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Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Holt is a bustling Georgian country market town situated in undulating wooded countryside.
Where is Holt?
Three miles from the North Norfolk coast, and close to the busy seaside resorts of Cromer and Sheringham.
Holt has maintained its country town character through the years, despite the arrival of modern businesses and new shopping areas.
The town's prosperity for centuries centred on its market, which used to be held in Market Place, and later behind the Feathers Hotel.
The last was held in 1960 after some 900 years of hustle and bustle. Although there is no longer a market, the town has a lively mix of unusual and specialty shops, selling clothes, food, antiques and crafts, plus art galleries, book shops.
In fact the variety in this compact area would put many a larger shopping centre to shame.
The parish church of St Andrew's is in Church Street, and there is the Methodist Church in Norwich Road and the Vine Family Church which meets in Holt Community Centre.
Christmas shopping? Watch out for Holt Christmas Festival, with Christmas lights, late-night shopping and other attractions.
History of Holt
The name Holt is thought to come from the Saxon word meaning woodland, and there are still many wooded areas surrounding the town today.
Holt is associated with the owl, and many of the local clubs use this symbol as their emblem, There is also the Owl tea shop in the Market Place. Holt people are said to be called the knowing ones.
The story goes that an owl was disturbing local residents. One story said it was put in a cattle pound, but not surprisingly it flew away, and another version, told in Ryes History of Norfolk, is that the owls hooting so annoyed men working on the church that they pushed it up a water spout and left it to drown. The owl, however, managed to fly out of the top.
The exact date for the birth of Holt is unknown, but it is recorded in the Doomesday Book of 1086, when there were 60 men listed as living in Holt: 10 freemen, 24 bordars, two serfs (no women or children are recorded). There were also 90 sheep, 60 pigs, a carthorse, five mills and a market.
Alice Perers, the wife of Sir John Nerford, became the mistress of Edward III while in the service of Queen Philippa. When the queen died, the king gave Alice all his late wifes jewels and other valuables. In 1376 the Black Prince finally succeeded in banishing her, but she returned in 1377 during the Kings last illness and is said to have taken the rings off his fingers as he lay on his deathbed.
In 1461 Thomas Lord Roos, Lord of the Manor of Holt, was executed by the Yorkists for supporting the Lancastrian side in the War of the Roses.
1592: Plague strikes the little town, killing 64 people between February and August.
1650: Thomas Cooper, usher and probably headmaster of Greshams School, was hanged on Christmas day for his part in the Royalist Rebellion on behalf of Charles II. His body was displayed on a gibbet outside the school.
1708: The town's present Georgian architectural character derives from the time of a great fire on May Day 1708. Much of the town was destroyed and had to be rebuilt, including the parish church of St Andrews.
1787: Nearly 80 years later Parson Woodforde of Weston Longville slept at the Feathers Hotel and described the town as being built in an "era of comely brick". He thought that Holt "stood well" and was a "good decent town".
1789: On April 23, while the French were in the turmoil of revolution, the people of Holt were celebrating the recovery of George III from "his late state of insanity". 500 people dined in Holt marketplace on plum puddings and boiled beef, and there was a dance at the Shirehall in the evening.
1800: Riots in December 1800 against the high price of food, particularly flour.
1831: The census recorded 306 houses inhabited by 327 families, and by 1838 the population stood at 1700.
1960: Holt Air Crash, August 19. Two RAF planes collided over Holt. Seven airmen were killed.
Holt has never forgotten it. A raging electric storm, a terrifying explosion and burning wreckage raining down on rooftops and gardens.
For 14,500 feet above north Norfolk two RAF jets a Victor aircraft and a Canberra had collided and exploded sending debris crashing to earth for miles around. Thirty years after the August 19, 1968 disaster in which Holt was miraculously spared from destruction a memorial service to remember seven airmen who died was held.
"I am at 13,500 feet and climbing," were the last words from the crew of Victor XH646 before radio contact was lost as the Marham-based plane climbed away from its station on a training exercise. It collided with a Canberra from RAF Bruggen in Germany. Both crews died.
St Andrews and All Saints Church, Holt
There was almost certainly a church at Holt by the time of the Domesday Book, but nothing of this survives.
In the 14th century the chancel and much of the rest of the church was rebuilt by Sir William de Nerford and his wife, Petronilla, the owners of one of the manors. The chancel, aisled nave and tower were all built around this time. Originally the church had a spire.
In the 15th century the clerestory above the nave was added, as were a number of windows, but in 1708 the church was gutted when fire swept the east end of Holt. It was repaired in 1727 and restored by Butterfield in 1864.
The oldest feature of the church is the font, which is Norman (12th century) and has an unusual fleur de lys design.
Several beautiful stained glass windows grace the church, and there are also monuments and an icon said to have been taken by a British soldier from a wrecked Turkish house in the first world war.
The church clock is nearly 250 years old and was made in Wells-next-the-Sea. An odd feature is that it has only one hand.