Parish Summary: Bylaugh

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

Bylaugh is located in Breckland, close to the centre of Norfolk and about 5 kilometres northeast of Dereham. It is an unusually shaped parish, with many twists and turns in its boundary. Much of its southern and western boundaries follow the line of the River Wensum, whilst the eastern and northern boundaries follow field edges, park boundaries and roads and cut across landscape features.

Modern settlement in the parish is dispersed with farms and houses scattered throughout. Bylaugh Park (NHER 30496), a post medieval landscape park, occupies a large proportion of the parish. The largest concentration of buildings, albeit comprising a small hamlet, are in the south centre, focused on Bylaugh Hall.

Only two prehistoric artefacts have been found in Bylaugh. A Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead and an Iron Age Iceni coin (NHER 25690) have been discovered in the south of the parish.

Seven ring ditches have been identified in the parish. They may all be the remains of Bronze Age barrows. Five are located in the far east of the parish, with two sited in the northwest of the parish. They are all located within 500m of the River Wensum and are on sloping land facing it. Interestingly, Bylaugh is called ‘Belega’ in the Domesday Book. Although this is an obscure placename, the ‘ega’ section is Old English for ‘enclosure’, whilst the first part may mean ‘funeral pyre’. Could the placename preserve a folk memory of cremation and burial in barrows? 

They may have been a Roman bridge (NHER 2993) across the River Wensum, south of Bylaugh Hall. An undated road (NHER 14228) is visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs and can be seen on post medieval maps. It may have Roman origins and follows the northern parish boundary for most of its route. 

Roman coins have been collected from four locations within the parish. All of the findspots are located close to the river. Roman pottery and brooches have been found at one of these. There are Roman bricks in the fabric of St Mary’s Church (NHER 3011). This may have come from a unknown Roman building in the parish. 

The 11th or 12th century round tower of St Mary's Church, with the 14th century belfry.

St Mary's Church, Bylaugh. (©NCC)

Three sites have yielded Early Saxon or possible Early Saxon objects. All are close to the Wensum, with two in the northwest and one in the south of the parish. An Early Saxon brooch and an Early or Middle Saxon mount have been found at the northwestern sites. A possible sleeve clasp came from the southern site (NHER 25690), as did Middle Saxon brooches and pottery and Late Saxon objects (including pottery, a strap end, a metal pin and a Late Saxon or medieval Italian coin).  

Photograph of a VIking, probably from a box, from Bylaugh. The mount depicts a valkyrie welcoming a warrior to Valhalla.

A Viking mount, probably from a box, from Bylaugh. The mount depicts a valkyrie welcoming a warrior to Valhalla.


Before 1066 Bylaugh was held by the Ralph, Earl of East Anglia. By 1086 and the time of the Domesday Book it was held by Wigwin for Count Alan and had thirteen freemen, nine villagers and seven smallholders. There was an outlying piece of land called ‘Bec’ attached to the parish. This may have been where Beck Hall in Billingford parish stands today.

The Domesday settlement was probably larger than any in the parish today. The village is known to have shrunk considerably by the mid 15th century and was fully abandoned later. St Mary’s church (NHER 3011) may well have been located within the settlement (NHER 11524) or just to the south. The church is a medieval building with 18th and 19th century additions and renovations. Its round tower may be 11th or 12th century in date.

The settlement may have extended to the southwest or there may have been a second focus of settlement. This is suggested by the presence of two ditched enclosures (NHER 21076) located in an arc in the River Wensum. They are probably medieval in date and may be toft enclosures. Settlement may also have extended eastwards as there was a medieval chapel (NHER 16423) to the east of the church and medieval and post medieval metal finds have been found close to its site. The chapel was in ruins by the early 18th century.  

The ruined three-storey facade of the hall which is currently undergoing restoration.

The ruins of Bylaugh Hall. (©NCC)

Old Hall Farm and Park Farm both have surviving post medieval buildings. The farmhouse at Old Hall Farm has 17th century elements. Park Farm was built in the 19th century and may have been built as a model farm.

Bylaugh Hall (NHER 3006) is an important mid 19th century great house. It was one of the first to be constructed in East Anglia with steel girders. In the early 20th century there was a brickworks in its landscape park. Of this a kiln survives, with a pavilion built over the top. During World War Two the RAF used the hall and military buildings and an airstrip were constructed.

David Robertson (NLA), 13th September 2005.


Further Reading

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

Fryatt, R., no date. Bylaugh Hall. Available: Accessed: 13 September 2005.

 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)

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