Parish Summary: East Rudham

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

East Rudham, from the Old English meaning ’homestead or farm of a man named Rudda’, is a large parish in the northwest of the county. The history of the parish is closely entwined with that of the neighbouring parish, West Rudham. East and West Rudham lie close to the source of the River Wensum, and the villages are strung out along a common.

A number of prehistoric flint implements have been found in the parish, including Neolithic axeheads (NHER 3609, 14677, 14849, 20945 and 30812), and prehistoric flakes (NHER 41273) and scrapers (NHER 1984 and 16939). A number of Bronze Age barrows are visible in the landscape in both parishes. In East Rudham the most substantial surviving barrow is an Early Bronze Age ditched saucer barrow (NHER 11280), and other Bronze Age round barrows (NHER 1714, 3622) have also survived, whilst others (NHER 13840, 13841, 35942 and 36139) are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. A Middle Bronze Age spear (NHER 31070) and punch (NHER 32902) have been found in the parish, as well as a hoard of over forty Late Bronze Age copper alloy socketed axeheads (NHER 35907), that were found in 2001.

Rudham seems to have been a place of some significance from the Iron Age onwards. Two Iron Age coins (NHER 30883 and 34265), one of them made of gold (NHER 30883), have been found in the parish, and other Iron Age coins and objects have been found in West Rudham (NHER 28131, 30441 and 30842). However, no Iron Age settlement has been definitely located in either parish. There is a substantial amount of evidence for Roman settlement in both East and West Rudham, along the course of a possible Roman road. The site of a possible Roman building (NHER 30883) has been discovered close to the course of this road, a large amount of Roman brick and tile, as well as a fragment of window glass, have been found on the site, as well as Roman metalwork including coins and brooches (NHER 30883). The Roman settlement in Rudham seems to have been focused around the former village green, and Roman coins, brooches, pottery and other metalwork (NHER 30841, 29031 and 34265) have been found in this area.  

Early to Middle Saxon counter-plate from a belt set from East Rudham. The plate is a Frankish type

Early to Middle Saxon counter-plate from a belt set from East Rudham. The plate is a Frankish type. (© NCC)

Saxon metalwork found in East and West Rudham suggests that it was an important Middle Saxon market or ‘productive site’, and a possible estate centre. In East Rudham, Early and Middle Saxon metalwork, including an Early Saxon shield mount, a Middle Saxon coin, as well as Late Saxon metalwork, has been found around the cropmark of an early medieval church (NHER 29031), possibly a second parish church, or the first site of St Mary’s Priory (NHER 3632), which later moved to Coxford. Early and Middle Saxon pottery and metalwork, including coins, brooches and strap fittings (NHER 39531, 34265, 29031 and 30841) have been found in East Rudham, suggesting that settlement was developing here throughout the Saxon period. A number of Early Saxon brooches, mounts, pottery and other metalwork (NHER 41004 and 40787) have been found on one site in the parish, suggesting that it is the site of an Early Saxon inhumation cemetery (NHER 41004 and 40787). In Domesday Book East and West Rudham are treated as one settlement, with two churches, a number of ‘outliers’, including settlements at Bagthorpe, Houghton and Barmer, which suggests a fairly substantial settlement, perhaps a former estate centre. 

Drawing of an Early Saxon incomplete pin from East Rudham dated to the 6th to 7th century AD.

Early Saxon incomplete pin from East Rudham dated to the 6th to 7th century AD. (© NCC)

During the medieval period, Rudham was the site of a medieval market, and landholding in the parish was dominated by ecclesiastical landowners. St Mary’s Priory (NHER 3632) was founded in about 1140. Its original location may have been in St Mary’s Church (NHER 3645), or in the early medieval church (NHER 29031) that is now visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. In the 13th century the priory moved to Coxford, and became one of the wealthiest Augustinian houses in Norfolk, before its dissolution in the mid 16th century. Some walls of the priory church are still standing, and the rest of the priory buildings and precinct are visible as earthworks, and on aerial photographs (NHER 3632). St Andrew’s hospital (NHER 3634) was founded in the late 12th century as a dependant of St Mary’s Priory (NHER 3632), but its exact location within the parish is uncertain. St Mary’s Church (NHER 3645), the parish church of East Rudham, was in ruins in the 19th century, and the collapse of the tower in the 1870s prompted a complete rebuilding, using the original medieval materials, which date mainly from the 13th century. Broomsthorpe Hall (NHER 37639) is a post medieval house, the earliest parts of which date from the 17th century, but which is mainly a 19th century house. The Hall (NHER 37639) stands on the site of a medieval manor, and has a large brick undercroft that predates the present building. A group of four medieval fishponds (NHER 12317) close to the Hall (NHER 37639) may be part of a medieval manorial complex, or may be associated with St Mary’s Priory (NHER 3632). 

Drawing of part of an Early Saxon hanging bowl from East Rudham.

Part of an Early Saxon hanging bowl from East Rudham. (© NCC)

Faize Cottages (NHER 13307) date from about 1600, and contain reused medieval stonework taken from St Mary’s Priory (NHER 3632). The building was used as a workhouse in the late 18th century, prior to the construction of the Union Workhouse in Docking (NHER 15008). The Kings Head (NHER 13306) is a 17th century inn, and The Cottage on The Green (NHER 22063) also dates from the 17th century. The Mulberry Tree Hotel and Lime Tree House (NHER 13308) both date from the 18th century, whilst Anchorage House (NHER 15171) dates from the early 19th century. Anchorage House (NHER 15171) was once thought to be the site of a medieval anchorite’s cell, associated with St Mary’s Priory (NHER 3632), but the cell was actually situated within the priory precinct. Carodan (NHER 13309) is also a 19th century house, with a 19th century veterinary hospital (NHER 13309) built around a courtyard. 

Drawing of a Middle Saxon spoon from East Rudham.

Middle Saxon spoon from East Rudham. (© NCC and S. White.)

During World War Two a bombing decoy (NHER 15020) was created on Coxford Heath in the north of the parish, which was later used as a bombing range.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 7 November 2005.

 

Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book: Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore)

Mills, A.D., 1998. Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford, Oxford University Press)

Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes, 1990. The Norfolk Village Book (Newbury, Countryside Books)

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

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