Parish Summary: Plumstead

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 Plumstead is in the northeast of Norfolk, immediately south of Baconsthorpe. Its name comes from the Old English for a ‘dwelling site near the plums’. 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 extensively detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086.   

Drawing of a Palaeolithic handaxe from Plumstead.

A Palaeolithic handaxe from Plumstead. (© NCC)

The parish has only been subjected to limited archaeological investigation, but the majority of finds and sites are of prehistoric date. The earliest find recorded is a Palaeolithic handaxe found at Heath Farm (NHER 6646) and the Mesolithic period is only represented by a single flint chisel (NHER 34496). More numerous are the Neolithic flint finds recovered from a variety of locations within the parish. A selection of polished or chipped flint axeheads have been recorded (NHER 6648, 6649, 66506651, 11793 and 11794) with the distribution again centred on the location of Heath Farm. An interesting Neolithic flint knife blade (NHER 6647) was also retrieved from the village green in the 1950s. Despite these finds no prehistoric sites have been identified although some kind of lithic production activity may have occurred here.

There is a paucity of evidence for activity in the parish between the prehistoric era and medieval period. Although a low Bronze Age burial mound (NHER 6652) has been recorded no further investigation has been carried out. A single Iron Age coin of Gallo-Belgic origin (NHER 19337) has been recorded as being recovered from a ‘Plumstead’ in 1894 but it is uncertain if this is from Plumstead in London or from here in Norfolk. Metal detecting has recovered a few artefacts dating to the Roman and subsequent Saxon period. These include a Roman coin of Carausius and a Late Saxon stirrup mount (both NHER 39972). This record may reflect a poor survival of artefacts or that many are yet to be found, but it seems possible that there was little human activity in the area during these periods.

It is during the medieval period that the first structures that survive to today start appearing. St Michael’s Church (NHER 6691) traces its origins as far back as the 12th century although the majority of the building is of 13th to 14th century date. The fabric is mainly flint but the north wall is made of an unusual herringbone-patterned carstone conglomerate. Many of the beautiful stained glass windows are made from 16th century Flemish glass and were transported here from Catton Hall in 1952. A halfpenny of Edward IV (NHER 39972) and copper alloy buckle frame (NHER 39972) constitute the remainder of the evidence dating to the medieval period.

A number of buildings erected in the post medieval period are still standing. The flint built Walnut Farm House (NHER 47227) and Church Farm House (NHER 47383), both on Church Street, date to the 17th and 19th century respectively. The large barn at Hall Farm (NHER 47226) is also built from flint, obviously readily available here, and dates to the 18th/19th centuries. In addition to these farmhouses the pretty cottages at 30 and 31 Church Street (NHER 13664) were combined originally as a single 17th century property, the west gable of which is decorated with the 1864 Mott family coat of arms. However, the most significant structure from this period is that of Plumstead Hall (NHER 22736) situated northwest of the village on the Little Barningham Road. The main brick built 16th to 17th century body of this grand house has been embellished in more recent times with a pseudo Classical porch which adds to its visual impact. Aside from residential structures, documentary evidence notes that this parish once had two postmills (NHER 6688) dating from at least as early as 1839. These fell out of use in 1916 and are sadly no longer visible today after demolition or dilapidation. It is possible that the agricultural activity in the parish which seemingly stimulated building and expansion in this period may have begun to dwindle around the turn of the 20th century. 

This summary is very much intended as a brief overview of the archaeological evidence recorded for the parish. Interested readers should delve deeper into the specific records for a more comprehensive look at Plumstead.

Thomas Sunley (NLA), 30 November 2006.

 

Further Reading

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

Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes, 1990. The Norfolk Village Book (Newbury, Countryside Books) 

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

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