31.]

In the 7th century the Germanic kings of these regions were being converted to Christianity. The Anglisc or Englisc of East Anglia may already by that time have been divided into the "North Folk" and the "South Folk." [The question of the origin of Norfolk and Suffolk is like that of the origin of Holkham. The names appear with modern meanings in the Domesday Book but not in earlier sources, although some of the monastic records imply an early distinction. The etymology is not of much help as the segments from which the names are formed are exactly the same in either Old English or Old Norse: "north", "south", and "folk." There are advocates of an early, Anglo-Saxon view, and of a later, Old Norse view.] In 654 the Christian king of East Anglia, Anna of East Anglia, was killed in battle against the last pagan king of Mercia. So great was his Christian affirmation that his four daughters renounced the world and became saints. Numerous lives of the saints relate that the youngest, Saint Withburga, was raised at Holkham before she entered the religious life elsewhere in East Anglia. This is the first reference to Holkham. The saint died in 743.

A church on the grounds of the estate, still used for worship, commemorates the saint. It dates to the 14th century, received additions in the 15th-16th centuries and was renovated in 1868. The church was built over an earlier Saxon structure. The existence of the saint is attested by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which for the year 798 records that the body of Wihtburg, sister of St. Aethelthryth, was found to be uncorrupted at Dereham 55 years after her death.

The Chronicle and the historian, Bede, do not state the name of Holkham. It does appear as that in the Domesday Book, 1086, which means that it must precede Middle English. The element -ham is clearly identifiable as Old English, "village, manor, home." [The etymology is given under [http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE533.html tkei] in the American Heritage Dictionary.] The Holk- remains unidentified. A suggestion has been made that it comes from *hoelig, "holy", in honor of the saint, [Stirling, page 14.] but it would not have been named that before she was one.


According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the first three Viking ships to raid Britain came in 789 from Hordaland in Norway. The raiders were called Northmen and Danes, but they spoke Old Norse, a language closely related to Old English. Danes, as they were called, were likely to come from anywhere in Scandinavia. None spoke Danish, which was still far in the future, and Denmark was not yet localized to its current boundaries.

An additional attack, on Lindisfarne, in 793 and another in Northumbria in 794 give a wrong impression that the Vikings were primarily coastal raiders. Their real interest was large-scale invasion conducted from fleets of hundreds of ships and conquest of the hinterland for the purpose of establishing political control over lands on which they then settled in large numbers.

In any case they were never interested in raiding the dangerous waters of East Anglia, choked with bars and shoals, isolated by outer beaches inaccessible from the mainland. Even if a ship did sail up a tidal creek, there was nothing to plunder and no place to go except into swamps and fens. The central uplands of East Anglia, a strategic location, were agriculturally wealthy and densely populated, but they were not accessed from the coast.

Failing to obtain a toehold in Northumbria, the Danes left Britain alone for 40 years before returning in force with a new strategy. Sailing down the west side of the country they combined with the Celts of Cornwall and Wales to attack English centres, such as Carhampton in 836, taken by 25 ships. A period of intense invasions secured the coastal ports of south England by the 850s. In 851 a fleet of 350 ships moved up the Thames to occupy Kent. In 865 the Danes of Kent occupied East Anglia as a prelude to invasion of the north, placing a line of forts along the central backbone, including Norwich, Thetford, and Cambridge. They captured Northumbria subsequently from inland and up the Humber.

Difficult times call forth great men. Alfred the Great by the time of his death in 899 had secured the borders of Wessex. His descendants set about to subdue the Danes. By 924 the English ruled every county except York and subdued that in 955. A chain of forts across the inland accesses to East Anglia guarded the Danish population there.

In this war between Scandinavia and Britain, neither side was interested in population displacement or ethnic war; often the two communities resided near each other in the same town. The Danes did not remove the English or the English the Danes. Consequently the place names of East Anglia are a mix of Old English and Old Norse. As Old English finally had the upper hand, the Danish names are Anglicised; e.g., Norwich from Nor-vik (compare Norwegian Nar-vik).

The kingdom of England under the Wessex dynasty eventually lost momentum in internal strife and after a 10-year-old child was allowed to ascend the throne (Ethelred the Unready) the kings of Scandinavia decided to intervene on behalf of their countrymen in Britain. In the late 10th and early 11th centuries armies were led to Britain by Sweyn I of Denmark, Thorkell the Tall and Canute the Great. In 1016 the latter emerged as king of England. The Danes in Britain were reinforced by additional migrations from Scandinavia.

Canute married Emma of Normandy, unwittingly setting the stage for the Norman invasion. On the death of their son, Harthacanute, in 1042, his half-brother by Emma and Ethelred the Unready ascended the throne as Edward the Confessor. His death in 1066 resulted in that bane of monarchy, a disputed succession. It was only settled in that year by the Norman invasion.

Later Middle Ages

Medieval manuscripts concerning Holkham have been edited by William Hassall and Jacques Beauroy (HASSALL W., BEAUROY J., "Lordship and Landscape in Norfolk 1250-1350: The Early Records of Holkham," Oxford, 1993).


* Several parts of the 1976 film 'The Eagle Has Landed', starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland & Robert Duvall, were filmed on Holkham Beach and in the pinewoods.

* The final scenes of Shakespeare in Love (1998) were filmed on the beach.

* The music video for Pure Shores, by All Saints, for the 2000 film The Beach, was filmed here.

* A number of beach scenes for the Avengers episode 'The Town of No Return' (1965) were filmed at Holkham Gap.



*cite book | author=Falkus, Malcom | coauthors=Gillingham, John | title=Historical Atlas of Britain | publisher=Crescent Books | year=1987 | isbn=0-517-63382-5
*cite book | author=Stirling, Anna Maria Diana Wilhelmina Pickering | title=Coke of Norfolk and his Friends | publisher=John Lane, the Bodley Head | location=London, New York | year=1908 Available Google Books.

ee also


External links

* [http://www.origins.org.uk/genuki/NFK/places/h/holkham/ Information from Genuki Norfolk] on Holkham.
* [http://www.holkham.co.uk/ The Holkham Estate website]
* [http://www.dicamillocompanion.com/Houses_images.asp?ID=1064&pic=1 DiCamillo companion guide] - includes some good photos
* [http://www.roman-britain.org/places/celtic/holkham_camp.htm#top Holkham Camp Norfolk] , roman-britain.org
* [http://www.northnorfolknews.co.uk/content/northnorfolknews/content/community/History.aspx North Norfolk History] , article in the North Norfolk News.
* [http://www.viking.no/e/france/personal-place-names.htm Place names based on a Scandinavian personal name element] , viking.no site

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