Parish Summary: Eaton

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

Eaton is a southern suburb of Norwich. The name Eaton derives from the Old English meaning ‘enclosure by a river’. This would make perfect sense as the River Yare runs through Eaton. 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. This document reveals that a certain Edric held the majority of the lands here.

Aside from a possible Mesolithic hammerstone (NHER 9447), the earliest records for Eaton date to the Neolithic period. Excavations on Eaton Heath in 1971 recorded pit groups and ritual shafts, along with rectilinear enclosures and ditch systems (NHER 9544). Although many of these features are more indicative of Romano-British occupation it was felt that an earlier Neolithic settlement was also located here. Antiquarians also recorded the presence of Neolithic flint mines on Eaton Dell (NHER 9547), although many of these pits had later finds within them – such as Roman pottery sherds. Unfortunately no trace of these mines was found when the road bypass was built here. No other sites are reported, although a great number of Neolithic finds have been found through fieldwalking or during metal detection. The largest of these artefact scatters are to be found along the banks of the Yare (e.g. NHER 24024 and 24025) and near to Bluebell Road (NHER 9372 and 13410). Flint artefacts retrieved include axeheads (NHER 9542, 9543, 9548, 11545, 11546 and 14837), arrowheads (NHER 14836 and 14838), scrapers (NHER 9539 and 9599), flakes (NHER 9537, 24024, 24025 and 24026) and even a hoe (NHER 28329)! These objects certainly support the idea that flint mining and some sort of occupation were occurring during the Neolithic period.

The most glamorous finds from Eaton date to the Bronze Age. Two Bronze Age hoards have been found in the parish: one from an unspecified location in 1884-85 (NHER 9550) and the other from the area of Norgate Road in 1952 (NHER 9551). The hoard found by antiquarians contained riveted spearheads, socketed axes, chisels, daggers, sword blade fragments, rings and jets. The Norgate Road hoard comprised mainly of socketed axes but there were also fragments of a sword and a socketed chisel head amongst the numerous artefacts. Of course use of lithic materials to produce tools continued into this period. Therefore, in addition to the copper alloy objects found in the hoards discussed above a flint borer (NHER 9378), axehammer (NHER 9545) and several arrowheads (NHER 12448 and 14836) have been found. Monuments from this period have also been found, with round barrows situated on Eaton Heath (NHER 9549). Two from the original grouping of four survive and these have been subject to excavations in 1831, 1855 and 1969-70. This work found Bronze Age pottery sherds and parts of a wicker coffin of contemporary date. Unsurprisingly these important sites have now been scheduled and carefully managed to ensure their continued preservation. In contrast there is a paucity of finds from Eaton that date to the subsequent Iron Age. In fact the only definitive Iron Age objects found take the form of pottery sherds recovered from the garden of a property on Constable Road (NHER 35250). Perhaps further metal detecting and fieldwalking will help reveal more archaeological evidence from this era, as even though little has been found we cannot assume this is indicative of a lack of activity.

The Roman period saw settlement on Eaton Heath (NHER 9544), as mentioned earlier. A pottery works was also identified at Eaton Nursery during the late 19th century (NHER 9380). The large quantity of pottery sherds, amphorae fragments and wasters that were found here suggest production on some scale. Almost all the Roman objects reported from Eaton are coins (NHER 955313926 and 13988), with examples minted during the reign of Constantine I, Gordian III and Gratian being unearthed. A Hod Hill type brooch (NHER 31652) is the only other metalwork artefact from this era that exists in the records for Eaton.

The most intriguing object on record for Eaton is Saxon in origin. The piece in question is an unusual Middle Saxon copper alloy ‘rune disc’ with deeply drilled runes on it (NHER 31652). Sadly, the meaning of these symbols is unknown making it all the more mysterious. The only other Saxon object was found in the same area, and this rectangular mount with rosette decoration (NHER 31652) is another fine piece. As these are the only Saxon finds one has to wonder what such wonderful things are doing here, their location along the river bank may suggest they have been displaced from elsewhere.

