Parish Summary: Denton

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

Denton is a south Norfolk parish, located between Alburgh and Earsham, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. The village name is Old English and means ‘village in the valley’, probably referring to the original settlement that was concentrated around the church. It moved after the plague of 1665 and the concentration of occupation is now to the north of the church. There are also smaller hamlets at Darrow Green, Misery Corner and Great Green. The village is first recorded in the Domesday Book when William the Conqueror and Eudo son of Spirwic are recorded as the landowners. The records include an early medieval motte and bailey castle. Metal detecting and fieldwalking have helped to fill in some gaps in our knowledge of the local history of settlement.

The earliest find is a Mesolithic or Neolithic flint axehead (NHER 11053) and a later Neolithic axehead (NHER 17389), a Neolithic scraper (NHER 25420) and two Neolithic to Bronze Age maceheads (NHER 11044 and 11046) have also been found in the parish. There is no concentration of these finds suggesting that activity was probably widespread.  A Late Iron Age copper alloy coin (NHER 35976) minted on the continent has been found at a possible Roman settlement (NHER 35976) suggesting that there might have been some earlier prehistoric activity on this site.  

Illustration of Roman bowl.

A Roman copper alloy bowl found in Denton. (© NCC)

A selection of Roman pottery, coins and brooches along with a complete Roman copper alloy vessel and metal working waste has been found at this settlement site. Elsewhere within the parish there is more evidence of Roman activity including other scatters of Roman pottery (NHER 11047 and 13562) and two Roman coins (NHER 19764 and 36565). These finds are located north of the church along the north side of the small river valley. There is much less evidence for Saxon activity in the parish, although we know that the village existed at this time as it is recorded in the Domesday Book just after this period. One Late Saxon angled stirrup mount (NHER 35976) has been found at the earlier Roman settlement. The motte and bailey (NHER 11047) have, incorrectly, been labelled Saxon in the past, but are actually medieval. 

Photograph of St Mary's Church, Denton.

St Mary's Church, Denton. (© NCC)

The castle was probably built just after the Norman Conquest by the D’ Albinis although this is not sure. The round tower of St Mary’s church (NHER 11066) is also Norman. There is evidence for several medieval moats (NHER 11058, 11059 and 14305) within the parish and in-depth analysis of the buildings at East Hall (NHER 11061) has suggested that this was an early medieval manor. Later it appears that this manorial site was moved to the north to Hall Farm Barns (NHER 11060). The earthworks at Great Green suggest there was a smaller complex here – perhaps a medieval toft (NHER 32981) adjoining the common. The medieval aisled hall at Pear Tree Farm (NHER 11053) now hides under a much more modern exterior and recent changes. There have also been finds of medieval pottery (NHER 36639, 13562 and 38080) and medieval metal objects (NHER 36565) from across the parish. Manuring during medieval agriculture probably spread these around.

Grand houses continued to be built in the post medieval period – Denton House (NHER 22397) was constructed in the 19th century with a number of unusual garden buildings including a grotto and a pagoda. Another 19th century building (NHER 42756) uses the base of a post mill as a polygonal extension. The congregational chapel (NHER 13802) was also built in the 19th century. Several other timber framed buildings (NHER 21348, 20574 and 23495) from this period also survive.

There is a great deal of potential for the development of knowledge of the parish through the integration of documentary records, buildings survey and archaeological fieldwalking and metal detecting to understand the changing patterns of settlement from the medieval period onwards. The lack of archaeological records from the earlier periods does not necessarily represent a lack of activity, but simply a lack of archaeological research.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 20 September 2005.

 

Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Philimore)

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

Rye, J., 2000. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham,The Larks Press)

Unknown, Unknown. ‘Denton, Norfolk’. Available:

http://www.denton-norfolk.co.uk/. Accessed 3 February 2006.

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