Parish Summary: Brooke

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

This Parish Summary was originally prepared by Sarah Spooner in August 2005, with revisions kindly provided by Marion Folkes and Daphne Warman of Brooke and the Brooke Society’s Buildings Recording Group in February 2008.  The Group holds a large documentary archive collated over the past fifty years, and this should be consulted for more detailed information.

The parish of Brooke, probably named from the Old English and meaning a brook, is in the southeast of the county and is dominated by the large village of Brooke. The archaeological record in the parish is dominated by the high survival of early buildings in the village.  No systematic fieldwalking or metal detecting surveys have been undertaken.

 Prehistoric flints have been found scattered throughout the parish, including a Palaeolithic handaxe (NHER 10129), Neolithic axeheads (NHER 10130 and 34386) and other flint implements (NHER 10134, 20678 and 22607).

The former course of a Roman road (NHER 10160) runs along the western boundary of the parish, and is visible in hedge lines, straight roads, and the course of the parish boundary itself. There is little other archaeological evidence for Roman settlement in the parish, although Roman coins (NHER 10133 and 28630) and pottery (NHER 10134) have been found by metal detecting.

It was initially a linear settlement, with a cluster of dwellings round the Saxon round-towered St Peter’s Church (NHER 4000), small farms dotted along the perimeter of the extensive green and outlying moated farms in the ‘waste’ beyond.  The modern village retains this layout and, as then, is intersected by the road from Norwich to Bungay.  There is little archaeological evidence as yet of the Saxon settlement, as the area has been extensively overbuilt. Although the site of an Early Saxon inhumation cemetery (NHER 10132) is located close to the parish boundary it is unclear whether the site is actually within the parish of Brooke.  Known as “The Brooke Treasure”, the finds are in the British Museum.  Late Saxon metalwork including a brooch (NHER 31654), a pin (NHER 28863) and a coin (NHER 28444) have been found by metal detecting. 

A Late Saxon pin from Brooke. The pin is probably a Viking import.

Late Saxon pin from Brooke. The pin is probably a Viking import. (©NCC)

By 1086, when the Domesday Survey was carried out, Brooke was a fairly substantial rural settlement and had been given to the abbey at Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk) by William the Conqueror.  The survey records the woodland in Brooke as supporting thirty pigs and Brooke Wood (NHER 35905) is a large ancient wood recorded on Faden’s map of 1797 as much the same size and shape as it is today. 

The green of varying width extended about two miles northeast to southwest and, until the Enclosure Act of 1801, was central to village life. A string of ponds punctuated the green from Welbeck along High Green to Brooke Wood.  Most have been filled in, but the two largest remain as the village's central features.

In 'the waste' three 16th century farms were moated, Waterfield Cottage (NHER 10154), Old House Farm (NHER 10161) and Littlebeck Farm (NHER 34081).  The moat for Brooke Hall (NHER 10152) disappeared in the 18th century and only garden features (NHER 29781) and a dovecote (NHER 3999) survive.  School Cottage on High Green (NHER 28653), once a hall house with unusual fan bracing, is thought to be the oldest timber-framed building.  Many others survive, including 17th century Porch House (NHER 3998) and Mere House (NHER 14048), a fine brick fronted dwelling dominating the Meres.  Along High Green and The Street are other timber-framed cottages and houses, many of which were 'modernized' in the 18th and 19th centuries by brick facades and extensions.

The original Manor House (NHER 10158),with its farm, hop yards and dovecote (NHER 3999) lay next to the church (NHER 4000), and was replaced in the 17th century.  From medieval to Tudor times, the Manor also controlled three large communal fields.  Most houses were timber framed, of varying quality, and a good number remain together with some higher status brick buildings.

Under the 1801 Brooke Enclosure Act, the green was enclosed and allocated to various landowners.  The old Manor House was demolished (only some re-used bricks and the dovecote remain) and a new, grander Brooke Hall was constructed by the Holmes family in the Classical style around 1830.  Brooke House, another large residence, was erected around 1780 by Sir Roger Kerrison.  Both owners laid down parkland, demolishing cottages to improve the landscape.  Mr Holmes introduced a lake to his park.

The school was opened in 1838, the Baptist Chapel (NHER 3997) in 1839 and by the end of the 19th century, a number of substantial dwellings had been built by well-off Norwich merchants.  Little then changed until the 1930s when Brooke House was pulled down by Eric Mackintosh, who then built a ‘modern’ house for his family.  This is now Brooke Nursing Home.  The original walled garden and a stable block remain.  In 1949 Brooke Hall was demolished, having been requisitioned by the military during the war, when the park was ploughed up.   Only the lake, the coach house and an overgrown site remain.

Finally, in the 1960s estate development began and Brooke became largely a dormitory village for Norwich.  However, despite the changes, Brooke’s rural character can still be felt, particularly in the area of The Meres.

Sir Astley Paston Cooper, the famous 19th century surgeon was born in 1768 at the earlier Brooke Manor (NHER 10158)near the church.  Brooke Lodge (NHER 14045), another early 19th century house, built in the Gothic style, was part of the Brooke Hall Estate and was the youthful home of Edward Seago, the famous Norfolk painter.  George Ewart Evans, the well-known East Anglian writer and rural historian also resided in Brooke.


Further Reading

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

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

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

Blomfield, F. 1805-1810  History of the County of Norfolk

Faden's Map of Norfolk 1797 edited C. Barringer 1989


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