Parish Summary: Tivetshall St Mary

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

Tivetshall St Mary is a small parish in the South Norfolk District Council local government area. It is situated less than 5km from Diss, and is bordered to the east by the A140, which runs on the site of the Roman Pye road (NHER 7947). The parish shares part of its name with its neighbour to the north, Tivetshall St Margaret. Housing in the parish is concentrated in a straggle between the church of St Mary (NHER 10971), and St Margaret in the northern parish, as well as on Rectory Road, south of St Mary’s. The name ‘Tivetshall’ is thought to derive from the Old English for ‘lapwing’s nook’.

This parish has not been extensively metal detected, and there have not been any archaeological projects undertaken. As a result the amount of archaeological evidence available is limited. For the earliest periods of human occupation, evidence is limited to a few worked flints (NHER 10957, NHER 28841), one Iron Age coin (NHER 32294), and some Iron Age pottery sherds (NHER 28841, NHER 18526, NHER 11008), a surprising number of Iron Age pottery considering the small total number of objects recovered from this parish.

A number of objects have been recovered from the Roman period from a number of sites across the parish. These include pieces of harness (NHER 24815), pottery sherds (NHER 25321, NHER 21742, NHER 22980), brooches (NHER 32294, NHER 33189) and a handful of coins (NHER 28841, NHER 31307).

There is also a Roman villa site (NHER 11008), and a number of objects have been recovered from both there and a nearby site (NHER 18526). These include personal items such as pins, bracelets and toilet implements, as well as structural remains such as hypocaust tiles and tessarae. The villa is situated in the fields to the south of the parish, and is likely linked to the nearby Pye Road, less than a kilometre to the east (NHER 7947).

Objects dating to the Saxon period have also been recovered from the site of the Roman villa (NHER 11008), including brooches from both the Early and Middle Saxon periods. There are very few Saxon period objects from the rest of the parish, and these are also dominated by brooches (NHER 32294).  However there is possible structural evidence from the Saxon period. Patten Lane (NHER 11022), which runs north to south in the south of the parish, was thought to be a Roman road, but a small exploratory excavation has dated the beginnings of this track to the Saxon period. At the bottom of this a set of ditches and pits (NHER 28841) have also been potentially linked to the Saxon period.  

Photograph of ruined St Mary's Church, Tivetshall St Mary. Photograph from

Ruined St Mary's Church, Tivetshall St Mary. Photograph from (© S. Knott.)

The Domesday Book identifies two churches in Tivetshall, and it is assumed that this refers to the parish church of St Mary’s (NHER 10971) and the church of St Margaret in the neighbouring parish of Tivetshall St Margaret. Today St Mary’s lies largely ruined, the result of its isolated situation away from the present village and a sonic boom from an early jet plane which caused the fall of the church tower in 1947. However, there is evidence that the present building was begun as early as the 12th or 13th century, and an medieval chalice has been recovered from the grounds. 

Apart from the church, there is limited evidence for the medieval life of the parish. In the north eastern corner of the parish there is the moated site of The Grange (NHER 10966), as well as Rose Farm (NHER 21742) on Rectory Road, the main building of which may also be of late medieval date. There is also a record of a possible boundary marker or cross (NHER 23390), though this has since been removed. 

There have been a small number of medieval objects recovered, mainly pottery sherds (NHER 18526, NHER 21742) and metal objects such as strap and harness fittings (NHER 22980, NHER 28841), although a medieval gold finger ring (NHER 10959) has also been recovered from this parish. 

Post medieval objects such furniture fittings (NHER 28841) and pottery sherds (NHER 18526) have also been recovered, along with a 17th century iron knife with silver inlay (NHER 18526). This period also saw the construction of a number of buildings that have survived to the current time. These are limited to the northern part of the parish, on The Street and Rectory Road to the east. Croft House (NHER 45850) and Meadow Cottage (NHER 21743) are good examples of these, the majority of which are timber-framed buildings dating to the 17th or possibly 16th centuries. 

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 29 January 2007.


Further Reading

Hunt's Directory of East Norfolk with Part of Suffolk, 1850

Knott, S., March 2006. ‘Tivetshall St Mary’. Available: Accessed: 29 January 2007

Mortlock D. P. & Roberts, C. V., 1981. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches No. 2, Norwich, Central and South Norfolk (Cambridge, Acorn Editions)

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

Pevsner, N., 1997. The buildings of England: Norfolk 2: Northwest and South (London, Penguin Books)

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

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