Parish Summary: Little Witchingham

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

Little Witchingham is a tiny parish in the Broadland district of Norfolk. It is located between Great Witchingham to the west and Brandiston to the east. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book where it is recorded that there was a mill. The name Witchingham comes from Old English and means ‘homestead of Wic’s people’. Alternatively it could mean ‘homestead of the pirates’. There are only ten records for the parish, but they provide evidence for activity here from the Bronze Age to the post medieval period. The parish has been visited on several occasions by Discovery Tours a specialist tour operator organising metal detecting holidays. Metal detectorists found many of the objects recorded on the database during these organised visits. 

Photograph of an Iron Age toggle.

An Iron Age toggle. (© NCC)

The earliest recorded finds are Neolithic to Bronze Age worked flints (NHER 37286). An Early Bronze Age copper alloy axehead (NHER 37286) was found at the same site. Elsewhere part of a Bronze Age sword or rapier and the tip of a spearhead (NHER 37281) were recovered. A Late Bronze Age axehead (NHER 37279) was also reported by a metal detectorist. An excellent example of an unusual Iron Age toggle (NHER 37280) was found. An Iron Age gold coin (NHER 37279) made in East Anglia depicting a wolf has also been recovered.

On one site a very large number of Roman coins, brooches and other objects (NHER 37286) have been found. These include part of an enamelled patera handle. Coins (NHER 37286 and 37282) have also been found nearby. At another site a complete Roman copper alloy cosmetic spoon (NHER 37278) was unearthed.

Metal detectorists collected the only evidence for Saxon activity in the area. The earliest Saxon metal find is a Middle or Late Saxon disc brooch (NHER 37278). Two Late Saxon disc brooches and a stirrup mount (NHER 37280) were found at one site. At another a Late Saxon teardrop-shaped mount depicting an animal (NHER 37282) was recovered. Six Late Saxon strap ends (NHER 37279) were found elsewhere. It seems likely that the large number of Saxon metal objects recovered from the parish reflects the large amount of detecting that has been carried out here rather than a settlement or concentration of activity.

The north wall of St Faith’s Church (NHER 7475) is Saxo-Norman but the rest of the building dates to the medieval period. It was mostly built around 1300. The church is now redundant. It is famous for the very beautiful 14th century wall paintings it contains. These were saved in the 1970s when the church was restored from dereliction. They depict, amongst other subjects, St George and the dragon and ‘The Three Living and the Three Dead’ surrounded by some gorgeous twirling vine leaf decorations. The church is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and is open to the public.

The metal detecting tourists have also recovered several interesting medieval finds. These include a medieval openwork bell and a medieval openwork mount (NHER 37280). At another site a medieval mount with sheet silver and green enamel depicting an animal, a medieval harness mount and a medieval signet ring (NHER 37279) were found. A decorated medieval lead spindle whorl (NHER 37278) has also been recovered.

Post medieval metal detected finds are relatively common. These include a medieval to post medieval lead stylus or pencil and a post medieval gilded clothing fastener (NHER 37280). Coins (NHER 37286, 37280, 37282, 37279, and 37278) have been found on most of the sites examined. Little Witchingham Hall (NHER 41205) also dates to the post medieval period. This country house was built in 1819 by William Howard.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 5 April 2006.

 

Further Reading

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

Knott, S., 2005. 'St Faith, Little Witchingham’. Available:

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/littlewitchingham/littlewitchingham.htm. Accessed: 5 April 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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