Parish Summary: Fincham

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

Fincham, from the Old English meaning 'a homestead or enclosure frequented by finches', is in West Norfolk. The main village of Fincham lies on either side of a Roman road (NHER 2796) which runs through the parish. The parish has an exciting and vibrant history, with intense Iron Age and Roman activity. The village was a wealthy settlement in the medieval period, with thirteen separate manors.

Several prehistoric flint implements (NHER 23911) have been found, including Neolithic flint axeheads (NHER 4342 and  17602), a Neolithic arrowhead (NHER 4343) and Beaker arrowheads (NHER 4344 and 18181). Prehistoric pottery (NHER 14530) has also been found. There is significant evidence for Bronze Age occupation. The cropmarks of four ring ditches (NHER 145301653835483 and 35553) are visible on aerial photographs, and metal detectorists have recovered Bronze Age metalwork from all over the parish, including socketed axeheads (NHER 2558330059 and 30333), rapiers (NHER 25741 and 33016), awls (NHER 33018 and 34895) and a sword (NHER 35996). Three Late Bronze Age hoards have also been found. Two of the hoards (NHER 33343 and 36176) were collections of copper alloy objects, including axeheads, spearheads and swords. Another hoard (NHER 29491) of crushed copper alloy, including casting waste, was found inside a socketed axehead, suggesting that it may have been a metal worker's hoard. Although no prehistoric settlement site can be identified, it is clear that Fincham was an important place in the Bronze Age, and appears to have retained that importance throughout the Iron Age and the Roman period.

A hoard of Iron Age silver coins (NHER 30049) was found by metal detectorists during 1994 and 1995. The hoard includes a rare example of a coin of Prasutagus, and silver metal working waste. The site on which the hoard was found seems to have been important throughout the Iron Age and the Roman period, although the exact nature of the site is uncertain. Several other Iron Age silver coins (NHER 30050300533005430056 and 30057) have been found close to the site of the hoard. Another Iron Age hoard (NHER 30059) of over two hundred silver coins was found in 1998. Gold Iron Age coins (NHER 4345191123033233011 and 33016) have also been found scattered throughout the parish, as well as Iron Age brooches (NHER 43602516130057 and 33341), terrets (NHER 38089 and 22065), and the terminals of an electrum torc (NHER 21196).

Fincham continued to be important during the Roman period, and a major Roman road (NHER 2796) runs through the centre of the parish. In 1801 a silver Roman vase containing a small hoard of silver coins (NHER 4348) was found, and another hoard of silver coins (NHER 19077) is reputed to have been found. A third hoard of Roman silver coins (NHER 37086) has also been found. Roman coins and metalwork have been found scattered over a wide area around the site of an Iron Age coin hoard (NHER 3004930051300533005430056 and 30057), as well as being scattered across the whole parish. Other Roman finds include a folding razor handle, decorated with the figures of a hare and a hound (NHER 20526), a vessel escutcheon in the shape of the head of the god Jupiter (NHER 34895), and a silver ring with a blue intaglio (NHER 35596). The site of a Roman settlement (NHER 18849 and 25462) has been found in the south; pottery, building material, coins and metalwork have been found on the site, as part of an extensive programme of fieldwalking in the neighbouring parish of Barton Bendish. A Roman building (NHER 25857) has also been discovered, to the north of the present village. During an evaluation by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit in 1992, the floor of the building was revealed, as well as pottery, coins, brooches and building materials. The Iron Age and Roman evidence from Fincham is intriguing, and the nature of the settlement there is unclear, but it is clear that Fincham was a place of ritual and economic importance.

During the Early Saxon period the site of the Iron Age and Roman hoards and metalwork (NHER 30049) was used as an inhumation cemetery, and a number of Early Saxon brooches and other personal items have been found on the site. A number of Early Saxon brooches (NHER 14530188492391125737258572822728228282383005630059303303300634896 and 35594) have been found throughout the parish, as well as Early Saxon buckles (NHER 30057 and 33341) and an Early Saxon gold bracteate (NHER 33016). Although no Early Saxon settlement site can be identified with any certainty, a settlement must have existed during the Early Saxon period. Settlement continued to develop through the Middle Saxon period. Middle Saxon coins (NHER 1453033006 and 40291), including a coin dating to the reign of King Eadwold (NHER 29706) and a gold coin minted in Maestricht (NHER 30062), have been found, as well as Middle Saxon brooches (NHER 33011 and 33345) and Middle Saxon pins (NHER 23911282383033333017 and 38089) and fragments of pottery (NHER 23911).