St Andrew's medieval church (NHER 9608) is one of the few buildings in the old village that is blissfully unaffected by the road bypass that has been built here in recent times. It dates mainly to the 13th century church but incorporates Norman fragments and a later 15th century tower. The interior is tidy, with sturdy pews and a font brought here from Sandringham in 1896. There are also extensive and important wall paintings, but sadly these are now only partly visible. Nevertheless it is a pleasant building and worth a visit. The other place to see medieval architecture is in the garden of number 7 Eaton Street (NHER 29938) where the acorn-shaped base of a wayside cross and fragments of window tracery are visible. It is also worth noting that aerial photographs show that a medieval hollow way runs across Eaton golf course here (NHER 14221).

A moderate number of medieval finds have been discovered in Eaton. The most glamorous of these was a French jetton with an elaborate cross decorating one side and a Latin inscription on the other (NHER 33358). Other finds are quite mundane and consist of a circular buckle (NHER 9557), cauldron leg (NHER 14408) and part of an unglazed jug (NHER 23403) retrieved from the riverbank near the Eaton Vale Scout Camp.  

Photograph of Harford Hills House.

Harford Hills House. Eastern Daily Press.)

Several fine post medieval buildings survive in Eaton, having been listed as buildings of archaeological importance. Two of these are The Red Lion Public House (NHER 9607) and Cellar House Public House (NHER 23318). The Red Lion on Eaton Street is a particularly long 17th century inn with large rear chimneystacks. Meanwhile Cellar House, located on The Street, is of a similar date but is a more rustic building built around a timber frame. Other merit-worthy buildings include Old House on Church Lane (NHER 9609), an impressively tall Georgian building now used as a school, and Harford Hills (NHER 31980) on Marston Lane which is nice example of a more rustic style of Victorian Gothic architecture. Buildings relating to manufacture and production are also recorded in Eaton. According to a 19th century map a lime kiln was situated northwest of Norvic Drive (NHER 9612). Although no trace of this structure has been reported another well-preserved lime kiln does exist to the south of Eaton Lime Kiln Cottage. At this kiln (NHER 9613) brick steps and walling lead to an underground brick-vaulted corridor running round the well of the oven. The oven itself opens onto the surface but part of the oven is in danger of collapse however. Additionally, a low earth bank surrounds the whole structure. Brickworks (NHER 12583) have also been identified on land to the rear of the Adult Training Centre with the presence of whiting sheds, brick kilns and vats being noted. Lastly, a drainage windmill (NHER 35699) is placed a short distance due west of Bluebell Crescent on an 1886 map.

A variety of post medieval artefacts have been retrieved from Eaton. Part of a German doll and German stoneware pottery (NHER 14408) were found close to the junction of South Park Avenue. Other interesting items include a merchant’s seal matrix (NHER 28597), a thin finger ring (NHER 31652) and the fragments of a saggar used to contain pottery during the process of firing (NHER 30462).

The most recent archaeological records from the parish relate to Eaton Park (NHER 30564) and a World War Two gun emplacement and radar beacon (NHER 32529). The Park was one of five laid out by Captain A. Sandys Winch in about 1920-35. It retains a number of original features including the bowling greens complete with pavilion, a domed central bandstand, a lily pond and a boating pond. During World War One the area of the park known as Three Fields was used for army training. The gun emplacement and radar beacon are visible as a square banked enclosure and a polygonal outline on an aerial photograph taken in 1946. They constitute the only World War Two defences yet discovered in Eaton.

This completes the brief chronological overview of Eaton. Interested readers should access the individual records to get a fuller flavour of the parish’s history.

Thomas Sunley (NLA), 1 February 2007.


Further Reading

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

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.2 Norwich, Central and South Norfolk (Cambridge, Acorn Editions)

Neville, J., 2006. ‘Eaton Mill’. Available: 1 February 2007

Neville, J., 2006. ‘Eaton postmill’. Available: Accessed: 1 February 2007

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

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