Parish Summary: Wicklewood

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 Wicklewood is situated in the south of Norfolk. It lies west of Wymondham, north of Morley, south of Kimberley and east of Deopham. The name Wicklewood may derive from the Old English meaning ‘Wicleah wood’, where the word ‘wichleah’ refers to a grove of wych elm trees. 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 parish had a mill and beehives, along with various other agricultural resources.

Several Palaeolithic flint flakes (NHER 28407) have been found in Wicklewood and these represent the earliest reported finds. Other prehistoric lithic tools have also been found, and these include Neolithic flint axeheads (NHER 8895 and 28406), scrapers (NHER 8916) and an arrowhead (NHER 25287). It is during the subsequent Bronze Age period that the first metal objects were made. Copper alloy artefacts like palstaves (NHER 16550), a chisel (NHER 33334), socketed axeheads (NHER 18111), a sword (NHER 18111) and spearhead (NHER 18111) have all been recovered from the parish. The Bronze Age is also the first period in Wicklewood where a site has been identified. A possible ring ditch (NHER 8897) was noted on aerial photographs taken in 1991

A slightly less diverse collection of Iron Age objects has been retrieved from the parish. The majority of finds comprise coins (e.g. NHER 34321) and pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 8897). However, the most interesting Iron Age discovery is that of a coin hoard found at the Crownthorpe Roman settlement (NHER 8897). Of course, a couple of other typical Iron Age objects have also been found – like a terret which formed part of equipment used on chariots (NHER 18111).

During the Roman era it appears that Wicklewood was a place of some importance. A Roman temple site (NHER 8897) has been located from cropmark evidence, and other features identified on this grand site include ditches, enclosures and trackways. These auxiliary features may suggest some scale of inhabitation on the temple site. As one would expect, numerous Roman finds have been recovered from within the vicinity of the temple, and these comprise items like coins, studs, brooches and figurines. Separate to the temple site, archaeologists have also uncovered a Roman metalworking area (NHER 18111). Scrap metal and slag have also been frequent finds at this site, which suggests that blacksmithing took place here. Additionally, the ornate nature of many of the brooches, which appear to have seen use, is thought to indicate a possible votive use – perhaps at the nearby temple site. The Roman road running from the town of Venta Icenorum (at Caistor St Edmund) to Watton also passed through Wicklewood. This again indicates that it was an important centre for local people during Roman times.

 

Photograph of a copper alloy Roman cosmetic pestle from the Roman temple site at Wicklewood. The handle is in the shape of a duck. Photograph from MODES.

 A copper alloy Roman cosmetic pestle from the Roman temple site. The handle is in the shape of a duck. Photograph from MODES. (© NCC)

Metal detecting across the various fields has also retrieved a decent selection of other Roman small finds. Noteworthy pieces consist of a silver thumb ring (NHER 8899), tesserae (NHER 8910), a disc brooch (NHER 25270), a steelyard weight (NHER 28143) and assorted pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 13211 and 30200).

The evidence relating to Saxon Wicklewood is rather scantier. It has been suggested that the round tower of the former church of St James (NHER 8934) may indicate it has Saxon origins, but this assumption is far from certain. The only definite Saxon archaeology to have been reported comprises a smattering of isolated objects. These include part of an Early Saxon cruciform brooch (NHER 28407), a Middle Saxon brooch with cast groove decoration (NHER 25404), a Late Saxon knife (NHER 25269) and a bridle cheek-piece (NHER 28406).

The medieval period is an interesting one in Wicklewood. The village itself had two churches; one dedicated to All Saints (NHER 8925) the other to St Andrew (NHER 8922). The latter of these foundations was demolished in 1367, with its former location now marked by a large bush and an area of the churchyard covered with weeds instead of grass. All Saints’ survives into modernity and is most notable for its huge south porch tower, which is in the Decorated style. The majority of this church dates from the 13th-15th centuries and many of the windows are in the Perpendicular style. Inside, there are a few poppyhead benches at the west end, several 18th century floor tombs and an old chest with three locks.

