The market town with two names

Oak Street Fakenham

Oak Street, Fakenham. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

Join us on a journey back in time to Fakenham – or by its longer name Fakenham Lancaster - the Norfolk town with such a rich history and that was once a printing capital.


Fakenham. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

The name Fakenham is believed to have come from the “ham” or settlement of a Saxon named Facca.

It is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and had a population of 150. Hempton to the south with its Augustinian priory was larger until the Dissolution of the Monasteries which began under Henry VIII in 1538.

Hempton Mill Fakenham

Hempton Mill, Fakenham. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

Both places competed for the lucrative Walsingham pilgrim trade.

But where did the name Fakenham Lancaster come from?


Fakenham river scene. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster was the third son of Edward III and the younger brother of the Black Prince the hero of Crecy.

He was the founder of the House of Lancaster, which ruled England until The War of the Roses and was the largest landowner in England.

Most Read

He was given the Manor of Fakenham in 1377 after losing lands in France, hence the names.

Oak Street and Corn Exchange Fakenham

Oak Street and Corn Exchange, Fakenham. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

With its prominent position in West Norfolk, Fakenham was well served with coaches travelling to and from London and had two coaching inns in the centre of the town. The roads out of town were some of the last to be turnpiked and the town was revolutionised when the first railway arrived in 1849.

Black and white picture of Fakenham Market Place

Market Place, Fakenham. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

Poor Fakenham has had its fair of terrible fires over the years with the loss of buildings in 1660, 1718 and 1738 as well as the more recent Aldiss department store blaze in 2014.

Norwich Street Fakenham

Norwich Street, Fakenham. - Credit: Michael Holmes Collection

You may have heard of the famous Wharfedale Printing Works, where generations of people worked, which was described in 1890 as:

A most conspicuous example of private enterprise in the Eastern Counties.

One of the best printing establishments in the provinces and one the little town of Fakenham can be proud of.

The company was established and run by members of the forward-thinking Miller family in the 1800s and it was said that the founder was: “A fair representative of the modern school of enlightened tradesmen – men who thoroughly appreciate the value of advertising and the advantages of publicity, and who travel out of the old beaten tracks in search of fame or fortune.”

As a result printing was big in Fakenham. 

Fakenham Press last book being printed

The last book being printed at Fakenham Press. Date: October 6, 1982. - Credit: Archant Library

It remained an important presence in the town until 1982 when what became called the Fakenham Press closed because modern printing methods made their equipment obsolete.

In the process, 235 people lost their jobs - it was the end of an era.

Fakenham Press workers leaving the factory in October 1982.Left to right; Gordon Berry, Tony Hunt.

Fakenham Press workers leaving the factory in October 1982. Left to right; Gordon Berry, Tony Hunt. John Engledow, Ted Edge, Alan Kemp, Pat Brown, unknown. Danny Baldry, George Broughton. Sid Bray, Chris Amos, Jim Baldwin. Picture: Fakenham Community Archive. - Credit: Fakenham Community Archive.

One of the printers Jim Baldwin, who became a much-loved local author, set up his own publishing company.

He recalls there was a “moment of quiet in the town” following the closure.

Jim, who was also a much-loved guitarist with Mervyn & the Starbeats and other Norfolk rock ‘n’ roll bands, set up his own publishing company and has written some great books about Fakenham. Take a look at

Pictures courtesy of the Mike Adcock Collection and Frances and Michael Holmes of the Norwich Heritage Projects.