Parish Summary: Raynham

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

Raynham is a large parish situated in the north of Norfolk. Tittleshall lies to the south and Colkirk to the east. The name Raynham is derived from the Old English meaning ‘Regna’s Homestead’. The parish has a long history and was certainly well established by the time of the Norman Conquest, its population, land ownership and productive resources being extensively detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086. In this document it was recorded as East Raynham, West Raynham and South Raynham, but these areas were subsequently combined as a single entity.

The earliest evidence of activity here is provided by a selection of prehistoric artefacts. A number of flint tools such as knives and scrapers (NHER 17079, 17080 and 17081) were retrieved from Kipton Farm to the south of the Raynham Airfield. A couple of Neolithic flint axes have also been recovered (NHER 18427 and 14844) from various locations across the parish. This relative paucity of finds continues into the Bronze Age where the only artefact recorded is a corroded fragment of a socketed axehead (NHER 2362). No finds have been firmly dated to the Iron Age. Perhaps artefacts from this period merely await discovery rather than their absence proving a lack of activity during this period.

There is rather more evidence for Roman inhabitation of Raynham. Three possible Roman roads have been identified (NHER 3697, 7719 and 17451) running through the parish. One road (NHER 3697) runs from North Pickenham to Toftrees Roman settlement and another from this settlement to Dunton (NHER 7719). Building foundations, which yielded Roman coins, pottery sherds and coins (NHER 2363), have also been recorded from within the vicinity of Hall Farm. These finds may indicate that some sort of Roman structure once stood here. Similarly, foundations identified through aerial photography to the east of Raynham at Money’s Carr (NHER 2372) are of a morphology that suggests a Roman date. The remainder of recorded Roman archaeology unsurprisingly take the form of pottery sherd and coins (NHER 3686, 3717 and 40247). The only Saxon finds noted in Raynham are sherds of Thetford Ware (NHER 3715), although these are hardly remarkable finds for East Anglia.

In comparison to the previous periods Raynham seems to have been a place of more significance during the medieval era. A number of ecclesiastical buildings are recorded, not least three churches (NHER 2378, 3729 and 2380). The most prominent one was St Mary’s (NHER 2378), known as the church of Great or Martin Raynham. Sadly the current church is not the original medieval one but a building erected in 1866-68 using Norman stonework. However, the flint and brick church of St Martin’s (NHER 3729) is a genuine medieval structure dating to the 13th to 15th centuries. Inside there is a Norman period altar stone as well as a massive octagonal font to attest to its medieval heritage and origins. The bustling nature of the parish in medieval times meant it was able to support a third church: St Margaret’s (NHER 2380), although all that remains of this once proud building are ruins. Along with the presence of Normansburrow Augustinian Priory (NHER 3687), founded here in about 1160 and dissolved in 1538, it certainly seems that the community took their religious duties seriously.  

19th drawing of the ruins of St Margaret's Church, West Raynham.

19th century drawing of the ruins of St Margaret's Church, West Raynham. 

Aerial photography may have located the medieval centre of Raynham as earthworks, banks, tofts and traces of a hollow way have been noted on parkland in between Raynham Hall (NHER 2368) and the aforementioned ruins of St Margaret’s Church (NHER 2380). A moated site (NHER 28647) also lies to the west of the lake in Raynham Park (and close to St Margaret’s) showing a concentration of activity here in the part of the parish known as West Raynham. The most impressive medieval discovery made was a huge hoard of two hundred medieval gold coins of Edward III (NHER 2365) found in 1910 from East Raynham House. Whoever gathered and stored this haul of money must have been very rich indeed! Other mundane items have also been retrieved like the lead seal matrix (NHER 40247) from the environs of Glebe Farm.

