Parish Summary: Barton Bendish

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

Barton Bendish comes from the Old English for Barton meaning ‘grain farm’, and Bendish, which means ‘inside the ditch’, a reference to the Devils Dyke (NHER 3937) that runs through the parish. The parish is situated in the west of the county, on the borders of Breckland. The parish has been intensively fieldwalked, and the archaeological development of the parish is very well understood as a result.

A large number of Neolithic flint implements have been found scattered throughout the parish, including axeheads (NHER 4491 and 2599), a quern (NHER 14433), flakes and other implements. A hoard (NHER 4495) of Bronze Age copper alloy objects, including a palstave, torcs and bracelets was found in the late 19th or early 20th century. Bronze Age burials discovered in 1953 probably formed part of a much larger Bronze Age cemetery, and a number of ring ditches (NHER 23916, 23937 and 23941), which are probably the remains of Bronze Age barrows, are visible on aerial photographs.

In contrast to the limited evidence for prehistoric settlement in the parish, a number of Iron Age settlement sites (including NHER 17613, 20395 and 21458) have been identified from pottery scatters. Iron Age coins (NHER 13316, 17212 and 20396) have also been found in the parish. During the Roman period the parish was densely settled (NHER 18843, 21463 and 13316), with some continuity between Iron Age settlement sites and Roman sites. A Roman road (NHER 2796) runs through the north of the parish, and the distinctive ‘playing card’ shape of a Roman marching camp (NHER 20130) is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. 

Part of the Devils Dyke (NHER 3937) runs through the parish, the linear earthwork is probably of Iron Age or Early Saxon date. Two Early Saxon settlement sites (NHER 22080 and 23928) have been identified in the parish, although there were probably more Early Saxon settlements that have not been identified. Middle Saxon settlement (NHER 17212) in the parish developed to the east of St Mary’s church, and continued to develop throughout the Late Saxon period. In 1086 Barton Bendish was listed in the Domesday Book as a substantial settlement, with two churches and five manors. The west part of the village was thriving during the Late Saxon period (NHER 23928 and 19099), and the village slowly spread along the street. Although only two churches are listed in Domesday Book, it is likely that all three churches in the parish have their origins in the Middle or Late Saxon periods. All Saints’ Church (NHER 4499) was demolished in the 18th century, and excavation revealed a Late Saxon cemetery. St Mary’s Church (NHER 4513) is probably built on the site of an earlier building, and contains a Late Saxon door moved from All Saints’ Church.

During the medieval period, these two churches were gradually superseded by St Andrew’s Church (NHER 4514), and the present building mainly dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, a period when Barton Bendish remained comparatively wealthy compared to neighbouring parishes, perhaps encouraging the rebuilding of the parish church. The complexity of the pattern of landholding recorded in the Domesday Book continued into the medieval period. The moated site of Easthall Manor (NHER 4515), the site of Herne Hall (NHER 21064), and the site of Lovell’s manor (NHER 33308) can still be traced in the landscape. Capel Hall (NHER 21066), another medieval manorial site, has been excavated, revealing an aisled timber hall, which later fell into disuse. Another medieval moated site is adjacent to Barton Hall (NHER 4512), a 16th century timber framed building. Areas of shrunken medieval settlement have survived as earthworks, showing that the prosperous medieval village went into a period of decline. The medieval hamlet of Eastmoor, in the south of the parish, was established in the early 12th century, and was fairly densely settled during the medieval period. Several areas of deserted medieval settlement are visible as cropmarks and earthworks on aerial photographs (NHER 25053, 21467 and 25034). During the post medieval period settlement in the parish continued to shrink, and the church of All Saints’ was demolished.

Due to the intensity of fieldwork carried out in Barton Bendish, its settlement history can be traced in detail. Its history is probably one that is shared with many other rural parishes in the county, which might tell a similar story if they were studied in depth.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 14 September 2005.


Further Reading

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

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

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

Rogerson, A., 1997. 'Barton Bendish and Caldecote: Fieldwork in Southwest Norfolk', East Anglian Archaeology 56

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