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Cromer lies on the North Norfolk coast between Sheringham and Overstrand and has been a popular seaside destination since the late 1700s. Today, Cromer has an air of decayed grandeur but it is still pulling in the visitors. Many come to walk along the pier or to sample some of its famous crabs.  The town also boasts the tallest church tower in Norfolk - as well as being the home of Henry Blogg - the coxwain of the local lifeboat who served for 37 years and saved 518 lives.

Over the years Cromer has inspired many writers and the town is proud of its literary heritage. Set into the promenade are a series of stone rings featuring quotes from Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Gaskell and the poet A.C. Swinburne. The typeface on these installations was designed by Ray Carpenter.

Cromer from the Beach

Cromer from the Beach

Cromer Pier

Cromer Pier

John Taylor (1580-1653)

In 1622 John Taylor, the Water Poet, was forced to land at Cromer due to bad weather. He was undertaking a 'wagering journey' from London to York. Unfortunately the town's folk mistook him and his crew for pirates and called the constables. Taylor, later recorded the whole incident in verse. In the same poem he also records how Cromer, like most of the Norfolk coast, was (even then) suffering from erosion:

'It is an ancient town that stands
Upon a lofty cliff of mouldering sands;
The sea against the cliffs doth daily beat,
And every tide into the land doth eat.'

Read complete poem

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

Defoe visited Cromer on his Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain but wasn't over impressed by what he found:

'Cromer is a market town close to the shore of this dangerous coast. I know nothing it is famous for except good lobsters.'

Jane Austin (1775-1817)

In Emma - Emma's father tells her, when discussing sea-bathing that:

'You should have gone to Cromer, my dear, if you went any where - Perry was a week at Cromer once, and he holds it to be the best of all the sea-bathing places.'

Mrs Gaskell (1810-1865)

In North and South (1885) Margaret Hale visits Cromer with her Aunt Shaw and finds the location curative. Part of the following passage is featured in a stone ring on the promenade - just south of the pier.
'Cromer was, in one sense of the expression, the best for her. She needed bodily strengthening and bracing as well as rest.... She used to sit long hours upon the beach, gazing intently on the waves as they chafed with perpetual motion against the pebbly shore - or she looked out upon the more distant heave and sparkle against the sky, and heard, without being conscious of hearing, the eternal psalm, which went up continually. She was soothed, without knowing how or why.'

Edward Lear (1812-1888)

Wrote a famous limerick about the town:

There was an old person from Cromer
Who Stood on one leg to read Homer;
When he found he grew stiff, he jumped over the cliff
Which concluded that Person from Cromer.

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

While staying at the Mill House in nearby Sidestrand - Swinburne wrote a poem about Cromer entitled A Haven which had the following refrain line: 'Where the small town smiles, a warm still sea-side nest.'

Clement Scott (1841-1904)

The Victorian theatre critic did much to popularise Cromer and the surrounding area - referring to it as 'Poppy-Land'. He visited in 1883 and then, on his return to London, wrote a letter to the The Daily Telegraph which spoke of  'a blue sky without a cloud across it, a sea sparkling under a haze of heat, wild flowers in profusion'.

Poppy Land

Poppy Land

His enthusiasm for the area inspired a number of famous Victorian poets to visit - including Oscar Wilde, A. C. Swinburne, Theodore Watts-Dunton and Alfred Tennyson.  Scott later rented the Mill House in Sidestrand.

There is a memorial fountain to Scott at the junction of Northrepps and Overstrand Road in the town.

Clement Scott Memorial Fountain

Clement Scott Fountain

It was in Scott's poem the Garden of Sleep that the term 'Poppy-Land' first appeared. The tower mentioned in the poem was Craske's Tower located at nearby Sidestrand. The tower, which was a famous Norfolk landmark for many years, finally fell into the sea in 1917. The graveyard attached to the church also toppled into the sea.

Norfolk has lost a number of its churches to the sea - most famously at Eccles - and it was not uncommon for human bones to wash up on the beach.

The Garden of Sleep

On the grass of the cliff, at the edge of the steep,
God planted a garden - a garden of sleep!
'Neath the blue of sky, in the green of the corn,
It is there that the regal red poppies are born!
Brief days of desire, and long dreams of delight,
They are mine when Poppy-Land cometh in sight.
In music of distance, with eyes that are wet,
It is there I remember, and there I forget!
O! heart of my heart! where the poppies are born,
I am waiting for thee, in the hush of the corn.
     Sleep!     Sleep!
                   From the Cliff to the Deep!
                                 Sleep, my Poppy-Land,

Read complete poem

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

The famous, flamboyant playwright stayed at the Hotel de Paris in 1892. He came to Norfolk for a rest and spent time at Cromer and in a cottage at nearby Felbrigg. While staying at the Hotel de Paris, it is thought that he was working on A Woman of No Importance - a play which was first performed in 1893.

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

It is likely that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used Cromer Hall as the inspiration for 'Baskerville Hall' in The Hound of the Baskervilles. It is also likely that he drew inspiration for the book from the Norfolk legend of Black Shuck - the terrible hell-hound with the fiery eyes. However, he eventually located the novel - to chilling effect - on Dartmoor.

Cromer (Baskerville) Hall

Cromer Hall

Here is Conan Doyle's haunting description of Baskerville Hall:

'The avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house lay before us. In the fading light I could see that the centre was a heavy block of building from which a porch projected. The whole front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare here and there where a window or a coat-of-arms broke through the dark veil. From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenellated, and pierced with many loopholes. To right and left of the turrets were more modern wings of black granite. A dull light shone through heavy mullioned windows, and from the high chimneys which rose from the steep, high-angled roof there sprang a single black column of smoke.'

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

George Barker (1913-1991)

Barker lived at Itteringham and was a frequent visitor to the North Norfolk coast. One of his best known poems: On a Friend's Escape from Drowning Off the Norfolk Coast is set on the beach at Cromer.
Keith Skipper

The journalist and broadcaster Keith Skipper lives in Cromer and for many years has championed Norfolk and the Norfolk dialect. He has published over 30 books celebrating the county - including a tribute to The Singing Postman. In 1999 he helped to set up Friends of Norfolk Dialect (F.O.N.D.) - an organisation dedicated to preserving the vernacular. It also fights the spread of of what he terms 'Mummerzet' - namely the inaccurate rendering of the Norfolk accent in film and TV. In 2007 he was awarded the MBE.

Keith at Buckingham Palace

Stephen Fry (1957- )

While studying at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology (NORCAT) in King's Lynn, Stephen Fry got a Christmas job as a waiter in the Hotel de Paris on Cromer seafront. His hero Oscar Wilde had previously stayed in the hotel in the nineteenth century. He describes his time in the hotel in his autobiography Moab Is My Washpot:

'Phil and Dale got me a job at Christmas as a waiter at the Hotel de Paris in Cromer. In a week I earned a hundred pounds, and by Christ I earned it. I think I must have walked two hundred miles between kitchen and restaurant, silver-serving from breakfast to late, late dinner. The money was spent on cannabis, cigarettes and still ( I blush to confess) sweets.'


More photographs of Cromer

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