Stiffkey (/ˈstjki, ˈstɪfki/) is a village and civil parish on the north coast of the English county of Norfolk. It is situated on the A149 coast road, some 6 km (3.7 mi) east of Wells-next-the-Sea, 6 km (3.7 mi) west of Blakeney, and 40 km (25 mi) north-west of the city of Norwich.[1] The civil parish has an area of 14.55 km2 (5.62 sq mi) and in the 2001 census had a population of 223 in 105 households, the population falling to 209 at the 2011 Census.[2]

Stiffkey Salt Marsh 9,04,2007 (4).JPG
Stiffkey Salt Marsh
Stiffkey is located in Norfolk
Location within Norfolk
Area14.55 km2 (5.62 sq mi)
Population209 (2011)
• Density14/km2 (36/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTF 971 430
• London129 miles
Civil parish
  • Stiffkey
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtNR23
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°56′53″N 0°55′56″E / 52.94817°N 0.93226°E / 52.94817; 0.93226Coordinates: 52°56′53″N 0°55′56″E / 52.94817°N 0.93226°E / 52.94817; 0.93226

For the purposes of local government, the parish falls within the district of North Norfolk.[3]

The River Stiffkey runs through the village, from which it takes its name, and used to power the Stiffkey watermill which was built before 1579. It was a small mill, running two pairs of stones, and it operated until 1881 when it was put up for auction as a warehouse. Little now remains of the mill: just a few low ruined walls showing the position of the building.[4]

Stiffkey is also famous for cockles Cerastoderma edule which still retain the old name of "Stewkey blues". These are stained blue by the mud in which they live.[5]

Etymology and GeologyEdit

Stiffkey is first evidenced in the Domesday Book of 1086, and means 'stump island, island with stumps of trees'.[5]

The local historical pronunciation of the village is "Stew-key". This is primarily due to the underlying glauconitic clays (blue-green clays - formerly Blue Marl), BGS lexicon lithological description: Pale to dark grey or blue-grey clay or mudstone, glauconitic in part, with a sandy base. Discrete bands of phosphatic nodules (commonly preserving fossils), some pyrite and calcareous nodules. In Norfolk, the Cretaceous Gault Formation becomes calcareous before passing northwards into the Hunstanton Formation ("Red Chalk"). In places thin, variable junction beds at the base include some limestones. (BGS lexicon: Gault Formation which belongs to the Selbourne Group).

The blue clays are known locally as "Norfolk Stew", hence the name "Stew-Key" [Stew-Quay] as the flats there and the quays use the underlying blue clays (muds) weathered from Cretaceous bedrock. As already noted the local fauna of cockles can be stained with relation to their habitat. Glauconite is an iron and potassium rich mineral and the solid phase reactions can produce the iron and potassium rich dye Prussian Blue.

Wildlife sitesEdit

Forming part of the Blakeney Point, a National nature reserve, the Stiffkey Salt Marshes create an extensive habitat for a wide range of birds and plant life. The salt marshes which are owned and managed by the National Trust are open to the public.[6]

Stiffkey Fen 52°57′17″N 0°57′24″E / 52.954760°N 0.956528°E / 52.954760; 0.956528 is nature reserve located close to the village covering 35 acres (14 ha). The reserve is open to the public, and has a reed bed and freshwater lagoons providing a habitat for many species of birds.[7]

Military CampEdit

An artillery and anti-aircraft training camp was established south of the marshes in 1938 and remained in operation throughout World War II.[8] Aircraft from RAF Langham would tow targets over the marshes for the trainee gunners to aim at.[9][10] After the war the camp was used for training USAAF B-29 gunners until the site's closure in 1955. Vestiges of the former camp can still be seen including the remains of a circular runway, known locally as "The Whirlygig", used by the USAAF to launch radio-controlled aerial targets.[11] The former officers' mess is now a boat restoration charity workshop and visitor centre and other surviving buildings have been converted to agricultural use or incorporated into the present day holiday camp site.[12]

Notable peopleEdit

Sir Nathaniel Bacon (1546?-1622), second son of Sir Nicholas Bacon and half-brother of Sir Francis Bacon, was a Member of Parliament for Stiffkey.

The village is remembered as the parish whose rector, Harold Davidson, faced charges of immorality and was defrocked in 1932.[5] He was a popular priest in the area and the villagers asked his family to allow him to be buried in Stiffkey when he died, rather than in the family tomb in Sholing, where he was born.[citation needed] (He was killed, rather improbably, by a lion.) They have cared for his grave for many years.

The author Henry Williamson bought a farm in Stiffkey. The Story of a Norfolk Farm (1941) is his account of his first years of farming here.[13]

On 11 May 1978, the author, soldier and politician Aubrey Buxton was created a life peer as Baron Buxton of Alsa, of Stiffkey in the County of Norfolk. He died there in 2009.

Public accessEdit

The Norfolk Coast Path runs between the village and the sea and further onto Blakeney to the East and Wells to the West. The village is provided with a bus service by Sanders Coaches coasthopper which links to King's Lynn to the west and Cromer to the east.[14]


  1. ^ Ordnance Survey (2002). OS Explorer Map 251 - Norfolk Coast Central. ISBN 0-319-21887-2.
  2. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  3. ^ Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council (2001). Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes. Retrieved 2 December 2005.
  4. ^ Jonathan Neville (2006). "Stiffkey Mill". Norfolk Mills. Retrieved 15 April 2006.
  5. ^ a b c Google books Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  6. ^ National Trust-Stiffkey Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  7. ^ Stiffkey Fen Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  8. ^ "World-War-Two-anti-aircraft-army-camp-including-'The-Whirlygig'-rotary-launcher". Norfolk Heritage Explorer. Norfolk Historic Environment Service. 5 October 2006.
  9. ^ "A brief history of RAF Langham". Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  10. ^ Yates, Frank (20 November 2005). ""Memories of Frank Yates Chapter 8"". BBC WW2 People's War. BBC.
  11. ^ Anderson, Stuart (9 April 2019). ""Remains of Second World War dummy aircraft to go on show in village"". Fakenham & Wells Times.
  12. ^ Lazzari, Adam (20 August 2013). ""New visitor centre will help spread the word about some historic craft"". Eastern Daily Press.
  13. ^ The Story of a Norfolk Farm Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  14. ^ Norfolk Green buses Retrieved 10 October 2014.

External linksEdit