A lovely rural Georgian Norfolk town with plenty of unusual shops and surrounded by well-wooded parks.
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An Introduction to Holt
Holt is a lovely rural Georgian North Norfolk town with plenty of unusual shops and surrounded by well-wooded parks. Having been burnt down in 1708, Holt presents a comparatively modern appearance, with a spacious market place, dominated by a fine cross of Clipsham stone to commemorate the war dead. A jumble of streets and alleyways fanout from the main High Street, offering plenty of facilities including pubs, cafes, galleries, and shops to enjoy. There is a lovely country park just to the south of Holt and the North Norfolk Railway (the poppy line) runs from Holt station to Sheringham. Holt is particularly attractive at Christmas, when all the shops adourn themselves in pretty white fairy lights, making for a really festive wonderland. Holt is an excellent choice as a base for a short break or weekend away.
We start our tour of Holt at Byfords, a famous cafe, deli and posh B&B. If you enjoy people watching, its a great place to have a coffee and just sit and watch other people! The building is thought to be one of the oldest buildings in the town and pre-dates the great fire in Holt of 1708. The premises traded as a hardware store and ironmonger’s for over 100 years under the ownership of the Byford family, from which the building took its name. The building was restored during the later part of the 20th century, when much of its character and features were re-instated.
Byfords of Holt
Shirehall Plain, Holt
Byfords Cafe and Francois Bouttier Studio
We are now in the main shopping centre of Holt and there are shops everywhere, selling all kinds of items. All the shops are small independent traders, many hidden away in yards, alleys and lanes. See for yourself by browsing the different shops below - or even better, come to Holt and discover this shoppers paradise for yourself.
Shops in Fish Hill, Holt
Moochi Modo, Gift Shop
Fairfax Art Gallery
Osokozi Gallery, Jewellery
Past Caring, Vintage Clothes
Old Guys Rule, Men's Clothing
Nicholsons, Ladies Clothing
Jeremy Barlow, Fine Art
Joules Clothing Store
One Holt store that has survived over 100 years of trading is Bakers and Larners, having been founded in the year 1900 by the Baker family. The Bakers family shop in Holt survived two world wars until the death of Jimmy Baker in 1958. It then suffered a period of decline until a younger family member, Michael Baker decided to revive the family business in the mid 1970's. He bought Larner's store in Holt and set about re-developing the site, which has evolved and flourished into the fabulous department store we see today - well worth a visit while in Holt. Bakers & Larners also have several other stores around Holt.
Bakers and Larners of Holt
Part of Bakers & Larners store in the Market Place
Bakers store at the other end of the High Street, adjacent to Richard Scott Antiques and The 28 Cafe
Holt contains many hidden yards, which contain a fascinating mix of shops and cafe's. Make sure you get to explore these or you may miss some of Holt's best kept secrets! Try and find Chapel Yard, Hoopers Yard and Appleyard.
Chapel Yard, one of Holt's many yards, hiding shops and cafe's
Hoopers Yard, Holt
Owl Town Antiques in Chapel Yard
The Barn Cafe, hidden in Appleyard
One of Holt's hidden secrets is Lees Yard where The Picturecraft Gallery can be found, showcasing the work of child artist Kieron Williamson. Kieron's paintings have been sold all around the world and he features regularly on television. He was interviewed on 'Frost Around The World' by the late Sir David Frost and featured as one of the UK's most gifted children on 'Child Genius'. Lees Yard also houses one of the finest Premier Art Centres in East Anglia for artists' material. It's latest offering is Adrian Hill Fine Art where artists from Royal Institutes, Societies and Federations are shown. It's also a lovely, peaceful and interesting environment to sit and enjoy speciality teas and fine coffee surrounded by some of the great names in British Art including Sir Alfred Munnings and Edward Seago. Look out for the blue plaque that records a visit to Lees Yard by the late L.S. Lowry.
The Picturecraft Gallery
Art on display in Lees Yard
After all the shopping and browsing, you will need to find somewhere for a refreshment. Thankfully, Holt is well blessed with places offering hot and cold meals and drinks. The main pub is the King's Head in the High Street, but if you prefer there are plenty of cafes and restaurants dotted about the town.
The King's Head in Holt
In the centre of Holt is the Market Place, dominated by
a fine cross of Clipsham stone, dedicated to the towns war dead. The London red Routemaster bus takes passengers to and from the North Norfolk Railway station, which is a little way out of the town centre. Adjacent to the Market Place is the Gresham School and is named after Sir John Gresham, a wealthy Tudor merchant, who became Lord Mayor of London and was born and lived nearby. In 1555, when Henry VIII’s suppression of the Monasteries forced the only local school to close, Gresham persuaded the Fishmongers Company of London to finance and manage a school in Holt. This responsibility has been kept to the present day and the school still has strong links with the City of London.
