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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Beeston Regis is located on the north Norfolk coast between Sheringham and Cromer. In 1086 it was called ‘Besetune’, an Old English placename meaning a ‘farmstead where bent grass or sedge grows’. In the late 14th century the manor of Beeston was held by Henry Bolingbroke, Earl of Lancaster. In 1399 he became King Henry IV and ‘Regis’ was added to the parish name.
Beeston Regis is a zigzag shaped parish. Its boundaries follow landscape features such as roads, tracks, a railway, drains and field boundaries, as well as passing through woodland. The landscape varies, with a beach and cliffs in the far north, caravan parks in the north, villages and farmland in the centre and a large amount of woodland in the south. The modern village is located in the centre west of the parish, with a hamlet and caravan parks in the north. The two are separated by the Norwich to Sheringham railway and the A149 coast road.
Archaeological discoveries tend to fit into a general pattern. Throughout the parish, monuments have been discovered by studying aerial photographs. Metal detecting and fieldwalking has been carried out in the centre, mostly where farmland allows easy access. A fair amount of material has been found on the beach and in cliff faces as a result of erosion.
A number of Palaeolithic flint artefacts are recorded, although the exact locations at which they were found are not known. One Palaeolithic handaxe is recorded as definitely from Beeston Regis and a second may have been found in the parish. Mesolithic flint artefacts have been found at only one site. Blades and flakes are recorded as having come from a quarry pit in the south.
Flint artefacts of general ‘prehistoric’ date have been recovered at sites dotted throughout the parish. These artefacts could be Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age or Iron Age, but it is not possible to tell. Most have been found in the cliff faces or cliff slumps.
Few Neolithic artefacts have been found. Exactly where the Neolithic polished axehead attributed to Beeston Regis was discovered is uncertain, although Neolithic pottery is known to have been found close to the cliff face in the north. Bronze Age pottery has also been found at this site.
Two hoards of Late Bronze Age metal objects are known. Both were found reasonably close together in the centre of the parish. The easternmost hoard (NHER 15534) contained fourteen complete socketed axes, three fragmentary socketed axes, a spearhead, a socketed axe mould and a number of other pieces and was contained in a pottery jar thought to be Iron Age. It is one of the most important Bronze Age hoards to have been found in Norfolk. The westernmost (NHER 18037) contained four socketed axes, four axe fragments, a palstave and two metal lumps. In 1987 a blade from a Bronze Age socketed axe was found by a metal detectorist to the west of the western hoard.
Iron Age pottery has been recovered close to the cliff face in the north of the parish. An Iron Age coin (of the Atrebates tribe) may have been found close to the pottery, although there is a possibility it may have been found in Runton parish. The only other Iron Age finds are a hasp and harness fitting found in the centre of the parish.
Roman finds have been collected at sites in the north and the centre of the parish. Interestingly all the pottery has been found in the north, whilst all the metalwork has been found in the centre of the parish. This is more likely to reflect the distribution of archaeological investigation than patterns of settlement and/or activity. The distribution of metal finds reflects that of metal detecting sites. As fieldwalking has not taken place in the centre of the parish, pottery is lacking here. The woodland in the south limits metal detecting and fieldwalking access, as do the caravan parks in the north. It is interesting to note that the pottery in the north has either been found in cliff faces or in disturbed areas close to the cliff edge.
No Early Saxon material has been found in Beeston Regis. The only possible Middle Saxon artefact is a Middle or Late Saxon buckle from the centre of the parish. In the southeast of the parish a large group of 10th and 11th century pits survive (NHER 6351 and 6353). A number have been excavated and they contained metal working debris, burnt material and pottery. The metal working debris suggests that that the pits were used in the processing of iron ores. A second group of pits (NHER 6392) in the south centre of the parish were probably of the same date and function. They have since been destroyed by quarrying.
The medieval All Saints’ Church (NHER 6421) is located in the north of the parish, close to a small cluster of modern houses. Close by is a large circular moated site (NHER 6394), possibly a medieval windmill mound, is visible on aerial photographs. Only a section of the earthwork survives and a caravan park and other features have been built over them.
St Mary's Augustinian Priory, Beeston Regis. (©NCC)
The Augustinian Priory of St Mary (NHER 6349
) was located in the west of the parish, to the southwest of All Saints’ Church. It was founded in 1216 by Margery de Cressy and was dissolved in 1536. The church and part of the cloisters are in ruins, whilst a monastic building survives having been converted into a house during the 16th to 19th centuries. Two fishponds remain and may once have been larger. A road (NHER 38310
) visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs in the centre of the parish may have connected the priory with Camp Lane and Aylmerton to the southeast.
A medieval horse harness pendant from Beeston Regis bearing the arms of Morley, of Norfolk. (©NCC)
Medieval and post medieval artefacts, including an unusually well preserved horse harness pendant depicting the coat of arms of the Morley family (NHER 31161
), have been found at sites in the centre of parish and in a few locations to the north and south. As with the finds from the Roman period, the medieval and post medieval distributions tend to reflect where archaeological work has been carried out rather than being a true representation of medieval settlement and activity.
Beeston Regis Hall (NHER 13404) is located to the south of All Saint’s Church and to the east of the priory. It was built in 1730, was added to in 1870 and in 1890 and was damaged by a bomb in 1940. It stands on the site of a 16th century house and includes some elements that may be of this date.
In the south of the parish an 'Old brick kiln' is marked on Faden's map of 1797 and on the 1836 Ordnance Survey map. Close by are several linear banks (NHER 38320) that are probably post medieval woodland boundaries. Similar banks (NHER 9872 and 38331) survive in Sheringham Wood in the southwest of the parish and in adjacent Upper Sheringham. In 1882 century a railway line from Norwich City Station to Cromer (NHER 13584) was opened. It passes through the north of the parish and continues to serve passengers as part of the Bittern Line. During the early 20th century there was a lime kiln and brickworks (NHER 6420) close to the cliff edge. The kiln was damaged by the army during World War One and parts of it have been lost in cliff falls.
Two World War One pillboxes survive in the parish. One (NHER 32524) is located in the south beside Briton’s Lane, with the second (NHER 32525) located in the north on the Beeston Regis/Runton parish boundary. During World War Two the second pillbox was modified and loopholes were blocked or shuttered. It was part of a large World War Two defensive site (NHER 38426) and was partially enclosed by barbed wire.
Two World War Two pillboxes are thought to have been built in the parish. One is certainly visible on aerial photographs taken during the 1940s and another may be. A section of brick wall built into the north wall of the Beeston Regis churchyard is probably all that survives of the certain example (NHER 38336). The possible pillbox (NHER 38338, with an associated slit trench) was located on the edge of the cliff during the 1940s, but has been lost to cliff falls. Concrete found on the beach in 2004 may well have come from it. A military installation (NHER 38337) was located just to the south of possible pillbox. It included structures, buildings and three short zigzag trenches within a compound of barbed wire. A line of barbed wire obstruction linked it to another military site to the east (NHER 38334). Much of the installation had been dismantled by 1946.
David Robertson (NLA), 16 November 2005.
Beeston Regis Parish Council, 2004/2005. 'Beeston Regis'. Available:
http://www.northnorfolk.org/beestonregis/default.htm. Accessed 16 November 2005.
Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book: Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore)
Mills, A.D., 1998. Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford, Oxford University Press)
Rye, J., 1991. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham, Larks Press)