Parish Summary: Snetterton

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 Snetterton is situated in the Breckland district of Norfolk. It borders Shropham to the northwest, Quidenham to the south and east and Attleborough to the northeast. The name Snetterton may derive from the Old English phrase meaning ‘Syntra’s farm’. The parish has a long history and was well established by the time of the Norman Conquest, with its population, land ownership and productive resources being detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086. This document mentions that Ralph son of Herlwin and Walter of Dol held the lands after the Norman Conquest. This document also lists numerous sheep and two beehives.

The earliest finds from the parish are prehistoric flint tools and implements (NHER 29946, 29953 and 30827). Many of these have been recovered by an extensive fieldwalking survey that was conducted in the 1990s. In terms of early sites, the most important one in Snetterton exists at Grange Farm (NHER 38602). Here, a series of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age pits, gullies and post-holes were found. Mid to Late Iron Age pits and a possible ring ditch were also noted, and this suggests the site was an important settlement area throughout the prehistoric period.

In addition to the Grange Farm site, a number of separate Bronze Age sites and finds have been positively identified. The majority of these sites take the form of hearths (e.g. NHER 9178, 9179 and 9180), with seven in all recorded in the parish. A single round barrow (NHER 9165) has also been discovered, with an associated spindle whorl of presumably contemporary date.

The only other evidence for Iron Age activity in the parish was a wooden bridge or causeway crossing the River Thet (NHER 36198) that was found during the A11 Roudham to Attleborough Improvement Scheme. Of course, a few pottery sherds (NHER 13071 and 29947) dating to this era have also been found, but their scattered find spots do not provide any further information on this period of the parish’s past. 

During the Roman period there was a continuation of activity at Grange Farm, illustrated by a number of field systems and ditches. A possible Roman road has also been identified in Snetterton on a map of 1928 (NHER 10816). A limited number of Roman artefacts have been recovered. The finest of these was a glass-centre boss brooch with gilding and saltire motifs (NHER 25478). The rest of the items consist of coins (NHER 9166 and 30137) and pottery sherds (NHER 30657 and 30827).

The Saxon period is well represented by sites and finds. A settlement consisting of sunken-featured buildings, pits and metalworking areas existed at Grange Farm (NHER 36802). Two Early Saxon cemeteries have also been found (NHER 9035 and 9036). One of these was found in 1829 and had a number of cremation urns (NHER 9036), whilst the other was found in 1999 and had a large number of metalwork items, clothes fittings, tools and beads. Several Saxon pits and postholes have also been identified near to Wash Lane (NHER 36321). These may show another area of occupation or manufacturing in Snetterton during this era. Saxon finds away from the cemetery sites mentioned above consist of pottery sherds (NHER 13071 and 29953) and coins (NHER 36198).

During the medieval period Snetterton had two churches: All Saints’ and St Andrew’s. All Saints’ (NHER 9067) has a 14th century tower, but an Early English chancel and Decorated nave. As it was derelict for a long period before its restoration in the 1980s few of the internal furnishings remain. The screen, organ, paten and chalice are gone but the 19th century font remains.

The other church was dedicated to St Andrew (NHER 9038) and attributed to the settlement of Ashby in the Domesday Book. The church no longer exists as the settlement of Ashby was depopulated in the later medieval period. However, the exact location of the deserted village of Ashby (NHER 20600) is disputed, and as such the whereabouts of St Andrew’s is unknown. However, another former medieval settlement area has been identified to the west of South Farm (NHER 24048) where a concentration of pottery sherds has been recorded.

Three medieval wayside crosses have also been recorded in Snetterton. One of these was associated with the former settlement of Ashby (NHER 31543); another lies close to the heath (NHER 31544) whilst the last one stands at a location off Sandy Lane, to the northeast of the poultry houses (NHER 31545). Nothing of these crosses remains although it has been suggested that one of these is in fact the Cockrowstone in Hargham (NHER 9159).

A number of medieval finds have been discovered in Snetterton. The most noteworthy finds comprise a sword chape (NHER 25478), a seal matrix (NHER 36198) and part of a cauldron (NHER 31107). Most of the rest take the form of pottery sherds, many found by the Hargham fieldwalking survey (e.g. NHER 29946 and 29955). 

In the post medieval period a number of fine cottages and farmhouses were erected. A typical example is North Farmhouse (NHER 46255), built in the 18th century with a rendered brick façade and pantile roof. The Thatches on the Hargham Road (41371) are slightly earlier in date, having been constructed in the late 17th century. These cottages are particularly pleasing as they retain traditional wattle and daub exterior and thatched roofs. The cottages at Holly Lodge Farm (NHER 417370) have also been listed as properties of architectural interest, although these differ from the Thatches in that they are made from rendered clay lump rather than wattle and daub.

Sadly, two of the most intriguing post medieval buildings in Snetterton do not survive into modernity. A possible manor house (NHER 9061) was situated behind Hall Farm. It was depicted on a map of 1681 and a number of moats and dykes survive here as a testament to its former presence. In addition, maps suggest that a guildhall (NHER 9062) dating to the late medieval/early post medieval period may have once stood near to Rectory Lodge. Other post-medieval features that have been identified include a well (NHER 9167), a windmill (20601) and agricultural field systems (NHER 9168).

A brief mention should be made of the post medieval artefacts that have been recovered from Snetterton. Most of these tend to be mundane items related to everyday life. A representative selection of such items could include the following finds: coins (NHER 30137), clay tobacco pipe stems (36802), thimbles (NHER 24474) and tools – such as part of knife blade (NHER 9035). 

The most recent record relates to the Second World War. During the war Snetterton was home to a large airfield that was used by the USAAF 96th Bombardment Group. Several of the runways remain along with a single hangar, Romney huts and a water tower. However, nowadays the airfield is better known as a motorcar racetrack which hosts frequent events.

Thomas Sunley (NLA) 24 May 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.2 Norwich, Central and South 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)

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