Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tradition and a quieter pace of life are the main qualities that have attracted - and continue to attract - people to the coastal town of Wells-next-the-Sea.
The town's harbour area is its focal point flanked by traditional shops, the many passing boats and the harbour office.
The Wells Maritime Museum offers a fascinating snapshot of times past in the town.
Wells Lifeboat plays an important part in town life with a dedicated team of volunteers manning the lifeboat and inshore vessels under coxswain Allen Frary and the Wells Lifeboat Guild tirelessly raises money for the RNLI.
Staithe Street is the main shopping street with a wealth of different businesses selling anything from hardware and food to quality gifts and paintings.
A stone's throw from Wells are the famous golden sands of Holkham which are a magnet for lovers of peace, tranquilty and natural history and were also immortalised in the blockbuster movie Shakespeare In Love, while nearby is the magnificent 18th Century Palladian mansion Holkham Hall.
History of Wells-next-the-sea
Wells was originally known as Guella - the Saxon for well or spring - and was the name given to a Danish settlement dating back from 865 AD.
The Next-The-Sea accompaniment sprang up because there were two other places in Norfolk known as Wells from the 12th to the 16th century.
The old town was built on chalk running eastwards from the mainland with church marsh on the southside which became cut off from the tidal waters when Sir Charles Turner built the first East End embankment in 1719. Following the 1953 floods, the seabanks were breached and water once again flowed into the church marshes.
The sea has always played a major part in town life with trade with a long history of trade with Europe.
Wells men also served in the English fleets that attacked the coasts of Spain and Portugal after the defeat of the Spanish Armada with church records showing 16 men from the town died in these sorties.
The town's population has not increased dramatically since the 1700s when records showed 2400 people lived there, which is close to current levels.
Malting and fishing were the main industries in the 1600s although things had boomed 200 years later with the main imports being coal, timber, rape, sale and linseed, and the main exports were corn, barley, malt and oysters.
One year etched in the town's history was 1879 when there was a train crash at Wells station which killed one man, and the parish church was struck by lightning causing a blaze which totally destroyed it.
The town has also boasted its fair share of famous residents including Thomas Bolton - the husband of Lord Nelson's eldest sister Susanna - who later inherited the seafaring hero's Earldom and John Fryer who joined HMS Bounty serving under the infamous Lieutenant Bligh.