Covering the coast, Burnham Market, Wells, Holt & surrounding villages

Fakenham revisited

20th April 2022

It’s one of our busiest market towns and the gateway to North Norfolk. Sarah Hardy goes exploring

Fakenham, surrounded by rich agricultural land, has a noble history which grew up around the wheat, corn and barley trade. In the 19th century it also became an important centre for printing, with Fakenham Press being a major employer until the early 1980s. It’s now home to England’s smallest racecourse, a bustling weekly auction and its lively market, and is experiencing a boom in house building. There are some fine 18th and 19th century brick buildings around the Market Place and it’s the administration capital for the area, with banks, solicitors and accounting firms aplenty, plus a fine selection of both independent and High Street stores.

Under the hammer

The weekly James Beck Auction (www.jamesbeckauctions.co.uk) sees the town spring into action every Thursday. It’s a fascinating affair, starting at 11am, and there’s literally everything under the sun on offer, from old sofas to vintage jewellery, china, old electric goods, farming equipment, tools and more. You can have great fun seeking out that something special but be warned – bidding is brisk!

There’s an accompanying market, spread out throughout the town, offering fresh fruit and veg, clothes, eggs, bric-a-brac, paintings, and I spotted the Son of Christie’s cheese truck which is always a welcome sight!

Retail therapy

Get Smart (www.getsmartfakenham.co.uk) is a leading boutique selling everything from scarves to shoes, handbags and evening dresses. Labels include Miss Milly, Lazy Jacks and Adini, and it’s been a firm favourite for more than 30 years. Split’z (find them on Facebook) is a great little find and has something for everyone, especially as half the shop is given over to pre-loved pieces.

Oliver Lamps (www.oliverlamps.com) is a very pleasing find, selling an extensive range of contemporary lamp shades, lamps and lighting fittings. The showroom is inviting and also offers other interiors favourites such as cushions and throws.

Birdie Fortescue (www.birdiefortescue.co.uk) has globally-inspired designs for homeware and soft furnishings, all created in house in Norfolk. Visit her inspiring showroom in the town for ethically sourced and utterly beautiful pieces, from tablecloths to plates, lamps to furniture.

The long-established family firm Aldiss (www.aldiss.com) is an Aladdin’s cave of goodies, with lovely things for the home and garden. Think bed linen, kitchenalia, furniture, lighting and more – plus there’s a cafe when you need a quick pick-me-up.

Wensum pedestal table £2450, Pent raffia lampshade from £55, Lattice rattan lamp £175, Ghapla jute rug from £160, Birdie Fortescue 

Scent With Love florist (www.scentwithlove-norfolk.co.uk) moved from Hunstanton to Fakenham in 2020 and sells the most artistic creations for any and every occasion. Take time to call into the lovely old shop, near the church, and select some sweet-smelling blooms for your home from owners Nicholas and Kevin.

And do visit Venetia’s Yarn Shop on Norwich Street (www.venetiasyarnshop.com) where you can buy sustainable yarns of all colours. It’s a gorgeous shop, which only opened last year, and owner Venetia Strangewayes-Booth is looking to start knit and natter sessions and more.

Where to eat and drink

The Crown Hotel, (find them on Facebook) right in the Market Place, offers live music, shows top sporting action, has several bedrooms and a new head chef who has devised a new menu including posh pizzas.

The elegant Red Lion Lounge (www.redlionlounge.co.uk) is a welcome addition and just the place for a cocktail or two. Housed in another fine former coaching inn in the Market Place, the ground floor sees a bar and bistro while the first floor has an Art Deco style restaurant. Their Sunday lunches are recommended!

Jes Paskins, chef at Red Lion Lounge
© www.thenorfolkphotographer.co.uk

Drifter’s (www.driftersfakenham.co.uk) a well-respected fish and chip shop where you can eat in or take away and Taylors, on Oak Street, (find them on Facebook) is a newish addition to the town and is based in an old saddler’s. It’s a vibrant sort of place, with a brunch as well as a lunch menu – with the homemade soup a popular choice. 

WaffleOpolis (www.waffleopolis.co.uk) on Norwich Street has waffles and crepes with all manner of toppings, while Meg’s Place on Norwich Road (find them on Facebook) is good for breakfasts and is dog friendly, and Q’s Coffee Shop and Bistro on Quaker Lane, (find them on Facebook) just off the Market Place, is a charming spot, with locally sourced food.

If you’re looking for something a bit different, Fat Cow Burgers (find them on Facebook) on the town’s outskirts, is a terrific warm weather option. Situated in a wildflower meadow, three siblings, Jack, Robbie and Lucy Spencer Ashworth, serve up burgers created from grass-fed local beef plus soft scoop ice cream, alongside wines and beers from a food truck on their family farm. There’s a stretch tent, with festoon lighting, benches, and you can bring blankets to sit on too. Look out for it reopening soon.

Just outside Fakenham is Sculthorpe Mill (www.sculthorpemill.uk), a contemporary restaurant with six stylish rooms run by sisters Siobhan and Caitriona Peyton. It’s fast becoming a firm favourite with foodies who love chef Elliot Ketley’s use of local produce and has just been awarded a 2022 Michelin Bib Gourmand. The south facing garden, running alongside the river, is a delightful spot.

