Parish Summary: Wiveton

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

The parish of Wiveton is situated in the north of Norfolk. It lies north of Field Dalling, east of Blakeney and southwest of Cley-next-the-sea. The name Wiveton may derive from the Old English meaning ‘Wife’s or Wifa’s enclosure’. The parish has a long history and was established by the time of the Norman Conquest. Its population, land ownership and productive resources were detailed in the Domesday Book of 1086. This document revealed that Thorgrim and Thorketel held the parish lands prior to 1066. Various quantities of livestock were also listed and it appears that Wiveton had a share in several mills at the time of the survey.

The earliest finds to be identified in Wiveton date to the Mesolithic period. These are flint implements (NHER 15636 and 15637), which were used as everyday tools. However, a greater number of lithic artefacts have been ascribed a Neolithic date. These Neolithic flints comprise axeheads (NHER 44041), arrowheads (NHER 15637), flakes (NHER 6143) and scrapers (NHER 15636).

The best represented period of prehistory is the Bronze Age. In addition to various flint tools (e.g. NHER 15636 and 30725) there are a number of metal tools recorded. These metal implements include axeheads (NHER 25893, 33250), rapiers/spearheads (NHER 33796) and an awl (NHER 33819). Pieces of Bronze Age pottery have also been recovered via metal detecting and fieldwalking (e.g. NHER 33796) and a ceramic urn was found near to the river at an unspecified date (NHER 6137).

Identifying finds dating to the Iron Age has proved more difficult. The collection of Iron Age finds comprises a single coin (NHER 33803), harness fittings (NHER 33803 and 33250), a possible scabbard mount (NHER 25862) and a brooch (NHER 33819).

No Roman sites have been reported for Wiveton but metal detecting has helped to recover several finds. More unusual finds include a mortarium fragment (NHER 16752), a military buckle (NHER 25862), a ferrule (NHER 33819) and an openwork mount (NHER 39280). More typical Roman artefacts comprise brooches (NHER 29162 and 44041), coins (NHER 6138 and 6139) and pottery sherds (e.g. NHER 6140 and 6143).

Various pieces of Saxon metalwork have been recovered from the parish through metal detecting. As is often the case, the majority of these finds are brooches. Examples from Wiveton include those from the Early Saxon period (NHER 6143), the Late Saxon period (NHER 39543) and an import of Viking origin (NHER 29162). Other Saxon finds of note include a Late Saxon box mount in the shape of a quadruped animal (NHER 25862), a Middle Saxon strap end (NHER 33803) and a Late Saxon hooked tag (NHER 33819). A more unusual object that is contemporary in date to the Saxon period is a Byzantine coin (NHER 33250).


St Mary's Church, Wiveton. Photograph from

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

A good deal of medieval archaeology has been recorded in Wiveton. The most obvious reminder of the medieval past is the parish church dedicated to St Mary (NHER 6169). This church has a 14th century tower and chancel, but pieces of reused stonework suggest an earlier church existed. The nave, aisles and porches date to the mid to late 15th century but further restorations were carried out during the 17th to 19th centuries. Inside there are some good monumental brasses and tomb slabs. It is also worth mentioning that in 1946 the flint foundations of a building were located to the northwest of Wiveton Barn (NHER 6161). Partial excavations subsequently identified the remains of a vaulted undercroft structure of probable 13th century date.

Two bridges were built in Wiveton in the latter part of the medieval period. Wiveton Bridge (NHER 6141), built from stone and brick, is clearly visible on aerial photographs taken in 1974, 1989 and 1990. The area of the southwest corner may be the site of a 15th century chapel and this area can be seen to be clearly larger than the other ‘bastions'. Additionally, it has been speculated that two lumps of flint (NHER 34950) to the east of this bridge relate to ‘Wiveton Bridge in the Marsh', which was mentioned as a separate entity in 1560. The sites of three other possible medieval structures have also been identified from the presence of building remains and artefacts (NHER 6160, 15635 and 35623).

