Parish Summary: Weeting with Broomhill

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

Weeting with Broomhill is situated in the Breckland Local Government Disctrict, on the Suffolk border. It is a large parish with an area of over 2500 hectares, and almost half the area is covered with the Thetford Forest. The name ‘Weeting’ is thought derive from the Old English for wet place, and Broomhill from the Old English for hill where broom is abundant. Today population is centred on the village of Weeting.

 

Grimes Graves from the air.

Grimes Graves from the air. (© NCC)

The parish is situated on an area that has long been exploited for the flint that lies just below the surface. In the earliest period, large quantities of flint were mined and worked into tools, and as a result quantities of worked flints have been recovered from across the parish. Objects from the earliest period of  prehistory, the Palaeolithic, have been recovered from twelve sites, and these include handaxes (NHER 5592 and 5641). Mesolithic objects have also been recorded from fourteen sites, and include cores (NHER 13340), an axehead (NHER 13341), and blades (NHER 22013 and 28220). 

However, the majority of flint objects recovered from this parish have dated to the Neolithic period. Exploitation of natural resources during this period was particularly intense. As a result hundreds of worked flints have been recovered from the parish, from over a hundred sites. These include objects such as fabricators (NHER 5157), flaked axeheads (NHER 5597 and 5646) polished axeheads (NHER 5600), scrapers (NHER 5608, 14033 and 23306), leaf arrowheads (NHER 30166 and 30167), transverse arrowheads (NHER 30169, and 30170), knives (NHER 14950 and 30173)  and laurel leaves (NHER 14944, 14948 and 30172).

This extraordinary body of evidence is only part of the Neolithic archaeology of this parish, which also retains a number of Neolithic period flint mines. The most famous of these is the group of features known as Grimes Graves (NHER 5640). Other crater and pit features have also been noted (NHER 5141 and 5643), but Grimes Graves remains one of the most important Neolithic sites in the country. It is one of only ten recognised Neolithic flint mines, and is situated in an area of heathland close to a dry valley. 

 

Photograph of Grimes Graves, Weeting. From Picture Norfolk.

 Photograph of Grimes Graves, Weeting. From Picture Norfolk. Courtesy of Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service.

 Grimes Graves is looked after by English Heritage, and is open to the public. Of the hundreds of pits known to exist on the site, and the probable hundreds more that remain unidentified, only a handful have been excavated. Of these, one is open to the public. Here visitors can see how the Neolithic people dug down as deep as 10m below the surface to reach the deepest strata of flint, and large holes show how they lifted the flint nodules whole from the floor of the many interlinked galleries. Interestingly no contemporary settlements have been identified, and whilst large quantities of flint nodules were broken down into roughouts, only one complete axehead has ever been found, indicating that final production took place off site. 

 

Pepper Hill Barrow, a Bronze Age bowl barrow.

Pepper Hill Barrow, a Bronze Age bowl barrow. (© NCC)

Exploitation of the flint continued during the Bronze Age period, and a number of Bronze Age objects have been recovered. These are far less numerous than Neolithic period objects, and include flakes (NHER 38096), a scraper (NHER 32348) and barbed and tanged arrowheads (NHER 14952 and 30174). Three copper alloy spearheads (NHER 28192, 16019 and 5615) have also been recorded.

However a large number of Bronze Age features survive in the landscape of the parish. These include over twenty-five possible and probable Bronze Age round barrows (such as Two Hills NHER 4995, Bunker’s Hill NHER 11278 and Wafes Howe NHER 15525), and their survival is probably due to the forestation of the area and its protection from modern agricultural methods. At least seven of these are known to have been opened in 1871 by Lord Rosehill, who reportedly found evidence of cremations inside them. 

 

Photograph of an Iron Age linch pin.

Photograph of an Iron Age linch pin. (© NCC)

Much less evidence has been recovered from the Iron Age, with no recorded monuments. However a small number of interesting objects have been discovered, and these include an Iron Age base coin core (NHER 13853), an enamelled lynch-pin (NHER 16124) and a baked clay sling shot (NHER 20496).

 

Iron Age silver beaked brooch from Weeting.

An Iron Age silver beaked brooch from Weeting. (© NCC)

Evidence from the Roman period is more common, and the parish shares an important Roman settlement and temple site with the neighbouring parish of Hockwold cum Wilton (NHER 5587). Aerial photography, fieldwalking, metal detecting and excavation have recorded an organised settlement with a regular pattern of roads and numerous buildings. Crowns, diadems and votive objects have also been recovered, and it is thought that the settlement has a strong religious focus, particularly towards the cult of Attis and Cybele. 

