As you drive along the tortuous coast road through the Poppyland area of north Norfolk, after passing through Overstrand, Sidestrand and Trimingham you may notice on the horizon two large Victorian hotels looming incongruously over the landscape.
This is Mundesley, a former fishing village that was aggrandised into a resort in the mid-1890s as the railway at last penetrated to this remote corner. The station opened as the terminus of a line from North Walsham in 1898. In 1908 it was extended through to Cromer Beach. Its three platforms, each six hundred feet long, were never remotely necessary. It closed in 1964 and is now virtually obliterated.
The East Coast Estates Company was established in the 1890s by an architect with the unfortunate name of Mr Silley. Streets were laid out on the West Cliff and given the name Cliftonville. Two brickworks opened. The Clarence Hotel (1891), which is now a care home, and the Grand Hotel (Herbert John Green 1897), which is apparently being converted to apartments, stare out to sea, grandiose statements of opulence and unfulfilled ambition. The Manor Hotel, built around an earlier dwelling to a design by John Bond Pearce in 1900, remains in business – http://www.manorhotelmundesley.co.uk.
Indeed, the most successful enterprise in Mundesley was the Sanatorium, opened in 1899 with an initial capacity of twelve patients, a fine timber prefabricated building by the Norwich architects Boulton & Paul. This became the Diana Princess of Wales Treatment Centre for Drug and Alcohol Problems in 1997 and closed in 2009: see http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?t=18049, which links to http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/showthread.php?p=182326#post182326.
One of its early patients was the golfer Harry Vardon (1870-1937), who laid out the Mundesley Golf Club [http://www.mundesleygolfclub.com] in 1901. He was treated for tuberculosis in the Mundesley Sanatorium in 1903-4, during which time he achieved the only hole-in-one in his entire career.
Of the holiday towns along the Norfolk coast, Mundesley really is the last resort. Though the population of this quiet place has continued to grow through the twentieth century, the visitors were always thin on the ground. That’s its unique selling point. It has a beautiful beach, beach huts, a quiet village atmosphere. It’s the ideal place for an away-from-it-all British seaside holiday. No tat. No razzamatazz. The real thing. Enjoy!
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all: the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside: the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.
The 44-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Norfolk’s Seaside Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.