Parish Summary: Ashmanhaugh

This parish summary provides an overview of the large amount of information which we hold about the parish, and only a representative sample of sites and artefacts from each period are mentioned. If you have any feedback on this article please contact us using the link on the left-hand menu or by emailing 

Ashmanhaugh is a small parish to the northeast of Hoveton. Located in northeast Norfolk it includes the small village of Ashmanhaugh and the deserted medieval village of Beeston St Lawrence (NHER 11733) where the church is the only building remaining. The origins of the villages are unknown. The name Beeston St Lawrence may be derived from ‘farmstead where bent grass grows’ whilst Ashmanhaugh is translated as 'the pirates' enclosure' ('aescmann' being a pirate!). It has been suggested that Ashmanhaugh has Viking origins. The parish is particularly rich in prehistoric and medieval remains. 

Drawing of Iron Age boar figurine.

An Iron Age boar figurine found in Ashmanhaugh (©NCC)

Evidence for prehistoric activity is characterised by spreads of burnt and worked flint that have been recovered from the surfaces of fields. The earliest worked flints identified include a Neolithic flint axehead (NHER 22874). The first dated monuments come from the Bronze Age – a ring ditch (NHER 18193) burial monument has been identified in the parish from aerial photographs. A Middle Bronze Age hoard (NHER 32041) of weapons has also been found including a rapier, dirk and spearhead. A rare Iron Age boar figurine (NHER 36335) was also reported from the parish. This might have been a fitting for an Iron Age warrior’s helmet.

These rich prehistoric remains are in stark contrast to a distinct lack of evidence for settlement or even activity in the Roman period. A few Roman finds (NHER 28574 and NHER 42568) have been made during fieldwalking and metal detecting in the parish, but there is no evidence for settlement or other monuments. There is a similar lack of evidence for activity in the Saxon period although the tower of St Lawrence’s church (NHER 8287) is Saxon in date. Metal detecting has recovered one Late Saxon bridle cheekpiece (NHER 42569).

There is however plentiful evidence for medieval activity. St Swithin’s Church  Ashmanhaugh (NHER 8289) dates to the 12th century and includes the narrowest church tower in England and some restored medieval animal bench ends. It was heavily restored in the 19th century. The village of Beeston St Lawrence (NHER 11733), probably situated near the church of St Lawrence, was deserted at some point during the medieval period. The hall belonging to this village went through two stages of development. An early hall site (NHER 28356) has now been completely demolished although its foundations can be seen on aerial photographs. The building material was used in Beeston Hall (NHER 8288), built in 1786. The hall park (NHER 30432) was developed in 1770 when it was extensively landscaped although earlier formal gardens can be identified from cropmarks on aerial photographs. Ashmanhaugh has no hall, suggesting that the village was quite small at this time. Part of the 18th century Hoveton Hall park (NHER 30514) also falls into the parish.

Other evidence from the post medieval period is also scarce. There are only a few artefact scatters recorded (NHER 40013). In the modern period a decoy airfield was built at Beeston St Lawrence (NHER 28452). This was used during World War Two. Fake lights and flares were used to protect the nearby airfield at Coltishall. A Wellington bomber crashed in the parish on the night of the 12th and 13th August 1943 (NHER 43175).


Megan Dennis (NLA), 1st August 2005.


Further Reading

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

Knott, S. 2005. 'St Swithin, Ashmanhaugh'. Available: Accessed 1st August 2005.

Mills, A.D., 1998. Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford, Oxford University Press)

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