Parish Summary: Tittleshall

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

Tittleshall is a large parish situated in the Breckland Local Government District, with an area of some 1376 hectares. It contains the settlement of Tittleshall, and in 2001 had a population of 407 people. The name ‘Tittleshall’ is thought to derive from the Old English for Tyttel’s nook

The earliest known features in the parish are a number of Neolithic pits and ditches (NHER 37622), as well as a prehistoric pit (NHER 37621). At least three ring ditches have also been recorded (NHER 17062, 17065 and 13835), as well as a double ring ditch, inside which a cremation and pits have been found (NHER 37622).

In addition, a large number of prehistoric object have been recovered from over thirty separate sites in the parish. These include prehistoric tools (NHER 17067) and scrapers (NHER 17066, and 17068) and hammerstones (NHER 16935, 17061) as well as Mesolithic tranchet axehead (NHER 17194) and flint core (NHER 39376) and a Neolithic flint scraper (NHER 3699) and knife (NHER 11450). 

Iron Age activity has also been noted on the site of the double ring ditch (NHER 37622). Activity here seems to continue from the Neolithic into the Iron Age, with an Iron Age enclosure, post holes and pits as well as possible iron smelting activity. Iron Age pottery sherds have been recovered from this site, as well as three others (NHER 39370, 39371 and 37621).

Although the Roman period road from North Pickenham to Toftrees (NHER 3697) runs through the parish, there are no recorded features of Roman date. Roman pottery sherds have been recovered from fifteen sites (NHER 3709, 37690, and 50167), but the lack of metal detecting in this parish has meant that no Roman metal objects or coins have been recovered. This has also resulted in the discovery of very few Saxon period objects, the only ones recorded being pottery sherds from six sites (NHER 39369, 39371 and 39377).

However, despite this lack of evidence for settlement recent excavation has uncovered a small but exciting Early Saxon cemetery. This cemetery was predominantly used for inhumations, although two or three cremations were recorded. Perhaps of particular interest is the preservation of some seventy mineralised textile fragments, along with brooches, sleeve clasps, buckles pins and two Roman coins turned into pendants, all from less than thirty individuals. A surprising number of beads, over 388 in total, were also recovered, the majority of which were made of amber or glass.

Godwick 1596 map

Godwick deserted medieval village - a 1596 map.

Tittleshall itself is listed in the Domesday Book and appears to be relatively populous and valuable, but it was not the only settlement in this area. The village of Godwick (NHER 1104) is also described, as is Sutton (NHER 3708) and Gramston (or Grenstein) (NHER 7225). All three of these villages were present in the medieval period, but had become deserted by the post medieval period. In the case of Godwick (NHER 1104) it is known that the village was stable between the 12th and 15th centuries, falling into sharp decline in the 16th century. However the exact reason for the desertion of this and the other two settlements is unclear, though it may be the result of the heavy clay soils and the boom in sheep-rearing in this area during the 15th and 16th centuries.  

Aerial photograph of Godwick deserted medieval village

Aerial photograph of Godwick deserted medieval village. (© NCC)

The only church to survive in this area is St Mary’s Church, Tittleshall (NHER 3732), which is likely to be the church mentioned in the Domesday Book entry for this settlement. Today the visible structure of the church dates to the 13th to 16th centuries, with a stunning Decorated style east window and a large collection of fine memorials from 1598 onwards.

There are also three recorded moated sites within the parish; Peak Hall (NHER 3705), Giants Moat (NHER 7229) and Greyston Manor (NHER 13536). The earthworks of a possible farmstead (NHER 17454) and a hollow way and building platform (NHER 32978) are recorded, and medieval objects have been recovered from a number of sites across the parish. These include pottery sherds from some twenty-one sites (NHER 3707, 37690, and 50167).

The beginning of the post medieval period had a great impact on the parish, with the manor of Godwick, including the site of the deserted settlement (NHER 1104), passing to Sir Edward Coke, who was the Chief Justice under Elizabeth I. In 1586 he built Godwick Hall (NHER 1103) and the adjacent barn (NHER 1102). The hall fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1960s, but the barn survives today. It is a brick structure of English bond, with an original hammer-beam roof, and at 91m long is possibly the longest such structure in the county.

Other buildings of architectural interest include Woodford Lodge (NHER 5766), a 17th century timber-framed building with a Georgian brick façade, as well as Nos 21 and 22 High Street (NHER 29355), which are constructed of red brick in four bays and are likely to date to the second half of the 17th century. 

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 26 July 2007


Further Reading

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)

Wikipedia Contributors, 14 March 2007. ‘Tittleshall’. Available: Accessed: 24 July 2007


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