Parish Summary: Hanworth

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

Hanworth is a large parish in the northeast of the county near the market town of Aylsham. The small village of Hanworth is in the east, and to the west the former village of Gunton has disappeared.

The modern landscape of the parish is dominated by the landscape parks of Hanworth Hall and Gunton Hall. This landscape is very different from the prehistoric ceremonial and funerary landscape that existed here during from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. The last vestiges of this landscape are now visible as cropmarks rather than upstanding monuments.

A Neolithic cursus (NHER 18190) has been recorded on a ridge of high ground between two tributaries of the River Bure. A Neolithic or Bronze Age enclosure (NHER 38478) is located within the cursus, surrounding a central pit or grave. Several ring ditches (NHER 11685 and 38477), probably the remains of Bronze Age round barrows, are associated with the cursus. A possible Neolithic mortuary enclosure (NHER 38474) lies close to the cursus, and other prehistoric enclosures and trackways (NHER 38481, 38482, 36486 and 38467) are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. In 1996 the Norfolk Archaeological Unit carried out an evaluation in The Grove (NHER 32152), in Gunton Park. The evaluation revealed part of a possible prehistoric ditched enclosure and a series of post-holes. A Bronze Age linear barrow cemetery (NHER 38448) is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs, and a number of other ring ditches (NHER 12814, 12815, 18313, 18315, 18366, 31749, 31750, 38465, 38466 and 38470) have been recorded in the parish.

Neolithic axeheads (NHER 6623, 20431) and flint implements (NHER 6624) have been found, as well as prehistoric flakes and other worked flints (NHER 31749) and Late Prehistoric pottery (NHER 33508). 

Drawing of a Roman die stamp from hanworth. The die was used to manufacture repousee plates for disc brooches.

A Roman die stamp from Hanworth. The die was used to manufacture repousee plates for disc brooches. (© NCC.

 and S. White.)

The site of an Iron Age to Roman settlement and field system (NHER 38463) is visible as a series of cropmarks, including trackways, ditched enclosures and ring ditches, some of which may be the remains of roundhouses. Several Iron Age to Roman trackways (NHER 38473, 38481 and 38472), an enclosure (NHER 38472) and Iron Age square barrows (NHER 13027 and 38475) have also been identified. Iron Age pottery (NHER 12816 and 33508), a toggle (NHER 33645) and an Iron Age or Roman terret (NHER 12816) have been found. Roman finds from the parish includes coins (NHER 12816, 33645 and 33887), pottery (NHER 30853, 33508 and 33576), tiles (NHER 12816), a brooch (NHER 33646). An important Roman die stamp (NHER 30853), used in the manufacture of disc brooches with repousse decoration, was found by a metal detectorist in 1999.

Hanworth comes from the Old English meaning ‘enclosure of a man named Hagena’. Gunton means ‘farmstead of a man named Gunni’. Early Saxon brooches (NHER 33887 and 34463) and a Saxon wrist clasp (NHER 33506) have been found by metal detectorists. Middle Saxon pottery (NHER 12816), a Middle Saxon coin (NHER 33508) and a pin head (NHER 34614) have also been found, as well as a Middle or Late Saxon strap end, decorated with silver and niello inlay (NHER 33574) and Late Saxon pottery (NHER 33887).

Both Hanworth and Gunton are recorded in the Domesday Book. Hanworth was held by Roger Bigot, and had eleven villagers and thirty smallholders, as well as mills and beehives. Gunton is recorded as a slightly smaller holding, in the hands of the Bishop of Thetford, with eight villagers and six smallholders.

A church is not recorded in the Domesday Book, although St Bartholomew’s Church (NHER 6817) in Hanworth may date back to the Late Saxon period. The chancel is the oldest part of the church, and originally had an apse before alterations were carried out in the 14th century. Medieval pottery and other finds (NHER 30853) have been recovered from an area that was the site of a medieval settlement, just outside Hanworth Park close to an area of former common.

Meadow Farmhouse (NHER 24085) in Hanworth is a 16th century flint and brick house that may originally have been timber framed. Two flint and brick cottages on Whitepost Road in Gunton (NHER 24086) date to the 17th century.

Hanworth Hall (NHER 6636) is an early 18th century mansion designed by the Norfolk architect Matthew Brettingham, who is best known for his work at Holkham Hall. A landscape park (NHER 30439) laid out in the 18th century surrounds the Hall, which is on the site of an earlier house and deer park. Repton was involved in laying out the Pleasure Ground, and opening up the view towards the church. The park contains the largest sweet chestnut tree in the county, which was planted before 1650.

Gunton Hall (NHER 6815) was also designed by Matthew Brettingham, and was enlarged in the late 18th century by Wyatt. The Hall was badly damaged by fire in the late 19th century, and has been extensively restored. The surrounding service courts have been converted into houses, including an octagonal game larder. The landscape park (NHER 30438) that surrounds the Hall was laid out in the early 18th century, and has two large artificial lakes that were constructed in the mid 18th century. The Grove (NHER 32152) is an important example of an early 18th century garden, designed by Charles Bridgman in the 1730s. The garden included an artificial mound, known as The Mount (NHER 6818), which had an octagonal garden building at its summit. The walled kitchen gardens date from the 1740s, and include a restored 19th century glasshouse. The entrance to the park is flanked by Hanworth Lodges (NHER 6816), a pair of 18th century lodges linked by an archway. St Andrew’s Church (NHER 6819) was designed by Robert Adam in 1769, on the site of the medieval parish church. The church has a large portico with Tuscan columns, and was designed to be a prominent feature in the landscape of the park. Gunton Sawmill (NHER 8557) is a unique example of a water-powered sawmill. The timber building was constructed within Gunton Park in the 1820s, and has recently been restored to full working order, and is occasionally open to the public.

A World War One pillbox (NHER 17124) in the north of the parish was demolished in 1990. A World War Two searchlight battery (NHER 12142) was located to the south of Gunton Park, and is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 9 February 2006


Further Reading

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

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

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B., 1997. The Buildings of England. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North East (London, Penguin)

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

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