Melton Constable is a village and civil parish in North Norfolk (OS reference TG042331) covering an area of 6.96 km2 (2.69 sq mi) with, at the time of the 2011 Census, a population of 618. It falls within the auspices of North Norfolk District Council.
The place-name 'Melton Constable' is first found in the Domesday Book, where it appears as 'Maeltuna'. This may mean either 'middle town' or 'mill town'. There is a reference to 'Constabularius de Melton' in 1197, as the land was held by the constable of the bishop of Norwich.
Melton Constable as we know it today was built in the late 19th century to house railway workers and their families at the junction of four railway lines (from Cromer, North Walsham, King's Lynn and Norwich and linking Norfolk to the Midlands) and reached its heyday in about 1911 when it had a population of 1,157. The M&GNJR (Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway) main workshops and factory - which built 19 steam locomotives - were situated in the village, giving it an unusual industrialised architectural character quite different from other small villages in the area. The busy station had a platform 800 feet (240 m) long and was constructed with a specially-appointed waiting room for Lord Hastings, the local squire.
Later, under LNER (London & North Eastern Railway) ownership, the works gradually diminished until 1934 when they closed completely. Between 1959 and 1964 British Railways closed the lines and in 1971 the station was demolished and the works converted into an industrial estate which is now the site of several companies employing local people. The former Railway Institute on the main road, which had been a community resource for those working for the railway, became a private members bar known as the Country Club, with a hall for hire for local community events. The club was taken over by new management in 2021 and is now called "The Junction"
The village centre has easy road links to Fakenham, Aylsham, Dereham and, via Holt, the North Norfolk coast. Public transport is run by Sanders Coaches. There is a thriving village store (Co-Op), including a Post Office counter. There is also an independent butcher and two takeaways; one selling kebabs, pizzas and fish & chips and the other Bengali food. A second-hand and knitting wool shop is open a couple of days a week as well as a holistic therapy practice and a branch of the NHS Holt Medical Practice is in the centre of the village.
A large green space on the north-east side forms the Recreation Ground and includes football goalposts while a Play Area behind the former primary school has play equipment, outdoor gym equipment and basketball goals. Another extensive area on the north side of the village provides allotments, which are available to rent from the Parish Council (currently £15.00 per annum rent for a whole plot). There is also an open area on the south side of the village of which part has been cleared by volunteers to provide another play area.
The local Parish Magazine, ‘Briston & District News’, contains information about clubs, associations and local events and is delivered to all residents monthly.
The parish of Melton Constable includes Burgh Parva, notable for its ruined church which was replaced by a tin tabernacle which is now over 100 years old. The other village church is St Peter's, situated close to Melton Constable Hall at Melton Park, to the south-west of the village, accessible from the Hindolveston road.
Melton Constable Hall – once the home of the Astley family (for seven centuries) – was built around 1670 within extensive parkland which was one of the oldest enclosures in England (1290). It is regarded as the finest specimen of the Christopher Wren style of house. The house was used as the principal location for “Brandham Hall” in Joseph Losey’s 1970 film of L P Hartley’s “The Go-Between”, starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates. Sir Jacob Astley, the Royalist Commander in the English Civil War, is famous for his prayer on the battlefield of Edgehill: “O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day; if I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me”.
Literary Norfolk website
Compiled by Allyson Crawford, August 2017 & edited July 2022