Welcome to Blakeney
Take a small historic fishing village, add the character of narrow streets
and traditional flint cottages, mix in the appeal of boating and wildlife, and
colour it with legendary tales of piracy and smuggling and you have
Blakeney...., probably the most attractive village on Norfolk's fabled heritage
It has been said that the appeal of Blakeney lies in it's unspoilt
simplicity, a place where you can reach out and almost touch the past, knowing
that it has escaped virtually unscarred with the passing of time. A place
guarded jealously by those who share its secret.
The first references to Blakeney can be traced back to the 12th century with
its emergence as a rapidly-growing fishing port. Some
historians claim that before this the village was known as Snitterly, while others have supported
the theory that Snitterly was a smaller neighbouring village which had
surrendered to the sea many years earlier.
Whatever the truth, it is an undeniable fact that between the 13th and 17th
centuries Blakeney thrived as one of East Anglia's major ports, with many
sizeable ships taking advantage of the natural shelter offered by 'Blakeney
Haven'. Indeed, the prosperity and importance of the village can be
measured by the building in the 13th century of both a Carmelite Friary to the
east of the Manor Hotel, and the impressive village church dedicated to St. Nicholas,
the patron saint of fishermen. Later, in the 15th century, the church was
extended to embrace the Nave and a lantern turret, used for guiding ships into
The village had its own Fish Merchants Guild, the headquarters of which are
believed to have been the old Guildhall, a part of which still remains at the
foot of Mariners' Hill. In later years, the building was used for a myriad
of purposes from a store for smuggled contraband to a makeshift mortuary for
victims of shipwrecks.
Although Blakeney began to emerge as a holiday resort in the 1920s, it was
slow to succumb to 20th century commercialism, preferring to hide its light
under a bushel until 1951, when street lighting was eventually installed.
Four years later, piped water became freely available and in 1962 a sewerage
system was completed, condemning the rattle of the night-cart to the pages of
local history along with the more romantic images of smuggling, piracy and Sir
Percy Blakeney, the fictional hero of 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' series, the
first of which was written during Baroness Orczy's stay in the village.
Today, visitors find a tranquil resort where the pace of life is
reflected accurately by warm summer breezes filling sails, where the peace
is broken only by the cries of the gulls, terns and redshanks etc. which have
established Blakeney's reputation as a bird sanctuary. Regular short boat trips
offer many their first opportunity of close-up views of the seal colony
on Blakeney Point. To others, the appeal lies in the desolation of the
marshes on a crisp winter morning, a scene which offers a totally new dimension
to those who know the village only in the summer months. For nature has
offered her entire repertoire to Blakeney, sometimes kindly and sometimes
cruelly, as in the sever floods of 1897, 1953 and 1978, the levels of which are
recorded on plaques opposite the quay.