Parish Summary: Felmingham

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

Felmingham is a roughly triangular shaped parish located in northeast Norfolk, about halfway between North Walsham and Aylsham. To some extent the western, northern and eastern parish boundaries roughly follow the line of streams (the Blackwater Beck, the Suffield Beck and Skeyton Beck respectively). Most of the rest of the boundaries follow field boundaries, although some sections do cut across landscape features.

Felmingham village is situated in the centre east of the parish, alongside the B1145 North Walsham to Aylsham road. Hamlets and small clusters of houses are scattered throughout, with Hyltons Crossways one of the larger. The Weaver’s Way, a long distance footpath along the route of a dismantled railway, crosses the centre of the parish from east to west.

Most metal detecting has taken place in the southern half of the parish. This has means that there is a high concentration of findspots in the south when compared to the north. This makes determining patterns of past settlement difficult, although tentative observations can be made.

The earliest recorded artefacts from Felmingham are Mesolithic in date. They are a flint microlith, a miniature adze (NHER 36566) and a flaked axehead that have been found at sites close to the confluence of the Blackwater and Skeyton Becks. Flint artefacts of Mesolithic or Neolithic date have been found in a wider area and throughout the south of the parish. They include axeheads and blades.

All the Neolithic artefacts with known findspots have been discovered in the southern half of the parish. It may be significant that they were all collected within 500m of one or more of the streams (although no location in the south is further than 870m from a stream). They include a chisel, three or four polished axeheads and three flaked axeheads, one of which was reused as a scraper (NHER 36567).

A number of Bronze Age round barrows (NHER 7532) are recorded on Stow Heath, in the south close to the confluence of the Blackwater and Skeyton Becks. No obvious trace of them survives. One was excavated in 1808 and two Bronze Age urns were found. Just to the north of Stow Heath five or six ring ditches (NHER 21833, 23984 and 36452) have been identified on aerial photographs. These may be the remains of further Bronze Age barrows. Only a few Bronze Age artefacts have been found and their findspots are generally scattered. Pottery has been found at two sites in Felmingham village. A bronze axehead has been found to the north of the village, with a socketed bronze axehead found just to the south. A second socketed axehead is known to have come from the parish, but its exact findspot is not recorded. The only possible Bronze Age finds (NHER 33861) discovered close to barrows are flint flakes, pot boilers and a scraper found on the site of one of the ring ditches. However, these finds are later in date than the barrows and could even be Iron Age. Only one artefact definitely dating from the Iron Age has been found in the parish, a lynch pin (NHER 38069).

Prehistoric burnt flints or pot boilers have been found at two sites in the centre of the parish. Unfortunately it is not possible to restrict the date span of the finds within the prehistoric period. Nonetheless they are probably evidence for the existence of prehistoric burnt mounds. A possible settlement (NHER 35566) in the west of the parish has been identified from cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. It may date to the prehistoric or Roman periods.

Cropmarks of possible Roman date have been identified in the south centre of the parish. These include a possible temple (NHER 7551). The location of a second possible Roman settlement (NHER 33708), close to the cropmark sites in the centre of the parish, is suggested by the recovery of over 100 sherds of pottery during fieldwalking. 

Illustration of a Roman hoard found in Felmingham in 1844.

Roman hoard found in Felmingham in 1844.

Roman artefacts have been found at sites throughout the parish, with metalwork on at least two of the cropmark sites. Not far from some of the cropmark sites a hoard of Roman bronze objects (NHER 7533) was found during the 1840s. The artefacts include a bust, figurines, brooches and coins, and these were probably buried as a ritual or religious offering. An intriguing find from the south of the parish is one piece of a two piece mould for casting brooches of a type worn by the followers of Boudica (NHER 34732). It is an incredibly important object and is one of only three artefacts of its type so far discovered in the whole of the Roman Empire (all of which have been found in Norfolk). Its discovery suggests that Roman metalworking may have taken place in Felmingham parish.

The only Early Saxon object found in the parish is an Early Saxon spindle whorl that was discovered during building work at St Andrew’s Church (NHER 7583). Middle Saxon pottery has been discovered at one site in the parish; this is located to the south of Felmingham village. Late Saxon pottery has been found at St Andrew’s Church and at two sites to the south of the village. Two fragments from Late Saxon stirrup fittings have been recovered in the south of the parish.

Felmingham appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Felmicham’ and ‘Felmincham’. This is an Old English placename meaning ‘homestead of Feolma’s or Feolomaer’s people’. The land in the parish is recorded as held by King William I, Roger Bigot and the Abbot of St Benet’s at Holme.

St Andrew’s Church (NHER 7583) is located within Felmingham village. It has an early 16th century tower that incorporates earlier material, including reused Norman stonework. The nave and chancel were rebuilt in 1742. The font is 13th century and there is a base from a medieval cross in the churchyard. To the northeast of the church a possible medieval moat (NHER 12995) is visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs.

Medieval and post medieval pottery and metal finds have been gathered from sites throughout most of the parish. The coins collected include Scottish, Dutch, Flemish and Venetian examples. In 1998 a medieval or post medieval papal bull (NHER 33635) was found in the south.

At least part of the present Felmingham Hall (NHER 7536) was built in 1569. Since the 16th century it has seen refurbishment and rebuilding during every century. Drawings suggest that Ruggs Hall (NHER 22430) was also built during the 16th century. It was probably demolished during the 19th century and a 19th and 20th century farm now stands on its site in the north of the parish. To the west of the site of Ruggs Hall is a post medieval brick and tile culvert (NHER 29498). Undated earthworks adjacent to the culvert include irregular platforms of varying heights, banks, ditches and a pond.

A watermill (NHER 7562) appears on Faden’s map of 1797 alongside Blackwater Beck. A house now stands on the site. Lodge Farm, Aylsham Road Farm, Neaches Farm, Dairy Farm, Goluders Farm, The Meadows and Oaks Farm have 18th and/or 19th century farm buildings including barns, stables, carriage sheds and granaries. During World War Two two United States Army Air Force planes collided over Felmingham or North Walsham. One crashed on Bryant’s Heath in the east of the parish (NHER 12632), whilst the other crashed in Lord Anson’s Wood in North Walsham parish (NHER 12633).

David Robertson (NLA), 22 November 2005.

 

Further Reading

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

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

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

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

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