Fakenham

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Fakenham is a town and civil parish in Norfolk, England. It is situated on the River Wensum, some 30 km (19 mi) north east of King’s Lynn, 30 km (19 mi) south west of Cromer, and 40 km (25 mi) north west of Norwich.

The civil parish has an area of 9.04 km2 (3.49 sq mi) and in the 2001 census had a population of 7,357 in 3,292 households. For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of North Norfolk.

The name Fakenham is Saxon, possibly meaning Fair Place/Place on a Fair River, or Hamlet (Ham) on the river (Ken) Fa/Fair (Fa).

In 1086 (Domesday Book) Fakenham had only 150 residents. Hempton, on the opposite side of the river, was the larger community and had an abbey that played host to pilgrims on their way to Walsingham. Fakenham became the dominant centre when the abbey was abolished by Henry VIII. It has been a market town since 1250, when it was given a Charter. The stalls probably occupied space around the parish church of St.Peter & St.Paul. Fakenham’s modern-day Thursday market is still situated very close to its original positioning and around the market place.

Its major industry in the 19th and 20th centuries was printing, but the major printworks (Cox and Wyman) closed in the 1970s. Nevertheless, there are still more than ten small printing firms in industrial premises around and near the town. A large number of printing blocks have been set into the surface of the market place as a memorial to this lost industry.

In the late 1990s the town was listed by contributor Robert Woods to the Knowhere Guide as “the most boring place on Earth”. The contribution was specifically referring to Wednesday afternoon which is ‘early closing’ day in Fakenham. This comment, made by Woods, was taken and quoted out of context as “voted the most boring place on Earth” and very rapidly the story was running in national newspapers with the town council defending the town and spending considerable time, money and effort trying to prove that this was not the case. Woods retracted his statement live on BBC Radio Norwich, saying that although Fakenham was boring, so too was toilet roll, and he wouldn’t want to be without that either.

Recent investment in Fakenham has seen the town centre being renovated and pedestrianised. It now enjoys a popular farmers’ market on the morning of the 4th Saturday of each month.

Historically, Fakenham had two railway stations. Fakenham West railway station was on the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, and closed in 1959. The site is now a builders’ depot, although 20 feet of the platform has been preserved. Fakenham East railway station was on the Great Eastern Railway and closed in the 1960s although goods trains carried on until the 1980s. This station site is now sheltered housing.

Although now without a railway, the Mid-Norfolk Railway plans to return trains to the town, and intends to build a new station near the gas works. The line would link Fakenham to East Dereham, Wymondham and Norwich. Sections of the former railway lines have been protected from development that would be prejudicial to the creation of railway transport links by North Norfolk District Council and Norfolk County Council.

Another scheme, the Norfolk Orbital Railway plans to link the town to the coast at Sheringham.

Attractions in the town include a national hunt racecourse, the Museum of Gas and Local History, a small cinema, 6 Lane Tenpin Bowling Centre, a flea market held every Thursday, a farmers’ market held monthly. The town is well placed to act as a base for exploring north Norfolk.

Fakenham Town Band is a thriving traditional brass band based in Fakenham. It was established in 1881 and has enjoyed continuous existence since. The main focus of the band is to provide entertainment for the local community and for the personal pleasure of the players. To maintain and increase the standard of playing and provide a challenge, the band also enjoys contesting.

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