Our Story

It began in the summer of 1982, when local entrepreneur Ian Russell had a big idea…

The idea started in the pub as so many do!

In 1982 Ian Russell sat looking over Estate Agents’ details for Dairy Farm, Tunstead Road in Hoveton with boatbuilders Rupert Latham and Jack Chippendale and after a few pints they came up with the idea to build boats and let the public see the craftsmen at work. Problem was – the site was 20 minutes from the nearest water! Not to be deterred, Ian pulled together £40,000 funding for the possible project and sought out the advice of the English Tourist Board to find out more about the potential in attracting visitors. He was offered a research report on what holidaymakers liked to do way back in 1981 and the number one activity was cited as ‘shopping’ – hmmm- interesting!

And so a new plan was hatched

And so a new plan was hatched…somewhere the public could buy original handmade gifts, see where they were made and chat to the artisans in a nice, rural setting such as some restored barns with somewhere to eat and picnic.

With no experience of tourism but plenty of enthusiasm

With no experience of tourism but plenty of enthusiasm and a much-need grant from the English Tourist Board of £20,000, work started in January 1983 on what was thought to be the ‘first Craft Centre in the UK’ through one of the wettest winters and spring in living memory. Think rain and snow and incredibly chilly conditions.

On 24th May 1983 just before the Whitsun Bank Holiday, Wroxham Barns was opened

On 24th May 1983 just before the Whitsun Bank Holiday, Wroxham Barns was opened by Michael Montague, then Chairman of the English Tourist Board and all were totally unprepared for the crowds who turned up.

Amongst the crafts showcased through the years

Amongst the crafts showcased through the years are spinning, batik, bookbinding, basketmaking, furniture-making, lacemaking, needlecraft, woodturning, minerals and jewellery, glassblowing, painting and printing

The Tearoom evolved into an award-winning Restaurant

The Tearoom evolved into an award-winning Restaurant, joined by a Coffee Shop for families and young children. The children’s funfair was added in 1988 and Junior Farm opened in 1992.

And so that is the abridged version of the history of Wroxham Barns. Ian Russell still owns and manages the site and is committed to continuing to develop the story of Wroxham Barns for generations to come – it is after all one of Norfolk’s most popular tourist attractions. Share with us your stories of Wroxham Barns. Many of you have been coming here for years. We’d love to hear your memories, you can contact Ian via email ianrussell@wroxhambarns.co.uk

Have fun at Wroxham Barns

  • Wroxham Barns
  • Tunstead Road
  • Hoveton Norfolk
  • NR12 8QU
  • T: 01603 783762
  • E: info@wroxhambarns.co.uk