Parish Summary: Blickling

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

Blickling, from the Old English meaning the ‘homestead of Blicla’s people’, in the northeast of the county, is dominated by Blickling Hall, now owned by the National Trust, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

There is some evidence for early settlement in the parish, several Neolithic axeheads (NHER 7382, 7383, 14556) and some pottery (NHER 6714) have been found, as well as a Bronze Age mace head (NHER 5115). A Bronze Age barrow is preserved within woodland in the park (NHER 28673), and two ring ditches are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs in the south of the parish (NHER 12784, 12785). Two Roman coins (NHER 7384, 33094) and a solitary fragment of Roman pottery (NHER 31651) have been found in the parish. Two rectilinear enclosures are visible as cropmarks, and may date to the Roman period (NHER 12981, 36072).

The only evidence of Saxon occupation in the parish is a Middle Saxon coin (NHER 33094), which was found by metal detecting in the south of the parish. Despite the lack of material evidence from the Saxon period, Blickling seems to have been a fairly substantial and wealthy settlement, and was a royal manor before being given to the Bishop of Thetford after 1066. Lots of small outlying settlements were associated with the manor of Blickling in the Domesday survey, including Oulton and Hevingham, suggesting that Blickling was a manor of some importance.

Blickling retained its association with the Bishopric until well into the medieval period. The site of the episcopal manor (NHER 6714) is in the north of the parish. Community excavations have revealed the foundations of medieval buildings and fishponds, as well as medieval pottery, tile and building materials. The site is also visible as earthworks running down towards the river. 

National Trust photograph of Blickling Hall, an important Jacobean mansion.

Blickling Hall , an important Jacobean mansion.

© NTPL/Leo Mason.

During the late 14th century the manor came into the hands of Sir Nicolas Dagworth who built a large, moated hall on the site of the present Blickling Hall (NHER 5115). The manor passed through several families, including Sir Thomas Erpingham, who fought at the Battle of Agincourt with Henry V, and the Boleyn family. Anne Boleyn, whose marriage to Henry VIII sparked the crisis of the Reformation, is reputed to have been born at Blickling and to have spent much of her early life here, a claim made by several different houses owned by the Boleyn family. Several memorials to the Boleyn family, and to Sir Nicolas Dagworth are in St Andrew’s Church (NHER 7412), which stands next to the Hall. The church itself is mainly of 14th century date, with some earlier work. 

Photograph of Blickling Tower House.

Tower House, Blickling. (©NCC)

In 1605 the manor was acquired by Sir Henry Hobart, who built the present house. Blickling Hall is one of the most impressive Jacobean mansions in the country, and is one of Norfolk’s most famous landmarks. Designed by Robert Lyminge, the architect of Hatfield House, between 1618 and 1629, on the site of the medieval hall. Although the Hall was altered in the 18th century, much of the Jacobean interior and layout survives, such as the plaster ceilings and the long gallery, which look out over the formal gardens.

Originally there were two medieval deer parks in the parish, one associated with the Bishop’s palace, and one with the secular manorial site, where the present Blickling Hall is built. An earthwork bank (NHER 17743) may represent the boundary of one of these deer parks. The park around the hall was gradually extended, taking in the medieval ‘Great Wood’ in the 17th century (NHER 17744), before expanding rapidly in the 18th century to its present size. The 18th century landscape park (NHER 30433) around the Hall includes an ornamental lake, a large viewing mount, a prospect tower (NHER 5116), and a pyramidal mausoleum (NHER 7407).

During World War One, the normally tranquil surroundings of the Hall were used as an airfield (NHER 13615), but its exact location is unknown. The Royal Air Force used the grounds of the Hall as a barracks during World War Two, and the foundations of several buildings (NHER 36311, 36312) were discovered during a community excavation in 2001.

The landscape and archaeology of Blickling is focused on the magnificent Jacobean Hall, and although the evidence for earlier occupation in the parish is somewhat lacking, this may be because systematic fieldwalking and metal detecting has not been carried out on a large scale, and the early archaeology of the parish is still waiting to be discovered.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 13 September 2005.


Further Reading

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

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

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B., 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North East (London, Penguin)

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

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