Parish Summary: Crimplesham

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

The small parish of Crimplesham  is situated in the west of Norfolk about ten miles south of King’s Lynn. Its name probably comes from the Old English for ‘Crympel’s homestead’. Crympel itself may have been a nickname, from Old English ‘crump’, meaning ‘crooked’. The parish is long established, and was certainly in existence at the time of the Norman Conquest, its productive resources and population being recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086.

For all its long standing history, the parish has quite a short archaeological record, but this may be due to a lack of detailed investigation, and the record may well fill out in the future.

There is currently no evidence of human activity in the parish until the Bronze Age, and that is fairly sparse. A ring ditch of a possible Bronze Age round barrow (NHER 16152) has been identified from aerial photographs, and a copper alloy palstave (NHER 32805) has been found. 

Drawing of a Late Saxon backwards-turning beast disc brooch from Crimplesham.

A Late Saxon backwards-turning beast disc brooch from Crimplesham. (© NCC)

There is no evidence of activity from the Iron Age, and the next finds to appear date to the Roman occupation. These include pottery fragments (NHER 15539 and 31954), coins (NHER 15539, 31954 and 40984), a brooch and a knife (NHER 40984). The record for the Saxon period also consists of individual objects, including a pair of tweezers (NHER 15539), pottery fragments (NHER 15539), brooches (NHER 18448, 32805 and 34876) and a stirrup terminal (NHER 34876).

The medieval period following the Norman Conquest has left the parish with its oldest surviving building, St Mary’s church (NHER 4424). The church consists of a 12th century nave, a large 14th century west tower and a 17th century south porch. The chancel was rebuilt in 1875, when the whole building was restored. Inside, it has a tower screen that was originally the rood screen from an Essex church. Its award-winning churchyard is in excellent condition. Other medieval buildings have not survived, but have left a footprint, for example their surrounding moat. The site of a moated manor is at NHER 2456; the house has disappeared, but part of its moat can still be seen. Medieval ridge and furrow cultivation marks have also been located in the parish (NHER 31909 and 31954).

Of the buildings to survive from the post medieval period, the earliest is Ruby and Fairview Cottages and Ardmore House (NHER 23508). This was originally one house, dating to about 1600, divided, altered and extended in later centuries.

Manor Farm (NHER 21679) is an 18th century farmhouse with a 19th century rear range and detailing. To its west is a complex of farm buildings, including a granary complete with an intact steam powered threshing machine.

Crimplesham Hall (NHER 2457) is a yellow brick hall dating to about 1881. In its grounds are an ice house (NHER 23871) and a folly (NHER 2458).

The most historically recent site on the record is Downham Market Airfield (NHER 2455), a World War Two bomber base used by pathfinder squadrons. After the war, the airfield remained in sporadic civilian use until the 1970s, when most of the concrete runways were taken up for use as hardcore on the Downham Market bypass. Some buildings do however remain.

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 25 November 2005.


Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. The Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk (Chichester, Phllimore & Co) 

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

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