Parish Summary: Stoke Ferry

This Parish Summary is very much an overview of the large quantity 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

The southwest Norfolk civil parish of Stoke Ferry is situated to the north of the huge parish of Methwold. Its name comes from the Old English for a settlement named from a ferry over the River Wissey, though ‘stoke’ can also refer to a religious place or dependant farm. The parish has a long history, and was certainly well established by the time of the Norman Conquest, its population, land ownership and productive resources being extensively detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Setting aside prehistoric but otherwise undateable objects, the earliest evidence of human activity comes in the form of Neolithic flint tools, including axeheads (NHER 2630, 2632 and 21099), polished axeheads (NHER 2631, 13464 and 22986) and a stone axehead (NHER 2524) dredged from the River Wissey. A human skeleton (NHER 4734) of possibly Neolithic date was found during works in 1963. A quartzite axehammer (NHER 2525) found in 1942 could be Neolithic or Bronze Age.

Photograph of a Bronze Age sword from Stoke Ferry.

A Bronze Age sword from Stoke Ferry. (© NCC)

Analysis of aerial photographs has tentatively identified traces of the earliest structures, two ring ditches (NHER 15133 and 21285), the ploughed-out remains of Bronze Age barrows. Bronze Age finds include pottery fragments (NHER 2523 and 4724), copper alloy spearheads (NHER 4419 and 4729), axeheads (NHER 4727 and 13463), part of a sword (NHER 4728) and a fragment of rapier (NHER 33570). A small gold torc (NHER 2603) was found during ploughing in 1941. A hoard of six copper alloy torcs (NHER 4726) was found during construction work west of Bridge Road in 1881. A further hoard (NHER 4725), including swords, parts of spearheads and a halberd, was found on the banks of the River Wissey in 1927.

Iron Age finds include pottery fragments (NHER 2524, 4417, 4730 and 4731), a copper alloy vessel (NHER 2524) and a sword (NHER 4729), a brooch (NHER 31799) and a coin (NHER 40006). An evaluation excavation (NHER 40949) in 2004 on Brown’s Fen revealed buried soils and pits of Iron Age date and another pit of possible Roman date. 

Evidence of occupation in the Roman period includes some interesting features. 1977 aerial photography shows the cropmark of part of a possible Roman temporary military camp (NHER 16159) south of Boughton. A Roman well (NHER 4418) containing Roman pottery fragments was excavated in 1935 on the line of the A134 north of Stoke Ferry. Selected Roman finds to date are two pottery vessels (NHER 2551) from the river, pottery fragments (NHER 4417, 4418, 4732 and 21095), coins (NHER 2637, 4418, 31799 and 40006), a quern (NHER 4724), a buckle plate (NHER 4724), part of a spoon (NHER 32806) and a brooch (NHER 40006). Saxon finds include a strap end (NHER 33654), brooches (NHER 33654 and 40006) and an iron spearhead (NHER 11211) that could be Late Saxon or medieval. 

The medieval period has left the parish with its oldest surviving building, All Saints’ Church (NHER 4798). This currently consists of a nave, chancel and bell cote.The nave is basically early medieval, remodelled in the 15th century. The old chancel was demolished in the 17th century and the west tower fell in 1758 when the building was reworked. The church was rebuilt in 1848 and the stained glass windows added later that century. Inside is a 15th century patterned font.

Other medieval structures have not survived, but have left a footprint of their former existence. To the west of Stoke ferry village is the site of a possible medieval moat (NHER 2561), now at least partially built over. Further medieval buildings have vanished without trace. The medieval village of Stoke cum Norton (NHER 11965) is referred to in old documentation, but no sign of it remains and its exact location is not known. Aerial photography has identified the cropmarks of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation (NHER 25390) in an area north of the possible Roman military camp NHER 16159 (see above).

Medieval finds include coins (NHER 40006), buckles (NHER 31799 and 40005), pottery fragments (NHER 21098), a signet ring (NHER 2633), a brooch (NHER 21099) and a strap fitting (NHER 40006). A horse harness pendant (NHER 21099) found in 1984 could be medieval or post medieval.

There are far too many post medieval buildings of interest in the parish for each to be described in detail here, and what follows is an overview of them by area with selected examples highlighted. 

Stoke Ferry village centre is known as The Hill. On it, opposite the west side of the church, is The Hall (NHER 8637), a plain but imposing three storey brick house of 1792, now converted to offices. Much of the original interior survives, including the three bay hall with pilasters and a plaster vault. Crown House (NHER 16977) is a two storey brick, carstone and rubble former public house, now offices, early 16th century in origin, but altered and with 19th century additions and a rendered façade. Deanscroft House (NHER 46826) ia an early 19th century two storey gault brick house with a pantile roof. Near the War memorial to the west of the church is a Type K6 glazed cast iron telephone box (NHER 46992) with a domed roof, built to a 1935 design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

On High Street is The Old Crown House/All Saints’ House (NHER 8641). One of the oldest buildings in west Norfolk, and possibly on the site of an earlier inn, this is a late 17th and 18th century flint, stone and brick house, partly colourwashed. Other 18th century buildings on the street are Pineapple Coach House (NHER 8638), The Surgery (NHER 46837), The Old Granary (NHER 46838), Park House (NHER 46891), Lodge Cottage (NHER 47118) and Moulsham House (NHER 47119). The Old Chemist’s Shop (NHER 8639), The Lodge (NHER 46824) and Osbourne House (NHER 47117) are 19th century.

On Lynn Road, The Cobbles (NHER 8640) is an early 18th century and later house, now offices, two storeys high with a dormer attic. The rendered façade once had two pedimented doorways, but that to the left has been replaced by a sash window, although this is topped by the original doorway fanlight. Bayfields (NHER 46892) is a two storey former house and shop of about 1700, now offices, of flint and carstone refaced in brick.

On Wretton Road, Canterbury House (NHER 8642) is a probably 16th century part timber framed house, later altered and extended on several occasions in the 17th to 19th centuries. Manor House and Manor Lodge (NHER 46893) is a mid 18th century former farmhouse, now two dwellings, with additions and alterations of about 1810. Originally one storey high with an attic, the building was raised at the latter date to two storeys and a dormer attic. Manor Lodge was altered in the late 20th century and has modern windows and a long outshut to the rear. Manor House has a two storey rear extension of about 1810 and a further 20th century cross wing.

To the northwest, on Boughton Road, is the Tower Mill Restaurant (NHER 2644), a tall five floor brick tower mill, built in about 1870 on the site of an earlier mill and raised by two floors in 1900. It was derelict by 1936, but, together with the adjoining granary, was restored for use as a restaurant in 1982. Much of the internal machinery survives.

North of the River Wissey on Stoke Ferry Fen is a diesel powered pumping station (NHER 41057) built in 1939. An electric pump was installed in 1980 and the old building made into a store.

Southeast of Stoke Ferry, north of the footbridge over the river, is the site of a World War Two anti-tank mortar (NHER 32687), dating to about 1940. It has since been destroyed.

The most historically recent entry on the record is the site of a Royal Observer Corps Cold War underground monitoring post and an earlier above-ground aircraft observation building (NHER 35431) west of Little Lane. The underground post, which would have been used to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear attack, can no longer be seen, but the earlier observation building remains.

P. Aldridge (NLA), 31 July 2007.

 

Further Reading

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

Brown, P., 1984. Domesday Book; Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

Pevsner, N. & Wilson, B., 1999. The Buildings of England: Norfolk 2: North-West and South (London, Penguin Books)

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