Two other possible Roman settlements (NHER 35352 and 37419) have also been noted due to the density of objects recovered, which include pottery sherds, coins and metal objects. In addition, a villa site (NHER 5636) has also been reported 1.5km away from the large settlement and temple (NHER 5587). The site has been excavated and a series of small pits, ditches and gullies dating to the 1st to 3rd centuries were noted, in combination with a well and double ditched trackway dating to the 3rd century. Overlying this was a 4th century rectangular building of flint, which was later partially demolished and the building converted to a single rectangular building, most probably with an agricultural function rather than a villa in the traditional sense of the word.

In 1975 a hoard of late Roman copper alloy vessels was recovered from this site (NHER 5636), which included a large cauldron, bowls, vessels and a shallow dish. Other interesting Roman finds include a burial with bracelet and ring (NHER 2743) and a circular enamelled brooch (NHER 5619), as well as more common objects such as pottery sherds (NHER 37420), coins (NHER 28199 and 28314) and brooches (NHER 25522).

Of the Saxon period very little survives, although the Fosditch which runs across the parish is thought to date to the Early Saxon period, and is likely to have formed a line of defence controlling a particular territory. Today artefacts form the majority of evidence for the Saxon period, and these include pottery sherds (NHER 37085) as well as metal objects such as strap ends and buckles (NHER 5618, 25523), coins (NHER 24891). Objects of particular interest include an 8th century gilt copper alloy plaque decorated with a pair of animals (NHER 28314), a Late Saxon enamelled brooch (NHER 50541) and a Middle Saxon pin (NER 25522).

 

Photograph of Weeting Castle.

Photograph of Weeting Castle. (© NCC)

Weeting Castle (NHER 5626) is one of the earliest buildings still surviving in the parish, and although it is ruined a number of the wall stand to three storeys. It was built in 1180 for Ralph de Plaiz, and is a masonry house built within a moated enclosure. However, excavation on the site has revealed occupation in the form of huts since the Early and Middle Saxon periods, and a Late Saxon hall and ditches have also been recorded, presenting a continuous occupation on this site from the Early Saxon to post medieval period, when an 18th century hall stood here. 

It is possible that St Mary’s Church (NHER 5639) began life as a manorial chapel to the Late Saxon hall, although the earliest visible fabric of the church is thought to date to the 11th or 12th century. Today the church has a north aisle and chancel in the Decorated style, with a nave with three Perpendicular style windows and a crown-post roof of 1868. However, it should be noted that the Domesday Book of 1086 contains very little information on Weeting and gives no indication of a church.

 

St Mary's Church, Weeting with Broomhill.

St Mary's Church, Weeting with Broomhill. (© NCC)

Other medieval monuments surviving today include Stump Cross (NHER 4996), which is a medieval cross made of Barnack stone. It is currently situated 70m southeast of Pilgrim’s Path (NHER 5001), but was originally situated on the path. Pilgrim’s Path itself is a flat-topped earthwork which is thought to date to the medieval period. A 19th century source believe that it was used to by pilgrims on their way to Walsingham. 

Also of interest is the site of Broomhill Priory (NHER 5627), which was built around 1220 by Sir Hugh De Plaiz, who was Lord of Weeting Manor. It housed an Augustinian order of Black Canons, who are said to have owned more than 2000 sheep. It was suppressed in 1528 following complaints, and the buildings were immediately demolished and sold off.  Another church, dedicated to All Saints (NHER 5625) was also present in the parish. It was ruined before 1759 and is known to have been demolished before 1979. Today only cropmarks remain, although human bones have been recovered from nearby.

Other medieval landscape features include three possible moated enclosures (NHER 5621, 5633 and 29701) as well as a possible charcoal burners’ camp (NHER 5632), cistern (NHER 5630) butchery site (NHER 30115) and fish ponds (NHER 33703). Objects from the medieval period have also been recorded, and these include pottery sherds (NHER 15521), coins (NHER 14947) and metal objects such as buckles and strap fittings (NHER 19722 and 25522). Objects of particular interest include an iron arrowhead (NHER 13853), a gilded copper alloy ring brooch (NHER 19422) and a seal matrix depicting a heron (NHER 35351).

A number of post medieval sites have also been recorded, the most important of which was probably Weeting Hall (NHER 5637). This building was built before 1770 and demolished in 1954, though the red brick stable block and the footings of the orangery and sewer survive today. The site of a brick kiln (NHER 5695), post mill (NHER 15519) and belvedere tower (NHER 35945) have also been recorded.

Flint working also took place during the post medieval period, with at least one site recorded (NHER 31296, NHER 38097). The main product was gunflint, which has been recovered from other areas of the parish (NHER 5695). 

A number of post medieval building of architectural interest have also been recorded, such as Home Farmhouse (NHER 15518) which is a timber-framed house of the early 17th century.  Two lodges for Weeting Hall also survive, one on Methwold Road (NHER 46202) which was built around 1800, and Inner Lodge (NHER 46525) which was built around the same time in a cottage ornee style.

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 20 August 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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