Holt, Norfolk

Coordinates: 52°54′N 1°05′E / 52.90°N 1.09°E / 52.90; 1.09
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The war memorial in Holt's market place
Holt is located in Norfolk
Location within Norfolk
Area12.19 km2 (4.71 sq mi)
Population3,810 (2011 census)
• Density313/km2 (810/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTG078388
• London127 miles
Civil parish
  • Holt
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townHOLT
Postcode districtNR25
Dialling code01263
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°54′N 1°05′E / 52.90°N 1.09°E / 52.90; 1.09

Holt is a market town, civil parish and electoral ward in the English county of Norfolk. The town is 22.8 miles (36.7 km) north of the city of Norwich, 9.5 miles (15.3 km) west of Cromer and 35 miles (56 km) east of King's Lynn. The town has a population of 3,550,[1] rising and including the ward to 3,810 at the 2011 census.[2] Holt is within the area covered by North Norfolk District Council. Holt has a heritage railway station; it is the south-western terminus of the preserved North Norfolk Railway, known as the Poppy Line.



The most likely derivation of the name Holt is from an Anglo-Saxon word for woodland,[3] and Holt is located on wooded high ground of the Cromer-Holt ridge at the crossing point of two ancient by-ways and as such was a natural point for a settlement to grow. The town has a mention in the great survey of 1086 known as the Domesday Book. In the survey it is described as a market town and a port with the nearby port of Cley next the Sea being described as Holt's port. It also had five watermills and twelve plough teams and as such was seen as a busy thriving viable settlement. The first Lord of the Manor was Walter Giffard;[3] it passed to Hugh, Earl of Chester, who then left it to the De Vaux family. By this time Holt had a well-established market and two annual fairs which were held on 25 April and 25 November. Over the years Holt grew as a local place of trade and commerce. The weekly market which had taken place since before the 1080s was stopped in the 1960s.[3]

Great fire[edit]

On 1 May 1708, Holt was devastated by a fire which destroyed most of the medieval town in three hours. The fire started at Shirehall Plain and quickly spread through the timber houses of the town. The church was also badly damaged with its thatched chancel destroyed, the lead melted from the windows and the flames spreading up the steeple.[3] Contemporary reports stated that the fire spread so swiftly that the butchers did not have time to rescue their meat from their stalls on the market. The damage to the town was estimated to be in the region of £11,000.[3] The town subsequently received many donations from all over the country to aid reconstruction.[citation needed]

Georgian Holt[edit]

With most of the medieval buildings destroyed, the rebuilding made Holt notable for its abundance of Georgian buildings, that being the style of the day. However, the town repaired and retains its Norman parish church, which is dedicated to St Andrew.

1968 RAF mid-air collision[edit]

A mid-air collision over the town occurred on the night of 19 August 1968, involving a Victor Tanker from RAF Marham and a Canberra bomber from RAF Bruggen in West Germany. This followed an electrical storm that had disabled radar systems. All seven airmen on board were killed. A memorial stone hangs inside Saint Andrew's Church.[4]


St Andrew's, Holt
Holt Methodist Church
Gresham's School chapel

The ancient Church of England parish church of Holt is dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle and probably has late Saxon origins. It was rebuilt in the early 14th century in the Decorated Gothic style by Sir William de Nerford and his wife Petronilla, daughter of John de Vaux, and a tower was added later in the same century. The church was thatched and was badly damaged in the great Holt fire of 1708. Between 1722 and 1727 it was rebuilt, with contributions from Lord Townshend, the Prince of Wales, and Robert Walpole. The church was restored between 1862 and 1874 by William Butterfield.[5]

The Methodist Church, on Obelisk Plain, was built between 1862 and 1863 to a design by Thomas Jekyll,[6] on a site donated by William Cozens-Hardy of Letheringsett Hall, who also paid most of the building costs.