 

All Saints' Church, Wicklewood. Photograph from www.norfolkchurches.co.uk.

All Saints' Church, Wicklewood. Photograph from www.norfolkchurches.co.uk. (© S. Knott.)

The modern civil parish also incorporates the settlement of Crownthorpe which, as mentioned earlier, had a church dedicated to St James (NHER 8934). Aside from its Saxon-Norman round tower, the church dated to the 13th-14th centuries and had a very fine nave. However, the church was allowed to lapse into disrepair before its conversion to a residential property in 1989.

No medieval manor house remains in the parish. However, a couple of moated sites (NHER 8920 and 13743) have been noted, and these may once have had a structure within them. Primrose Farm (NHER 8912), which was built during the 16th/17th century, also stands inside a medieval moat and as such could occupy a medieval manorial site. No extant medieval buildings remain, although it has been suggested that number 73 on Low Street (NHER 41700) was once a hall house – a characteristic medieval dwelling.

As with the Iron Age, the most exciting medieval discovery in Wicklewood was a hoard of coins unearthed in 1989 (NHER 25269). All the coins in this hoard were minted during the reign of Stephen (1135-54) and Henry II (1154-89). Other more mundane finds consist of a box mount (NHER 16550), purse components (NHER 28143 and 28144), a seal matrix (NHER 34142), coins (NHER 28406) and pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 13500-13504).

The post medieval period saw the construction of several fine buildings in Wicklewood. Some of these properties can be seen on Morley Lane at High Common (NHER 34107 and 34158) and High Oak Road (NHER 45710 and 45868). The most splendid examples are perhaps Wicklewood Hall (NHER 8933) and Old Hall (NHER 14294). Wicklewood Hall dates to the 17th century and is built from a rendered and underbuilt timber frame refaced with brick to the ground floor front. Inside, there is a panelled room of exceptional quality, with half dating to the 17th century and half to the 18th century. Old Hall has a timber-framed main block with an excellent quadruple-angled brick chimney. It probably dates to around 1600 with early 18th century additions.

Residential premises were not the only addition in this era. Two mills were in operation in the parish at this time. Wicklewood Mill (NHER 8929) was built in 1845 and last worked in 1941. Some of the mill’s works came from a tower mill at Silfield in 1911, and the actual millstone itself was made from Peak stone - an unusual occurrence for a Norfolk mill. It was restored in 1980-81 and during this process the interior was refurbished and a new cap, fantail and sails were added. The other mill (NHER 8921) was last used in 1900, and in 1974 the stump of the brick mill tower was roofed and a modern house built on to it.

The parish also had a workhouse by 1776, known as the Forehoe Incorporation House of Industry (NHER 8931). This huge twenty-one bay building later became Mill House Hospital before operating as St George's School. Once it ceased to be a school it was converted into houses – a suitable way to exploit this sizable structure. Brick manufacturing was also occurring in Wicklewood, as evidenced by the presence of a brick kiln (NHER 15952) which was noted on contemporary documents.

It is also worth noting that later in the period the Wymondham to Wells railway line (including the Mid Norfolk Railway) (NHER 13588) ran through the parish, although Wicklewood did not have its own station. Nevertheless the ability to travel and trade goods more widely within the local area would have been afforded by the services provided.

Finally, brief mention should be made of the post medieval small finds from Wicklewood. The most impressive of these takes the form of a gold finger ring (NHER 33895), but other objects include a cloth seal (NHER 16550), spur fragment (NHER 28142), a thimble (NHER 28144) and an openwork button (NHER 33334).

At present no sites or finds that specifically relate to World War One, World War Two or the modern period have been reported for Wicklewood.

Thomas Sunley (NLA) 6 September 2007.

 

Further Reading

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

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.2 Norwich, Central and South Norfolk (Cambridge: Acorn Editions)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1999. The Buildings of England, Norfolk 2: North-West and South (London, Penguin)

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

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