The Village of Happisburgh in Norfolk

Happisburgh Norfolk Holidays

A visitors guide to the coastal and seaside village of Happisburgh located on the East Coast of Norfolk. Heroes, legends and personalities haunt this coastal village, for it was whilst sitting in the upstairs bedroom window of the then Hill House Hotel that Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have dreamt up the plot for his Sherlock Holmes story 'The Dancing Men' published in 1903. 

A captivating old world village of flint and thatch with the main street dotted with quaint thatched cottages with deceptively long back gardens. The village as in days past is dominated by two features its red and white candy striped lighthouse and the commanding tower of its church.

The lighthouse which is located on a small hill on the outskirts of the village dates from 1791. From its summit on a clear day you can see the cathedral spire of Norwich along with a large number of other church towers.

At the other end of the village is St. Marys, a flint and stone church in a dramatic setting with its one hundred and twelve foot tower, which is accessible to visitors. In its churchyard are buried many mariners who over the centuries have perished on the once notoriously treacherous offshore sands called "Haisbro Sands".

Miles of unspoilt beaches stretch all the way along this part of the coast. Happisburgh though has seen more than its fair share of coastal erosion over the years with large chunks of cliffs regularly falling into the sea. The way down to beach from the village is via a set of steep steal tower steps.  However, a mile to the south of Happisburgh is 'Cart Gap' with its own car park, where there is easy access to the beach. 

The Broads National Park is not far from Happisburgh so visitors can enjoy both a bucket and spade holiday as well as some riverside attractions. Happisburgh has a small village stores and a 15th / 16th century village inn, in the village itself.

Just over a mile at East Ruston are eighteen acres of stunning gardens that make up The Old Vicarage gardens. This multi-faceted garden has fine views of both Happisburgh church and lighthouse from its lawns, designed and created by Alan Gray and his partner Graham Robeson.

The village pub has a corner dedicated to Mr. Doyle and his book "The Dancing Men (1903)" Locals say that the cipher (on which the story is based) was invented by the son of othe proprietor, Gilbert Cubitt, whose name is one of the main characters in the story. The boy had developed a way of drawing his signature in pin men, which Doyle then went on to use in his story. In his book Happisburgh is not mentioned by name, but the description of the location in the story matches the village perfectly. 

For Norfolk or Suffolk Weather - Click the Weather Link. Just above the entrance inside the pub is a picture showing the dancing men cipher, the heart of the story of The Dancing Men.

For Norfolk or Suffolk Bed & Breakfast - Click the B&B or Accommodations Link.s. Another notable author, P.D. James, born in 1920 had her detective, Adam Dalgliesh, in "Devices and Desires (1989)" taking a two-week rest in a Norfolk mill; again the location of the story is obviously based in this area.

A poisoner one Jonathan Balls is said to be buried in the churchyard. He died in 1846 after accidentally swallowing his own poison. According to his last wishes he stipulated that he was to be buried with a bible, poker, pair of fire tongs and a plum cake! This may have been because he knew he was going to go to hell!  

For Norfolk or Suffolk Weather - Click the Weather Link. At the north-east end of the churchyard is a mound which is said to be the unmarked mass grave for one hundred and nineteen of the victims whose bodies were recovered from the HMS Invincible. In 1801 over four hundred people lost their lives here when HMS Invincible was wrecked off the coast. The Invincible was part of the Copenhagen fleet as she was passing through the ‘Hazeborough Gatway’ the ship ran aground. At the mercy of the sea and wind she sank. The crew numbered five hundred and fifty two and of those four hundred of them drowned. Some of the survivors were taken to Great Yarmouth to the naval hospital there and were visited by Horatio Nelson. The spelling of Hazeborough was taken from a naval dispatch of the sinking.  

For Norfolk or Suffolk Bed & Breakfast - Click the B&B or Accommodations Link.s. Out to sea are the remains of most of the village of Eccles. Tradition says that the village was overwhelmed by the sea during the 17th century in the reign of Charles I. In one storm over seventy houses were swept away with the loss of three hundred lives. In 1986 large parts of the lost village were dramatically exposed on the beach, including the church tower with its distinctive octagonal belfry. Skeletons from this church also used to wash up. At very low tide it is said one can make out the the remains of this lost village and local fishermen say that if you hear the long drowned bells of the church tolling it’s a warning of storms and death.

Home   Other Norfolk Towns and Villages