Parish Summary: Blofield

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

Blofield is located seven miles east of Norwich and between the Rivers Bure, to the north, and Yare, to the south. The parish straddles the A47, the main east to west route through Norfolk with the village of Blofield to the south and the primarily residential area of Blofield Heath to the north. The name Blofield could be derived in a number of different ways – the most popular translations being ‘open ground with woad plants’ and ‘exposed open country’. The Domesday Survey records the land and manor as belonging to the Bishop of Norwich showing that there was settlement here before 1066. The parish is particularly rich in prehistoric finds and the site of the bishop’s manor described in the Domesday Survey has been positively identified. 

Drawing of a complete Bronze Age flint dagger blade from Blofield.

Bronze Age flint dagger blade from Blofield. (©NCC)

The earliest evidence for activity in the parish is a Palaeolithic worked flint flake (NHER 17746). There is extensive evidence for the working of flints in the Mesolithic period at a flint working site (NHER 8485). The Mesolithic blades (NHER 8484) also found in the parish may have been knapped there. There have also been several finds of Neolithic worked flints (NHER 8486), a Neolithic polished axe (NHER 18832) and a Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead (NHER 14557). Excitingly Neolithic pottery, an unusual surface find as it is so fragile, has been recovered with a flaked pick from the parish (NHER 28602). There are also important finds from the Beaker period including a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead (NHER 17120) and a nearly complete Beaker period flint dagger (NHER 34841). The Bronze Age is represented by several ring ditches (NHER 12781, 12782 and 12783) and a burnt flint mound (NHER 29857) as well as the discovery of a Bronze Age macehead (NHER 10220). A prehistoric iron smelting site (NHER 37512) has been excavated and analysis of aerial photographs has revealed the presence of a rectangular enclosure (NHER 18130) that may be Late Iron Age or early Roman in date.

Other Roman evidence is sparse but several pieces of Roman pottery have been recovered by fieldwalking (NHER 40306, 10221 and 41833). Part of a trumpet type Roman brooch (NHER 25651) has been found by a metal detectorist in the parish. Saxon evidence for occupation is also limited, but we know that at some point in the Late Saxon period the settlement was given to the Bishops of Norwich, and they built a small manor there. Bishop Aelmer is recorded as being the landowner in 1066. Some Late Saxon pot (NHER 18097) and a Late Saxon brooch (NHER 25248) are the only archaeological finds dating to this period. After 1066 Bishop William was installed at Norwich and it may have been him that built the Norman church that was demolished to build the later 14th century St Peter’s and St Andrew’s church (NHER 10265). This large medieval church is a reflection of the presence of the bishop’s residence in the parish, but also the wealth of the surrounding landscape that was part of the flourishing wool trade. A site of a medieval cross (NHER 13378) is marked on Faden’s map of 1797, but this seems to have now disappeared. The bishop’s medieval moated manor (NHER 12445) has also gone, but extensive documentary research and survey has demonstrated that this medieval moated site was the only one in the parish and is therefore the most likely candidate for the bishop’s residence. Excavations southeast of the church also revealed areas of medieval occupation (NHER 31642).

The same excavations demonstrated that there was a 19th century extensive tile and brick industry (NHER 15581 and 31642) within the parish. Entertainment at this period was provided in the form of Norfolk’s largest bowling green (NHER 12289) at the Globe Inn that dates to at least 1770. The inn is also mentioned as a setting for Norfolk wrestling. Post medieval pottery (NHER 10256) has been found across the parish and there are some interesting examples of post medieval architecture – notably Turret House (NHER 15318) that is in Gothick style and was built in 1800. The parish also had two windmills (NHER 15583 and 15620) that are marked on old maps but have now been demolished. Most recently Plantation Road Bridge (NHER 41259), built in 1983 is a large concrete pre-cast structure over the A47 linking the two halves of the parish. When it was built it was the largest of its type in Norfolk.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 4th August 2005.

 

Further Reading

Blofield Parish Council, Unknown. ‘The Blofield Story’. Available:

http://www.blofield.net/history.html. Accessed 27 January 2006.

Blofield Parish Council, Unknown. ‘The Parish Church of St Andrew and St Peter’. Available:

http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/blofield/church.html. Accessed 27 January 2006.

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Philimore)

Taylor, J. and Smith, L., 2003. ‘Roll of Honour – Norfolk – Blofield’. Available:

http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Norfolk/Blofield.html. Accessed 27 January 2006.

Neville, J., 2004. ‘Norfolk Mills – Blofield tower windmill’. Available:

http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Windmills/blofield-towermill.html. Accessed 27 January 2006.

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

Rye, J., 2000. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham, The Larks Press)

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