First published in "Norfolk Fair" magazine - November/December 1967
North Walsham is a market town only a short distance from the sea and just a few miles north of the Broads and is therefore conveniently situated for touring some of the best country that Norfolk has to offer. It is a commercial centre for the surrounding area and a survey carried out in 1963 showed that the service area contained a resident population of about 19,000. There is also a substantial holiday population in the service area during the summer months, which is ever increasing. Plans have been approved for the expansion of the central shopping area and this work is likely to be carried out by private developers in the near future. With this in mind the urban council are actively engaged in providing large car parks near the centre so the town may continue in future years to be a commercial centre for the area.
Even though the old Midland and Great Northern Railway line is closed the town is fortunate to have a rail service to Norwich and to Sheringham.
For a long time the town has been an educational centre and apart from the Paston School and the Girls' High School, all other types of school have been provided and large numbers of children from the surrounding districts, from as far afield as Sheringham, Cromer and the outskirts of Norwich, are brought into the town daily by bus and train. Some of the school buildings are old, but it is hoped that in the near future a new secondary modern school will be provided.
The parish church is unique in that the tower has stood in a state of ruin since the 18th century and the churchyard, now clear of gravestones, provides a quiet and pleasant open space next to the market place. There is also quite a large Roman Catholic church and the town is served by chapels and halls of all other denominations.
As an ancient market town, there is a great deal of old property, especially to the north of the Market Place, which is gradually being cleared and, apart from the shopping development which has previously been referred to, the cleared areas are providing sites for flats and other homes. Cedar Court is a typical example of this and the second part of the scheme is now being carried out in Dog Yard which will be renamed Reeve's Court. These schemes provide living accommodation for various age groups and the ground floor flats are particularly popular with old people who find them conveniently situated for shops, churches, clubs, etc.
The main local industry for many years has been the Canning Factory, owned by Norfolk Canneries Ltd., which is a subsidiary of H.P. Sauce Ltd., and the vegetables, fruits, etc., from the surrounding agricultural area and other products are canned in this factory. In addition there is another canning and frozen food packaging factory at Westwick, which is within a short distance of the town, and this is owned by the Ross Group.
Needless to say, the establishment of a large canning; industry and laundry in the town has brought with it various problems, not least of which has been the discharge of trade effluent, and the Council in recent years has had to extend the sewers and the Sewage Disposal
Works to cope with this discharge and the works are now of a size and complexity which are unique for a town of this size.
The Council also provide the public water supply which is pumped from underground sources in the Norwich Road area and in view of the increase in the industrial consumption and the general development of the town, steps are now being taken to supplement the source on a site near the old bed of the North Walsham and Dilham Canal on the north side of the town.
One of the most pleasant features of the town is the War Memorial Park lying between Yarmouth Road and Happisburgh Road. The Park is in memory of those townspeople who lost their lives in both wars and the memorial garden in which the monument stands is extremely pleasant and attractive.
The County Council are now engaged in providing a new library and youth centre on a site in New Road, near the War Memorial Park and a local committee has been formed to raise funds for the provision of a Community Centre on the same site.
In common with most market towns much housing development has occurred in recent years and the touring popularity can be attributed to its central position and its proximity to the holiday areas as well as to Norwich. It would seem that the expansion of the town will gather pace during the next few years ar.d with this in mind the County Planning Department have produced a town centre map which provides for a by-pass along the track of the old dis-used M. & G.N. railway line. The provision of a traffic-free shopping area and other amenities should do much to ensure that North Walsham will continue to act as a centre for this part of North Norfolk.