Parish Summary: Billingford (Breckland)

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

Billingford comes from the Old English meaning ‘the ford of Billa’s people’, and the ford across the River Wensum was an important focal point in the parish throughout its history.

Evidence for early occupation in the parish is limited to the high ground overlooking the River Wensum. Several Neolithic axeheads (NHER 7200, 21130, 29625), a chisel (NHER 21132) and a scraper (NHER 15036) have been found, as well as a Bronze Age axehead (NHER 22533) and an awl (NHER 37177). The site of at least one Bronze Age barrow (NHER 29827) is known within the parish. A large circular enclosure (NHER 36394), visible on aerial photographs, may relate to late prehistoric settlement within the parish. A ford (NHER 2924) over the river may date back to the prehistoric period, and the ford was to become vitally important in the development of later settlement within the parish.

An important Roman road, the Fen Causeway (NHER 2796) runs through the south of the parish. A substantial Roman settlement (NHER 7206) developed on the riverbank, and excavation has revealed the remains of buildings, enclosures, a cemetery and a field system associated with the town. A wealth of Roman pottery and metalwork was recovered during the excavation, including a huge number of coins, brooches and other personal items (NHER 7206). Further enclosures, and the line of another road (NHER 17229) are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs close to the site of the town. A votive deposit containing a torc and other Roman metalwork was found within the settlement (NHER 7206); very personal reminders of the inhabitants of Roman Billingford.  

Showing the west tower, the aisled nave and the 17th or 18th century brick porch.

St Peter's Church, Billingford showing the aisled nave. (©NCC)

 The remains of Early Saxon buildings (NHER 7206) were found on the site of the Roman settlement, close to a site used for iron working in the Middle Saxon period. Early Saxon brooches (NHER 17229, 25939) and Late Saxon pottery (NHER 7212) have been found, suggesting that settlement activity continued to be focused in the area around the Roman settlement. Billingford was a small, but relatively valuable settlement in Domesday Book, and land in the parish was divided between Thored, a free man, and an unnamed free woman.

The medieval village of Billingford never reached the size and status of its Roman predecessor. St Peter’s Church (NHER 7222) dates mainly to the 14th and 15th centuries, and Beck Hall (NHER 7215), an 18th century farmhouse, is built on the site of a moated medieval hospital. Billingford Hall (NHER 16984) is a large 18th century house, with an icehouse (NHER 7223) in its grounds. Billingford Bridge (NHER 41053) was one of the first bridges in the country to be built of pre-stressed concrete; constructed in 1949, it was demolished in 1991.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 30 September 2005.


Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book: Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore)

Mills, A.D., 1998. Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford, Oxford University Press)

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

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