Parish Summary: Roydon (near Diss)

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 parish of Roydon is located to the south of Norfolk, right on the border with Suffolk. It lies to the west of Diss and to the east of Bressingham, both much larger parishes. The name Roydon derives from the Old English meaning ‘rye hill’. 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 after 1066 the lands were under the jurisdiction of various individuals including Walter and Hugh.

The earliest finds from Roydon date to the Palaeolithic period and take the form of a flint blade and core (NHER 21659) that were found near the River Waveney. However, most of the prehistoric flint implements found in the parish date to the Neolithic period, and these include several axes (NHER 7933 and 10897) and a sickle (NHER 10898). Moving into the Bronze Age there are a couple of unusual finds including a copper alloy rapier (NHER 49860) and a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead from Roydon Fen (NHER 14848). The only significant prehistoric site in Roydon dates to the Iron Age and is found to the north of Sand Stone Way. Here, the cropmark of a ring ditch was noted on an aerial photograph in 1977. Partial excavation of the feature in 1981 recovered Neolithic flint tools and fragments of Iron Age pottery, and the site was interpreted as an Iron Age defended settlement (NHER 12834).  

Life-size head of Emperor Antonius Pius.

The head of a Roman marble statue of Antonius Pius. (© NCC)

The most interesting reminder of Roydon’s Roman past is a life-sized carved marble head of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (NHER 21729), used for many years as a bollard to protect a verge from passing traffic and sold at auction for £55,000 in 1990. The other Roman objects that have been recovered are rather more mundane and comprise coins (NHER 10978), pottery sherds (NHER 18486) and brooches (NHER 23802 and 36996), one of which was enamelled. Sadly, very few finds dating to the subsequent Saxon period have been found here. Metal detecting in the Potash Fens found a Late Saxon harness piece and set of balances (NHER 30978) and a Saxon brooch (NHER 36996), possibly from a burial, was found in fields around the church of St Remigius (NHER 10913).

St Remigius’ Church (NHE 10913) is the earliest standing structure in Roydon. This trim and pretty church mainly dates to the 12th -14th centuries and has a stately round tower that is a beacon for miles across the upper Waveney Valley. In 1680 the top of the tower was removed and this was replaced in 1864 with the current octagonal belfry. The interior is essentially Victorian, but no less attractive for that, with a 15th century octagonal font and a 17th century pulpit. The church was not the only place of worship in Roydon during the medieval era as a chapel (NHER 10901), located to the south of the church, was founded in about 1282 and operated until it was dissolved in 1547. A number of other sites that were occupied during the medieval period have been identified from the remnants of moats (NHER 10900, 10908 and 10996). At one of these moated sites a large timber-framed brick and flint house was built in about 1610 (NHER 10997). The property, known variously as Manor House/Middle Manor/Little Manor, is now divided into three dwellings. Noteworthy medieval artefacts found in the parish comprise parts of a candlestick and bell (NHER 23849) and an inscribed gilt copper alloy brooch (NHER 37364).

The post medieval period in Roydon saw the erection of a number of fine buildings, many of which have been listed as examples of architectural interest. The largest and most impressive of these is Roydon Hall (NHER 47847), a late 18th century three-storey red brick mansion with a central porch and flanking wings. Many others line Brewer’s Green including The Poplars (NHER 35977), Bethany (NHER 37640), The Cottage and Manor Cottage (NHER 41963). The former Post Office (NHER 48806) which operated out of a 17th century timber-framed house has also been converted into a desirable residential property in more recent times.

The number of farmhouses built here in the 17th century (e.g. NHER 48409, 48710 and 48441) may indicate that agricultural activities were important in providing income and employment during the post medieval era. There is also evidence that a brick kiln (NHER 15316) was operating in Roydon at this time, as a map of 1797 marks such a structure approximately 450m west of Darrow Farm. The discovery of a large number of post medieval clay pipe fragments, post medieval buckles, cloth seals, coins, a ring, spurs and musket balls in a field near to Potash Fen (NHER 30978) also suggest that Roydon may have had a market. The finds made at the possible market site are the most intriguing ones as the majority of post-medieval finds from Roydon are fairly mundane objects and consist of pottery sherds (NHER 24744), a spoon (NHER 28616) and a silver stud (NHER 36996).

Thomas Sunley (NLA), 5 April 2007.

 

Further Reading

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

Knott, S., February 2006. ‘St Andrew, Roudham’. Available:

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/roydon/roydon.htm. Accessed: 5 April 2007

Neville, J., 2006. ‘Roydon Shelfanger Road postmill’. Available:

http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/roydon-shelfanger-rd-postmill.htmlAccessed: 5 April 2007

Neville, J., 2006. ‘Roydon Tottingham postmill’. Available:

http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/roydon-tottington-postmill.htmlAccessed: 5 April 2007

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

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