Parish Summary: Booton

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

Booton is a small mid Norfolk parish situated just to the south of the two huge parishes of Reepham and Cawston. Its name comes from The Old English for ‘Bota’s enclosure’. The parish was in existence before the Norman Conquest, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The earliest evidence of human activity in the parish comes from the Neolithic, and comes in the form of a few unspecified flint tools (NHER 7436) found in the early 20th century. More recently, part of a polished flint axehead (NHER 16755) from the period was found. Another discovery from prehistoric times (although not specifically dateable to the Neolithic) was a collection of burnt flints, or ‘pot boilers’, (NHER 14708) that may have been used for heating food.

The Neolithic gradually gave way to the Bronze Age, where the archaeological record was silent in Booton until aerial photography identified the remains of a Bronze Age burial mound or barrow (NHER 31557). These were originally circular mounds surrounded by one or more ditches, in which at least a proportion of the population’s dead were placed. Agriculture over the ensuing centuries led to the barrows being flattened and invisible from the ground. However, if the surrounding ditch has survived, this often shows as a dark ring or ‘ring ditch’ from the air. The ring ditch in Booton shows two concentric rings.

Thus far, there are no sites or finds from the Iron Age, and the next evidence of human activity followed the Roman occupation of Britain. The most important Roman feature to pass through the parish is The Fen Causeway Roman road (NHER 2796), an east to west aligned road that runs from Upwell to Denver, and then continues north east towards Brampton. In a number of places it appears as a cropmark on aerial photographs, and in some places it survives as a landscape feature. Other evidence from the Roman period consists of pottery fragments (NHER 23761) and coins (NHER 14708 and 37703).

The only Saxon find in the parish to date is a decorated copper alloy mount recovered by metal detecting in 1998 (NHER 33765).

The medieval period after the Norman Conquest usually provides a parish with its oldest building to survive to the present day, the parish church. Booton would have been no different, and did indeed have a medieval church, but this was completely demolished in the 19th century, and replaced with the church of St Michael and All Angels (see below). Thus there are no surviving buildings from this time. There was a medieval hall at Booton Old Hall (NHER 12377) that survived in use as a barn until it burnt down in 1848. There is also evidence that a medieval house stood at NHER 29486, where there are the remains of a house platform looking over what was probably a fishpond. 

Drawing of two medieval horse harness pendants found in Booton.

Two medieval horse harness pendants found in Booton. (©NCC)

A range of medieval objects have been discovered over the years, including pottery fragments (NHER 14708 and 23761). More recently, metal detecting has recovered medieval coins (NHER 39272), silver brooches (NHER 33765) and horse harness pendants (NHER 33764).

Moving on to the post medieval period, some industrial structures started to appear, For instance, we know that there was a kiln (NHER 13707) in the parish as it was marked on the 1883 Ordnance Survey map. However, nothing remains today. The same applies to a water mill (NHER 13654) and a workhouse (NHER 15238). 

Photograph of The Old Rectory, Booton.

The Old Rectory, Booton. (©NCC)

Residential buildings do survive, though later altered and extended. Examples of these include Booton Hall (NHER 7437), The Grove (NHER 12376), Tillian House (NHER 35374), The Old Rectory (NHER 41050), The Farmhouse (NHER 41051) and Booton Manor (NHER 41214). 

Photograph of St Michael's Church, Booton.

St Michael's Church, Booton. (©NCC)

Then there is the remarkable church of St Michael and All Saints (NHER 7472), the work of one of the parish’s most colourful characters, the Reverend Whitwell Elwin, who was rector of the parish from 1850 to 1900. Architecturally self taught, but with boundless enthusiasm, Elwin carried out a number of building projects, including the Jacobean style Booton Hall mentioned in the previous paragraph. Between 1876 and 1900, the old medieval church was demolished and replaced with the current building, which is in an eccentric French Gothic style. It has twin west towers and a large nave with enormous angel figures as roof decorations. In the south porch stands a headless medieval statue, discovered when the old church was demolished.

The most recent entry on the archaeological record is a World War Two type 22 pillbox (NHER 18380), built in about 1940 as part of the anti invasion defences of the time.

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 11 November 2005.

 

Further Reading

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

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

 

 

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2018 Norfolk Historic Environment Service