Parish Summary: Hempstead (North Norfolk)

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

Hempstead is a small parish in the North Norfolk district. It lies just east of Holt. In the Domesday Book it is recorded as being an outlier of the large manor of Holt. Confusingly there are two Hempsteads in Norfolk. The other Hempstead is close to North Walsham further to the east. Normally the name is translated as meaning ‘the homestead’, however there is documentary evidence to suggest that Hempstead near Holt derives from Old English and means ‘place where hemp is grown’.

The earliest archaeological find recorded in the parish is a Palaeolithic flint handaxe (NHER 6509). Several Neolithic handaxes (NHER 6510, 6512, 14717 and 6553) have been recovered. A Neolithic adze (NHER 6511) has also been recorded. More unusually a piece of Neolithic decorated pottery (NHER 12882) has been found. A Bronze Age looped copper alloy palstave (NHER 6513) has been recovered from the parish. Two prehistoric sites have been identified but these are very difficult to date. A possible prehistoric burnt mound or hearth (NHER 12968) has been seen in the side of a drainage ditch. Prehistoric archaeological features (NHER 6074) have also been recorded at an excavation at the site of Loose Hall.

There is very little evidence for Roman activity in the parish. Several coins (NHER 6554 and 31376) have been found. A possible iron axehead (NHER 24045) from the area has been x-rayed by the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service Conservation Department. The only other find is an annular brooch (NHER 6074) but it isn’t clear whether this is Roman or Early Saxon. A Middle Saxon strap end with stamped decoration (NHER 31376) has also been recorded. The tower of All Saints’ Church (NHER 6574) is Saxo-Norman.  

Drawing of a medieval tile found at the possible site of Loose's Hall, a medieval moated manor in Hempstead.

A medieval tile found at the possible site of Loose's Hall, a medieval moated manor in Hempstead. (© NCC.)

Excavations at the site of Loose Hall have enabled a medieval building and three rooms within it to be identified (NHER 6074). Two of these rooms had tiled floors. Some of these tiles had relief decoration including some heraldic designs. This building was enclosed by a medieval moat. Nether Hall (NHER 13445), another medieval hall, may have stood on the site of the later Hempstead Hall. The church (NHER 6574) was rebuilt in the 14th century. Apart from these sites, pieces of medieval pottery (NHER 5791, 11847, 12967 and 17817) have been found at various locations within the parish.

It can be presumed that there was once a post medieval watermill next to the ruined mill house (NHER 6526). The site of a post medieval windmill can be seen on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map made in 1836 and the location of post medieval hydraulic rams (NHER 6524) have also been recorded. The improvement of a meadow led to the discovery of a previously unknown post medieval building (NHER 11848). Several other post medieval buildings still survive in the village. Hempstead Hall (NHER 13445) and Green Farm House (NHER 22727) both date to the 17th century. The Red House (NHER 43065) has an interesting plaque commemorating Samuel Fowles, the head keeper of the Hempstead Estate, who died in 1909. Finds of post medieval pottery include several pieces of imported vessels (NHER 21153). The thatched apse of the church (NHER 6574) was built between 1925 and 1926.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 16 February 2006.

 

Further Reading

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

G55artworks, 2006, ‘Hempstead’. Available:

http://www.northnorfolkimages.co.uk/location/hempstead.html. Accessed: 17 February 2006.

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)

 

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