The most recent religious building is the Chapel of Gresham's School, designed by Maxwell Ayrton and built in knapped flint and limestone between 1912 and 1916, with two angle turrets and an embattled parapet. This is now a Grade II listed building.[7][8]


Big School, Gresham's

Gresham's School[edit]

Gresham's School, a public school founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham, originally for boys but co-educational since 1971, is located on the north side of the town.[9]

The school's former pupils include Benjamin Britten, W. H. Auden, Lord Reith, Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, President Erskine Childers, Sir Christopher Cockerell, Donald Maclean, Sir Lennox Berkeley, Sir Stephen Spender, Richard Hand, Tom Wintringham, Sir James Dyson, Ralph Firman, Sir Peter Brook, Paddy O'Connell, Sebastian Shaw, Olivia Colman, Sienna Guillory, John Tusa, Tom Youngs and Michael Cummings.[citation needed]

Other schools[edit]

Holt Community Primary School is a state primary school for children aged 4–11. The Infant School was built in 1910 with the Junior School being built by 1928. The Infant School and Junior School was amalgamated in 1965 to form Holt County Primary School. The school has been extended and developed over the years. It changed its name in 1999 to Holt Community Primary School.[citation needed]

There is no state secondary school in the town, so many children travel to Sheringham High School between the ages of 11 and 16.

Local points of interest[edit]

Holt Hall[edit]

The hall was built in the 1840s and extended in the 1860s. The hall is located in an 86-acre (35 ha) estate made up of ancient woodlands, lawns, lakes and gardens.

It was owned by Henry Burcham-Rogers, who inherited it from his father John Rogers in 1906. Henry Burcham-Rogers kept the hall until his death in 1945.

Holt Hall is currently a field studies centre run by Norfolk County Council.


1–3 Shirehall Plain – The building is thought to be the oldest house in Holt (the cellar dates back to the 15th century), a survivor of the great fire of Holt in 1708 and a further fire in the building in 1906.[citation needed] The premises traded as a hardware shop or ironmonger's for over 100 years under the ownership of the Byford family. Byfords is now run as a café, delicatessen and B&B.

Blind Sam[edit]

Blind Sam is the name given locally to the Queen Victoria Jubilee Lantern located in Obelisk Plain.[citation needed] From the year of Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887 until 1921 it stood in the Market Place, where it had two functions, to provide light to the Market Place and to provide drinking water from two fountains at the bottom. The light was powered by the town's gas supply, which at the time was sporadic and unreliable, hence the nickname "Blind Sam". It was moved to Obelisk Plain in 1921 to make way for the war memorial. Made by ironmongers in Glasgow, it was restored in the 1990s.


The pineapple-topped obelisk at Holt is one of a pair of gateposts from Melton Constable Park, the other having been given to the town of Dereham in 1757. Each gatepost had the distances to various places from Holt and Dereham respectively carved into the stone. At the start of the Second World War, to avoid assisting the enemy in the event of invasion, the townspeople of Dereham dumped their obelisk down a deep well, where it remains to this day.[citation needed] The people of Holt whitewashed their obelisk at the start of the Second World War and it remains in good condition.

Water Tower[edit]

The town's water was pumped from the common land at Spout Hills to the water tower in Shirehall Plain. The tower was made from bricks, built in 1885 by Erpingham Rural Sanitary Authority and was 56 ft (17 m) high. It held 15,000 gallons of water and the water level inside the tank could be read from the ground. The tower was in use until 1955 and was demolished in 1957.[citation needed]


A brick-built windmill was erected in the late 18th century: when put up for sale in the summer of 1792 it was described as "newly built". It was used by many different owners until the early 1920s. The sails were removed in 1922 and the rest of the machinery was removed in the 1930s.[citation needed] The brick tower was then used for storage until deemed unsafe. The brick tower was demolished in the 1970s. There are now homes on the site, known as Mill Court.

Chapel Yard[edit]

Chapel Yard was developed in 1983 by Eric Goodman and Richard Webster from a combination of derelict flint workers cottages, a chapel, the old fire station, the reservists drill hall and the removal of 1950’s warehouses.

