The town of Sheringham is on the north Norfolk coast, with houses and shops down to the edge of the sea. But the ancient town of Sheringham, today known as Upper Sheringham, is the settlement listed in the Domesday book of 1086. The town was then know variously as Silingham, Siringham or Schyringham. As with many of Norfolk's town and villages, the name is of Scandinavian origin, meaning the 'home of Scira's people.'
Until the 17th century, Beeston was the primary settlement, being the location of the Augustinian Priory, founded in 1197. Pilgrims on route to the national shrine at Walsingham would make a stop at Beeston. Parts of the Priory have survived to the present day, though much was lost at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.
In medieval times the men of Upper Sheringham, or rather 'Upper Town', made their way to the hythe on the coast to launch their fishing boats. There was a convenient gap in the cliffs for them to reach their vessels, the smaller boats of the type still used today, and the 'great boats', the sailing luggers in which they would sail further afield. Gradually they began to establish more permanent housing amongst the huts where they kept their fishing kit, eventually creating today's community.
By the second half of the 19th century the town of Sheringham boasted nearly 150 boats working from the town. The fishing boats brought in cod, skate and whiting, as well as the lobsters and crabs which the town is well known for today. Businesses in the town supported the fishing, such as the fish curers. Around the town, particularly Upper Sheringham, were farms, though two were well within was is now the main town of Sheringham.
The coming of the railways from the Midlands in 1887, followed by the linking up with London via the Great Eastern railway in 1906 greatly increased the number of visitors to the town. The neighbouring town of Cromer has become extremely popular in the 1880s, and the number of visitors were more than that town could cope with. Lower Sheringham, with the sea on one side and the woods of Pretty Corner and the Roman Camp on the other soon established itself as a holiday centre in its own right. The town had a building boom and many of the houses in the town centre date from the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
All Saints church in Upper Sheringham served as the parich church from its building in the mid to late 14th century. The present parish church in Lower Sheringham, built at the end of the 19th century, only took on senior status in 1953. The non-conformist churches are well represented in the town, with the Salvation Army having a particular place in the life of Sheringham.
With the heart of the community through the 19th and early 20th centuries being the fishing, it was natural for Sheringham to be equipped with lifeboats. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has supplied a series of boats, the last offshore lifeboat being the 'Manchester Unity of Oddfellows'. The Ramey Upcher family also supplied lifeboats for use by the fishermen, and the second of these, the 'Henry Ramey Upcher', remains proudly on display in the town. The R.N.L.I. lifeboat today is a fast inshore lifeboat of the Atlantic 21 class.
Today Sheringham retains its traditional heart, though with less fishing than in times gone by. The town is focused on a lively shopping centre, with many family businesses continuing to offer a high standard of service. The North Norfolk Railway continues to operate steam trains to the centre of the town, and the main line to Norwich and London provides a convenient service.
Click for books from Poppyland Publishing on Sheringham:
'Sheringham - The Story of a Town' by Peter Brooks is an illustrated overview of the town's history.
If you'd like to take a tour of Sheringham today, then we recommend Tour Norfolk
To the east of the town is 'Beeston Bump' and the open ground of Beeston Common. Once there were two 'bumps', but as with all the Norfolk coast, the sea gradually eats away at the land and the other bump was lost early in the 20th century
Shannocks early in the 20th century. A Shannock is generally regarded as a resident of Sheringham - though some say you must have parents and grandparents born in the town. It's a safe bet that these fishermen qualify! Today there are a few remaining full time and part time fishermen working from Sheringham east and west beaches
The museum at Sheringham is run by a trust. It draws together the records, photographs and artefacts of the town
The clock tower is perhaps the essential image of Sheringham