Parish Summary: Burston with Shimpling

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

Burston with Shimpling is located in south Norfolk, north of Diss and east of Shelfanger. This parish is an agglomeration of two earlier parishes, Burston and Shimpling, and these are the two main areas of settlement. There are also the smaller hamlets of Audley End and Mill Green. The agglomeration of the two parishes has resulted in a rather unusual L shaped parish. Burston is an Old English word meaning ‘farmstead by a landslip or rough ground’. The village is recorded in Domesday with several landowners. Shimpling has sometimes been known as Shimplingham and is also Old English. It can be translated as the ‘place or settlement of Scimpels’s people’. Scimpel was a nickname and meant ‘joke’. Robert de Vaux is recorded as owning the manor of Shimpling in the Domesday Book.

The earliest evidence for activity in the parish is a Palaeolithic handaxe (NHER 10980). A probable Mesolithic pick (NHER 11018) and several Neolithic axeheads have also been recovered (NHER 11016, 11017 and 11019). A Bronze Age copper alloy palstave (NHER 10982) has been found and an Iron Age coin minted in Kent (NHER 23345) was found during fieldwalking and metal detecting in advance of the building of the Dickleburgh bypass.

The Iron Age coin was found on a Roman occupation site (NHER 23345). A large number of pottery fragments, coins and brooches were recovered here. The Iron Age pottery fragments and brooches also found on the site suggest there may have been settlement here in the Late Iron Age. Other casual finds of a Roman coin and pottery (NHER 23344) have also been made and a Roman brooch (NHER 11199) was found in the parish in 1897. Patten Lane (NHER 11022) in the east part of the parish was believed to be a Roman road but excavations here revealed that it dated to the Early Saxon period.

An Early Saxon cemetery (NHER 23345) has been identified in the parish by the quantity of Early Saxon brooches and other personal ornaments found here. A single Early Saxon brooch (NHER 35233) and a possible Saxon bead or spindle whorl (NHER 11015) is also recorded as coming from the area but there is no other evidence for Saxon activity. 

Shimpling Place, an Elizabethan or Jacobean house in Burston with Shimpling. The house is partly timber framed and has stepped gables.

Burston Place, an Elizabethan or Jacobean house in Burston with Shimpling. (©NCC)

There is plenty of evidence, however, for medieval activity. Five medieval moats have been identified in the parish. These are widely spread – one at Shimpling Place (NHER 11028), another at Shimpling Hall (NHER 11029), the third south of Burston, (NHER 10992), the fourth at The Grange (NHER 11027) and another to the north of the settlement at Burston Hall (NHER 10989). Bridge Green Farmhouse (NHER 39318) is a surviving example of a medieval hall house. There is also evidence for less monumental sites, such as the medieval tofts (NHER 11023) and remnants of medieval ridge and furrow (NHER 25400). There are also wide spreads of medieval pottery (NHER 17043, 23347 and 24998). Each village also has its own church although 12th century St George’s Church, Shimpling (NHER 11040) is now redundant. The present building probably stands on the site of the church recorded in Shimpling in the Domesday Book. St Mary’s Church (NHER 11000) in Burston was completely rebuilt after the round tower fell in 1753 and no longer has any tower.

The origin of Mill Green’s name is solved by the identification of another post medieval site, a mill mound nearby (NHER 11007). A tower mill (NHER 16401) is located just to the south of the green. Other post medieval sites include the brickworks (NHER 16405) and several good examples of post medieval domestic architecture (NHER 39318 and 40359). A post medieval copper alloy spur (NHER 20924) was also recovered by metal detecting in the parish.

Burston Strike School (NHER 48834) was built in 1917 and paid for by subscription. The school was set up to employ the local teachers who had been sacked by the Education Authority for supporting striking farm workers. The building is now a museum.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 13th September 2005.


Further Reading

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

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)

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