The name Hunstanton is believed to come from either the Honeystone, which was the old name for the local carrstone or from the River Hunn, which originates in the grounds of Old Hunstanton Hall and forms a moat around the house, the home of the Le Strange family, which is little more than a stream. Another thought is that ‘Ton’ is Saxon words for farm so the name Hunstanton could simply mean Hunsta’s Farm.
The village, now Old Hunstanton, was recorded in the Domesday Book as “Hunstatunes” and it and the lands surrounding it were gifted by William the Conqueror to the Le Strange family who remained Lords of the Manor for over 800 years.
The Hunstanton we know today was the brainchild of Henry Styleman Le Strange (1815-1862). He envisioned a coastal village on his undeveloped estate, the focal point was to be a triangular green sloping down to the sea. When sea bathing became the latest fashion in the mid 1840’s. In 1843 he began adverting building sites for sale. The Golden Lion Hotel was built in 1846, named the New Inn to begin with. It had appeared to be built in the middle of nowhere, seeing as there were no other building between the ruins of St Edmund’s Chapel near the lighthouse and Heacham. That year also saw the village cross which was moved from Gypsy Green in Old Hunstanton. Many people believe the cross originally came from Snettisham, before moving to Old Hunstanton. Summertime boat trips between Hunstanton and King’s Lynn began around this time.
The Current Lighthouse was built in 1844, however Beacon lights have been used for hundreds of years to warn ships of the dangerous sandbanks in the Wash. The first Lighthouse was built here in 1666. The Ruins of St Edmund's Chapel, which dates back to 1272, celebrates the apparent visit by St Edmund back in 855.
The town’s development remained slow until the Hunstanton to King’s Lynn Railway line opened in 1862 at the cost of £80,000, Hunstanton’s Station was situated where the car park at Southend Road now sits. The Line was closed in 1969. Over the next few years the town grew rapidly and soon became a fully-fledged Victorian seaside resort. In 1870 the pier was built at a length of just over 250 meters, The Pavilion, built 1890 was destroyed by fire in 1939, the pier was destroyed in a storm in 1978.
The Great Eastern Railway Company built the Sandingham Hotel in 1875. Requisitioned by the army during the Second World War and later housed the Town Council offices and the county library. The building was demolished in 1967. The Town Hall was built in 1896 and was opened by the Countess of Cottenham and served as an all-purpose community centre for nearly 70 years.
By the turn of the century Hunstanton had not only become a popular resort with tourists but had also become a desirable place to live. Hunstanton’s population was just over 1890. The first bandstand was erected on the North Promenade, near the cliffs in 1911. The current bandstand on the green was built in 1994.
In 1928 the Blue Lagoon Swimming pool was built, the pool remained a firm favourite with visitors and locals. The pool was demolished in 1967, now the site of Oasis Leisure Centre built in 1984. Other attractions soon popped up like the Capital Cinema now the Princess Theatre, The Boating Lake, now the Sealife Centre built in 1987, the Kit Kat Restaurant and Ballroom, later Sands Nightclub destroyed by fire in 1998 and Searle’s Holiday Centre, which began as a small camping ground. It is reported that in 1930's, families moved out of their homes to let visitors use them, and lived in the garden shed during the summer months.
During the Second World War both the Rhianva Collage and Lydgate House School were evacuated, neither school returned after the war. The Green, Church Street & Westgate where bombed as German planes flew over the town.
The Floods of 1953 affected the south beach area of the town the worst, the death toll was 31, with 16 of them being Americans. 1000 servicemen from U.S. Army Air Force where stationed in the town for 10 years, American serviceman Reis Leming saved 27 lives during the floods and he was awarded the George Medal.
Smithdon High School was built in 1957. The school has a world-wide reputation as a significant structure and receives many visits from foreign architects anxious to see the earliest example in Britain of what became known as the New Brutalism movement.
Hunstanton has pre-historic origins with evidence unearthed in 1970 of a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age settlement dating back to 1500 - 2000BC, while construction took place for Oasis Way on Redgate Hill. By this time the town population had reached over 3900. First sponsored Christmas Swim, an event that still takes place every year, took place in 1971 it was biggest in the country at the time.
In 1996 Hunstanton Celebrated its 150th anniversary.
1846 - 1996.
In 2001 the pier head burnt down