Parish Summary: Hethersett

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

Hethersett is a small parish to the southwest of Norwich, close to the town of Wymondham. The village has grown rapidly in size since the mid 20th century, and on Faden’s map of 1797 Hethersett is strung out along the main Wymondham to Norwich road, and around Hethersett Common. By 1883, when the first edition of the Ordnance Survey six-inch was published, the common had been enclosed, although the former edge of the common can still be traced in field boundaries.

The earliest finds from the parish date from the Palaeolithic period. Flint flakes (NHER 24648), a flint blade (NHER 23826) and a large Palaeolithic flint (NHER 17936), which has been identified as an axe roughout, have been found. Many other prehistoric finds have also been recovered including prehistoric pot boilers (NHER 9496, 24648, 16430), flint flake (NHER 9469, 15600 and 22817) and other flint implements (NHER 21568, 21636, 21862, 22756, 22757, 22758, 22818 and 24737). A Mesolithic flint blade (NHER 22814) and other flints (NHER 24646, 24647), Neolithic flint implements (NHER 9461, 12622, 13214, 13216, 13413, 13414, 14533, 17932, 22812, 22813 and 22815), an arrowhead (NHER 19239) and Neolithic axeheads (NHER 21637, 28149 and 35276) have also been found. Two Bronze Age round barrows (NHER 9463 and 9464) survive as earthworks. The barrows were within a plantation known as Big Wood that was felled in the 1920s. A Bronze Age rapier or spearhead (NHER 22819) and a Late Bronze Age punch (NHER 43109) have been found by metal detecting.

An Iron Age coin (NHER 9396), pottery (NHER 9423 and 22818) and a Late Iron Age or Roman terret (NHER 9382) have been recovered.

At the edge of the parish is the site of a Roman settlement (NHER 9270). Roman building material suggesting the presence of several buildings has been recovered from the site, as well as Roman coins, pottery and metal finds. In 1985 the remains of an infant in a lead coffin were discovered on the site. A geophysical assessment in 2003 revealed a series of Roman ditches and pits (NHER 37645) on the edge of the settlement. The features are probably related to quarrying and arable farming taking place close to the Roman settlement. A Roman road (NHER 19725) is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs, running through the parish from the Roman town of Venta Icenorum to Watton. Roman coins (NHER 9351, 9466, 16870, 20471, 22822, 22823, 22992, 23692, 23826, 23858, 33067 and 33073 to 33077), pottery (NHER 16870, 21862, 22604, 22758, 22818, 24059 and 32865) and other metal finds (NHER 22605, 24043 and 29289) have been found in the parish, as well as fragment of a Roman glass vessel (NHER 21568), brooches (NHER 13414, 21862, 22604, 22643 and 22755), figurines of Hercules (NHER 9465) and a ram (NHER 25509) and an eagle cart mount (NHER 28417). 

Drawing of an Early Saxon wrist clasp from the site of a possible Early Saxon cemetery in Hethersett.

 Early Saxon wrist clasp from the site of a possible Early Saxon cemetery in Hethersett.

 (© NCC.)

Hethersett comes from the Old English meaning ‘settlement of the dwellers among the heather’, or ‘heather fold’. The site of an Early Saxon cemetery (NHER 21862) has been revealed through metal detecting, and Early Saxon brooches and other metal finds have been recovered from the site. In 1086 Hethersett was held by Count Alan and Godric the Steward, and is recorded as a large and valuable holding, with two churches and over eighty freemen. Metal detecting has also recovered a number of Late Saxon finds, including a brooch (NHER 9468), a stirrup mount (NHER 22604), a strap end (NHER 29289) and a bridle cheek-piece (NHER 34418). A Late Saxon brooch designed as an imitation Roman coin (NHER 9382) has also been found.

The deserted medieval village of Cantley (NHER 9469) is also mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it was held by the King. Cantley was also a large and valuable holding and is listed with four hundred sheep! The village was located close to the route of the A11, and the name is preserved as Cantley Farm, Cantley Wood and Cantley Lane. The medieval church of Cantley (NHER 9495) was dedicated to All Saints, the living was united with Hethersett in the 14th century, and the parish church served as a chapel until the Reformation.

St Remigius’ church (NHER 9470) in Hethersett dates mainly to the 14th century, and was extensively restored in the 19th century. The original chancel was demolished in the 16th century and was not rebuilt until the 19th century. A medieval moat (NHER 9352) in the grounds of Thickthorn Hall was the site of the manor house of Alan de Thickthorn in the 13th century. The moat was extended to form an artificial lake in the early 19th century.  Medieval finds from the parish include coins, pottery and metal finds such as a pilgrim badge (NHER 33447) in the shape of a woman holding a feather and a branch.

The site of Mockbeggar Hall (NHER 12486) is close to the parish church. The hall was demolished in the 19th century and the unusual name was acquired after the hall was turned in labourers’ cottages. Apple Cottage (NHER 21897) is partially timber framed, and dates back to the 16th century. The cottage was once part of a larger timber framed house that had upper floors inserted in the 17th century. Myrtle Cottage (NHER 21898) is a 16th and 17th century timber framed house that may originally have been a medieval open hall house. The cottage was used as a Quaker meeting-house in the 18th century. Similarly, the Thatched Cottage (NHER 43217) is a 16th century timber framed house that may also have been an open hall house. The Manor House (NHER 14203) is a late 16th and early 17th century building. The Priory (NHER 14204) is a late 16th century house with early 17th century alterations. Wood Hall (NHER 9512) is a 17th century brick hall built around an earlier core, with 17th century garden walls and 19th century alterations. Cedar Grange (NHER 12484), Whitehouse Farm (NHER 11614), Cantley House (NHER 14209), the King’s Head (NHER 25244) and Lyngate Farm (NHER 41853) are all 17th century houses.

Kett’s Oak (NHER 9451), on the side of the main Norwich to Wymondham road, is locally reputed to be the site where Robert Kett addressed the rebels in 1549. 

Photograph of Hethersett National School, now Hethersett Middle School. From Picture Norfolk.

Hethersett National School, now Hethersett Middle School.

Courtesy of Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service.

Planet Farm (NHER 34064) and the Smithy (NHER 43216) are both 18th century houses. Hethersett Old Hall (NHER 9467) is a late 18th century building that is now a school. To the northeast of the Hall is a late 18th century barn that contains reused 16th century timbers. Several late 18th century milestones (NHER 43210 to 43213) stand close to the former turnpike road. The Hollies (NHER 43215) and Park Farm (NHER 43214) both date from the early to mid 19th century. Thickthorn Hall (NHER 9417) is an early 19th century mansion surrounded by a small landscape park (NHER 33732) with a 19th century kitchen garden, lodges (NHER 11805 and 42822) and concrete greenhouses from the 1930s. An unusual late 18th century octagonal barn stands in the grounds of the Hall.

Modern Hethersett is much now larger due to late 20th century developments, and is part of the Norwich commuter belt.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 3 March 2006.

 

Further Reading

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

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)

Hethersett Society, unknown. 'The Hethersett Archive'. Available:

www.hethersettarchive.org.uk. Accessed: 3 March 2006 

Hethersett Society, unknown. 'Hethersett Heritage'. Available:

http://freespace.virgin.net/peter.steward/booklet.htm. Accessed :3 March 2006.

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