Parish Summary: Wickmere

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 Wickmere is situated in the north of Norfolk. It lies north of Itteringham, east of Little Barningham, west of Erpingham and south of Aldborough. The name Wickmere may derive from the Old English meaning ‘lake by a dairy farm’. The parish has a long history and was established by the time of the Norman Conquest. Its population, land ownership and productive resources were detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086. This document revealed that the Benedictine Order held land here prior to 1066. In addition, it states that Wickmere had woodland, a share in a mill and numerous meadows.

The earliest recorded sites take the form of prehistoric pot boiler scatters (NHER 28695, 32123 and 32124). These flints represent the use of fire by the early inhabitants for the purposes of heating water for cooking and washing. The majority of the other prehistoric artefacts comprise flint implements used as everyday tools (e.g. NHER 25876, 28027 and 28529). Many of these flints were recovered by a systematic fieldwalking survey carried out in the parish during the 1980s-90s by the Norfolk Archaeological Research Group (NARG). However, it is worth nothing that in addition to these tools a few sherds of Neolithic pottery (NHER 28532) have been reported.

The Bronze Age is the first period when metal objects appear. In Wickmere a copper alloy adze (NHER 28523) and axehead (NHER 28521) have been discovered through metal detecting. Pieces of casting waste have also been identified (NHER 28524) and these might provide evidence for a metal working site being present in the Bronze Age. The only other Bronze Age finds consist of pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 25876).

Although no Iron Age sites have been reported for Wickmere, a diverse collection of small finds has. The finest finds comprise a gold coin (NHER 25878) and a silver Thracian coin from Greece (NHER 28530). Other objects of note include a bead (NHER 28521), a copper alloy ring (NHER 28526), a harness fitting with enamelling (NHER 28037) and the ubiquitous pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 24230, 28531 and 28520). 

Iron Age enamelled escutcheon from horse harness fitting from Little Barningham.

Iron Age enamelled escutcheon from horse harness fitting from Little Barningham. (© NCC and S. White.)

The Roman period in Wickmere was one of significant activity relative to what had gone before. Three possible settlements have been recorded (NHER 25877, 28037 and 28524). The first of these lies to the west of Wolterton village (NHER 25877), the second had Roman pottery, coins and casting waste (NHER 28037) and the third was identified as an occupation area from the quantity of Roman metalwork present (NHER 28524). However, other than these domestic sites, no other Roman activity zones have been discovered.

As such, the remainder of the Roman evidence is provided by small finds, found scattered across the parish. These objects range from dolphin brooches (NHER 28044 and 28534) and a spindle whorl (NHER 28526) to part of an iron key (NHER 28523) and a staff ferrule (NHER 28530). Of course, as is typical for the Roman period, several coins (e.g. NHER 28028) and assorted pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 16170 and 25878) accompany this corpus of finds.

It has been suggested that the parish of Wickmere had two churches of Saxon origin. St Andrew’s (NHER 6702) in Wickmere itself has a Saxo-Norman round tower, although most of the church is 14th century in date, and St Margaret’s in Wolterton also has a round tower (NHER 6710).

Artefacts dating to the Early, Middle and Late Saxon periods have all been retrieved from Wickmere. An Early Saxon clasp (NHER 28530) and pottery sherds (NHER 28526) have been noted. As is often the case, the Middle Saxon era has the fewest number of finds – with only pottery sherds (NHER 24230) and a single brooch (NHER 24230) on record. Rather more Late Saxon archaeology has been discovered – with the most intriguing find comprising a Thor’s hammer pendant (NHER 28521). Other more mundane finds include a finger ring (NHER 28526), spindle whorls (NHER 28523 and 25876), a stirrup (NHER 28035) and various pottery sherds (NHER 28545 and 28542). 

During the medieval period the parish of Wickmere was home to two settlements, Wickmere itself and Wolterton. The village of Wolterton was mentioned in Domesday and the Nomina Villarum, and a map of 1733 shows houses arranged around a green immediately north of the church (NHER 6710). However, the village was abandoned at some point in the past, with the remains of the church tower serving as a marker for this deserted settlement (NHER 25494).

