Parish Summary: Briston

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

Briston is in north Norfolk, just to the east of Melton Constable and southwest of Holt. The parish includes parts of Melton Constable, as there has been considerable growth of both settlements in the last couple of centuries. Briston village has now expanded along the Norwich and Reepham roads from an original linear settlement pattern strung out north to south through the parish. The settlement pattern may relate to the meaning of the village name. Briston can be translated as ‘settlement in the gap’. The River Bure flows through the parish, and the village is located in a low-lying part of the valley, perhaps interpreted as a gap? Alternatively the name may suggest the village was settled on a landslip or broken ground. Land in the village is recorded in the Domesday Book as being held by Toki prior to 1066 and William the Conqueror and William of Warenne took over control of parts of the parish after the Norman Conquest. The parish is particularly rich in Neolithic finds with thirteen flint axeheads recovered from here. There are also several interesting modern archaeological sites. 

Illustration of an Iron Age terret with red and blue enamel. The dotted background on the bottom drawing represents the red enamel, and the black areas are the blue enamel.

An Iron Age terret decorated with red and blue enamel found in Briston. (©NCC)

The prehistoric period is dominated by the Neolithic finds although the earliest dated flint axehead comes from the Palaeolithic period (NHER 6545). Thirteen Neolithic axeheads have been recovered (NHER 6537, 6539, 6541, 6545, 15182, 19550, 19551, 40266, 40267 and 40544) as well as a hammerhead (NHER 6538) and a flint knife (NHER 39584) also dating to this period. There is little evidence of activity from the Bronze Age but two Iron Age terrets (NHER 33657 and 33440) and several coins (NHER 33440) are evidence of activity within the parish in later prehistory.

A possible Roman site (NHER 11336) has been identified from aerial photographs although this could also be interpreted as a medieval moat. Finds from the parish dating to the Roman period are ample evidence that there was Roman activity here – coins (NHER 20207) and brooches (NHER 33554) have been recorded by metal detectorists and several pieces of Roman quern stone used for grinding flour have also been recovered (NHER 6542, 6543 and 6541). The reports of a Saxon round tower at the church appear to be unfounded but a single Saxon coin (NHER 33554) has been recorded from the parish. 

All Saints' Church, Briston.

All Saints' Church, Briston. (©NCC)

All Saints’ Church (NHER 6548) dates to the 13th century and although there is evidence for some Norman architecture and the possibility of an earlier church on the same site there is no clear evidence for a Saxon structure. Several medieval moats have also been recorded in the parish (NHER 6546, 18900 and 23311) and it is likely that the Roman site may also have been a medieval moated site (NHER 11336). Medieval finds include a gold coin (NHER 34370) and an unusual gilt pilgrim badge depicting St George (NHER 33440), likely to have been produced at the pilgrimage centre of St George’s chapel in Windsor. It had certainly travelled a fair distance to Briston! 

View of the derelict watermill in 1982.

Thurning Watermill was built in the early 19th century. (©NCC)

There are several examples of 17th century architecture within the parish (NHER 30329, 16568, 29702, 31784 and 38093) and scatters of material have been collected from across the parish including post medieval coins (NHER 33554) and a candlestick (NHER 40465)

Thurning watermill (NHER 6550) was built in the 19th century. There are several interesting modern archaeological sites including the site of a World War Two airplane crash (NHER 23706) in which three members of the crew died. They are commemorated at the church. There are also traces of industrial archaeology such as the dismantled railway line and parts of Melton Constable planned railway town (NHER 13583).

Megan Dennis (NLA), 19th August 2005.


Further Reading

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

Norfolk County Council, 2003. ‘Norfolk Countryside’. Available: Accessed 31 January 2006.

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

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

Smith, L., 2003. ‘Roll of Honour – Norfolk – Briston’. Available: Accessed 31 January 2006.

Unknown, 2004. ‘Briston Norfolk’. Available: Accessed 31 January 2006.

Unknown, 2004. ‘Briston Info’. Available: Accessed 31 January 2006.

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