By the Late Saxon period Fincham had grown into a large and wealthy village, the Domesday Book records various land holders in the village, including a free woman named Aethelgyth. Late Saxon pottery (NHER 43601259421305 and  25578), strap ends (NHER 12595145302822730053 and 38089) and coins (NHER 30055) have been found, including a coin dating from the reign of King Cnut (NHER 25499), and a coin from the reign of Aethelred II (NHER 30060). 

Photograph of Fincham Hall, a late 16th century building with extensive 19th century restoration.

Fincham Hall, a late 16th century building with extensive 19th century restoration. (© NCC.)

During the medieval period Fincham was a well established and wealthy settlement, and Blomefield records thirteen separate manors. Fincham Hall (NHER 4351) dates from the late 15th century, contemporary with nearby Oxburgh Hall. The earliest part of the Hall is the octagonal brick tower, which was part of an earlier house. The main part of the present house dates from the late 16th century. A late medieval or early post medieval dagger was found underneath the kitchen floor. Baynard Manor (NHER 4357) was mentioned in Domesday Book as the land of Ralph Baynard. Littlewell Hall (NHER 4359) was a moated manor house, mentioned in medieval documents dating to before the 13th century. The Hall has disappeared, but the site of the moat is marked by a small depression. Talbot's Manor House (NHER 16431) is an early 18th century house, but it is built on the site of the medieval manor house. A medieval seal matrix (NHER 30059) which belonged to Richard Talbot, whose family held Talbot's manor, has been found by metal detecting. Playter's Hall (NHER 12418) is an early 18th century house, which may stand on the site of a medieval manor. Another medieval manorial site (NHER 15289) was the subject of an evaluation by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit in 1995, and medieval pits and ditches were found. The sites of two medieval moats (NHER 4360 and 4361) are known, and they may also be the remains of medieval manorial sites.  

Photograph of St Martin's Church, Fincham.

St Martin's Church, Fincham. (© NCC.)

Fincham had two parish churches during the medieval period, St Martin's (NHER 4352) and St Michael's (NHER 4358). St Michael's, which may have dated back to the 12th century, was demolished in the mid 18th century. Fincham Rectory (NHER 15298) contains reused medieval stonework which may have come from St Michael's. The 12th century square font from St Michael's is now in St Martin's church, and is decorated with carved figures of the Nativity and Adam and Eve, standing underneath arches. St Martin's (NHER 4352) dates mainly from the 15th century, and was restored in the 19th century.

Photograph of a post medieval lead alnage cloth seal from Fincham. Photograph from PAS.

A post medieval lead alnage cloth seal from Fincham. (© NCC.)

During the medieval period Fincham was surrounded by open fields, and medieval ridge and furrow (NHER 12594, 125951453025376 and 31927) has survived as earthworks in several areas. Medieval tofts (NHER 25161) are visible on aerial photographs, which suggests that medieval settlement once extended beyond the limits of the present village. Medieval coins, pottery and metalwork have been found by metal detectorists, including fragments of a medieval crucifix (NHER 28229) and medieval heraldic pendants (NHER 28230). A 17th century gold, enamel and garnet pendant (NHER 40288) has also been found.

Nelson's Cottage (NHER 21987) is an early 17th century house, the original timber frame was replaced with brick in the 18th century. The White House (NHER 35193) is a 17th century timber framed house with an 18th century flint facade. Shrublands (NHER 21988) is an early 18th century house, but the east gable wall appears to be much older, and was probably part of a 17th century house which adjoined Shrublands.

During World War Two a brick pillbox (NHER 16147) was constructed.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), November 2005.

 

Further Reading

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

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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