It was the first mayor development of retail space in the Georgian Market Town since the town was rebuilt after the Great Fire of Holt in 1708

Chapel Yard 1982. Cottages 3,4,5,6 including 17 public toilets (far right - now demolished)
Chapel Yard 1982. Old drill hall with pan tile roof, old flint cottages to the left and 1950's Warehouses now removed

The development was designed by Eric Goodman; the adaption of the buildings and introduction of new infill buildings combining traditional design with an innovative approach delivered a timeless built environment. The development delivered 14 new and renovated commercial outlets bringing an interactive retail and restaurant environment within the conservation zone.

Eric Goodman is further accredited with discovering during renovation works that cottages 3,4,5 and 6 Chapel Yard were from c1550. These are the oldest known buildings in the historic Market Towns’ conservation area and have been given grade II listed status since.[10] The massive chimney breasts have pockets for drying grain. Corn was discovered in pots during renovation.

As part of the development Goodman created design assets to include two new buildings to bring character and a feeling of a timeless and traditional reasoning to the development by adapting a traditional Norfolk cart shed design with an innovative approach to a modern retail environment. The design assets included a large pan tile roof, Oak buttresses to support the roof and in-setting the retail apertures, doors and windows to provide a covered walkway/ terrace. It was also the first creation of a ‘Yard’ of shops which would later help to define new areas within the conservation zone as Holt adopted the reuse of small worker’s cottages and redundant land as retail areas for independent shops.

The development received awards in recognition of the contribution to conservation and improvement of the Town in 1983 which included:

The Norfolk Society, a Council for the Protection of Rural England Dated 21 March 1984. Certificate quote - ‘Redevelopment Chapel Yard, Albert Street, Holt, including reconstruction and conservation of old buildings and erection of new, all using mainly traditional materials, thereby giving character and vitality to an area under threat of dereliction. It is notable that no architectural help was involved’

Award from The Norfolk Society Eric Goodman and Richard Webster 1984

Historic England also gave the buildings at 12 and 8 Albert Street Grade II listed status to protect the newly built environment which suggests Goodman may be the only known design [architect] in Norfolk to receive such an accolade for a new development in North Norfolk.[11] See - 2021 HOLT Conservation Appraisal and Management Plan [page 195].[12]

The development did not receive The Graham Alan Award for Conservation from North Norfolk District Council directly. Mike Alan (son of the late Graham Alan had provided some consultation on the development, it was considered this could be contentious as the award was only in its second year). A letter of recognition from the Judges was received with thanks.

In 1986 A new supermarket, now Budgen’s was built in the Town’s conservation zone.

The architects for the project consulted with Goodman on the design of their scheme, adopting his design code into this development to create another adaptation of a ‘Norfolk cart shed’ to mirror those newly built in Chapel Yard. The development received the Graham Alan Award 1986.

The award is designed to reflect conservation and restoration of listed and unlisted buildings and for new buildings which, through their design, including the innovative use of traditional building forms and detailing which in this case have contributed to Holt’s built environment.

Graham Alan Award Winners.[13]

Chapel Yard has provided a significant contribution in shaping Holt’s future over the last 40 years which has created a significant number of jobs in the small market town.

Further developments were to come over the years from 1995 to date which further adopted Goodman’s design code. Apple Yard by Ru Bruce-Lockhart, son of the former Gresham’s School headmaster. Goodman was consulted on the design of the scheme.[14]

Other projects which adopted the design code: Lee’s Yard - Feather Yard - Hoppers Yard - Franklyn’s Yard

Chapel Yard is now referenced as part of the 2021 HOLT Conservation Appraisal and Management Plan [pages, 13, 16, 18, 43, 44, 67, 76, 86, 98, 99, 128, 195].[15]

Goodman’s design code is accredited with providing North Norfolk District Council with the innovative approach to future Townscape since designing Chapel Yard in 1983 which blends seamlessly and innovatively with the former built environment of the Georgian Town.

In 2022 MP for North Norfolk - Duncan Baker - and former Mayor of Holt recommended Eric Goodman for an MBE in recognition of his unique and defining contribution to North Norfolk and stated ‘Mr Goodman designed and developed Chapel Yard in Holt, which has had a significant impact to North Norfolk…I am personally very grateful to Mr Goodman for all he has done for Holt and the wider community’.


