Parish Summary: Stratton Strawless

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 Stratton Strawless is situated in the Broadland District. It lies north of Hainford and Horsford, west of Blickling, east of Heydon and south of Itteringham. The name Stratton may derive from the Old English meaning ‘enclosure by a Roman road’, while ‘Strawless’ probably means without straw. The parish has a long history and was well established by the time of the Norman Conquest. Its population, land ownership and productive resources were detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086 under the name of Stratton. This document revealed that the parish was an outlier of Cawston and lists woodland and pigs as assets of value. 

Geophysical survey of a possible Neolithic long barrow in Stratton Strawless.

Geophysical survey of a possible Neolithic long barrow in Stratton Strawless.

A number of undatable prehistoric flint implements have been recovered from Stratton Strawless. These take the form of flakes (e.g. NHER 25105 and 28177), scrapers (NHER 28187) and a hammerstone (NHER 35150). Some of the earliest identifiable objects date to the Mesolithic and comprise a flint core (NHER 37112) and an axehead (NHER 24920). Many more date to the Neolithic period of prehistory when a greater diversity of tool forms existed. Neolithic objects recovered from the parish include arrowheads (NHER 7770), axeheads (NHER 7647), fabricators (NHER 24802) and flakes (NHER 24030). In addition a large earthwork feature (NHER 7642) near the parish boundary has been interpreted as a possible Neolithic long barrow, although this designation is uncertain.

No Bronze Age sites have been identified in the parish. However, a fine flint dagger (NHER 7635) and copper alloy palstave (NHER 28433) have been recovered from the surface of fields here. Metal detecting has managed to recover a few pieces of Iron Age metalwork, but there is little evidence of extensive activity during this era or the preceding Bronze Age. A single bridle bit (NHER 23475), a penannular brooch (although this could be of Saxon date) (NHER 24031), a few worked flints (NHER 33772) and a toggle (NHER 41364) represent the entire artefact corpus for this period.

The Roman period seems to have been a busy one in the parish. Part of the possible Roman road running from Brampton to Thorpe St Andrew (NHER 7598) passes through Stratton Strawless. Fragments of metal working debris (NHER 15448) have also been found in several fields, and at least one of these scatters has been related to a possible Roman furnace (NHER 18573). Of more interest is the possible Roman pottery kiln (NHER 31783) that was excavated in 1962-63 to the northwest of Beeches Farm. When allied to the large number of Roman small finds, coins (e.g. NHER 23407, 33121 and 39995) and pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 7641 and 23782), it appears that Stratton Strawless was engaged in production and trading activities. Noteworthy Roman objects include Dolphin brooches (NHER 30960 and 41364), a one-piece Colchester brooch (NHER 32297), a candlestick (NHER 33122) and a copper alloy finger ring (NHER 37112).

Some of the finest artefacts recovered from the parish have been dated to the Saxon period. Most of these date to the latter part of the period (AD 851-1066) and include objects like beautiful disc brooches with Borre style decoration (NHER 28391 and 32299) a Middle Saxon strap end with an animal-head terminal (NHER 7640) and a furniture or harness mount decorated with a serpentine beast (NHER 41364). Other more mundane objects have also been retrieved; with an Early Saxon strap end (NHER 32298) and plain openwork brooch (NHER 37112) on record. Fieldwalking has also discovered numerous pottery sherds of Saxon date including those belonging to Middle Saxon Ipswich Ware (e.g. NHER 23783) and Late Saxon Thetford Ware (e.g. NHER 7637 and 23836) vessels.

St Margaret’s Church (NHER 7665) is the only medieval monument still standing in the parish. It has Saxo-Norman origins but is notable for incorporating a great quantity of Roman tile in the 14th century chancel. The tower dates to the 15th century but has been subject to several alterations. Much of the interior was remodelled in the Gothick style in around 1830.

The remainder of the evidence for medieval activity in the parish has been provided by the discovery of small finds and pottery sherds. A diverse range of objects have been recovered that represent all the aspects of everyday life. Religious artefacts include an ampulla (NHER 35837) and a seal matrix depicting a hand conferring a blessing (NHER 32298), items related to trade consist of a coin weight (NHER 35810) and lead weights (NHER 36793). Items related to display and prestige comprise gilt horse harness pendants (NHER 41364), a gold finger ring (NHER 41115) and an ornamental belt stiffener with one terminal in the form of an animal head and the other in the form of a leaf (NHER 30961). Finally, more mundane domestic objects include the legs from a cauldron (NHER 28188), book clasps (NHER 30962), a key (NHER 23836) and a mirror case (NHER 35837).

During the post medieval period a number of buildings of architectural interest were constructed. The most notable of these is Stratton Strawless Hall (NHER 8016), which was erected in around 1800 to replace a previous Hall that burnt down. It has two storeys and six bays with the centre two projecting slightly under a pediment bearing a coat of arms. The entrance takes the form of a triple archway with two Tuscan columns giving onto a recessed entrance with two doors with fanlights. To the north there is a detached house of not much later date – in the form of a typical Georgian four square house. Associated with the Hall is a fine 19th century icehouse (NHER 8017) with a brick domed interior that is accessed via an iron ladder.

Other interesting buildings include the North Lodge (NHER 12331) to Stratton Park. This T-shaped building dates to around 1800 and has a two storeyed central block with a pediment, supported on massive attached columns recessed into a central bay in the style of a small Doric 'kiosk'. Hall Farm (NHER 19474), built in 1838, was planned according to the idealised layout for a rural farm. The brick farmhouse has a gabled porch set on octagonal timber columns and to the east there is a single storey range of outbuildings which terminates in a three storey granary with a pyramidal roof.

Lime burning was also conducted in the parish during the post medieval period, with a map of 1836 marking a lime kiln (NHER 16698) to the northwest of Strattonhill Farm (NHER 46051). A more unusual trade to be recorded by the archaeological record is that of silver fox farming. A brick tower (NHER 8023) that stands south of Heath Farm on the Short-Thorn Road supposedly belonged to a post medieval silver fox farm, with the farmer sitting in the tower to watch the foxes.

The majority of the post medieval finds from Stratton Strawless take the form of pottery sherds. However, a selection of other objects have been recovered and these include, amongst others, a German jetton (NHER 7638), a flint strike-a-light (NHER 23783), lead cloth seals (NHER 24919 and 38156), part of a candlestick holder (NHER 28184), a lead trade weight (NHER 35017) and two thimbles (NHER 41364).

The most recent archaeological record relates to the usage of Stratton Strawless Hall (NHER 8016) during World War Two. In about 1940 a tall block was added to the south of the Hall and used as a radar control headquarters. The block is still standing today.

Thomas Sunley (NLA) 5 July 2007.

 

Further Reading

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

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.1 North-East Norfolk (Cambridge: Acorn Editions)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1999. The Buildings of England, Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East (London, Penguin)

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

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