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Important asset for Hunstanton's history is officially opened




The sound of Scottish pipers wafted through the coastal air as part of the official celebratory opening of the new Hunstanton Heritage Centre.

Having formerly been located at The Green in the town since 2013, a "fortunate intervention" by benefactor Andrew Murray ensured the new centre could be reopened at the former NatWest bank building.

Local historian Paul Richards and chairwoman of the Civic Society Alison Gifford were invited to cut the ribbon to mark the opening on Friday.

Dr Paul Richards cut the ribbon to officially open the Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Pictures: Ian Burt
Dr Paul Richards cut the ribbon to officially open the Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Pictures: Ian Burt

Dr Richards told those attending: "It is good that a community group has put in so much work and made this a reality. It's very impressive and worth coming back to."

He recalled visiting the coast every Sunday as a child in the late 1950s and said it was a shame the railway was disbanded in 1969, something which is covered in the new centre's displays.

Having originally been founded by Hunstanton Civic Society member Brian Holmes at the former site, the new heritage centre has expanded to include a cinema room, a railway room and various displays telling the history of the town.

Bob Clark and Mick Smith at the Hunstanton Heritage Centre promoting Love West Norfolk Day. Picture: Ian Burt
Bob Clark and Mick Smith at the Hunstanton Heritage Centre promoting Love West Norfolk Day. Picture: Ian Burt

These displays include the floods of 1953, an interactive touch screen and a plaque dedicated to Mercedes Gleitze, the first person to swim The Wash in June 1929.

Mr Holmes said the change of location to a central part of the town is ideal for footfall.

He added that the former centre received around 55,000 visitors over a five year period and that many of the items on display were donated by residents.

Committee members and volunteers at the official opening of the Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Picture: Ian Burt. (29216263)
Committee members and volunteers at the official opening of the Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Picture: Ian Burt. (29216263)

Civic society treasurer Stephen Kent said: "There is now room for an awful lot more stuff and we like to think we are a jewel in the crown for Hunstanton.

"We have had brilliant feedback so far from visitors and a book full of lovely comments from around the world."

Chairwoman of the civic society Amanda Bosworth said the celebration coincided nicely with Love West Norfolk Day and she was thrilled to see a number of distinguished guests in attendance.

Honorary Civic Society member Neil Quincey and Terry Ashworth at the official opening of the Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Picture: Ian Burt.
Honorary Civic Society member Neil Quincey and Terry Ashworth at the official opening of the Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Picture: Ian Burt.

She said: "It's important to have a place where people can reminisce. In essence, Hunstanton retains the feeing of a quintessentially English seaside town."

Executive director for Civic Voice charity Ian Harvey travelled from Liverpool to attend the ceremony.

He said: "I am very fortunate in my job after it was set up 25 years ago in that I am invited to events like this and I have to admit in the past 10 years, this is absolutely up there with the very best.

"It's simply awe-inspiring to bring the story of the town together as it is such an essential part of the community or the stories of the town disappear."

The City of Norwich Pipe Band performed through the streets of Hunstanton. Picture: Ian Burt
The City of Norwich Pipe Band performed through the streets of Hunstanton. Picture: Ian Burt

And Gary Tuson, county archivist at Norfolk County Council, said it is wrong to think of the county archives as the "gatekeepers of the past" as there is such an extensive volume of archival material in local facilities which they cannot cover.

"It's so incredibly important that organisations like this are preserving fragile material which can easily end up in the bin or the tip then it's lost forever," Mr Tuson said.

He has secured a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to ensure groups like this one in Hunstanton can receive support on archiving and sustainability.

There are currently 42 volunteers at the Hunstanton Civic Society who commit to at least two shifts a month.

However, member Terry Ashworth said the group could do with a few more faces.

The new centre will be open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sunday from noon until 3pm until March 29 when the hours change to 1-5pm.


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