Parish Summary: Spixworth

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

The parish of Spixworth is situated in the Norfolk Broads. It lies south of Frettenham, east of Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith, north of Catton and Sprowston and west of Beeston St Andrew. The name Spixworth derives from the Old English phrase meaning either ‘Spic’s enclosure’ or ‘bacon farm’. The parish has a long history and was certainly well established by the time of the Norman Conquest with its population, land ownership and productive resources detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086. This document states that after the Norman Conquest the lands here were held by Roger of Poitou and that the parish possessed a mill.

The earliest archaeological site dates to the Neolithic period (NHER 24651). This site was used for the production of flint tools and fieldwalking here recovered numerous objects including cores, axehead roughouts, scrapers, flakes, blades and a gouge/adze. It is possible that some of these tools were produced in the Mesolithic period but the majority were felt to be of Neolithic date. However, a number of Mesolithic objects have been found at other locations in the parish (NHER 23810 and 24515) with a flaked flint axehead comprising the finest of these artefacts (NHER 32216).

The subsequent Bronze Age is primarily represented by a couple of socketed axeheads (NHER 11129 and 20566); archetypal finds for this era. A flint arrowhead dating to the early part of the period (NHER 24415) comprises the only other significant Bronze Age find. Sadly, no Iron Age sites or finds have been positively identified in Spixworth.

Aerial photographs of Spixworth show the cropmarks of a possible Roman marching camp (NHER 16451) located northwest of the Silver Birches on the Buxton Road. This was identified by two parallel ditches which form an enclosure with a right-angled radiused corner at the southeast. In addition, four very worn Roman coins were recovered from within this enclosure. No other Roman sites have been recorded but metal detecting across the various fields in the parish has retrieved an assortment of small finds. Most of these Roman objects take the form of coins (NHER 24336 and 24515) or pottery sherds (NHER 50033) but a couple of brooches (NHER 24234) have also been found, including a rather fine one of the Hod Hill type (NHER 24926). 

Drawing of an unusual Late Saxon disc brooch of Continental design from Spixworth.

An unusual Late Saxon disc brooch of Continental design from Spixworth. (© NCC)

The Saxon period in Spixworth is solely represented by a selection of metalwork objects. Objects from the early part of the period comprise a wrist clasp (NHER 34619) and a cruciform brooch (NHER 34862). A couple of Middle Saxon objects have also been found, with a fine disc brooch crafted in the form of a backward-turning animal (NHER 25101) and a rather more mundane pinhead (NHER 22046). However, the best Saxon object dates to the latter part of the period and comprises an unusual disc brooch of a Continental design (NHER 39564).  

The most prominent reminder of the medieval heritage of Spixworth is St Peter’s Church (NHER 8027), a most unusual building. It has a large combined chancel and nave in the Decorated style, but the spindly unbuttressed west tower looks like it might have been part of an older and smaller church. Some of the windows in the south aisle are Decorated, but two are Perpendicular, as is the arcade to the main church. Inside, there is a cusped pisicina by the south door, a Norman font, superb 18th century floor tombs in the sanctuary and other fine 19th century memorials.

A possible medieval road has also been located in Spixworth from aerial photographs taken in 1946 (NHER 34202). This former route may be related to the parkland surrounding the site of the former Hall (NHER 8022). Part of a medieval boundary bank has also been identified (NHER 31018). It survives up to 1.5m high in some places and follows the Spixworth/Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith parish boundary in some places.

A large number of medieval artefacts have been discovered. These items range from everyday utilitarian items like horseshoes (NHER 8010), strap plates (NHER 39564), bells (NHER 21022) and knife handles (NHER 24738) to more personal items like horse harness pendants (NHER 35674 and 34267), seal matrices (NHER 49820 and 28780) and brooches (NHER 34619). Religious objects have also been found, with a Papal bull of Alexander III (1159-81) discovered by a metal detectorist in 1997 (NHER 33424).

During the post medieval period Spixworth had a grand Hall (NHER 8022). It was constructed in the early 17th century but was demolished in 1950. However, a number of fine buildings associated with the hall do survive including a barn and stables/granary which incorporates blocks of medieval stonework. Other structures belonging to this former manor have been identified including a dovecote (NHER 12274) and icehouse (NHER 12275). Additionally, the grand gate piers and railings (NHER 46065) that were added to the Hall in the 19th century survive at the southeast entrance to the site.

Several farmhouses were also erected in the post medieval era. Grange Farm House (NHER 45861), on Church Lane, dates to the 18th century and later and is notable for its parapeted gables and large chimneystack. Parsonage Farm (NHER 12271) is earlier in date but has undergone numerous additions and alterations. Inside, it incorporates reused medieval colonettes in the fireplace, and these may have come from St Peter’s Church (NHER 8027).

Of the many post medieval small finds that have been recovered from Spixworth, several of the more interesting ones relate to the trading of goods. A cloth seal bearing the mark of the Norwich Weaver’s Company (NHER 34862) has been discovered, along with a plainer cloth seal (NHER 20913). A couple of coin weights have also been recovered (e.g. NHER 34462) along with a trader’s token (NHER 35669). Other finds worth a mention include a pipe tamper depicting St George slaying the dragon (NHER 34699), a finger ring (NHER 35832) and part of a candle snuffer (NHER 39722).

The most recent archaeological record relates to the crash site of a World War Two aeroplane (NHER 31798). A Liberator bomber crashed near the northern edge of a field belonging to Grange Farm, but few other details are known.

Thomas Sunley (NLA) 13 June 2007.

 

Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. The Domesday Book (Chichester, Phillimore & Co.)

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.1 North-East Norfolk (Cambridge: Acorn Editions)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1999. The Buildings of England, Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East (London, Penguin)

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

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