Parish Summary: Knapton

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

Knapton is situated in northeast Norfolk, just inland from the coastal parishes of Mundesley and Paston. Its name comes from the Old English for ‘Cnapa’s settlement or farm’. The parish has a long history and was certainly well established by the time of the Norman Conquest, its population, land ownership and productive resources being detailed in the Domesday  Book of 1086. 

Photograph of a Neolithic flint axe hoard from Knapton.

A Neolithic flint axe hoard from Knapton. (© NCC)

The earliest dateable evidence of human activity comes in the form of Neolithic flint axeheads (e.g. NHER 6827 and 41708), and indeed a hoard of seven of these was ploughed up in 1953 (NHER 6875). Aerial photography, which accounts for many of the entries on the record, has tentatively identified the cropmark of a rectangular enclosure as a Neolithic long barrow or mortuary enclosure (NHER 39052). The only Bronze Age find to date is a stone axehammer (NHER 6847), but again, aerial photography has identified a number of ring ditches (e.g. NHER 11692, 11693, 12817, 36502 and 40941). These are the probable remains of long since flattened burial mounds or barrows, only the marks of their surrounding ditches surviving. There are currently no Iron Age finds, but two square enclosure marks may be barrows from that time (NHER 13078).

Roman finds recovered thus far include coins, brooches and pottery fragments (NHER 20181, 23337 and 32326), Several cropmarks on aerial photographs have been interpreted as being Roman, including a possible farmstead (NHER 15911). Saxon finds consist of brooches and a ring (NHER 32326 and 36605).

The medieval period has left the parish with its oldest surviving building, the church of St Peter and St Paul (NHER 6912). A handsome building set on a mound, this church is mainly 14th century, with 15th century remodelling and a restoration of 1882. The offset west tower is topped with a weather vane based on a drawing by the Norfolk artist John Sell Cotman. Go through the fine porch into the nave and there is one of the best church roofs in Norfolk, if not the country. A carpenter's masterpiece dating to 1504, this double hammerbeam roof is seventy feet long and over thirty feet wide, adorned with 138 carved and painted angels. Also worthy of note are a 13th century raised octagonal font with an interesting inscribed cover of 1704, a partly restored 15th century screen with 16th century gates and a pulpit in 18th century style that actually dates to the 1882 restoration. Early medieval coffin slabs can be seen at the west end, and there is a rather charming reader's table made up of bits and pieces of medieval and Jacobean wood.

Other medieval buildings have not survived but have left a footprint in the form of the earth platforms on which they were constructed. Two of these are in the west of the parish at NHER 29499.

Medieval finds include coins (NHER 20181 and 36605), seal matrices (NHER 36971 and 43117), a buckle, a purse frame and part of a crucifix (NHER 41107).

Of the post medieval buildings in the parish, Old Hall (NHER 6917) is probably the oldest. The original part of this brick and flint house was the southeast range, which is of 16th century date. In the 17th century a new service wing, the northeast range, was added with a dairy and kitchen. A rear wing was added later, and in the 20th century, the house was remodelled in the fashionable Arts and Crafts style, but using a mixture of modern and reused timber. Inside can be found wall panelling, a 17th century staircase in a timber framed stairwell and moulded beams in the dining room. Nearby stands a flint and brick barn of about 1700 with later alterations.

Church Farm Barn (NHER 11566) is a mid 18th century flint and brick barn with a thatched roof and central doors. It retains its original beams. To the north and east are good examples of flint and brick farm buildings of the same period.

The New Knapton Hall (NHER 11567) is a distinctive two storey rendered and whitewashed house, now a hotel, of about 1800. The façade has three window bays divided by giant pilasters, the outer bays in the form of two storey bow windows. Inside is an ornate staircase with a balustrade that turns to form a gallery.

Knapton House (NHER 31156) is a two storey pale brick house, now apartments, of about 1800 with a slate roof. The east front has five window bays, the second and fourth of which project slightly, and the whole façade is knitted together by four giant pilasters crowned with acanthus leaves.. The central doorway has a semicircular columned porch topped by a railed balcony in front of a French window.

The White House (NHER 44299) is a late 18th century two storey flint and brick farmhouse with a black glazed pantile roof and colourwashed gable walls.

A more historically recent entry on the record is a very early type of 19th century railway carriage (NHER 28330), now in poor condition, sitting next to the old railway line (NHER 13585). More recent still is the site where a Blenheim aircraft crashed in the north of the parish in World War Two (NHER 44360). One of its propellers was later recovered.

This summary is intended very much as an overview, and those seeking more information should consult the detailed record.

Piet Aldridge, 6 June 2006.

 

Further Reading

Knott, S., 2005. 'St Peter and St Paul'. Available: http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/knapton/knapton.htm. Accessed: 6 June 2006.

Morris, J., 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

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

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