Holt Country Park[edit]

Holt Country Park is a short walk from the town. Its history includes a horseracing course, heath, farmland, forestry and woodland garden. It is now woodland dominated with Scots pine and native broadleaves. Its rich ground flora supports wildlife including deer. The park has achieved a Green Flag Award every year since 2005.[citation needed]

Holt Lowes[edit]

Holt Lowes

The Lowes is an area of heathland of around 120 acres (0.49 km2) to the south of Holt set aside by the Inclosure Act of 1807. The poor of Holt had grazing rights for an animal and also had the right to take wood and gorse from the land for their own use. It is likely that the land was never used by the poor of Holt as the land was not wholly suitable. The Lowes was used for military training during the First World War. It is open to the public along with Holt Country Park. The Lowes has long been recognised as an important area for wildlife, with records going back to the 18th century. It was declared an SSSI in 1954 and for a while managed as a nature reserve by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, which continues to act as managing agents for the trustees. As on all lowland heaths, there is a constant need for management to prevent the encroachment of trees. Recent work has concentrated on clearing a large part of the mixed valley mire, an area of sphagnum bog that supports plants like sundews and several species of dragonfly, including one, the keeled skimmer, found nowhere else in East Anglia.[16]

Spout Hills[edit]

These consist of 14 acres (57,000 m2) of green space, which provided the town of Holt with all of its water needs, enabling it to grow and flourish. An old reservoir still exists but the pumping station was dismantled in the 1950s.[citation needed]

Bakers & Larners[edit]

Bakers & Larners

Bakers & Larners is a department store located on Market Place. It has been continuously owned by the Baker family since the eighteenth century.[17][18][19][20]



The nearest railway station to Holt is in the town of Sheringham, where access to the National Rail network is provided by the Bittern Line to Norwich. Services are generally hourly and are operated by Greater Anglia.


Holt's original railway station, which opened in 1887, was served by the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway. Most of this network was closed by British Railways in 1959, but the short section from Melton Constable via Holt to Sheringham (services continuing on to Cromer and Norwich) escaped closure for a few more years. It succumbed finally in 1964 when the branch was cut back to Sheringham, which is now the nearest national railway station. The station was later demolished and the site is now under the town's by-pass.


Holt's new heritage railway station

In 1965, within a year of the closure of the line, the North Norfolk Railway was formed to restore part of the line as an independent heritage steam railway. Initially, it operated between Sheringham and Weybourne; later, it was extended to the eastern edge of Holt at a new station site. A horse-bus service, the Holt Flyer, once ran between the Railway Tavern in the town centre and the new railway station, timed to connect with trains; this has now been replaced by an AEC Routemaster bus.

Future ambitions[edit]

There are now plans by the Norfolk Orbital Railway to extend the railway back towards the town centre[21] and on to Melton Constable and Fakenham.[22]


Several local bus routes operate in and around Holt, provided by Sanders Coaches.


The town is on the route of the A148 King's Lynn to Cromer road.


Norwich International Airport is sited in the northern outskirts of the city.

Festivals and cultural events[edit]

Holt Summer Festival[edit]

The Holt Summer Festival started in 2009 is an arts festival. The event runs for a week and included music, theatre, literature, cinema and art.

Doctor Who events[edit]

On Sunday 25 June 2006, Holt was "invaded" by Daleks. The event was a celebration of BBC Television's classic science fiction series Doctor Who. The Doctor Who Midsummer Invasion attracted many fans of the ever-popular show to the town as well as some of its previous stars. Organised by Planet Skaro, a local sci-fi store that has subsequently closed, the highlight of the day was a Dalek parade through the town centre.

Due to the success of the first Invasion, another science fiction themed event took place in Holt on 30 June 2007.

Sport and recreation[edit]

Holt has a Rugby football club,[23] formed in 1961. The club's first match was played against West Norfolk on Gresham's School playing field. In the early days the team used the White Lion Hotel (now closed) for their changing rooms and hospitality. In 1967 the club was able to purchase 9 acres (3.6 ha) of land on the eastern side of Bridge Road in nearby High Kelling. The club began playing their home games at their new facilities in 1969. At Bridge Road the club has three full-size pitches, six dedicated mini pitches and a clubhouse which was built in 1970. There are changing room facilities for up to 100 players. The club has three senior sides, a junior side and mini rugby sides for 6- to 18-year-olds.

