Parish Summary: Winfarthing

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

Winfarthing is a large parish in the South Norfolk Local Government District, with an area of some 1076 hectares. It is situated just 6km north of Diss, and contains the village of Winfarthing, and the nearby Short Green area. The parish land is predominantly used for arable farming. The word ‘Winfarthing’ is thought to derive from the Old English words for Wina’s quarter part of land

The earliest objects recovered from this parish are a number Neolithic and possible Mesolithic flint flakes, as well as an Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead and a Neolithic flint axehead (NHER 13856). Four concentrations of prehistoric pot boilers have also been recorded (NHER 10927, 25415 and 40009), one in conjunction with further Neolithic flints (NHER 24353).

The earliest possible building may date to the Roman period, as a concentration of pottery sherds, tile and building remains have been recovered from the very south of the parish (NHER 4251). Metal detecting on the site has also discovered coins and metalwork. A small number of other Roman objects have also been recorded from this parish, and these include pottery sherds (NHER 10926), a coin (NHER 21585) and a horse-head escutcheon (NHER 25416). 

Very little evidence of Saxon period activity has been revealed, and finds are limited to an Early Saxon brooch (NHER 4251) and a Late Saxon stirrup mount (NHER 50032). However the Domesday Book of 1086 indicates a populous and valuable settlement, and it also mentions a hall. Where this building may have been is unclear, however it is possible that the medieval Winfarthing Hall or Manor (NHER 32795) may have been built on the same site. If so, we know that during the medieval period the building sat within a moated enclosure within its own parkland (NHER 32796), and that it also had a deer park which is thought to have survived into the 16th century (NHER 17882).

 

St Mary's Church, Winfarthing. Photograph from www.norfolkchurches.co.uk.

St Mary's Church, Winfarthing. Photograph from www.norfolkchurches.co.uk. (© S. Knott.)

The oldest surviving building in the parish also dates to the medieval period. St Mary’s Church (NHER 10943) is a large flint building, the majority of which dates to the Decorated period of the 13th and 14th centuries, though there is some later 15th century work in the aisle and porch. There is a legend that indicates the presence of a sword that may have been treated as a relic and it is possible that pilgrimage may have funded the majority of the work visible today. 

Two other medieval sites are recorded, including three possible moated house sites (NHER 19919), and it is also possible that the site of Holly Farmhouse (NHER 41245) may have been a medieval moated enclosure during this period. The house itself is timber-framed and dates to the 17th century, and is one of a number of similar properties surviving from the post medieval period.

Today a number of these buildings are concentrated in the village centre near to the church, and these include Stock Hill Farmhouse (NHER 45849) a 17th century timber-framed house with a surviving mullion window at the rear, Church Farmhouse (NHER 31054), also dating to the 17th century with a jettied north wing, and Guildhall Cottages (NHER 31055), part of which dates to the same period and is said to contain a blocked recess where the village stocks were kept. 

However the greatest concentration of buildings is in the Short Green area, where twelve buildings are thought to be of particular architectural interest. These include Wilderness Farmhouse (NHER 45714), a 17th century timber-framed building with an early 18th century window, Short Green Farmhouse (NHER 48583), which dates from the same period  with a chimney of unfired bricks, and The Old Stores (NHER 48686) which is also a 17th century timber-framed house, and has a number of 18th and 19th century windows surviving.

Other outlying buildings area also recorded, and in total there are some thirty-five buildings of interest in the parish. Those of notice include Fighting Cocks Inn (NHER 31054), which began life as a 17th century house and still retains good parlour fireplaces, as well as Badgers Farm (NHER 21703), which was probably initially built as a hall house with a screens passage and service stairs in the late medieval or early post medieval period. 

From more recent history, the structure of a World War Two pillbox (NHER 32711) still stands near the B1077. It is thought that during the war a searchlight battery stood nearby.

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 7 September 2007

 

Further Reading

Morris, J. (General Editor), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

Pevsner, N., 1997. The buildings of England: Norfolk 2: Northwest and South (London, Penguin Books)

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

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