Aside from inhabitation in the area of the modern Wickmere village, another site of probable medieval settlement has been identified. This overlies the probable Roman settlement (both at NHER 28524), and was interpreted as a domestic area from the type and quantity of medieval finds. Several probable medieval trackways have also been noted (NHER 29602 and 15060), and these would have aided the traversal of Wickmere.

Of course, the most obvious medieval monument in the parish is St Andrew’s Church (NHER 6702), which largely dates to the 14th century. The interior of this church is fairly humble but visitors should take note of the kingpost nave roof and a very fine Elizabethan tomb. It appears that the parish had a fully functional watermill (NHER 13109) in medieval times. However, it burnt down in 1312 meaning that only earthworks relating to the mill dam remain. Intriguingly, other earthworks in the area may have belonged to a medieval manor house; a possibility worth considering as no other manorial sites survive to be reported.   

St Andrews Church, Wickmere. Photograph from www.norfolkchurches.co.uk.

St Andrews Church, Wickmere. Photograph from www.norfolkchurches.co.uk. (© S. Knott.)

An array of medieval artefacts has been found in Wickmere. More exotic finds include a coin minted by Henry VII Count of Luxembourg that had been transformed into a brooch (NHER 28523), a medieval Papal bulla (NHER 28526) and an annular brooch (NHER 28521). More typical finds consist of, amongst others, a pewter spoon (NHER 6703), book clasp (NHER 50532), cauldron leg (NHER 28532) and seal matrices (NHER 28044).

In the post medieval period a number of fine buildings were constructed in Wickmere. First and foremost of these was Wolterton Hall, which was built in 1727-41 using simple and undecorated Palladian architecture (NHER 6711). Inside, there are numerous fine fireplaces and plaster ceilings in the Geometric style although restorations were carried out in the early 20th century. The Hall sits inside Wolterton Park (NHER 29604), which takes the form of an early 18th century landscape park designed in collaboration by Thomas Ripley, Charles Bridgman, Horatio Walpole and others. William Sawrey Gilpin planned the later 19th century formal gardens here. It is also worth noting that ‘Prospect Mound’, a 19th century earthen feature, stands within the park; possibly as a landscape feature (NHER 29605).

The location and identity of Wickmere’s post medieval manor house is less clear. Hall Farm (NHER 24090) appeared on Faden’s map of 1797 as Wickmere Hall. The building dates to around 1732 but has an uncertain heritage. It may stand on the site of Bodham Hall Manor (recorded in 1630) or have been a replacement for the older Wickmere Hall to the south in the late 18th century (NHER 25495).

Other buildings worth a look include Mannington Hall Farm (NHER 12093) and Corner House (NHER 16136). The Farm dates to around 1790 and comprises a brick farmhouse and several outbuildings including a grand barn. However, the most notable feature of these buildings is that they incorporate medieval stonework from the ruined parish church at Itteringham (see NHER 6663). The Corner House is an earlier building, dating as it does to the 17th century. This brick building stands on a flint plinth and features impressive tall chimneys behind the gables. In contrast to these brick buildings, Church Farm Barn (NHER 28481) is the best example of a timber framed building in the parish.

Finally, brief mention should be made of the post medieval objects that have been retrieved from Wickmere. A number of these seemingly relate to trade, with items like coin weights (NHER 24230), lead cloth seals (NHER 28044) and coins (e.g. NHER 28028) on record. Perhaps the most interesting find from this era is a mourning ring made from gold (NHER 25876).

There are currently no sites or finds specifically relating to World War One, World War Two or the modern period in Wickmere.

Thomas Sunley (NLA) 11 September 2007.

 

Further Reading

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

Davison, A., 1995. ‘The Field Archaeology of the Mannington and Wolterton Estates’, Norfolk Archaeology, XLVII, II, 160-184

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.1 North-East Norfolk (Cambridge: Acorn Editions)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1999. The Buildings of England, Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East (London, Penguin)

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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