Parish Summary: Sturston

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

Sturston is a small parish situated in the Breckland Local Government District. It falls within the Stanford Military Training Area, and as such access is prohibited to the general public. The parish has an area of 778 hectares, and is situated approximately 10km north of Thetford. The name ‘Sturston’ is thought  to derive from a combination of Old Norse and Old English words for Styrr’s enclosure

The earliest recorded objects are two Neolithic flint implements (NHER 2726, NHER 2727). Due to the military use of this land no arable activity has been undertaken, and as a result six round barrows have survived to the modern day. Of these, five (NHER 8305, NHER 8306, NHER 8307, NHER 8308, NHER 8309) form a single group situated less than 500m apart in the centre of the parish. These, like another barrow (NHER 37052) situated 1km to the northeast, may be of Bronze Age date.

The undisturbed nature of the land has resulted in very few objects being recovered from this area. No evidence from the Iron Age or Roman period has been recorded, and the only object from the Saxon period is a Late Saxon pottery sherd. However, we know from documentary evidence that there was a settlement here during the medieval period, with records of the village in 1316 and 1332. It is also recorded that it was Edward Jermyn, then Lord of the Manor, who pulled down the houses of the village and enclosed the common land, and it is thought that the desertion of the village (NHER 2730) is due to this action, rather than the military occupation of the land. 

No buildings from the medieval period survive, and the only one we can be certain of is Holy Cross Church (NHER 2728). Today the building has been reduced to grassed-over foundation walls, but it was already severely ruined in 1738. The sites of two post medieval buildings are also known; Sturston Hall (NHER 2729) which was a standing ruin in 1969 but has since been almost levelled, and Eagle’s Tower (NHER 6079), which was built in 1850 by Lord Walsingham as a shepherd or gamekeeper’s lookout.  The only extant structure of archaeological interest in the parish is a 19th century limekiln (NHER 16369).

Due to the undisturbed nature of the landscape a rapid identification survey carried out in the parish between 2000 and 2002 was able to identify a number of  surviving earthworks. These include many stretches of the parish boundary (NHER  37058, NHER 37054, NHER 37046), as well as parts of roads or trackways (NHER 37057), enclosures (NHER 37050, NHER 37049, NHER 37048) and banks (NHER 37603, NHER 37051). Although these have not been dated, it is likely that they derive from the medieval and post medieval periods.

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 6 July 2007

 

Further Reading

Morris, J. (General Editor), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

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

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