A Brief Introduction

Royal Heritage

The market town of Harleston has a long history. A charter to hold an eight-day fair during the period of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist was granted to Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk by Henry III in 1259 and Wednesday has been market day in the town from ancient times. The centre of Harleston was once a vast open market until the stalls in the middle gradually became permanent shops and houses, creating the shape of a box-iron.

One of the plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I was to be launched on Midsummer Day 1570 at the Harleston Fair by proclamations and the sound of trumpets and drums. The Elizabethan play Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay features this in one of its scenes. Past residents of Harleston include some of the first Pilgrim Fathers who travelled to settle in the United States of America.

Historic Buildings

There are over 160 very old buildings in the town, many with some of the original features still visible. Old coaching inns, like the Swan Hotel, remain as a legacy from the days when the town was on the main coaching route from London to Great Yarmouth and it was an important trading centre. Read more >

The town’s free audio trail provides a guided walk around the town. Local people provide commentary guiding you around the town, giving a potent mix of history, memory and gossip. Click here for more information.

Active Community

As a thriving local centre, Harleston has around a hundred shops to meet the needs of its 4,600 population as well as the surrounding villages. It has a vibrant and active community which has given rise to ‘Harleston’s Future’, a body which organises many events within the town. There are also numerous local organisations with regular activities for all age groups, a small town with a big heart! Harleston Information Plus is a local volunteer organisation and registered charity which provides services and information for the local community click here for more information.

Harlestons Future runs an annual programme of flag displays in the town centre. Making use of the holders for the Christmas trees above shops along the main streets, these provide a continual use for an otherwise once a year display. The programme has been so successful it has encouraged other towns to follow the lead. Come and see the original and largest annual display of flags. Read more >

Harlestons Future has established a local group called Swift Action as part of the national Swift conservation project. These amazing birds have shared our buildings ever since the Romans came to Britain. They still breed in our eaves and gables, but not for much longer, as modern and renovated buildings exclude them – we have lost half of our Swifts in just the past 20 years. Harleston encourages the comunity to provide a safe haven for these wonderful migratory bird during their visit to these shores. Read more >