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Harleston is a town, civil parish and electoral ward in the South Norfolk District of the English county of Norfolk, comprising the villages of Redenhall and Harleston. It covers an area of 13.73 km2 (5.30 sq mi), and had a population of 4,058 in 1,841 households at the 2001 census, the population of both town and ward increasing to 4,640 at the 2011 census.
History of Harleston
Many Georgian residences line the streets of Harleston. Although there is no record of a royal charter, Harleston has been a market town since at least 1369 and still holds a Wednesday market.
The right 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.
The village of Redenhall was mentioned in the Domesday Book, as part of the Lands of the King that Godric holds, in the Half Hundred of Earsham. It states that in King Edward the Confessor’ time, Rada the Dane held Redenhall, and that his holding was roughly 700 acres, upon which there were forty subordinate tenantries with six plough-teams. The Domesday Book only makes brief reference to Harleston saying that the Abbot of Bury St. Edmunds was lord here then.
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.
The parish includes two Church of England churches. In the town centre is the church of St John the Baptist, the present building being completed in 1872. All that remains of the previous building is the town’s landmark clock tower, this church originally being a chapel of ease to the much larger medieval Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Redenhall, the mother church of the parish.
Redenhall and Harleston railway stations previously linked the villages with Tivetshall St Margaret and Beccles on the Waveney Valley Line. Redenhall Station closed in 1866, and Harleston in 1953.
Archbishop Sancroft High School is located in Harleston, and is the main secondary school for the parish and surrounding area.