Parish Summary: Bodham

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 parish of Bodham in north Norfolk is situated between Weybourne to the north and Baconsthorpe to the south. Its name comes from the Old English for ‘The homestead of Boda’, and it was already in existence at the time of the Norman Conquest, being mentioned several times in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The earliest evidence of human activity in the parish to be found so far dates from the Neolithic, and comes in the form of several flint axes (NHER 25809 and 31360) There is also a possible Neolithic burial mound or long barrow (NHER 6300) in Hundred Acre Wood, although its date and function have not been conclusively determined. If it is indeed a Neolithic barrow, it is a rare survival in Norfolk, and may have had ceremonial uses as well.

During the gradual change from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, there came a change in burial practice, and at least a proportion of the population’s dead were buried in circular mounds or round barrows. Over the centuries, these mounds were gradually flattened by agriculture until nothing was visible from the ground. However, the remainder of the circular ditch from which the mound was made often shows up from the air as a darker circle, and this has led to the tentative identification of several Bronze Age ‘ring ditches’ in the parish. (NHER 30316, 32229 and 32243). There is no other evidence of human activity from this period.

The archaeological record is very quiet in Bodham during the Iron Age, Roman and Saxon periods. A single piece of Roman pottery was found in 1958 (NHER 6551), but that was all. Then in 1980 aerial photographs revealed the cropmark of a large rectangular feature (NHER 18191), which has been interpreted as either a Roman signal station or a defended Iron Age enclosure. Perhaps future investigation will uncover evidence of more intensive activity during those times. 

Photograph of post medieval boots and shoes found in an old lodge in Bodham. the deposit is possibly apotropaic.

Post medieval boots and shoes found in an old lodge in Bodham.

© Eastern Daily Press.

The medieval period following the Norman Conquest gives the parish its oldest surviving building, All Saints’ Church (NHER 6573). This is an interesting building, consisting of a west tower with battlements, nave, chancel and south porch. It dates mainly to the 14th century, with some 15th century windows, though there were several programmes of refurbishment in the 19th and 20th centuries. Inside, there is a medieval font, several memorials and nave benches that originally came from Beckham Workhouse chapel.

Only one fragment of medieval pottery has been found so far, but metal detecting has recovered coins (NHER 30117), a silver ring (NHER 25807) and a copper alloy vessel handle (NHER 28425).

Three buildings from the post medieval period are on the record. The oldest of these is probably Quietways (NHER 22942) in Lower Bodham, which dates to the 17th or 18th centuries, but may have an even earlier core. Pine Farmhouse (NHER 24091) is originally 17th century, and Manor House (NHER 41209) is 18th century.

A final and somewhat unusual post medieval find was the discovery of several pairs of late 19th century boots and shoes under the floorboards at The Highborough (NHER 41221). These are thought by some to have been placed there to ward off evil spirits. However, others are of the opinion that they had just been thrown away!

Piet Aldridge (NLA), August 2005.

 

Further Reading

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

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

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