The majority of archaeological records for Raynham date to the post medieval period, and it was at this point that the parish shot to fame. This was courtesy of the local nobility: the Townshend family and their most famous member Viscount Townshend, or ‘Turnip Townshend’, who developed his famous crop rotation policy here. As such their family home at Raynham Hall (NHER 2368) is of exceptional importance. Indeed, Nikolaus Pevsner describes it as the ‘paramount house of its date in Norfolk’ in his comprehensive review of Norfolk buildings. The Hall was built from 1622-1637 by Sir Roger Townshend in a variety of styles including Classical, Mannerist and Palladian, certainly not what could be termed a ‘local style’. This house that nestles within the heart of Raynham Park (NHER 2369) has game larders, a drying yard and a brick-built 19th century water tower out the back. Inside, along with the beautiful ceiling of the Marble Hall and the numerous other magnificent fittings visitors can try and catch a glimpse of the Brown Lady – a ghost of international repute said to haunt the building!

Also located within the Park are the remains of the Old East Raynham Hall, which now form part of Stableyard Farm (NHER 2366). Here it is still possible to identify the 16th century brick and pantile gatehouse, thirteen bay stable of 1700 and a mid 18th century barn with a cart entrance. The Park (NHER 2369) itself is worthy of mention, with its existence being recorded in 1621 dating its construction to sometime prior to this event. It was enlarged in the 17th century and is depicted in detail in drawings by Edward Prideaux during this era. The influence of the pioneering landscape gardener William Kent may account for 18th century naturalisation of the park. In any case it certainly provides a pleasant location for a stroll within the parish.

Of course there are also many other impressive listed buildings that date to this period. Many of these cluster around the Bowling Green area including the Old Post Office (NHER 31805) dating to around 1712-19, Numbers 21 and 22 in East Raynham (NHER 47713) which form the lodge to the Hall and were built in 1840, Foundry House (NHER 47675) whose name suggests an industrial past and the fish-scale tiled cottages numbering 11, 12 and 13 (NHER 47241) which line The Street here in West Raynham. As one would expect there are also several fine farmhouses of post medieval date. Among these are Uphouse Farmhouse (NHER 37392) which dates to around 1700-1800 but incorporates mysterious elements of medieval stonework and the 17th century Home Farmhouse on Hollow Lane (NHER 47649) with its pretty pink-washed plaster exterior – a colour characteristic for rural East Anglian properties of this date. The only evidence for processing local resources is the watermill (NHER 2379) recorded by documents as lying near to the Old Hall (NHER 2366).

The most recent remains that are documented in Raynham take the form of World War Two defences and structures. The parish was a significant military centre during this period with a sizable airfield located in West Raynham (NHER 3685). This site commenced operations in 1939 and saw use by RAF Bomber Command and then later on by the Free French until the close of the war in 1945. After the war the airfield continued to be used by Fighter Command until 1994 and the site has been recognised as one of national importance due to the exemplary Cold War buildings located here which include an ROC monitoring post, unusual control tower and a Bloodhound missile site.

Linked to the airfield are a large number of World War Two pillboxes. However, these are no ordinary defended gun emplacements as the pillboxes are the hexagonal Type 22/AM. This design is unique to Raynham with no other examples exist anywhere else. Here, they ring the airfield (NHER 30791-30797 and 30800), defending the base itself as well as some of the roads that serviced it. Sadly two of these unique pillboxes (NHER 30792 and 30793) no longer survive but the others do, allowing interested individuals the chance to see these rare monuments. It is worth noting that a couple of the pillboxes within this defensive perimeter are not Type 22/AMs but are also unusual, with a circular form (NHER 30798 and 30799). A Home Guard shelter (NHER 24906) has also been recorded at the periphery of Raynham Park to the east of the Old Rectory (NHER 47373) and another polygonal-shaped pillbox (24905) lies to the extreme south of Raynham Park. The final pillbox in the parish is located on the west side of the A1067 but is now heavily overgrown.

Thomas Sunley (NLA), 5 January 2007.

 

Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. The Domesday Book (Chichester, Phillimore & Co.)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B., 1999. The Buildings of England, Norfolk 2: North-west and South (London, Penguin)

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

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