Parish Summary: East Winch

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

East Winch, from the Old English meaning ‘farmstead with meadowland’, is a large parish in the west of the county, close to King’s Lynn. The parish is divided by the busy A47, with the villages of East Winch, and West Bilney on either side of it.

Prehistoric flint implements have been found scattered throughout the parish, including Palaeolithic handaxes (NHER 3397, 3434, 38126, 15299, 1563316010 and 21444), Neolithic axe heads (NHER 3398, 3917, 12279 and 38127), a Neolithic arrowhead (NHER 30811) and other Neolithic flint implements (NHER 3399, 3408, 14956 and 17311). Several Bronze Age axeheads (NHER 36061 and 33417), a Bronze Age scraper (NHER 3400) and a Beaker dagger (NHER 3891) and pottery (NHER 3763) have also been found. Four prehistoric pot boiler sites (NHER 28680, 28681, 29917 and 29918) have been found close to the parish boundary, but no other definite evidence of prehistoric settlement has yet been found.

An extensive Iron Age iron-working site (NHER 12559) was excavated by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit in the 1970s and 1980s, and various smelting pits were revealed. Iron Age pottery and an Iron Age plaited torc (NHER 12559), made of gold, and almost completely undamaged have been found on the site. An Iron Age terret (NHER 23324), made of copper alloy and decorated with red enamel, has also been found. An Iron Age harness fitting (NHER 30030) and Iron Age pottery (NHER 28672) have also been found. There is ample evidence for Roman occupation. A Roman aisled building and an apsidal building (NHER 37413) were excavated by the Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust in 2003. The buildings were probably part of a well-organised agricultural estate, laid out in the 2nd and 3rd centuries with a network of fields and a drove road. On the other side of the parish is an area of Roman settlement (NHER 30030 and 41832), discovered through the quantity of pottery, metalwork and coins found by field walking and metal detecting. A hoard of Roman coins (NHER 30030) buried in the 3rd century has been found by metal detecting in the area of the settlement. Roman pottery (NHER 3435, 3784, 11984, 20180 and 28672) and Roman brooches (NHER 31095, 37106, 20180 and 28129) have also been found scattered throughout the parish.

The site of an Early Saxon settlement (NHER 28672) has been found by fieldwalking in the southeast, and an Early Saxon brooch (NHER 30030) and a pair of Early Saxon tweezers (NHER 41711) have also been found. Middle Saxon pottery (NHER 3764, 28459, 42579) and a Middle Saxon pin (NHER 28459), Late Saxon pottery (NHER 42579, 30030 and 20180), a Late Saxon bridle cheek piece (NHER 28129) and a brooch (NHER 28459), possibly dating to the Late Saxon period, have also been found by metal detecting and fieldwalking. Both East Winch and West Bilney are mentioned in Domesday Book, and although East Winch is now the smaller of the two settlements, in the Late Saxon period West Bilney was larger, and the more valuable manor. Both settlements had salt houses, and East Winch is recorded as having a fishery. Neither settlement is recorded as having a church, although both All Saint’s (NHER 3418) in East Winch, and St Cecilia’s (NHER 3774) in West Bilney, contain architectural evidence dating from the Late Saxon period.

During the medieval period the moated site of Crancourt Manor (NHER 1062) became one of the homes of the Howard family, who were the Dukes of Norfolk until the late 16th century. The small, ruined building (NHER 1062) that stands within the moat today dates from the 18th or 19th centuries, and the medieval manor house itself was demolished in the 19th century. A medieval moated site and medieval fishpond (NHER 3765) close to West Bilney were excavated in the 1950s, but have since been ploughed out. The moat (NHER 3765) was circular, with an outer enclosure, and the excavations revealed the foundations of medieval buildings, as well as medieval pottery, coins and other finds. The site of another medieval moat (NHER 35477), to the southeast of Crancourt Manor (NHER 1062), is visible as a soilmark on aerial photographs.

All Saints' Church showing the west tower, nave and chancel.

All Saints' Church, East Winch. (© NCC.)

All Saints’ Church (NHER 3418) in East Winch dates back to the Late Saxon period, and contains a 12th century piscina. The Howard family founded a chapel here in the 14th century, and funded substantial alterations to the church in the 15th century. The church was restored by Gilbert Scott in the 1870s. St Cecilia’s Church (NHER 3774) in West Bilney contains Late Saxon building material, and has a Norman nave, and a 15th century west tower. The parish remained heavily agricultural throughout the medieval period, and into the post medieval period. An area of medieval field boundaries (NHER 3406) is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs, between the village of East Winch and Hall Farm (NHER 33840). Hall Farm (NHER 33840) is a 17th century brick farmhouse, with 18th and 19th century alterations, and the barn at Station Farm (NHER 33839) is a 17th century carrstone and brick building.

A post medieval barn (NHER 11978) in East Winch contained a piece of reused medieval stonework, depicting the Holy Trinity. The origin of the stonework is unknown, although it may have come from the Blackfriars' monastery in Kings Lynn (NHER 1176). Medieval coffin lids (NHER 13345) were found in an 18th century dam, which formed part of the 18th century gardens surrounding Hall Farm (NHER 33840). A piece of carved medieval stonework, depicting the entombment of Christ (NHER 23279) is in the wall of an outbuilding at West Bilney Hall (NHER 23279), which was built in the early 20th century.

In May 1944 an aircraft (NHER 14452) crashed near East Winch during a training exercise. A World War Two pillbox (NHER 32380) was constructed on the road through East Winch Common.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 11 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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