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Heacham in Days Gone By 


  • The name of Heacham arises from its 12th century overlord Geoffrey de Hecham, and its river, the Hitch.  Over the years speaking and spelling have become Heacham meaning "The Home in the Thicket".

  • Evidence has been found here of passing centuries dating from the stone age, including the Romans and Normans who left us our beautiful Church.

  • The village once had its own brick yard but the coming of the railway in 1862 brought in a much cheaper, though poorer, brick.  This form of transport opened the door to a positive flood of visitors who came for the sea and to enjoy the beauty of the village and so caravan holidays began.  The village became popular with holidaymakers and many of these decided to relocate to Heacham to enjoy their later years.  As a result new housing estates took many of our open spaces.  Many little shops have closed over the years and some traditional village traders are unfortunately no more.


The story of the Red Indian Princess, Pocahontas, and connection to Heacham via her romantic marriage to the son of the Lord of the Manor, John Rolfe is well known.  In the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Heacham you will find a memorial to Pocahontas carved by a pupil of Rodin.  She is dressed in a stylish Jacobean trilby hat and a great neck ruff, which was the fashion of the period.  Her husband, John Rolfe is buried in the churchyard.

  • Daughter of Chief Powhatan of the Algonquinn Red Indians,  Pocahontas  has been immortalised by Walt Disney.

  • As the story goes .... Matoaka Rebucka Pocahontas saved the life of a Captain John Smith, by laying her head over his, when her father ordered Smith to be clubbed to death. She was then but 12 years old.

  • John Rolfe of Heacham Hall had left the family home for America to seek his fortune, but was shipwrecked off the Bermudas where he met Pocahontas.  He was capitvated by her looks, her bravery and her gentle manner.  John Smith returned to England where he fell critically ill, and Pocahontas hearing no further word from him believed he had died from his sickness.

Photo supplied by Maurice Gibbons

  • Pocahontas was aged 18 when she met John Rolfe of Heacham, whom she married in 1613. Against her Father's wishes she converted to Christianity and was christened Rebecca.  They settled in Virginia where Rolfe introduced tobacco as a crop.  A son was born,  whom they christened Thomas. Keen to show off not only his lovely wife but his son and heir, John Rolfe returned with wife and son to Jacobean England and Heacham Hall.

  •  Presented at Court Pocahontas was an instant success with her dark exotic beauty.   At Court she met her first love, John Smith, again.  However, Pocahontas pined for America and decided to return to Virginia.

  • Unfortunately, whilst waiting for her ship at Gravesend she contracted Smallpox and died.  She was only 22.  Broken-hearted, her husband returned to Virginia alone, leaving his son in England.  Only to be killed at the Massacreof Henrico in 1622.

  • Their son Thomas eventually returned to America where he has been claimed as the ancestor of many a famous family.

  • Heacham Hall was, unfortunately, destroyed by fire during the Second World War.


When Norfolk Lavender Ltd was founded at Caley Mill in 1932, Lynn Chilvers supplied the plants and the labour and Francis Dusgate of Fring Hall provided the land.  It has since grown to establish itself as one of the key tourist attractions in Norfolk.  In 1997 it saw the opening of the new Fragrant Meadow Garden on what used to be a derelict field.


Heacham Beach was once wild and unspoilt, visited only by local residents who had to cross the Heacham River by a wooden footbridge to gain access.  In 1887, as a result of over-subscriptions from parishioners in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, a new bridge was built.  It marked the beginning of the development of the beaches and a recreation and holiday area.  The area in front of the bridge became the centre of the beach with that to the right as one faces the sea, North Beach and to the left, South Beach.

The disastrous east coast storm of 1953 devastated the area but it was eventually restored and in 1990 to try and avoid a repetition, thousands of tonnes of sand and shingle were brought by barge and pumped ashore in order to raise the profile of the beach.  This task was repeated in 2005 and details of the works involved may be found by clicking here.

Below is an extract from a booklet called 'Heacham Alive' printed by Witley Press Hunstanton sold in aid of Heacham Parish Church available from the 'Card Cabin' in the village.

The flood waters of 1953.
This series of photos shows what happened.
Here the water is at the gates of the railway station,
which was about half a mile from North Beach.

Railway staff at the signal box
to assess the situation.
In the background the beach huts have been washed from the beach over half a mile away.

Here you see the railway crossing house
in the distance.
Again a beach hut has moved over half a mile.
This time from South Beach.

In this photo you can see how the floods
created havoc
with the local holiday camp which was located
half a mile from North Beach.


If you have more questions than we have answered on this site to date
then please contact us and ask.   We may be able to help.

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