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Turnstone Column: John Maiden discusses a missing piece to new film which has Hunstanton link





In his weekly Turnstone column, Hunstanton writer John Maiden discusses a new film’s link to the area…

Growing up as I did in Hunstanton prior to the age of television, going to the Capitol cinema - now the Princess theatre - used to be a popular event for me.

I was reminded of this fact when David Jones very kindly drove me into Lynn last week so that we could see the newly released film about Mercedes Gleitze and her "Vindication Swim" across the English Channel.

I will say no more about this wonderful film, other than to congratulate the borough council for providing such an effective and comfortable cinema, inside the Corn Exchange, to show the latest releases.

An art piece of Hunstanton Pier in its heyday
An art piece of Hunstanton Pier in its heyday

The only reason for my reluctance to comment in detail about the content of the film is that I would have liked to see just a snippet about Mercedes on June 20 1929, when she became the first person to swim across The Wash from Lincolnshire to Norfolk, coming ashore at Heacham after spending more than 13 hours in the water.

The original destination was, of course, Hunstanton Pier, but due to an incoming tide and confusing currents, she missed it - as many people still do to this day!

Needless to say, after getting her breath back, she was transported by boat to the pier. Where an official reception took place, before the celebrations continued at the Golden Lion.

A piece of Hunstanton's former swimming pool
A piece of Hunstanton's former swimming pool

Hopefully, there are photographs of this exciting event on display in the recently refurbished historic hotel.

This brings me to the recent story of the proposed beachside hotel on the opposite side of The Green, which was refused planning permission for good reasons, which should have been applied in equal measure 22 years ago when plans for a non-pier were rushed through.

Without the borough's planning committee bothering to consult English Heritage - now known as Historic England.

Queen of the Norfolk coast - British Railways poster
Queen of the Norfolk coast - British Railways poster

Arising from this fact comes the possibility of a "Vindication Pier" at Hunstanton, being officially opened by a descendent of Mercedes on June 20 2029, thereby marking the centenary of the very first successful Wash swim.

Perhaps a more fitting tribute to Mercedes would be the opening of a "Vindication Swimming Pool", or Lido, on the site of the outdoor pool, officially opened by Mercedes in 1928, but cruelly demolished with undue haste by Hunstanton Urban District Council in October 1967.

Perhaps Penny Mordaunt should be invited to this event because she is well known for advocating the provision of swimming and diving facilities.

Penny even backed the idea of replacing our non-pier with the real thing, when our MP, Henry Bellingham set up a meeting to discuss the best way forward when she was Coastal Communities Minister.

However, now that the borough council is on record as accepting the need for any development affecting views into and out of a Conservation Area.

To protect or enhance the character and appearance of its surroundings, it would seem that the determined efforts of conservationists over many years have at last been fully vindicated...



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