Parish Summary: Bawburgh

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

Bawburgh is just to the west of Norwich close to New Costessey. The main settlement is located on the southern banks of the River Yare, but the parish also includes the Royal Norfolk Showground. The name probably means enclosure or farmstead belonging to Beawa or belonging to gadfly. Gadfly may be a nickname. The name is Old English in origin suggesting there was Saxon settlement here. The parish is mentioned in the Domesday Book as being an outlier of Costessey – an area of land belonging to the manor at Costessey, but not linked to the main area of land containing the manor itself. The parish is recorded as containing a mill – the presence of the river suggests this was probably a watermill. Extensive metal detecting around the fields of the parish has identified many scatters of material dating from the prehistoric to the post medieval periods and there are some particularly good examples of 17th and 18th century vernacular architecture within the village.

The earliest finds date to the Palaeolithic period and include a flint handaxe (NHER 9285). Several Neolithic flint tools (NHER 9287 and 9286) have also been recovered. Scatters of other prehistoric worked flint have been recovered across the parish. Excavation in advance of the development of the Costessey Park and Ride Scheme uncovered an extensive prehistoric site (NHER 33842) with shallow pits, a ditch and a possible hearth and several Bronze Age burial mounds have been identified (NHER 9290, 9291, 9292 and 31443). Iron Age and other prehistoric pottery has been recovered from across the parish (NHER 9400).  

Front view of late 8th or early 9th century Irish or Viking enamelled stud.

A late 8th or early 9th century Irish or Viking enamelled stud found in Bawburgh. (©NCC)

Two possible Roman roads (NHER 15768 and 5244) run through the parish and excavation in the 1940s and 1970s revealed part of a 1st to 2nd century AD Roman cemetery (NHER 9288) containing cremations and inhumations here. Finds from the Saxon period include a Middle Saxon brooch (NHER 25597) and a very unusual Viking or Danish wooden spade (NHER 24060). A Viking or Irish enamelled stud (NHER 25986) has been recorded. The patron saint of Bawburgh, St Walstan, lived during the Saxon period and the round towered Saxon parish church of St Mary and St Walstan (NHER 9296) is dedicated to him. His holy well (NHER 9298) can be found near the church and is still a place of pilgrimage although the medieval well has been replaced with a modern brick structure. Although there are many scatters of medieval objects including coins (NHER 29393 and 28307) and pottery (NHER 12958 and 14282) from the parish there is no clear evidence for centres of occupation. Church Farm House (NHER 9297) may be a medieval building and certainly makes use of much reused medieval stone.  

Photograph of the Holy Well, Bawburgh. From Picture Norfolk.

The Holy Well, Bawburgh. (©NCC)

Bawburgh Hall (NHER 9299) built in 1634 but now demolished and built over now longer remains but two garden houses that used to belong in its garden can still be seen. The Hermit’s House (NHER 9300) and the Slipper Chapel (NHER 9301) were probably never a house or a chapel but simply decorative garden features. The village also retains some interesting 17th century cottages (NHER 11627, 11628, 11629, 11630 and 12044) and a dower house (NHER 19254). The 18th century bridge (NHER 12721) and 19th century watermill (NHER 9419) are also of interest. The mill provided paper for The Times newspaper from 1858 to 1899.

Photograph of the Slipper Chapel, Bawburgh. From Picture Norfolk. 

The Slipper Chapel, a garden folly, Bawburgh.

Courtesy of Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service. 

Bawburgh also has some fascinating modern sites – most notably the eastern region radar headquarters and regional seat of government site (NHER 33781) an underground bunker that would have been used in the event of a nuclear war. It was decommissioned in 1992. The Norfolk Showground airfield (NHER 29535) also acted as Norwich’s second airport between 1949 and 1951.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 18th August 2005.


Further Reading

Bawburgh News, 2006. ‘Bawburgh News Website’. Available: Accessed 27 January 2006.

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Philimore)

Fox, J., 2001. ‘Subterranea Britannica: Research Study Group: Sites: Bawburgh’. Available: Accessed 27 January 2006.

Mills, A.D., 1998. Dictionary of English Place Names (Oxford, Oxford University Press)

Neville, J., 2004. ‘Norfolk Mills – Bawburgh’. Available: Accessed 27 January 2006.

Rye, J., 2000. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham,The Larks Press)

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