Parish Summary: Warham

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

Warham is a large parish situated in the North Norfolk Local Government District. It has an area of 1858 hectares and is situated on the coast, with a substantial salt marsh and nature reserve to the north. It is just 3.5km southeast from Wells next the Sea, and is bordered to the east by the River Stiffkey. The name ‘Stiffkey’ is thought to derive from the Old English for tree-stump island

The earliest recorded objects are a number prehistoric flints recovered from across the parish (NHER 11723) , many recovered during the Holkham Estate Survey of 2000 (NHER 36024, 36020 and 36018). There have been a substantial number of Neolithic tools discovered, and these include six axeheads (NHER 1818, 14617 and 28667) as well as a macehead (NHER 1822).

Two Neolithic or Early Bronze Age axehammers (NHER 1823 and 1824) have also been recorded, and the earliest recorded monuments also date from the Bronze Age. These comprise one of Norfolk more famous round barrows, Fiddlers Hill (NHER 1854). This large earthwork survives today, and there are also three other possible ring ditches or barrows recorded in the parish (NHER 1825, 11283 and 38242) and one (NHER 38428) which may have been also be the site of a Neolithic mortuary enclosure.  

Earthworks of Iron Age hillfort.

Aerial photograph of Warham Camp, an Iron Age hillfort. (© NCC)

This parish is also the site of an Iron Age fort, Warham Camp (NHER 1828), which is a large and visible earthwork and may be the finest Iron Age earthwork in the east of England. Excavation in 1914 and 1959 recovered both Iron Age and Roman pottery sherds, and it seems likely that occupation occurred in both periods. This should be considered in conjunction with Warham Burrows (NHER 1827), a rectilinear enclosure which was excavated in 1959 and may be an unfinished Iron Age hill fort which also shows Roman period occupation.

This pattern of occupation is also seen at Warham Roman settlement (NHER 1826), which despite being a predominantly Roman site has evidence of occupation or exploitation in the Iron Age period, with both coins and potter sherds recovered there. Few Iron Age objects have been recovered outside these sites, comprising only a harness fragment (NHER 29083) and pottery sherds (NHER 31258).

As well as occupation on the Iron Age sites mentioned above, Roman period activity includes a possible building (NHER 22213) as well as a possible enclosures and field systems (NHER 27080 and 30410). Objects recovered from other areas of the parish outside the settlements include pottery sherds from sixteen sites (NHER 1829, 24309 and 37330), as well as five brooches (NHER 31260, 31263 and 33004) and a bracelet (NHER 31261).

Occupation at Warham Roman settlement (NHER 1826) is of particular interest as there is evidence for a building during the Roman period in the form of tiles and tesserae, as well as a number of pottery sherds, brooches and buckles from the Early Saxon period indicating a continuance of occupation into this period.  Although there are no other Saxon monuments recorded in the parish, a number of objects have been recovered from other areas. These are predominantly Early Saxon, and include a complete Early Saxon small-long brooch (NHER 1843) and an Early Saxon Stutzarnfibel brooch (NHER 31258), though there are pottery sherds from across the Saxon period (NHER 29188) and Late Saxon sherds (NHER 29187). 

Warham is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1986, although it does not appear to be notably populous or valuable. Despite this the church of St Mary Magdalen (NHER 1853) was built in the early medieval period, and still retains a Norman style north doorway with columns and cushion capitals. Today the church appears to be of the mid to late medieval period, with a Decorated style tower and an unusual priest’s doorway through the chancel’s south buttress.

All Saints’ Church (NHER 1852) appears to be slightly later, probably dating to around 1300 and retaining a now defaced effigy of a civilian dating to around that time, as well as a brass to William Rokewode dating to 1474. It is also recorded that the parish had a church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin (NHER 1836), and although no standing remains are visible, skeletons from the churchyard have been recovered. 

The site of Hale’s manor (NHER 1886), a medieval moated site of which the associated earthworks still survive, is recorded, as is the site of a medieval chapel (NHER 17887) which was mentioned by Blomefield in 1805 to 1810. The churches represent the only standing buildings, but the earthworks of medieval field systems (NHER 31528), trackways (NHER 30711), possible house platforms (NHER 31562) and banks and ditches (NHER 27915) have been recorded. The site of Warham Hall (NHER 1843) is also recorded, although the building that stood on the site was demolished in the late 18th or early 19th century.

A number of medieval objects have also been recovered from the parish, including pottery sherds from seventeen sites (NHER 1807, 13048 and 24309), coins from five sites (NHER 19921, 24309 and 33004) and objects such as a copper alloy ring brooch (NHER 1833), a 14th century dagger (NHER 1835) and a lead seal matrix (NHER 31262). 

A number post medieval buildings of interest have been recorded, and these include Nos 38, 40 and 42 The Street (NHER 18620), which were originally a single H-shaped 16th century house, as well as Northgate Hall (NHER 19360), which began life as a L-shaped farmhouse in the 16th or 17th centuries.

Anyone with a particular interest in post medieval buildings should take a walk down The Street, the main road through Warham, as many of the recorded buildings are situated there. These include a number of houses that were originally estate cottages on the Holkham Estate, such as Long Acre (NHER 47474), an 18th century brick house with the estate’s characteristic 19th century cast-iron window casements. 

Due to its position on the coast Warham was also the site of a number of World War Two period military defences. These include Warham bombing decoy airfield (NHER 23142 and 33897) which was built as a decoy for RAF Langham in 1944. The sites of a minefield (NHER 27898) and a sewage treatment works (NHER 40077) have also been recorded, and a spigot mortar emplacement (NHER 32436) and a scaffolding structure (NHER 41500) are thought to survive. From more recent history, a Cold War military installation is also known to still be visible (NHER 41503).

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), July 2007

 

Further Reading

Knott, S., May 2005. ‘All Saints, Warham’ Available:

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/warhamallsaints/warhamallsaints.htm. Accessed: 17 July 2007

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 1: Norwich and North-East (London, Penguin Books)

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

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