Holt Market Place and Cross
The Gresham School, Holt
Adnams Holt shop, near the Market Place
Around Holt you will see names and images of an owl. This refers to a local legend that tells of an owl that was disturbing the residents of Holt and whenever they tried to stop it, somehow the owl would escape! One story describes how workmen building the local church, stuffed the owl up a water spout and left it to drown, but the owl managed to escape by flying out of the top.
The Owl tea room and bake shop, Holt
Holt Town Sign, featuring an owl
When most of the town was burnt down in 1708, the buildings were rebuilt in stone and in the style of the day, which was Georgian. Many of these buildings exist in one form or another today and Holt is one of the best places in England to see Georgian architecture. Many of the buildings have been converted to accommodate various local businesses.
Row of Georgian Cottages in Albert Street
Gentleman's Barbers, Holt
Georgian Shop Fronts in Holt's High Street and Market Place
At one end of the High Street you will come to Obelisk Plain, containing two curious structures. The first is a pineapple topped obelisk, which was once a gatepost at Melton Constable Park. No one knows why the obelisk was moved here to Holt, but notice the distances marked on the obelisk are all wrong, as they refer to its original location! Standing next to the obelisk is a gas lamp, which for some reason was rarely lit and therefore became known as "Blind Sam" The lamp used to stand at the other end of the High Street in the Market Place, but was moved here when the war memorial was erected.
Pineapple topped Obelisk
Gas Lamp, known as Blind Sam
Returning to the other end of the High Street, a lime tree avenue leads from the Market Place to the lovely parish church of St. Andrew. Originally dating from the 13th century, the church was gutted in the fire of 1708, when its thatched roof caught fire. It was repaired in 1727 and then restored in 1864 and is well worth a visit.
The church of St. Andrew in Holt
The entrance of St. Andrew church in Holt
Inside St. Andrew church in Holt
A little way out of the centre of Holt is the North Norfolk Railway station. This is the "poppy line" which runs steam and diesel train services to Weybourne and Sheringham. A bus runs visitors from the station to Holt market place.
A diesel train waiting at Holt station on the North Norfolk Railway
A shelter at Holt railway station
Holt station booking hall
About a mile to the south of the town is Holt Country Park. The wood extends to almost 100 acres and contains Scots Pine, Oak and Silver Birch. Throughout the Country Park there are interesting features such as a totem pole, carved stile and a viewing tower. It's a great place to stretch the legs, get some fresh air and walk the dog. Holt Country Park also has a good children's play area. While entry is free, the car-park is pay and display.
Paths in Holt Country Park
A Totem pole in Holt Country Park
A seat by the lake
Other attractions nearby include Baconsthorpe Castle and Letheringsett Watermill. Baconsthorpe Castle was the family home of the Heydon family from around 1450 to 1650. The family made their money from the wool industry, but accummulated debts and had to demolish the buildilding and sell as building materials. Letheringsett Watermill is Norfolk's only working watermill and a visit allows you to step back in time and discover how the mill produces wholewheat flour from locally grown wheat.
Finally, you should try and visit Holt at Christmas time, as it becomes a winter wonderland when all the shops adourn themselves with pretty white fairy lights. The lights are usually switched on from late November and it brings a lovely festive atmosphere to the town. NOTE: For 2014 the Christmas lights will be switched on from 19th November.
Christmas Lights in Fish Hill Holt
Christmas Time in Holt
Bakers & Larners Clock at Christmas Time
Things to SEE & DO in and around Holt
Browse the many shops and galleries - you are bound to find something you like!
Explore the numerous yards and lanes, there are plenty of hidden surprises
Discover Lees Yard and the work of child artist Kieron Williamson at the Gallery
Enjoy a refreshment in Byfords or one of the other excellent cafes or pubs in Holt
Visit the medieval parish church of St. Andrew
Find the unusual Obelisk or Gas Lamp in Obelisk Plain
Visit nearby Letheringsett Watermill or Baconsthorpe Castle
Visit in December to see the town decked in pretty white fairy lights
Holt is one of those MUST visit places - and if you have never been to Holt before, do make time to explore the town for yourself. It really is a shopping paradise with many small classy shops - a good time to visit is when the Christmas lights are switched on. Car parking can be a problem - the largest car-park is the one adjacent to Budgens.
This is a good and comprehensive Norfolk guidebook
This is a great book of Norfolk Trivia!
The best paper map for North Norfolk Coast walkers
If you like circular walks to a pub, this is the book for you!
Hi, I think the Holt guided tour is a brilliant way to market the town and it really gives a flavour of what to expect when you visit. I am visiting with my husband and brother and sister in law in early December for the first time so was delighted to find you will have your Christmas Lights on. We are staying on a farm nearby and intend to tour the area, Holt is an absolute must and your guided tour has helped to cement that thought. I was a Town Centre Manager in Essex for 9 years so feel I have some experience to say, very well done!! Best regards for the future of your beautiful town, Lyn.
Thank you very much for the lovely pictures and wonderful information. We are about to visit Holt for a holiday and it is great to see all the fab shops. So looking forward to our visit now. Regards, Hilary, Ipswich