The Original W.I. village sign The Belfry school pupil replacement sign
Overstrand today is a small village (population 1,101 - 2001 census) on the north coast of Norfolk in England, situated less than two miles eastwards along the coast from Cromer.
As with much of the Norfolk coast, erosion was and continues to be a major problem. At the east end of the Overstrand beach there is an experimental site, of which sea defences include; riprap at £1,300 a boulder (shipped from Norway), a revetment and wooden groynes. Trees were replanted on the slumped cliff, but these were stolen and nothing has been done to replace them since. The soft boulder clay cliffs slump because they are saturated by water running through the clay and the resulting deposits on the beach are simply removed by the high tides.
....and so the process continues as it has over the centuries.
In the later part of the 19th century right up to the 1930's Overstrand was the most fashionable place to be, at least in the summer, and if one could not afford a home here, the next best thing (as is still the case) was to know someone who did.
The renting of the many apartments and cottages and the swell of guests at one of the number of hotels, brought a good deal of prosperity to the very thriving village. The rich and famous and those who aspired to be, came to Overstrand for the season. Dr Dent, whose practice between 1889 until he retired in 1913, covered Sheringham to Mundesley and beyond, tells us in his diaries, of the aristocracy, actors and actresses, authors and poets, politicians, captains of industry etc; whom he knew as patients. These are far too numerous to be included here but his diaries are highly recommended to anyone interested in Overstrand and Cromer in the 1900's.
It is difficult to imagine now what a high class resort it once was. A Court Circular of 1903 described it as "a watering place which, though small as regards its dimensions, is vastly popular with a wide selection of distinctly superior people". This golden age for Overstrand was to last from the late 1880's through to the first world war.
But, of course, the residents of Overstrand continue to be distinctly superior.
Much of the original material in this history site was obtained after many hours, days, weeks and months, of research at the old research section of the former Norwich library, by Terence Richards and his wife Joyce, from substantiated records, written accounts and reports. The rest is from personal items of the author's and a number of villagers. Where hearsay, handed-down accounts or popular belief has been relied upon, this is indicated as such.
In particular, the Poppy-land histories and accounts took a good deal of time and effort to put together. Much of the perceived and generally accepted history has proven to be merely romantic embellishment of events, which many (including a number of experts that should have known better) fell for and reported as gospel.
So sadly, your Lutyens property isn't. That bit of advice Gertrude Jekyll gave your grandfather's gardener was never given and the First and Second World Wars were not from the house next door.
However, we are but amateurs and openly solicit any written accounts and records, photographs and drawings that will help tell our tale the better, now and for the generations that follow.
So please, if you have any resources that would help, then please let us know. We handle and copy old photographs and documents extremely carefully and are pleased to credit our sources if so desired.
The making of Poppy-land
Lord Suffield, P.C. K.C.B. Lord of the manor of Overstrand, who resided at Gunton Hall in Cromer, was the principle landowner in the village. His estate was the second largest in the whole of Norfolk, at around 15,000 acres spreading in all directions. He built his first summer residence in Cromer, a building later converted to form part of the Hotel de Paris. In 1826 under Lord Suffield’s direction, attempts were made to build a harbour at Overstrand, it was hoped to improve the transport facilities of the region, but all efforts came to nothing. His successor the 5th Lord was even more prominent in attempting to develop the region and was a major figure in bringing the Great Eastern Railway connection to Cromer and in 1887 turned his unfertile cliff-edge acres into a prestigious golf links. Lord Suffield was a friend of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward V11 to whom he was Lord-in-Waiting) the Prince became a frequent visitor to Cromer and the surrounding countryside, which added to its prestige and popularity amongst the higher classes.
Lord Suffield’s motivation for improving the area was not just an attempt to bring an increase in prosperity to the area but also to increase the worth of his estate. He saw the potential of the small villages along the coast and carefully instrumented the changes of Overstrand from a small fishing community, to a holiday resort for the elite.
In 1883 the Daily Telegraph sent its celebrated London literary and drama critic Clement Scott, to Cromer. Since the advent of the railway to Cromer in 1877, this small fishing village had developed into a town and, as the Victorians called it, a watering place.
Scott, on arriving at Cromer, found he had no accommodation and decided to walk along the cliffs past the lighthouse built on the Overstrand hills and on to the tiny fishing village of Overstrand.
Just outside the village, he came to the Overstrand windmill which was opposite the miller's small farmhouse. He wrote:
"It was one of those farmhouses that is the exact reproduction of the style of cottage that all children are set to draw when they commence their first lesson. A little redbrick house with three white windows on the first floor, a little white door in the middle, a window at either side."
The miller Jermy, swinging on the gate and his daughter Louie Jermy
Click on photo to enlarge.
He knocked, and the door was opened by the miller's young daughter Louie Jermy. The miller Alfred Jermy, gave Clement Scott a night's lodging which turned out to be the first of many more.
Scott fell in love with Overstrand, the surrounding countryside and probably the Miller's daughter; he climbed the windmill and surveyed the rustic panorama of green and gold dotted with bright red poppies and dubbed it "Poppy-land".
What followed was a prolific amount of literature that flowed from his pen, much of which was destined for readers of the Telegraph. Due to his writings, the fame of Poppy-land spread, so did the railways and it was not long before Overstrand itself had a station.
In 1918 Louie was evicted from the mill house, her landlord apparently disapproved of her more Bohemian guests. She retired to a nearby cottage in Tower Lane, Sidestrand. In old age she was often to be seen around Cromer pushing a pram and gathering old items which she hoarded in her shed. She died in the cottage 1934 and the cottage itself finally succumbed to cliff erosion in 1972.
The growth of Poppy-land
By 1884 many of Clement Scott's friends had come from London to see this "Poppy-land" that Scott had written about. Many were famous in the theatrical, literary and art world - as critics, painters and poets including Ellen Terry, Sir Henry Irving, Swinburne, Beerbohm Trees and many other famous names of the time.
These visitors to Overstrand influenced London's intelligentsia and patrons of the arts. Cyril Flowers Liberal MP (later to become Lord Battersea and Overstrand) was among the first to choose the village to build their summer residence, and many others rapidly joined them: Lord Morley, Lord and Lady Hillingdon, Sir George Lewis, Lord Wolverhampton, Sir Edgar Speyer, Sir Frederick MacMillan and many others.
At this time, the 5th Lord Suffield and his Trustees had started his ambitious plans to develop his Overstrand Estates, constructing the first group of terraced houses in Harbord Road: "Seaview Terrace".
Walk along this road today (now part of Harbord Road) and nothing seems to have changed, apart from the cars.
Click on photo to enlarge.
The parts shown on the estate plan marked in blue, were already built and the ones marked in pink were all earmarked for retail shops, note the ones on what was to become Lord Battersea's private cricket ground. Numbers 100 & 101 described as two semi detached villas, had fourteen bedrooms and six reception rooms between them, these were the little ‘cottages' that Cyril Flower MP purchased together with most of the other land.
Who could have envisaged when they saw the beautiful gardens that the Battersea's later created, that less than 50 years on, much of the land would have been built on in a similar fashion to that planned by Lord Suffield.
The advertisment that in 1888, turned sleepy little Overstrand into 'Poppyland'
This website with the history and photographs of this North Norfolk village of Overstrand, is the original web site. today it is often plagiarized, please do not confuse it with any other website with a similar looking or variation of the domain name: overstrandonline.org