Parish Summary: Little Snoring

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 Little Snoring is situated in mid North Norfolk just to the south of Great Snoring. Snoring comes from the Old English for ‘Place of Snear’s people’. 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.

The earliest evidence of human activity in the parish comes in the form of a prehistoric but otherwise undateable stone polisher (NHER 2119), probably used for burnishing pottery. Found at the same site was part of a Neolithic polished axehead. A collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age flint tools (NHER 2150) is documented as being found before 1907, but no detailed information has survived. However, the Bronze Age may have left fragmentary traces of the earliest structure. Aerial photography has noted a possible ring ditch at NHER 11695, this being the mark of the surrounding ditch of a long-ago flattened circular burial mound or barrow. Metal detecting on the site has not recovered any Bronze Age objects, but Roman, Saxon, medieval and post medieval coins and other objects have been found. On the subject of metal detecting, it should be noted that the parish has been extensively investigated and only selected examples of metal finds will be given. Those wishing to dig a little deeper will have to consult the detailed records.

Evidence of activity in the Iron Age is currently limited to a coin (NHER 2152), part of a neck ring (NHER 29132) and a piece of pottery (NHER 31077). Roman finds are rather more plentiful, especially coins (e.g. NHER 2152, 2157, 17589, 22833 and 28403), but other finds include pottery fragments (NHER 2152 and 25401), a brooch (NHER 17589) and part of a copper alloy bowl (NHER 2153). 

Drawing of a 10th century gilded bronze disc brooch from Little Snoring with a cross shaped layout and animals depicted between the arms of the cross.

A 10th century gilded bronze disc brooch from Little Snoring with a cross shaped layout and animals depicted between the arms of the cross. (© NCC and S. White.)

Finds from the Saxon period include brooches (e.g. NHER 17589, 29132 and 29727), including a very nice Late Saxon silver example (NHER 2157), a mount (NHER 11695), pins (NHER 2157) and pottery fragments (NHER 31077). An early Saxon burial (NHER 2154), complete with an iron spearhead, was found during pipe laying work in 1943.

 

Drawing of a Borre style Viking pendant from Little Snoring.

A Borre style Viking pendant from Little Snoring. (© NCC)

The Saxon and medieval periods have left the parish with its oldest surviving building, St Andrew’s Church (NHER 2155). This parish church is remarkable in that it has a round west tower of Saxon or Saxo-Norman date that is detached from the nave, chancel and south porch of the building. The tower's blocked east arch indicates that it served a separate church, now gone, to the one now standing immediately north. It is not certain if the demolished old church was replaced by the building to the north, or whether the two churches coexisted alongside one another. The issue is not helped by the Norman north and south doorways to the nave, though these may be reused, and it is possible that the northern church was a rebuild of a southern one that had collapsed at some point, leaving only the tower standing.

Inside the main body of the church is a circular decorated Norman font, a bench inscribed with the date 1632 and a rare Royal Arms of James II of 1686. The single deck pulpit is late 18th century.

Another medieval church has not survived, All Saints' Church (NHER 2139), which served the medieval hamlet of Alethorpe (NHER 2140). The building was in disrepair and used as a barn by 1602, its demise linked to the depopulation of the village in the 16th century. Nothing can be seen today, though three human skeletons were unearthed in 1962 in what is presumed to be the old churchyard. A tree stands on the site of the church itself. Of Alethorpe, only a few low earthworks remain. Yet another building, a leper hospital mentioned in documents (NHER 13713) has also disappeared, though its existence in the first place was not certain.

A medieval feature that can still be seen is a moat at NHER 2177, though it now surrounds a 17th century rectory.

Of the post medieval buildings in the parish, probably one of the finest is Hill House, The Street (NHER 33649). Owned by the same family for three hundred years, this two storey farmhouse dates to about 1700, and has a whitewashed brick front and rear, brick and flint Dutch gables at each end and a black glazed pantile roof. The front of the house is five window bays wide, the central bay projecting slightly. The rear elevation has a remarkable and possibly unique series of dovecote holes. The interior of the house has an original winding stair. A barn attached to the north gable dates to about 1700 as well, but probably incorporates an older building at the rear.

Hawthorn Cottage on Thursford Road (NHER 33444) is a small 17th century one storey brick house, much altered in about 1800, when the central chimney stack was removed and the roof replaced. The southern part of the building was converted to a barn in the 19th century. A block of medieval limestone in the east wall probably came from the local church.

Green Farmhouse (NHER 44337), Manor cottages (NHER 44338) and The Old Forge (NHER 44339) are all 17th century with later detailing and alterations. The group of farm buildings (NHER 18222) in the centre of the village, now under separate ownership from Green Farmhouse, are 17th and 19th century.

Two post medieval windmills stood in the parish but have gone today. Snoring post mill (NHER 2146), north of Little Snoring village, was built in 1808 and last used in 1922. Today, only its large tree-covered mound remains, together with some of the masonry supports and a few timbers. Another windmill (NHER 15831) to the east of the village was last used in 1883 and there is now no sign of it.

In the north of the village is the most historically recent entry on the record, Little Snoring Airfield (NHER 2174), a World War Two installation, opened in July 1943 as a satellite to Foulsham. It was used by Lancaster bombers, and later by Mosquitoes and Beaufighters in bombing support operations. After the war it was used as a maintenance base and then for target aircraft training. From 1953 to 1963, the United States Army Air Force used it for storage before it was finally closed as a military base. The airfield has since been in private civilian use, most of the runways having been broken up, though some buildings remain. A sunken battle headquarters, designed to coordinate airfield defences in the event of an attack, stood to the west of the control tower, but this was demolished in about 1989. There is a small museum dedicated to the airfield's wartime history, and the local church (NHER 2155) has wartime boards recording hits made on enemy aircraft and decorations awarded to aircrew.

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 5 June 2006.

 

Further Reading

Fairhead, H. and Tuffen, R., 1987. Airfields and Airstrips of Norfolk and Suffolk, Part One (Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum)

Morris, J., (Gen Ed), 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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