Parish Summary: Horstead with Stanninghall

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

Horstead with Stanninghall is located north of Norwich in the Broadland district. It is east of Frettenham and west of Belaugh. The Domesday Book records land being held at Horstead and Stanninghall in 1086 by the king. Five mills are listed – three in Horstead and two in Stanninghall. The village names derive from Old English – Horstead meaning ‘place where horses are kept’ and Stanninghall ‘nook of Stan’s people’. Now only Horstead remains – Stanninghall (NHER 8059) was deserted in the medieval period and only the tower of the 13th century church survives.

The earliest recorded archaeological objects are a number of Neolithic axeheads (NHER 7682, 7683, 8028, 8029, 8030 and 8060). Other Neolithic flint tools have also been found including a beautiful Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead (NHER 8061) and a flint chisel (NHER 8062). A hoard of at least thirty Bronze Age copper alloy axeheads was recovered in 1823 (NHER 8031) and a Bronze Age palstave (NHER 25955) has also been found. Several complete Bronze Age pots were recorded in 1798 and these are thought to be the remains of cremation burials. Within some complex cropmarks a possible Iron Age banjo-shaped enclosure (NHER 4379) can be seen. This is thought to be a farmstead or enclosure for animals. A possible prehistoric causewayed ring ditch (NHER 24977) can also be seen as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Possible prehistoric skeletons (NHER 8039) have been recovered from the southeast of the parish on several occasions. Some of these were reburied in All Saints’ churchyard (NHER 8069).

On the site of the possible Iron Age farmstead a temporary Roman marching camp (NHER 4379) was built. The outlines of the ditches surrounding this camp can be seen as cropmarks on aerial photographs. From the size of the camp it seems likely that this would have been used by half a legion or a large vexillation and auxiliary unit. A flint and mortar wall of a Roman building (NHER 8033) was hit by a plough and then subsequently excavated. Several Roman coins (NHER 8032, 8034, 8038 and 24943) have been recovered and pottery (NHER 8035, 28976 and 13420) has been found at several sites. Two Roman brooches have been recorded. One dates to the 1st century AD (NHER 8065) and the other to the 2nd century AD (NHER 25762).

There is little evidence for settlement in the Saxon period. Parts of All Saints’ church (NHER 8069) may be Saxo-Norman. Bits of several Early Saxon brooches (NHER 17055 and 25762) have been found by metal detectorists. A Middle Saxon brooch (NHER 25762) and a piece of Late Saxon pottery (NHER 8035) have also been recorded. 

Ladbrooke's print of St Peter's Church in Stanninghall.

The ruins of St Peter's Church in Stanninghall. (© NCC.)

There is evidence for quite extensive occupation in the medieval period. The site of Stanninghall (NHER 8059) and Maideston (NHER 44205) deserted villages have been recorded. The 13th century tower of Stanninghall church (NHER 44213) is the only remains of this once flourishing village. Mayton Hall (NHER 7649) was built on top of the site of the medieval moated manor of Maideston. Parts of the moat can still be seen. The site of another manor (NHER 8072), owned by King’s College, Cambridge, has also been recorded. Medieval ironworking (NHER 8041) took place at a wood that used to be called Hills and Holes. Large amounts of ironworking debris were found here when some trees were uprooted. Two vertical shafts discovered when Mayton gravel pits were extended are medieval wells (NHER 25747). These are on the site of a market and fair that is recorded in old documents. All Saints’ Church, Horstead  (NHER 8069) has a 13th century tower and a lovely tithe barn that is now used for local functions. Most of the rest of the building dates to a rebuild of 1879. Some 14th and 15th century features were reused in the restoration. Metal detectorists have made some interesting medieval finds. These include a seal matrix depicting a goose with an inscription in Latin that translates as ‘secret seal’ (NHER 40484), a gold coin (NHER 34943) and a buckle plate with a lion in relief (NHER 28123).

Several post medieval buildings are still standing in the village. Mayton Hall (NHER 7649) dates to the 15th century and was damaged by fire in 1984. Old Forge (NHER 20137) was built in 1581. Mayton Bridge (NHER 7685) was built in 1630 and Horstead House (NHER 8070) slightly earlier in 1720. Heggat Hall (NHER 8071) was built in the 17th century and was extended in 1841. 19th century Horstead Hall (NHER 7696) stood on the site of an earlier building and the derelict outbuildings of the hall are surrounded by a landscape park (NHER 44207). Within this park are a German style water tower (NHER 7696) and some fish ponds (NHER 31321). The Hall was used as a small base during World War Two and Nissen Huts were placed around it. It was demolished in the 1950s. On the site of Stanninghall village there is a 19th century farm (NHER 44212) and earlier barn (NHER 44214). A concrete building may be the remains of a modern tuberculosis hospital (NHER 44215).

The sites of several other important archaeological post medieval features are also recorded. There were several brick and lime kilns (NHER 8063, 13420 and 15932). The late 18th century watermill (NHER 8067) stood on the site of an earlier 16th century mill. The 18th century building was burned down in 1963 and is now in picturesque ruins. The sites of a wind drainage pump (NHER 13105) and a post mill (NHER 19269) are marked on old maps. Large-scale chalk pits (NHER 12554) were planted with trees after they went into disuse. They are now known as Paradise and Little Switzerland. The Bure Navigation Canal (NHER 29856) was built in 1775 and allowed wherries to transport goods up the Bure. It was closed in 1928.

There are several modern archaeological sites recorded in the database. These include a World War One landing site (NHER 13617 and 15021) and two quite rare World War Two pillboxes (NHER 19211 and 32539). Horstead Hall was used during World War Two and a mosquito plane (NHER 44206) crashed quite close to the hall during the war. Both airmen were killed. The Royal Observers Corps post (NHER 35402) was set up in the 1950s to monitor plane movements and later an underground observation post was built to monitor radiation in the event of nuclear attack during the Cold War. The concrete water tower (NHER 40219), built in the 1960s or 1970s, is a well-known local landmark. It has a very unusual snowflake-shaped design. Only one other water tower of this shape, in Arkley, Greater London, is known.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 29 March 2006.


Further Reading

BBC, 2004. ‘WW2 People’s War – Horstead Hall and Low grade Cipher’. Available: Accessed: 29 March 2006.

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)

Neville, J., 2004. 'Norfolk Mills – Horstead watermill’. Available: Accessed: 29 March 2005.

Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes, 1990. The Norfolk Village Book (Newbury, Countryside Books and Norwich, Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes)

Rye, J., 2000. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham, The Larks Press)

Unknown, 2006. ‘The Marlpit – the community paper for the villages of Coltishall, Horstead and Great Hautbois’. Available: Accessed: 29 March 2006.


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