Parish Summary: Rocklands

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 Rocklands contains the villages of Rockland St Peter and Rockland All Saints. It is situated in the Breckland Local Government district, 12.5km north of the Suffolk border and some 26km southwest of Norwich. 

Evidence for the earliest human occupation can be found across the parish, from Neolithic axeheads (NHER 8962) and arrowheads (NHER 8963), to worked flint tools (NHER 36655). Rare finds include a Neolithic chipped flint pick (NHER 9138) and a prehistoric flint awl (NHER 39288). 

There have also been some objects from the Bronze Age recovered, including a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead (NHER 8965). A rare Bronze Age cremation urn and fragments of cremated bone (NHER 9022) has also been recovered from the south of the parish.  

Drawing of a piece of gold ring money dating to the Bronze or Iron Age from Rocklands.

A piece of gold ring money dating to the Bronze or Iron Age from Rocklands. (© NCC)

In addition, three Bronze Age copper alloy axeheads (NHER 13165) and a socketed axehead and sword (NHER 34984) have also been recovered, along with an incredibly rare find of Bronze or Iron Age gold ring money (NHER 33169). Iron Age pottery sherds and brooches (NHER 36655, NHER 34984), as well as coins (NHER 36655, NHER 36539, NHER 39288) have also been recovered here, a rare concentration of early material. 

Drawing of a Roman steelyard that may have been reused as an Early Saxon toilet article.

A Roman steelyard from Rocklands that may have been reused as an Early Saxon toilet article. (© NCC)

In addition to this, there is also a high density of objects from the Roman period, as well as a probable settlement (NHER 34984). Here extensive Roman finds include copper alloy and gold finger rings, cosmetic tools, brooches, bracelets, hairpins, and of course large numbers of coins, pottery sherds and tiles. 

There have also been several other high-density concentrations of Roman objects across the parish; a surprising number considering that the parish only has just over 40 recorded archaeological sites. As well as the more common coins (NHER 17168, NHER 36553) and brooches (NHER 36653, NHER 36654), a wide range of objects has been recovered, including steelyard weights (NHER 36539) pottery sherds and vessels (NHER 36655, NHER 8966) harness and strap fittings (NHER 36276) and a bracelet (NHER 31699). 

In addition to this wealth of evidence for the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, Rocklands also has a surprising concentration of Saxon period features and objects. In particular, Rocklands is blessed with a large Early Saxon cemetery and Middle Saxon settlement, intriguingly situated on the site of the Roman settlement previously mentioned (NHER 34984), as well as another Early Saxon cemetery site (NHER 34984) further away. 

An extensive number of objects have been recovered from the former site (NHER 34984), including beads, brooches, buckles, pendants and other personal items from the Early Saxon period, as well as coins, pottery sherds, spindle whorls and harness fittings from the Middle and Late periods. The other site (NHER 1054) has unfortunately been largely destroyed and plundered, but similar Early Saxon personal items have been recovered from this site, as well as cremation urns and human remains.

Saxon objects have also been recovered in low concentrations across the rest of the parish, including decorated glass (NHER 9024), pottery sherds (NHER 11204, NHER 36655), and a number of brooches (NHER 36553) including a magnificent Early Saxon square-headed brooch (NHER 31699). Unsurprisingly both Rocklands All Saints and St Peter are both mentioned in the Domesday Book, where both appear to be quite large and valuable.

Until 1935 Rockland All Saints and Rockland St Peter were separate parishes, and so it is no surprise that they have their own churches. However, Rockland All Saints also has the ruins of the church of St Andrew (NHER 8985), a 14th century church situated just to the southeast of All Saints, and ruined almost to destruction. Only the remains of the west tower, a wall of which stands split in two, can be easily discerned.

However, All Saints (NHER 8968) is still in active use, and although the majority of the building dates to the 13th century, it may be of earlier foundation. Inside there is said to be the remains of a Saxon stone coffin slab, discovered during the Victorian restoration of 1860. 

St Peter's Church, Rockland St Peter, showing the 12th century round tower and the north porch.

St Peter's Church, Rockland St Peter. (© NCC)

The church of St Peter (NHER 8987), despite being formerly attached to the village of Rockland St Peter, is actually as close to the village of Rockland All Saints as it is to its own village, and a full 1.1km from All Saints' church. The church building itself dates largely to the 14th century, and the light and airy interior is the result of a sensitive restoration following a fire in 1950. 

There are no other medieval features surviving, apart from a moat (NHER 8986) which survives in good condition in the landscaped garden of Kirkhall farmhouse (NHER 46405), a brick farmhouse of around 1840 with an 18th century rear cross wing. Other post medieval buildings of interest include Yeoman Cottage (NHER 34256), a mid 17th century thatched timber-framed house, as well as the Methodist Church in Rockland St Peter (NHER 46704), built of brick in 1859. 

A small number of objects from the medieval period have also been recovered, largely consisting of pottery sherds (NHER 12072), coins (NHER 31699, NHER 44736) and a small number of metal objects such as buckles (NHER 8966, NHER 36539), strap fittings (NHER 36276, NHER 36655, NHER 39293), and an impressive example of a medieval mirror case (NHER 36553). Similar objects have been recovered from the post medieval period.

From the more recent past, Rocklands also retained the site of a World War Two pillbox (NHER 32706), probably with a searchlight battery, until the 1970s when it was demolished.

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 3rd April 2007.

 

Further Reading

Knott, S., January 2006. ‘St Andrew, Rockland All Saints’. Available:

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/rocklandstandrew/rocklandstandrew.htm. Accessed: 3rd April 2007

Knott, S., January 2006. ‘All Saints, Rockland All Saints’. Available:

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/rocklandallsaints/rocklandallsaints.htm. Accessed: 3rd April 2007

Knott, S., January 2007. ‘St Peter, Rockland St Peter’. Available:

http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/rocklandstpeter/rocklandstpeter.htm. Accessed: 3rd April 2007

Morris, J. (General Editor), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

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

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