Magnolia Cottage: History

Magnolia Cottage has a colourful history, and was owned at the beginning and end of last century by two well-known figures of their times, in very different fields. The oldest part of the cottage, now the Stables apartment, dates from the 1880s and was originally a stable block, part of the estate of Sheringham Park (now National Trust). From 1892 it was owned by Henry Morris Upcher of Sheringham Hall, a keen naturalist (Upcher's Warbler was named in his honour).

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The deeds to Magnolia Cottage record that in 1901 it passed from the Upchers to Sir Forrest Fulton, an eminent barrister, judge, Conservative MP and Recorder of London, 'tall and elegant, with a blonde moustache and the looks of a matinee idol'. In 1903 he presided over the celebrated trial of Kitty Byron, a milliner's assistant who stabbed her wealthy but violent married lover in a London street in broad daylight. It was the perfect Edwardian melodrama and brought crowds flocking to the Old Bailey. Sheringham must have seemed a peaceful retreat! Forrest Fulton retired to the (much grander) house just across Holt Road, the cottage serving as stabling. His memorial plaque can be found in Upper Sheringham church and his portrait (Vanity Fair, 1903) in the National Portrait Gallery.

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 Magnolia Cottage also served as stabling for the grand Sheringham Hotel (1889) which extended along Holt Road, with sweeping grounds, a ballroom and its own orchestra; guests included Princess Alexandra and Winston Churchill. During WW1 the cottage accommodated men and horses of the Royal Horse Artillery. Around 1912 it was enlarged, with haphazard later additions, resulting in a quirky, rambling building, part cottage, part barn, part Edwardian house. An Ordnance Survey map of 1926 shows the house in its present form, bay window clearly visible, and by 1929 it was listed as a gentleman's residence in Kelly's Directory of Norfolk. The three Arts & Crafts influenced fireplaces, of Norfolk red brick, are a local feature, found in many Sheringham houses of the period.

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In the 1980s the cottage was home to Roger Reynolds of 70s comedy trio The Brother Lees, regulars on Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game. He converted what's now the Stables apartment into a snooker hall (the ceiling lights are still there) where well known names of the day, including Steve Davis and John Virgo, played.

The history of Sheringham can be clearly seen as you stroll around the town: at its heart the old fishing village, with its flint cottages, an intricate network of quaint lanes and yards, surrounded by the spacious, leafy avenues of the Edwardians, which followed the coming of the railway. This area of Holt Road, around the pine trees of Hooks Hill, saw the building of many beautiful houses, set in extensive landscaped grounds, colonised by wealthy London families seeking summer retreats on this newly discovered and unspoilt coast.

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 Sheringham summer residents of the turn of the century included polar explorers Scott and Shackleton, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who based The Hound of the Baskervilles on the legend of North Norfolk's ghostly hound, Black Shuck.