Parish Summary: Shouldham Thorpe

This Parish Summary is very much an overview of the 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

The small parish of Shouldham Thorpe is situated in west Norfolk, looking on the map rather squashed between Runcton Holme to the west and Shouldham to the east. Shouldham comes possibly from the Old English for ‘a homestead that paid rent’, and Thorpe is Old Norse for hamlet. The area was certainly an established settlement by the time of the Norman conquest, its population, land ownership and productive resources being detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it was referred to as just Thorpe.

The earliest evidence of human activity comes in the form of a solitary Mesolithic perforated stone macehead (NHER 17691), found in 1980 on the northeastern edge of the parish. There are no Neolithic finds at the date of writing.

The Bronze Age may have left traces of the earliest structures. Two ring ditches (NHER 35481 and 35492), flattened round barrows, have been tentatively identified from aerial photographs, though nothing can be seen from the ground. Bronze Age finds are a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead (NHER 17572) and a copper alloy rapier or knife (NHER 39265). The Iron Age is currently represented by fragments of pottery (NHER 31490), a coin and a curious moustache-shaped object of unknown function (both from NHER 39265).


A Bronze Age/Iron Age unidentified object, which may be a toggle.

A Bronze Age/Iron Age unidentified object, which may be a toggle. (© NCC and S. White.) 

There is as yet no evidence of Roman structures, but a number of objects from the period have been recovered, including coins (NHER 16536, 30235 and 31490), brooches (NHER 31490, 34389 and 39265), pottery fragments (NHER 30234) and tiles (NHER 31490). Saxon finds are a wrist clasp (NHER 31490), a ring (NHER 30235) and a hooked tag and box mount (NHER 16536).

The medieval period has left the parish with fragments of its oldest surviving building. St Mary’s Church (NHER 4366) is an early 12th century church, the tower of which collapsed in 1732. The remainder was rebuilt in 1858 in 14th and 15th century style, and today consists of a nave, bell cote, chancel and a lean-to north vestry. The old Norman north doorway has been moved round to the west and used again, and two lancets survive in the chancel, but the rest is largely Victorian. Inside is a carved 15th century octagonal font and a wall monument of 1602 to Jane, Anne and John Stouarde. In the chancel is a wall tablet to Thomas Buttes, who died in 1600.

Other medieval buildings have not survived. The site of Foston medieval settlement (NHER 11960) is visible from the air as a complex of cropmarks confused by natural markings and by later industry and forestry. The village's church (see NHER 4289) was demolished in the 16th century, though skeletons and coffin lids noted to the south of the 19th century brickworks (now gone) in 1965 probably mark the position of the graveyard.

Evidence of medieval agriculture has also been identified in the form of ridge and furrow cultivation marks (NHER 16536, 25383, 25385 and 30234), visible on aerial photographs.

Medieval finds include pottery fragments (NHER 30234, 30235 and 31490), buckles (NHER 18028, 29226 and 3025), a coin (NHER 37137), a brooch (NHER 30235) and a cauldron leg (NHER 34389).

Of the surviving post medieval buildings in the parish, probably the earliest is Hall House (NHER 46856), a late 17th century carstone house absorbed by a mid 18th century enlargement and late 18th century additions. Foremans House (NHER 47106) is an early 18th century two storey carstone and brick house, now divided into two dwellings with 20th century entrance doors and windows.

Northwest of Hall House is Fodderstone Windmill (NHER 4356), a 19th century yellow brick tower mill, last used in 1900. It was derelict by 1980, but has since been renovated as a dwelling. The Old Farmhouse on South Road (NHER 47074) is a two storey brick house of about 1830 with a slate roof and a central door behind a doorcase with Roman Doric demi-columns supporting an entablature. The sash windows are all late 20th century. Manor Farm (NHER 29980) to the southeast is a model farm of the 1860s with an 18th century granary. The pigsties have boiling rooms for potatoes and the other buildings have sliding doors and half glazed windows.

P. Aldridge (NLA), 29 May 2007.


Further Reading

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

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

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