Happisburgh Gallery

Happisburgh Gallery

The History of Happisburgh

The Domesday Book contains a mention of a settlement called Hapesburg. An agricultural and fishing centre throughout centuries, it is also believed to have had an active smuggling trade. The fishing trade may have been diminished but you can still see shrimps, cockles and crabs being collected; both by big, commercial boats and by independent collectors.

The land around the village has changed greatly due to the coastal erosion which has been a constant force here. Whimpwell Street and Whimpwell Green allude to a neighbouring settlement which had almost completely disappeared by the end of the 12th century. While most of this erosion has been gradual and invisible to the naked eye there are tales of violent storms resulting in the overnight disappearance of whole fields, or of homeowners awakening to find themselves dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs.

The old Hill House Hotel, which is now part of a local caravan site, has literary links, with famous authors Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writing material while staying there.

The strategic coastal location of the village meant that soldiers were stationed here during both World Wars. During the First World War troops dug trenches along the cliff top, anticipating an enemy attack, but the only incident of note was a bomb dropped by a zeppelin, which killed a couple of horses but no people. During the Second World War mines were placed on the beach and the cliff top was fenced off with barbed wire. Road blocks, defensive positions and tight travel restrictions show the very real sense of danger felt in the area. Fortunately, the bombing of the church and the washing up on the beach of 3 dead enemy soldiers are the only recorded incidents.