Sculthorpe Mill © Andrew Waddison/ AWPR

Foodie shops

The Larder on Norwich Street (find them on Facebook) is the place for health foods and green grocer Benbows always has an enticing display of fruit and veg. Papworth’s butcher (www.papworthbutchers.co.uk) has a branch in the town, and there’s also a branch of the Norfolk bakery, Flour & Bean, (www.flourandbean.com) where you can pick up a panini, sausage roll or coffee.

Denise Benbow at Benbows
© www.thenorfolkphotographer.co.uk

Grown up stuff

The town is the admin hub for the area, with plenty of accountancy firms, solicitors, banks and so on. Hayes + Storr Solicitors (www.hayesandstorr.co.uk) is a long-established law firm, with branches in several market towns including Fakenham, Holt, King’s Lynn, Sheringham and Swaffham. Their friendly team provides legal guidance on topics as diverse as lasting powers of attorney, divorce and relationship breakdown to property sales and purchases, and business services such as employment law advice.

“Records show that our building was registered as a law office back in 1775, says Adam Bunkle, Finance Director at Hayes + Storr. “For many years through to the late 1970s, the front of the building was a sweet shop run by my great-uncle, Leslie Bunkle. Therefore, as a director, I have a strong personal connection to our offices and to the history of the town.

“Fakenham has seen many changes over the years, although it is still recognisable from many of the old postcards, and it will continue to evolve with many new homes due to be built over the next few years. I believe it’s a good time to have a business here to serve the needs of the town and its increasing population.”

Chartered financial advisers Allen Tomas & Co (www.allentomasfinancial.co.uk) has its headquarters in Dersingham and a branch in Fakenham, too. The company offers a team of independent financial and mortgage advisers who can help with pensions, savings and investments, residential and commercial mortgages, inheritance tax and more. A friendly, professional and confidential service is guaranteed.

Stephenson Smart (www.stephenson-smart.com) on Oak Street is an accountancy firm which has been offering help and advice to businesses, individuals and charities from their Fakenham office since 1989. Tax, audits, pension schemes and VAT are just some of the areas they can help with. There are also branches, amongst other places in the area, in Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Wisbech.

What else?

TNS (www.tnsgroup.co.uk) on Enterprise Way, sells both new and used farm machinery, as well as an extensive gardening range. TNS is an authorised STIHL dealer, and the Fakenham store stocks a wide variety of STIHL equipment including lawnmowers, strimmers, brushcutters, chainsaws and the trendy iMow robotic mower. Car care products, garden and DIY tools, ground care equipment and workwear are also in store. A full servicing, maintenance and repair service for garden equipment is available – contact their helpful service team for more details on 01328 862333.

Builders merchants Jewson (www.jewson.co.uk) on Dereham Road, provides materials for both builders and those wanting to improve their homes themselves. In fact, they’ve everything imaginable on site you could need to rebuild or refurbish your home, including a timberyard, paint mixing facilities, and tool hire – and if they haven’t got what you need, they can order it. There’s a bathroom and kitchen showroom to help you select your dream new look and its layout, with experienced staff to help every step of the way. Our top tip? Check out their sale on selected items, which runs until the end June 2022.

Grocott & Murfit is one of the county’s leading builders and property specialists who have a very impressive CV, working on some of the finest properties in the area, including creating eco-friendly passive houses. Daniel Grocott and Jody Murfit (www.grocottandmurfit.co.uk) have been working together since 2007 and offer a friendly, personal service – and they are definitely at the cutting edge of local design.

What the locals say…

Town mayor Gilly Foortse (pictured) sees Fakenham as on the up, saying: “Much has been said about the demise of the high street and, with four major supermarkets in the town, our smaller traders have had a rough ride. However, we are seeing a rise in confidence and, to our great joy, the arrival of many new and exciting businesses in our town centre. Fakenham is looking forward to a bright future as it takes its rightful place as the gateway to North Norfolk.”

Annie Bush, owner of Get Smart fashion boutique, has worked in Fakenham for 31 years and seen it grow into the bustling town of today. “We are the quintessential market town – with a bit of quirkiness thrown in, too,” she laughs. “The market is so fab, it brings in people from all over and has such a good mix of things.”

She adds: “I love to see new places opening – I like The Red Lion Lounge and Taylors is good, too – they are lovely people there.”

Linda Black, who runs Tidal Therapies (www.tidaltherapies.co.uk) in the town, moved to Fakenham in 2007, relocating from London. “There’s a real heart to Fakenham,” she says. “The friendliness and enthusiasm of the people shine through – its core strength comes from its residents.” Linda, originally from Edinburgh, says its proximity to Norwich, King’s Lynn and the coastline is another great advantage, “you can be on the beach in 20 minutes,” she says, adding that it’s a great place to run a business. “Mine has gone from strength to strength – and with 950 new houses being built, there is a real opportunity for new companies here, too.”