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Four decades since flooding that left Hunstanton without a pier


It is now 40 years since Hunstanton lost its elegant pier to a great storm that caused widespread flooding across West Norfolk.

The North Sea storm surge which occurred over January 11 and 12, caused extensive coastal flooding and considerable damage on the east coast of England between the Humber and Kent.

Hunstanton Civic Society picture of destruction of pier in 1978
Hunstanton Civic Society picture of destruction of pier in 1978

The pier, opened in May 1869, had been hit by disaster before. Just before the outbreak of World War II in June 1939, the theatre at the end of the pier had been destroyed by fire.

The Sunday papers covered the pier fire story, but concentrated on two women who escaped the flames by jumping into the sea.

It was left to the Lynn Advertiser to publish a comprehensive report, including the immediate reaction of the Hunstanton Pier Company (HPC), owner of the structure.

But the hopes of the HPC directors that the theatre would be replaced by a pavilion at the promenade end were first hit by war and then by the devastating floods of 1953.

It was not until 1957 that any change was made to the pier entrance – the year of possibly the pier’s biggest moment in the sun when it starred in the Alec Guinness Ealing Comedy film Barnacle Bill.

But even before the film had been shot, work had commenced on extending the width of the pier to 76ft adjacent to its entrance.

In 1963 more money was spent on a two-storey structure, which replaced the original Victorian entrance buildings.

In spite of the fact that rent for the pier remained at just £1 a year during this period of expansion, no serious maintenance was carried out on the pier itself by the HPC.

Hunstanton Pier 1978
Hunstanton Pier 1978

To see the pier washed away was sad, but it did not come as a shock.

The only surprise was that the pier had lasted as long as it did when it clearly suffered from being unloved.

But campaigners have hoped that one day the pier may be restored to reflect its former glory.

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