Parish Summary: East Walton

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

The parish of East Walton is located in West Norfolk, northwest of Swaffham and east of King’s Lynn. The hamlet of East Walton is situated in the centre of the parish, with isolated farms and houses scattered around.  Walton Common, Walton Warren, Walton Wood and Lamb’s Common occupy low-lying land in the west and are criss-crossed by streams and drains. The east is mostly open farmland. The River Nar forms part of the southern parish boundary.

A reasonable amount of archaeological work has been conducted in the parish. Quite a lot of metal detecting has taken place, there has been some fieldwalking and many stray finds have been recorded. A number of buildings and sites have also been visited. Much of the fieldwork, however, has been carried out in a broad strip of land that runs north to south through the centre of the parish. This means that most finds and sites have been recorded in this area. The distributions of finds and sites strongly reflect this.

Prehistoric flint artefacts have been found throughout the centre of the parish. Although it is not possible to date many of these more closely, it is possible to date a good number. These include at least six Neolithic polished axeheads, a Neolithic flaked axehead and a Bronze Age arrowhead. The number and type of objects found at one site (NHER 17963) suggest that flint artefacts may have been made there during the Neolithic and/or Bronze Age. Bronze Age metal objects have also been recorded and include a palstave, a knife, two awls and three spearheads.

Excavation in 2004 (NHER 37617) revealed features including a possible Early Bronze Age circular enclosure and a ditch of the same period which appeared to have been replaced by a wider Late Bronze Age or Iron Age ditch on the same alignment. Finds include earlier Neolithic to Iron Age pottery and prehistoric worked flints.

Five ring ditches have been identified on aerial photographs. They are all located to the east of East Walton village on land sloping up from the Walton Common streams and are probably the remains of Bronze Age barrows. One may be a round barrow (NHER 3754 and 11755) that was excavated during the 19th century. A number of inhumations and a pot of Bronze Age, Iron Age or Early Saxon date were recovered from it; the uncertain date of the pot means that the date of the barrow is uncertain. In the 1950s a Bronze Age cremation urn and cremated bones (NHER 3945) were found during ploughing in the south of the parish. This cremation may have been an isolated burial or part of an undiscovered cemetery.

A relatively large amount of Iron Age material has been recovered and it suggests that the parish was an important location during the period. Eleven coins have been reported, nine of which are Iceni and one of which is  Trinovantian. Other objects include a terret (NHER 30884), a terret mount, a sword pommel and pottery.

Metal detecting and fieldwalking have identified the sites of three possible Roman settlements. All are located in the south of the parish, with one in the southwest close to the River Nar (NHER 3950), one in the southwest (NHER 3951) and one south of the modern hamlet (NHER 29273). The objects found include large quantities of pottery, coins, brooches, tweezers, a bracelet, animal bones and oyster shells. The southeastern site may have had a cemetery and in 1952 a cremation urn (NHER 3949) was found close by. Metal working probably took place at the possible southwestern settlement. Other Roman artefacts have been found throughout the central strip and they include pottery, coins and metalwork.

Stray finds, fieldwalking, metal detecting and excavation have shown that during the Early Saxon period people were buried in the north of the parish. In the northeast there was a cremation cemetery, possibly with associated inhumations (NHER 1060 and probably 30039), and it seems probable that in the northwest there was an inhumation cemetery (NHER 25856 and 37195). The sites are about 450m apart and although they could be sections of one large cemetery, it is perhaps more likely that burial took place in the different locations at different times. Finds from the cemeteries include large amounts of pottery, brooches, girdle hangers, sleeve clasps, burnt glass beads, molten metal fragments and cremated bones. Early Saxon objects found elsewhere include a potter's stamp (NHER 29273) and two pierced Roman coins (NHER 19639) that were probably used as pendants. An ornament containing a late 3rd century AD coin may have been discovered in the parish, although it may have come from West Walton.

Middle Saxon pottery, pins, brooches and an 8th century coin have been found in the parish. A concentration of objects (NHER 29273, 3768 and 19109) found south of the modern hamlet suggests that there may have been settlement here. The site may well have continued in use during the Late Saxon period. If so, it is possible that the settlement was bigger than the modern hamlet or that it moved northwards. Late Saxon objects from the parish include pottery, strap fittings, hooked tags, brooches and a coin of Aethelred II.

East Walton is recorded as ‘Waltuna’ in the Domesday Book of 1086. This is an Old English name meaning either ‘settlement in a wood’ or ‘settlement on uncultivated moorland’. Count Alan, Roger Bigot and Ralph of Tosny held land in the parish. Roger’s land was an outlier of estates at Pentney, while Ralph’s land was associated with estates at Necton. Slaves, ploughs, meadows, horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, beehives and a mill were noted.

St Mary’s Church (NHER 3773) is located in the modern hamlet. It is mostly medieval, but a wall and a window could be Late Saxon. The round tower dates to the late 12th century, the church was remodelled in the 15th century, the interior was redesigned during the 18th century and restoration work was undertaken in the 19th century. To the north are the ruins of the medieval St Andrew’s Chapel (NHER 3757). It probably went out of use during the 16th century. In the 18th century it was used as a mill house and was ruined by 1845. The base of a medieval cross stands in the west doorway.

During the medieval and post medieval periods settlement covered a larger area than it does now. Earthworks of enclosures, possible tofts, building platforms, trackways, hollow ways, ponds and field boundaries survive to the north and south of the modern hamlet and around Summer End (NHER 3761, 12154, 30996, 31091 and 32291). It is interesting to note that all the earthwork sites are dotted along the edge of Walton Wood and Walton Common. Presumably a common edge location was an important consideration when property and building sites were being chosen.

Medieval and post medieval pottery, coins and metalwork have been collected throughout the centre of the parish. The medieval coins include one of King Erik Magnusson of Norway, while one post medieval example is Portuguese. Two objects have been linked to specific people. One is a seal that belonged to a Reginald Page; the other is a late 13th/14th century horse harness pendant that belonged to a Robert Baynard of Great Hautbois.  

A 19th century wheelwright's oven showing the exterior of the barrel vaulted chamber and the central chimney stack.

A 19th century wheelwright's oven in East Walton. (© NCC.)

Summerend Farmhouse (NHER 33838) is an 18th century house. In the modern hamlet there is an 18th or 19th century cottage that has reused medieval stonework in the west gable (NHER 17381) and a 19th century wheelwright's oven (NHER 17380). At least two of the roads shown on Faden’s map of 1797 no longer exist. Until ploughing in the mid 1980s levelled it, the route of one was partly visible as an earthwork (NHER 3759).

During World War Two a searchlight battery (NHER 30997) and a pillbox were built to the east of the hamlet. The area around the battery was used by the military during preparations for D Day. In the south a metal tank trap (NHER 13430) was built on the bridge over the River Nar. It survives and is one of only a few to do so. On 23 August 1942 a German bomber crashed in Walton Wood (NHER 15542), although exactly where is uncertain.

David Robertson (NLA), 9 February 2006.


Further Reading

Barringer, C., 1989. Faden’s Map of Norfolk (Dereham, Larks Press)

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

Chapman, G., 2005. 'East Walton – the village'. Available: Accessed: 8 February 2006.

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

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

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