Holt United Football Club[24] was formed in 1894 and was a founder member of the North Norfolk and Norwich League, which began in 1895. In 1927 the club joined the Norwich and District League and went on to win this league on five occasions. In 1935 the club was in the Norfolk and Suffolk League and did not suffer a league defeat until December that year, when they lost to Norwich City A at Carrow Road. Holt was the first amateur team to play at the newly built Carrow Road ground. In 1985 Holt United left their ground at Jubilee Road, which was sold to finance the new Sports Centre complex on Kelling Road. For one season Holt played their matches at Gresham's School. In 1986 the club moved to their new ground at the Sports Centre. Four years later they dropped into junior football. During the past three seasons the club have remained in Division One of the Anglian Combination. At present[when?] Holt United runs three sides, the first team playing in the Anglian Combination and the Reserves and colts teams in the North East Norfolk League.

Holt Harlequins Hockey Club (formerly Cromer Hockey Club) plays at the astroturf ground at Gresham's School.

Holt has a King George's Field in memorial to King George V.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Lewis Radford, History of Holt. A Brief Study of Parish, Church and School (Holt: Rounce & Wortley, 1908)
  • Peter Brooks, Holt, Georgian Market Town (Cromer: Poppyland Publishing, second edition 2001, ISBN 0-946148-53-8)


  1. ^ Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council, 2001. "Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes"
  2. ^ "Town/Ward population 2011". Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Brooks, Peter, Holt, Georgian Market Town, (Cromer: Poppyland Publishing, second edition 2001, ISBN 0-946148-53-8)
  4. ^ "Memorial unveiled to plane crash airmen". BBC News. 19 August 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  5. ^ St Andrew’s, Holt, britainexpress.com, accessed 3 December 2020
  6. ^ Thomas Jekyll, oxfordreference.com, accessed 3 December 2020
  7. ^ Gresham's School, school chapel, heritage.norfolk.gov.uk, accessed 3 December 2020
  8. ^ N. Pevsner, B. Wilson, The Buildings of England Norwich and North-East Norfolk (2nd Edition), p. 556
  9. ^ greshams.com – web site of Gresham's School
  10. ^ "3,4,5 AND 6, CHAPEL YARD, Holt - 1168908 | Historic England". Historic England.
  11. ^ "12, ALBERT STREET, Holt - 1049330 | Historic England". Historic England.
  12. ^ North-Norfolk.gov (PDF) https://www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/media/1455/caa_holt.pdf. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Home | Graham Allen Award winners". North-Norfolk.gov.
  14. ^ Idoxpa.noth-norfolk.gov https://idoxpa.north-norfolk.gov.uk/onlineapplications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=ZZZT5CLNMS416&activeTab=summary. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ north-norfolk.gov (PDF) https://www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/media/1455/caa_holt.pdf. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ http://www.english-nature.org.uk/citation/citation_photo/1002710.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  17. ^ "About Us". Bakers & Larners. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  18. ^ Mantell, Rowan. "Bakers & Larners - looking forward to the next 250 years". Norfolk magazine. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  19. ^ Newman, Andy (31 July 2019). "Remembering Michael Baker, the man who helped turn Norfolk into a foodie paradise". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  20. ^ Bale, David (22 July 2019). "Tributes paid to 'kind' benefactor who transformed shopping in a Norfolk town". North Norfolk News. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Welcome to the Norfolk Orbital Railway project". Archived from the original on 9 January 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  23. ^ "Holt Rugby Football Club". www.holtrfc.com.
  24. ^ Holt United Archived 18 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Geoffrey Gerrard Gillam" (sic) in William Munk, ed., The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London: Continued to 1975 (The Royal College, 1982), pp. 196–198
  26. ^ Oppenheimer, P. M. "Wilhelmine Margaret Eve [Billa] Harrod [née Cresswell], Lady Harrod (1911–2005)". ONDB. OUP. Retrieved 23 November 2017. (subscription required)

External links[edit]