A History of Norfolk

The History of Norfolk

A history lesson for your hols! 

It's so easy to go on holiday sometimes without really thinking about the location and it's history. After all, people come to Norfolk for the stunning beaches & amazing dog friendly places! But once you know a bit of history about this beautiful place, it may make your holiday even more special.

A Delve into Norfolk’s Deep History Coast

Did you know the Norfolk coastline covers 36km from Weybourne to Cart Gap, The Deep History Coast Discovery Trail gives a fascinating delve into Norfolk – and Britain’s – ancient past.

It used to be known as ‘Pre-history’, the excavation of various sites along this lovely soft clifftop coastline is now referred to as ‘Deep History’ because it just uncovers so much more than was previously thought possible.

This will blow your mind - artefacts along the stretch have prompted archaeologists to realise that humans lived here actually 350,000 years before historians believed (in other words, more than 850,000 years ago). How amazing is that!?

@vistnorthnorfolk: “Norfolk is also the only county in the UK where evidence has been found of the four human species - Homo antecessor, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo sapiens, our own species.”

Because the coastline is receding quickly it's become arguably one of the best place in the UK to study Ice Age geology. It’s not unusual to find fossilised teeth of wild animals as you walk along the beach (a great story for the dinner table if you do find one!) and plenty of ancient crustaceans can be found on rocks and the cliff face itself. There are more than 20,000 fossil finds every year along the Deep History Coastal Trail so, if you’re a fossil hunter then all your holidays from now on should be in Norfolk. If you aren't a fossil hunter, it's still a fab thing to do while you are here!

Some of the exciting discoveries which prompted the reassessment of the area are:

  • The oldest-ever and most complete Steppe mammoth fossilised skeleton at West Runton. The animal’s pelvic bone was the first part to be discovered and is huge in itself. Further digging in the area has revealed the bones and teeth of wolves, rhinos, bears and even hyaenas.
  • The oldest archaeological site in northern Europe at Happisburgh, and where the oldest human footprints to date were discovered. Large amber stones have also been found here – some measuring as big as a fist.
  • Impressive Palaeolithic hand axes and various flint heads throughout the various coastal locations on the Trail, can be found in Cromer Museum. A 500,000-year-old axe head was, in fact, found by a dog walker on the beach at the turn of the millennium. In West Tofts, a 250,000-year old flint hand axe was discovered with a beautifully artistic fossilised scallop shell in its centre.


Deep History Coast app

If you fancy seeing what a huge Steppe mammoth looks like, you can use the Deep History Coast app where augmented reality shows it wandering around Norfolk.

The app has loads of other fun features like being able to witness daily life in Doggerland as a member of a hominin (hunter gatherer) family. Doggerland was famously an area under the southern North Sea which connected Norfolk and Suffolk to the Netherlands during the last ice age. And it wasn’t just humans that lived there – cave lions, sabre-toothed cats and reindeer bounded around its shores too.

Unfortunately, a large tsunami is believed to have broken the area up around 7,000 years ago, killing thousands of hominins and animals who lived there and causing Britain to become the island that we know it as today.

I'm not going to lie - I found this fascinating, how about you!?