Parish Summary: Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith

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

The modern parish of Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith is just north of Norwich. In the early 20th century it was known as ‘Horsham St Faith’ and was larger than it is today. In the 1920s parochial reorganisations reduced its size and a large section in the south passed to a Norwich parish.

The nucleated village of Horsham St Faith is located in the south, with the linear village of Newton St Faith located in the north. There are a number of farms and houses scattered elsewhere. The A140 Norwich to Cromer Road follows the western parish boundary and the River Hor passes through the parish.

Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith has seen a fair amount of archaeological work. A lot of metal detecting has taken place, as has a considerable amount of fieldwalking. A number of excavations and detailed investigations have been conducted, including a number at St Faith’s Priory (NHER 8005) and several ahead of gravel quarrying in the east. Sites have been identified throughout the parish, although there are a few places were none have been recorded.

Flint artefacts have been discovered throughout. They include a Mesolithic axehead, six Neolithic polished axeheads, two Neolithic flaked axeheads, Neolithic arrowheads, a Neolithic axehead roughout and a Beaker arrowhead. Only one Bronze Age metal object has been found, a socketed axehead (NHER 34607).  An Iron Age coin (NHER 30074) minted by the Trinovantes tribe (who were based in the Essex area) has been found close to the River Hor.

Metal detectorists have recovered a large number of Roman objects from a site in the east (NHER 30074). The artefacts include pottery, coins and metalwork and the quantity and types suggest the presence of a settlement. Coins, pottery and metalwork have been found at other sites throughout the parish. An Early Saxon brooch found at the possible Roman settlement site suggests that activity may have continued into the 6th century. Other Early Saxon objects include a wrist clasp, a fragment from a brooch and a carved and decorated flat circular object (NHER 34393). A Middle Saxon pin, a Middle to Late Saxon buckle, a Middle to Late Saxon brooch and Late Saxon metal objects have also been recovered.

A Late Saxon sculptured grave slab or cover is built into the chancel wall of the church of St Mary and St Andrew(NHER 8007). Although the present building is medieval and later in date, the presence of the slab/cover suggests that there was probably a Late Saxon church on the site. The discovery of Late Saxon pottery (NHER 8005) close by supports this hypothesis. Unfortunately a church is not recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, although this does not mean that one did not exist.

In 1086 Horsham was called ‘Horsha’. This Old English name means ‘the homestead where horses are kept’ (rather than being derived from the name of the River Hor which itself was probably named after the parish and the adjacent parish of Horsford). Freemen, villagers, smallholders, two mills, ploughs, meadow, woodland, pigs, cattle, goats were recorded, although Newton was not. It is possible that Newton did exist as a settlement and was described as part of Horsham or that it was established after the Domesday Book was compiled. 

Photograph of nationally important wall paintings in the medieival priory of St Faith in Horsham St Faith. The painting depicts St Faith herself. photograph from the eastern Daily Press.

Nationally important wall paintings in the medieval priory of St Faith in Horsham St Faith.  Eastern Daily Press.)

The ‘St Faith’ part of the parish name comes from the Priory of St Faith (NHER 8005). This was founded around 1105 at a site in Horsford (NHER 13934), but moved to Horsham soon after. Located directly north of the church, its buildings included a church, a refectory and cloisters, with a surrounding precinct wall. The priory was dissolved in 1536 and all buildings but the refectory were demolished. The refectory was converted into a house which survives and contains nationally important medieval wall paintings. A section of the precinct wall is incorporated into The Clink, an 18th century village lock up (NHER 21666). Human remains from the priory graveyard, objects and masonry have been discovered during building works. Geophysical surveys and an evaluation have revealed infilled ponds, medieval and post medieval features and multi-period finds.

There are records suggesting that there was a medieval chapel (NHER 12677) and a hospital of 'the Knights of Jerusalem' (NHER 17884) in the parish. Unfortunately their exact locations are unknown, although local legend associates a barn that once stood at Mill Farm (NHER 8026) with the hospital.

To the southeast of the church and priory is the site of St Faith's Fairstead (NHER 8126). This fair was granted a charter in 1100 and was held annually until the mid 19th century. Cattle from all over Britain were brought to it. Numerous medieval and post medieval objects have been discovered at and around the site (see NHER 15793) and it is very likely that many of them were used and/or lost by people attending the fairstead. Medieval and post medieval artefacts have been collected throughout and include pottery, coins (including examples from Venice and Holland), a gold medieval finger ring and an unusual late medieval/early post medieval clasp, possibly from a sword belt.

A good number of post medieval buildings survive. The earliest sections of the house at Mill Farm (NHER 8026) probably date to the late 16th century, with others built during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Surviving 17th century buildings include 2 to 5 Church Street, The Lilacs, Middle Farm and the White House. 18th century architecture is present at Meadow Farm, Waytes House, the King’s Head, The Oaks, Old Post House and the Kennels. The Methodist Chapel (NHER 37637) was built in about 1820 and has been converted to a house. The school and school house (NHER 12251) were constructed in 1853.

Many buildings in the parish contain reused medieval stonework from the priory. The main entrance to the 19th century Mission Room (now the village hall; NHER 12248) is built of reused masonry and there is a Norman arch and a sedilia inside. Gildencroft, a 17th century brick house, has a freeze of ashlar blocks on its main façade and during the 1990s decorated pieces were removed from a barn at Mill Farm (NHER 8026).

Mill Farm gets its name from a watermill that stood nearby during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries and was demolished in the 1930s. The site of a windmill is marked on late 18th century maps to the north of Horsham village. It was rebuilt in 1849, was last used in 1882 and stood alongside the St Faith Union workhouse (NHER 8025). This workhouse was constructed during the 18th century, rebuilt in 1805 and extended during the 19th century. No trace of it remains and there is now a crematorium on the site. There is a type K6 telephone kiosk (as designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) in Horsham village.

Horsham St Faith Airfield (NHER 8137) was established in the south just before the start of World War Two. It became operational at the outbreak of hostilities and hangars, technical and domestic buildings and grass runways were constructed. The Officers' Mess and three Picket Hamilton forts are amongst the structures that survive. The base was used by the RAF and the United States Army Air Force between 1939 and 1945 and the RAF between 1945 and 1963. The site is now used as Norwich Airport and an industrial estate.

David Robertson (NLA), 29 March 2006.

 

Further Reading

Ashwin, T. & Davison, A., 2005. An Historical Atlas of Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore)

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

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

Eve, J., 1994. The story of a village, a history of Horsham St. Faith, Norfolk (Horsham St Faith, J.R. Eve)

Gilbert, H.F., 1990. A history of R.A.F. Horsham St. Faith/Norwich Airport 1936-1986

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

Ministry of Defence. 'Horsham St Faith'. Available:

http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/s23.html. Accessed: 29 March 2006.

Neville, J., 2003. 'Horsham St Faith Mill'. Available:

http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/Watermills/horsham-st-faith.html. Accessed: 29 March 2006.

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

Truman, R. 2005. 'Horsham St Faith Airfield'. Available:

http://www.controltowers.co.uk/H-K/Horsham_St_Faith.htm. Accessed: 29 March 2006.

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