Parish Summary: Ormesby St Michael

This Parish Summary is an overview of the large amount of information held for the parish, and only selected examples of sites and finds in each period are given. It has been beyond the scope of the project to carry out detailed research into the historical background, documents, maps or other sources, but we hope that the Parish Summaries will encourage users to refer to the detailed records, and to consult the bibliographical sources referred to below. Feedback and any corrections are welcomed by email to heritage@norfolk.gov.uk

The tiny parish of Ormesby St Michael is situated in the far east of Norfolk, just west of its sister parish of Ormesby St Margaret. Ormesby comes from the Old Norse for ‘Ormr’s village’, and it was one of many villages in the area settled by the Vikings in the 10th century, though people had lived there for a long time before that. The St Michael part of its name relates to the parish church. The Domesday Book of 1086 records its population, land ownership and productive resources.

The earliest evidence of human activity comes in the form of prehistoric flint tools, some undateable (for example NHER 8627 and 31738), and some Neolithic, for example polished axeheads (NHER 8567, 8570 and 14187). A possible Neolithic mortuary enclosure (NHER 27259) has been identified from aerial photographs. The only Bronze Age find to date is part of a copper alloy palstave (NHER 32036), but aerial photography has identified a possible ring ditch (NHER 18189) and field systems that may date to this period (NHER 27338) at the same complex site where the Neolithic mortuary enclosure has been identified. Also noted in this area are Iron Age to Roman field systems (NHER 27339). 

Drawing of an Iron Age terret from Ormesby St Michael.

An Iron Age terret from Ormesby St Michael. (© NCC and S. White.)

Iron Age finds are currently limited to pottery fragments (NHER 8627) and a harness fitting (NHER 39263), and Roman finds are equally sparse, being a coin (NHER 17195) and a mount (NHER 34025). Saxon objects found to date are pottery fragments (NHER 8625) and part of a Late Saxon or Viking horse harness (NHER 34686).

The medieval period has left the parish with its oldest surviving building, St Michael’s Church (NHER 8649). This parish church consists of a crenellated west tower with gargoyles, a thatched nave, lead roofed chancel, thatched south porch and a 20th century north shed which covers a blocked north door. The tower and chancel are 13th century, the nave 14th century. The tower and nave were heightened in the 15th century. The chancel was restored in 1787, and a further restoration carried out from 1885. More restoration in the 1970s included the addition of the south porch and rethatching the nave. Inside is a 13th century octagonal font with eight Purbeck marble columns. There is also a fine collection of memorials and plaques.

Another medieval feature is Rollesby Broad (NHER 13509), a series of medieval peat cuttings, which flooded in the late medieval and post medieval periods to form broads.

Quite a number of medieval objects have been found, including pottery fragments (e.g. NHER 8625, 8626 and 8627), seal matrices (NHER 32036, 34686 and 39263), a finger ring (NHER 34686), buckles (NHER 34025 and 39263), a coin weight (NHER 39263) and part of a bell (NHER 32036).

Of the post medieval buildings to survive in the parish, the oldest are Manor Farm and its barn (NHER 30805), together with the barn at Church Farm (NHER 42896), all of which are early 18th century. Little Ormesby Hall (NHER 13134) is a mid 18th century three storey house with a black pantiled roof. The main south façade has five window bays, the top storey being set above a deep moulded string course. A tall parapet conceals the roof from view. The rather showy doorway is set between two brick piers carrying urns, the double panelled doors opening into a summerhouse. At the back of the house is a three storey 19th century whitewashed brick extension, one room of which is graced with reused 16th century timberwork.

Ormesby Manor (NHER 8586) is originally a house of about 1800, to the front of which an Italianate villa was added in the mid 19th century. The villa forms two blocks, one to the east of two and a half storeys and one to the south of two storeys. The blocks meet at right angles, and where they join is a taller three storey circular tower. Both blocks have a row of recessed arches on the ground floor containing sash windows. The top floor of the tower has five round windows under a rendered parapet, which is said to conceal a glass dome.

Ormesby Pumping Station (NHER 33537) at the waterworks on the edge of Ormesby Broad is a brick pumphouse dating to 1884 containing a Ruston Hornsby two cylinder diesel engine.

Other post medieval buildings have not survived. At NHER 15627 is the site of a post mill. Last used in 1888, it burnt down in 1914, and no trace remains today.

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 27 October 2006.

 

Further Reading

Brown, P., 1984. Domesday Book: Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

Rye, J., 1991. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place Names (Dereham, The Larks Press) 

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