Parish Summary: Walpole Cross Keys

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

Walpole Cross Keys is a small parish in the very west of Norfolk, on the border with Cambridgeshire. It is situated in the West Norfolk Local Government District, and has an area of 401 hectares. The name ‘Walpole’ is thought to derive from the Old English for pool by the wall, and may refer to the Roman bank which encircled a number of the Marshland parishes. The area of this parish was previously part of the now dissolved parish of Walpole St Andrew.

Large parts of the parish are former salt marshes, mostly drained only during the last two hundred years. As a result, it is thought unlikely that any occupation would have been possible during the prehistoric period. However, a possible group of Bronze Age barrows (NHER 13302) have been recorded, although they are known to have been destroyed and their location is uncertain. In addition to this a prehistoric worked flint (NHER 22014) has been recovered, but no other evidence of prehistoric, Bronze age or Iron Age occupation in this parish has been recorded.

No Roman monuments have been recorded in the parish, although a Roman cremation (NHER 21506) has been recorded just south of Walpole Cross Keys settlement. A Roman coin and copper alloy double-barrelled hollow (NHER 31705) handle have also been recovered. Objects from the Saxon period have also been recovered, comprising Middle and Late Saxon pottery sherds (NHER 16639 and 22575) and an Early Saxon 6th century square-headed brooch.

It is during the medieval period that occupation increased, and medieval pottery sherds have been recovered from twenty seven separate sites across the parish (NHER 20066, 22288 and 22299). This includes two concentrations of material which comprise bone and baked clay fragments (NHER 22291 and 21337).  A buckle has also been recovered (NHER 31705), and the earthworks of at least two medieval salterns have been recorded (NHER 21941 and 21942).

Although no medieval buildings are recorded in this parish, the site of a chantry chapel of St Mary the Virgin (NHER 19804) and the Blessed Mary (NHER 39522) are recorded. During the late post medieval period the parish also gained a chapel of ease dedicated to St Helen (NHER 2228), although this was converted into a private residence in 1989.

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 31 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)

Silvester, R. J., 1988. The Fenland Project Number 3: Marshland and the Nar Valley, Norfolk (Gressenhall, Norfolk Archaeological Unit)

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