Parish Summary: Hockham

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

Hockham is a parish in the Breckland district of Norfolk. It is located south of Stow Bedon and north of Roudham. To the northwest of the parish lies Cranberry Rough. This used to be Hockham Mere, until it was drained in the post medieval period.  There were once two villages, Great Hockham and Little Hockham, in the parish. Only Little Hockham Hall and farm now survive in Little Hockham. The village names derive from Old English and means ‘homestead of a man called Hocca’ or ‘place where hocks, or mallows, grow’. Both of the villages are recorded in the Domesday Book as property of Roger Bigod. This is the earliest known documentary evidence but the archaeological records suggest that there was occupation here much earlier.

The earliest evidence for activity is several Palaeolithic worked flints (NHER 9042, 15360, 15362 and 28225). The number of these early flint tools found around Hockham Mere suggests that this was an area of activity at this period. Large numbers of Mesolithic flint tools have also been found around the mere. Concentrations of these flint tools are probably occupation sites (NHER 43978, 8992 and 25972). Charcoal from fires at these sites has been found in sediments from the mere. There is also activity throughout the Neolithic period, although not enough finds to identify any particular sites. A Neolithic adze (NHER 8991), two axeheads (NHER 9043 and 9044) and a scraper (NHER 23864) have been recovered. A Bronze Age chisel (NHER 14455) has been recovered and a metal detectorist has found a Middle Bronze Age copper alloy spearhead and a gold foil covered copper alloy ring (NHER 34935) from the same site. Fieldwalking has recovered scatters of prehistoric worked and burnt flints (NHER 9045, 19611 and 19612), but it is very difficult to date or interpret these finds.

There is less evidence for Roman activity. Casual finds of coins (NHER 8991 and 25488) include a large number of 3rd and 4th century coins from the back garden of Briardene (NHER 25488). Some small scatters of pottery (NHER 15197, 19611 and 24900) have been recorded by fieldwalking. A knife or razor handle (NHER 35279) has also been recovered. Metal detecting found two Roman brooches (NHER 34935).

Saxon origins for Little and Great Hockham have been suggested in the past but a fieldwalking survey carried out by Alan Davison has given a clearer idea of the shape and size of these settlements during the period. An Early Saxon brooch and buckle frame found by a metal detectorist is evidence of activity (NHER 34935). Pottery recovered from the core area of Little Hockham around the hall indicates this was settled by the Middle Saxon period (NHER 43977). Conversely the earliest evidence from Great Hockham, collected from near the church, suggests this settlement began in the Late Saxon period (NHER 24900 and 24709) before moving to its present focus during medieval times. Holy Trinity Church is built on the site of an earlier Norman church (NHER 9047). Interesting Saxon finds include a Byzantine coin (NHER 13854) made between 491 and 820 AD and a 9th century buckle and Late Saxon finger ring (NHER 34935) recovered by a metal detectorist from the same site. 

St Margaret's is a medieval timber-framed hall house, showing the upper floors and stack there were inserted in the 17th or 18th centuries.

St Margaret's is a medieval timber-framed hall house. (© NCC.)

Documentary evidence suggested that Little Hockham may have been deserted during the medieval period but more intensive survey and fieldwalking evidence suggests there was occupation here, along the common edge, until the 16th century. There may have been a medieval church (NHER 9013) in Little Hockham but the location and dedication of the building are unknown. Holy Trinity Church (NHER 9047) in Great Hockham mostly dates to the 14th century. The tower fell before 1740. Interestingly there are several medieval buildings still standing in the village. These include three examples of timber framed hall houses including St Margaret's (NHER 13913, 21917 and 25683). The sites of other medieval structures are recorded on old maps and in documents. A guildhall (NHER 19453), windmill (NHER 28835), Esthalle moated manor (NHER 9060) and possible monastic tithe barn (NHER 21180) have all been recorded in this way. 

Hill Cottage from the road, showing the single storey structure with a thatched roof.

The Cottage on The Green, a clay lump and flint structure, dates from the early 18th century. (© NCC.)

The sites of two post medieval brick kilns (NHER 12660 and 15960), a windmill (NHER 28836) and a post medieval manor (NHER 21179) are marked on maps. The site of a possible shepherd’s hut (NHER 19614) has been interpreted by the presence of post medieval pottery and building material at the site and the field name Shepherd’s Yard recorded on an old map. There are also several surviving post medieval buildings. Beechwood House and The Cottage were built in the 16th or 17th century as a single timber framed open hall (NHER 19453). Little Hockham Hall (NHER 21181) was built around 1600 but was significantly altered in the 19th century. Hill Cottage (NHER 43893) is a late 17th century timber framed thatched building. Great Hockham Hall (NHER 21180) was built in 1702 by Philip Ryley. Little is known of Great Hockham Park (NHER 30503) before the early 19th century when it was expanded and redesigned. Some parts of the 18th century park, like the kitchen garden, remain. An exciting and unusual survival is the 16th or 17th century wall painting of a Dutch parable in Briardene, a timber framed post medieval building (NHER 43979).

There are also several modern archaeological sites. Two possible World War Two buildings with no roofs (NHER 33312) have been recorded. A cast iron phone kiosk (NHER 43897) on School Square in Great Hockham designed in 1935 is listed by English Heritage. The most recent monument is a Cold War Royal Observation Corps site (NHER 35396) containing many original features.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 13 March 2006.

 

Further Reading

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

Davison, A., 1987. ‘Little Hockham’, Norfolk Archaeology XL I, 84-93

Davison, A., 1991. ‘Great Hockham – A Village that has moved?’, Norfolk Archaeology XLI II, 145-161.

Garrod, C., 2005. ‘HOCKHAM’. Available:

http://www.oaklands4.demon.co.uk/. Accessed: 9 March 2006.

Guymer, B. and Smith, L., 2003. ‘Roll of Honour – Norfolk – Great Hockham’. Available:

http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Norfolk/GtHockham.html. Accessed: 9 March 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)

Wymer, J.J., 1991. ‘Mesolithic Occupation Around Hockham Mere’, Norfolk Archaeology XLI II, 212-213.

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