Parish Summary: Tilney All Saints

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

The parish of Tilney All Saints is situated in the west of Norfolk. It lies south of Clenchwarton, north of Tilney St Lawrence, west of King’s Lynn and southeast of Terrington St Clement. The name Tilney may derive from the Old English meaning ‘Tila’s river or island’, whilst All Saints refers to the dedication of the parish church. Unusually, the parish is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and the reason for this is not known. Perhaps Tilney All Saints had not been established at this time or was too small to merit a mention. Alternatively it may have been included (but not named) as a part of one of the parishes that surround it. Before 1935 Tilney All Saints had a much more extensive area, but boundary changes at this time created Marshland St James from fens held by the parish and also gave some of the northern land to Terrington St Clement.

Tilney All Saints is a siltland parish but it does not stretch far enough south for the Late Iron Age silt deposits to emerge on the surface. Therefore much of the soil surface and silts date to the post Roman period. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that very few prehistoric sites and finds have been recorded in Tilney All Saints. A single prehistoric worked flint (NHER 22386) was found during the laying of a water pipeline in 1998, and a bone awl (NHER 15689) was found south of the Haven on Church Road. A possible Bronze Age barrow (NHER 17910) has also been noted to the east of Sandygate Farm, on the edge of the Third Spellow Field.

The presence of a few pottery sherds of possible Roman date (NHER 22154, 22385 and 22545) suggests that the land here was still largely uninhabited at this time. Indeed, evidence from the subsequent Early and Middle Saxon periods is completely absent. Various scatters of Late Saxon pottery (NHER 22140, 22383) were recovered from sandy-silt levees by Fenland fieldwalking in 1986. Pottery types identified included Thetford Ware and St Neots Ware. Other similar pottery scatters have been noted near to Church Lane (NHER 22380), Shepherds Gate (NHER 22382) and Station Road (NHER 23126). However, drawing conclusions about settlement and occupation patterns using this pottery data has proven difficult.  

Photograph of All Saints' Church, Tilney All Saints. Photograph from

All Saints' Church, Tilney All Saints. Photograph from (© S. Knott.)

The majority of records for Tilney All Saints deal with the medieval period. The first still standing building dates to this period, in the form of All Saints’ Church (NHER 2237). This superb church has Norman features although the appearance of much of the current exterior relates to 15th/16th century remodelling. Inside, there is an usual screen of 1618 and tomb slabs including that which gave rise to the legend of Tom Hickathrift. A chapel dedicated to St Thomas a Becket also existed near to Kenwick Hall. This parochial chapel of 1254-1428 was served by chaplains until around 1550.

Huge quantities of medieval pottery (e.g. NHER 21388, 21923 and 22547) have been recovered by an extensive fieldwalking survey conducted during 1984-86. This work identified a medieval settlement area to the north of Kenwick Hall Farm (NHER 21382), with a number of enclosures, hollow ways, toft boundaries and a possible moat visible on site. A separate moated enclosure (NHER 22154) with an associated trackway has been noted to the south of Kenwick Hall. Research shows that this moat may have belonged to Lewes Priory, established in the 12th century, and could have been occupied since Late Saxon times. Alternatively this enclosure could relate to the medieval manor of Kenwick. Therefore we can be fairly certain that occupation in the early medieval period was focused around Kenwick.

The area around Tilney Old Hall (NHER 22628), known as Mear Green, was another significant medieval occupation area. Dense scatters of medieval pottery attest to this activity (NHER 22250, 22383, 21374 and 23281) and it has also been claimed that several house site were once visible in this area. The Fenland Fieldwalking Survey also recorded a number of medieval trackways (e.g. NHER 21909, 21913, 22139, 22154 and 22379) that would have been used to traverse the farmland and to drive livestock along. Indeed, a major droveway served both Tilney All Saints and Terrington St Clement, and some of these trackways probably fed into this route.

The possible edge of a medieval village green (NHER 21387) has also been noted some 1000m north of All Saints Church (NHER 2237). Tilney All Saints' is reported to have had seven medieval greens, so this record presumably relates to one of them. In addition, a possible medieval saltern mound with associated pits (NHER 19105) has been recorded in a field to the northwest of the church. A medieval flood bank (NHER 25328), known as War Dyke, also runs along the northern parish boundary between Tilney All Saints and Clenchwarton. Most of it has now been flattened but a short earthwork section still remains.

Rather more medieval artefacts have been found in the parish than in earlier periods. These finds comprise a collection of 13th/14th century carved stones (NHER 2231), coins (NHER 29746 and 31248), a whetstone (NHER 31248), a shield-shaped harness pendant (NHER 35341), a lead gaming die (NHER 41706) and a medieval half pound lead weight with cast fleur-de-lis decoration (NHER 23582).

During the post medieval period drainage pumps and mills were constructed to aid with land reclamation for agricultural purposes. A map of 1836 shows once such pump to the south of the parish in Tilney End (NHER 16339). A 17th century map shows a drainage mill (NHER 16571) near to Shore Boat Farm on the Lynn Road.

Several fine domestic buildings were also erected in this era. First and foremost of these is Tilney Old Hall (NHER 22628), a late 16th century building with an irregular plan. It is built from brick with a thatched roof and stands two storeys high. Inside, there are chamfered beams in the dining room and an inglenook fireplace. It has also been speculated that the water-bounded rectangle immediately to the northwest could be the moated site of the original Hall. Tilney Hall (NHER 42680) dates to around 1810 and is built from red brick. Despite its name, this building was previously a farm – as attested to by the presence of several ruined farm outbuildings. Other properties worth a look are located along Church Road and include All Saints House (NHER 47000), dating to 1700, and the Old Vicarage (NHER 47001), which was built in around 1750.

Another impressive residence, called Bury Manor (NHER 42014), was depicted as a group of large buildings on various 19th century documents. Sadly, it no longer survives and the ruins are obscured by heavily overgrown vegetation. Similarly, the old workhouse (NHER 36194) shown on Bryant’s map of 1826 no longer exists. However, a new property called Clear View does stand on the approximate site of this former building.

Of course, as with other time periods, the bulk of post medieval small finds are pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 22548, 22058 and 21383). This scatter of pottery shows some continuity in occupation with the previous medieval period. Other non-ceramic finds comprise a spur (NHER 19105), thimble (NHER 19105), a coin weight (NHER 22376), coins (NHER 31248) and an animal bell (NHER 41706). These were all recovered from various fields in the parish via metal detecting.

No sites or finds relating to World War One, World War Two or the modern period have been reported in Tilney All Saints. Perhaps the lack of wartime activity is unsurprising considering that the parish is situated in the fens, and thus not a target of strategic importance for German attack.

Thomas Sunley (NLA) 25 July 2007.


Further Reading

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.3 West and South-West 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)

Silvester, R. J., 1991. The Fenland Project Number 3: Norfolk Survey, Marshland & Nar Valley (Gressenhall, Norfolk Archaeological Unit)


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