Parish Summary: Aldborough

This parish summary provides an overview of the large amount of information which we hold about the parish, and only a representative sample of sites and artefacts from each period are mentioned. If you have any feedback on this article please contact us using the link on the left-hand menu or by emailing

Aldborough is a parish lying to the west of the A140, between Aylsham and Cromer. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) as having a mill, and indeed there was a working watermill here up until about thirty years ago (now converted to residential use). The parish name comes from the Old English for ‘old fort or enclosure’, but there is no known evidence of any fortification.

The earliest evidence for occupation of the parish dates to the Neolithic period. Polished (NHER 25310) and flaked flint axes and a pick have been found at several locations.

Evidence of occupation in the Bronze Age comes in the form of flint artefacts and cropmarks revealed by aerial photography. Four ring ditches visible as cropmarks may be the ploughed out remains of Bronze Age burial mounds. There is no evidence in the parish of Iron Age habitation.

Roman occupation of the parish from the 1st to early 5th centuries has left no traces of buildings, but a significant number of coins from the period have been recovered by metal detecting in recent years, together with two brooches. Evidence of Saxon habitation is confined to a piece of a piece of Early Saxon cremation urn, some other pottery fragments and some metal detecting finds, for example brooches and strap ends.

Aldborough has two medieval churches. St Mary's Church (NHER 6718) is probably the older, being of Saxon or Norman origin with later work dating to the 13th to 15th centuries. Its tower fell in the 18th century and has been replaced with a small bell turret. All Saints' Church, Thurgaton (NHER 6644) dates to the 13th century, with later 15th century additions. It originally had a round west tower, but this was demolished. The building was restored by the Redundant Churches Trust in the 1980s. Both buildings are of flint, brick and stone construction.

Metal detecting in recent years has recovered a wide range of medieval metal objects, including coins, buckles, sword scabbard fragments and weights.

Turning to surviving residential buildings, possibly the oldest is the Thatched House (or Bone’s Store) which is 15th to 16th century, and was originally three houses. The upper storey was added in the 17th century, and the houses joined at some point after that. The Old Red Lion, once a private house, dates from the 16th century, as does John Brown’s house.

The early 18th century facade of the Old Hall with a Doric pillared facade.

Thurgarton Old Hall, dating to the early 18th century (©NCC)

Aldborough has three great houses. The earliest is Aldborough Hall (NHER 12319), which was bought by the Gay family in 1633 but is early medieval in origin. Thurgarton Old Hall is 18th century, and Thurgarton Hall is from later that century.

There was a large park in the parish from the late 18th century, laid out with advice from Humphrey Repton. Hanworth Park is now much reduced, with much parkland having been ploughed, although it still boasts the largest sweet chestnut tree in England, planted before 1650.

In post medieval times Aldborough saw a growth in the organisation of agriculture, and appears to have been an important local centre for trade. The annual livestock fair that evolved into a present day fun fair. Other trades in the area included tanneries, a smithy, a tailor, butcher and a baker.


Pieter Aldridge (NLA), 26 July 2005.


Further Reading

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

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

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

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