A number of very fine medieval objects have been found in the parish. The most spectacular objects comprise a silver finger ring with a bezel in the form of a gilded openwork crown above clasped hands (NHER 25893), a cast bronze vessel handle escutcheon in the form of a female head (NHER 25893) and a French coin that had been converted into a brooch (NHER 33803). Other more unusual finds include a folding strap clasp (NHER 39543) and a seal matrix with a bird motif (NHER 25862). Other objects that have been discovered include horse harness pendants (NHER 6143 and 33249), strap ends (NHER 33250), coins (NHER 19138), a millstone fragment (NHER 6135) and pottery sherds (NHER 42725).

During the post medieval period it appears that Wiveton was a busy place. Several mills have been noted amongst the archaeological records. The first of these is Blakeney Mill (NHER 6166), which was in existence by 1769 and had a domed cap, shuttered sails and three pairs of millstones. It had fallen derelict in 1912 but underwent temporary repairs in 1981. Two sites relating to Wiveton Mill (NHER 15213 and 15817) have also been reported. It has been suggested that the mill belonged to the Smith family, who are commemorated on the famous miller's tombstone in the parish churchyard.

Traces of possible post medieval ridge and furrow agriculture (NHER 27882 and 38281) have been noted on aerial photographs of the parish. Along with farming, as indicated by these field systems, it also appears that Wiveton was trading via the local waterways. A possible wharfage area (NHER 15323) has been reported in a field due north of St Mary's Church, and the presence of post medieval weights (NHER 6143 and 39279) and cloth seals (NHER 6143) in Wiveton may support this notion. Various private residences were also constructed in the post medieval period. One such building is Wiveton Hall (NHER 6159) which originated in the 17th century house. The earlier part dates to 1653 and has shaped gables and pedimented windows, giving the façade a slightly crowded look. Inside, there is fine oak panelling and an opening in the cellar has given rise to a story of a tunnel to the friary. Sir Guy Dauber added to the hall in 1908. This six bay range is in the Jacobean style and has irregular fenestration.

Faden’s map of 1797 also shows ‘Mr Jodrell’s Summer House’ with an illustration usually used to indicate halls (NHER 15212). This suggests that a somewhat substantial structure once stood atop Summer House Hill. According to a local informant the ruins of a square prospect house stood on the hill here in the 1920s. However, the stamp on the bricks from this ruin indicated a 19th century date demonstrating this was not the building shown by Faden.

Other post medieval buildings include Primrose Farm (NHER 43299), a 17th century property with 19th century alterations, and Vine Cottage (NHER 30638) which is of 16th/17th century origins. The cannon (NHER 24187) that stands on a mound in Wiveton Green is also a post medieval addition to the village. According to a local story, this cannon was one of a convoy being taken from King's Lynn to Felixstowe during the Napoleonic Wars. However, its carriage broke and it was left lying in the road. Local people then retrieved it and tried to fire it for their amusement at which point it burst. It was not set up as a monument until some time later.

Several post medieval finds have been recovered from the parish. These include a silver hawking ring (NHER 44442) and silver finger ring with foliar decoration (NHER 39280), indicating the presence of wealthier members of society. This is the most intriguing item amongst the collection of jettons (NHER 33249), buckles and mounts (NHER 33819). 

The most recent archaeological record for Wiveton concerns a World War Two pillbox (NHER 32458) visible on various aerial photographs. This defensive structure is located within a hedgerow to the south of Wiveton Bridge.

Thomas Sunley (NLA), 17 September 2007.


Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. The Domesday Book (Chichester, Phillimore & Co.)

Mortlock, D. P. and Roberts, C. V., 1985. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches: No.1 North-East Norfolk (Cambridge: Acorn Editions)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1999. The Buildings of England, Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East (London, Penguin)

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

Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2024 Norfolk Historic Environment Service