Wells-next-the-Sea is a seaport town, parish and railway station, and polling place for the North-Eastern division of the county, 5 miles north by west from Walsingham, 10 north from Fakenham, on the Wells and Fakenham Railway, and 32 north-west from Norwich, in North Greenhoe hundred, Walsingham union and county court district, rural deanery of Walsingham , archdeaconry and diocese of Norwich. A line of railway, called the West Norfolk Junction Railway, from Hitcham to Wells, has recently been constructed. The town is not incorporated, but is governed by the commissioners appointed by an Act of the 7th and 8th of Victoria. Gas works have been erected in pursuance of the above act, and the old streets and roads improved. The quay, which was greatly dilapidated, has been rebuilt with Yorkshire stone. The tide rises in the harbour 21 feet, and vessels of 150 and 200 tons can enter. The trade is chiefly in rape seed, linseed, corn, coals, timber, and salt. There are fisheries for oysters and mussels, and there are 20 fishing boats belonging to the port; also 70 registered vessels, with a tonnage of about 3,100: shipbuilding is carried on here. The church of St.Nicholas is a noble building, consisting of deep chancel, nave and aisles, with side and west galleries, and has a square embattled tower containing 8 bells: the style is early English, with illuminated decoration of the thirteenth century: the chancel was built by Rev. R. Bradley, who was rector in 1460, and was thoroughly restored and decorated in 1866, at a cost of £2000, by the rectors mother: there is a handsome memorial window in the chancel to the memory of the rector's father: a piscina was discovered in the Lady chapel during the restoration: a handsome screen of carved oak, richly decorated, divides the nave from the chancel: in the latter is a good organ, several ancient tablets, and one brass, date 1588: in the vestry is and old oak chest, bearing date 1635: the tracery and open frame roofs over the aisles are very elaborately worked and surmounted by figures of angels richly carved. The register dates from the year 1548. The living is a rectory, yearly value £1000, with residence and 10 acres of glebe land, in the gift of, and held by, the Rev. Henry E. Downing, S.C.L., of Christ Church, Oxford. Here is a school, supported by public subscription and liberally headed by Government grants. The Independents, Society of Friends, Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists, have chapels here. The custom house is on the Quay. Assembly rooms have been erected in the Globe Hotel yard, for concerts, public meetings, and amusements. Here are breweries, malthouses, ropeworks, machine works and corn mills. The Provincial Banking Corporation Limited, and Gurneys, Birkbeck and Co.'s banks have branches here. There is a fair held every Shrove Tuesday, on the Buttlands. The Earl of Leicester is lord of the manor, and principal landowner. The soil is very light; subsoil, chalky. The chief crops are barley, wheat and turnips. In 1861 the population was 3,464; and the area of the parish is 4,510 acres.
Parish Clerk, John Tillson.
From Pigot's Directory of 1869.
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