Parish Summary: Haddiscoe

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 modern parish of Haddiscoe is 8km southwest of Great Yarmouth and roughly 5km northeast of Beccles. It has an unusual shape, with two irregularly shaped blocks joined together by a narrow strip of land (close to Haddiscoe Bridge). The northern block of land is known as Haddiscoe Island. It is mostly marshland with little settlement and is defined by the courses of the River Yare, the River Waveney and The New Cut. Most of it has been part of the parish for a long time, although sections were added to it from Reedham and other parishes after 1923. The southern section includes the former civil parish of Thorpe by Haddiscoe, Haddiscoe village and the hamlet of Thorpe. The eastern half of it is marshland. The land in the western half rises up from the marshes.

The archaeology of Haddiscoe is reasonably well known. There have been plenty of sites visits and a few watching briefs, a good number of sites have been identified on aerial photographs and there are some surviving post medieval buildings. Most sites are located on the higher land in the west, with only a few scattered in the marshes. Unfortunately, little metal detecting and fieldwalking has taken place and as a result, artefacts are not well represented.

A few prehistoric flint artefacts have been discovered and they include a flint flake, Neolithic artefacts and two Neolithic polished axeheads (NHER 12635 and 37498). Copper alloy Bronze Age artefacts include an awl and a spearhead. During the 1930s a mound (NHER 16142), possibly a Bronze Age barrow, was recorded near Haddiscoe village. Five or six ring ditches have been identified as cropmarks on aerial photographs. They may all be remnants of Bronze Age round barrows and are located in the south. A group of wooden piles (NHER 10704) found in marshland in the north in 1958 could have been part of a Bronze Age brushwood causeway.

Iron Age coins were discovered in the early 20th century. They were given to children as toys, before being lost. In 1989 a metal detectorist found an Iron Age harness bit, a decorated dagger pommel, a possible shield stud and a fastener (NHER 28211). Roman coins, brooches and pottery have been collected in the southwest, with all but one coin recovered from the higher land. In 1989 a hoard of 412 coins was found, along with a bracelet, a ring and pottery. All the coins were minted in the late 3rd century AD. A possible Early Saxon razor and a possible Late Saxon comb (NHER 24146) have been found at one of the sites with Roman objects.

Haddiscoe is called ‘Hadescou’ in the Domesday Book of 1086. This is an Old Scandinavian name meaning ‘Haddr’s wood’. In 1086 King William I, Roger Bigot, Ralph Baynard and Robert, son of Corbucion, held land in the parish. Freemen, villagers, smallholders, ploughs, pasture, meadow and sheep were recorded. Thorpe was not noted by name, but it may have been included in the entry for Haddiscoe. Thorpe is also an Old Norse name and means ‘hamlet’.

Part of the nave of St Matthias' Church at Thorpe (NHER 10703) may be Late Saxon in date. The round west tower is probably late 11th century and there are late 11th/12th century features in the nave. Alterations were made in the 14th and 15th centuries, the chancel was rebuilt in 1838 (probably succeeding a medieval chancel) and the whole of the building was restored in 1872. Cropmarks visible on aerial photographs to the north of the church could be the remains of medieval plots or a medieval field system (NHER 19567).  

Etching of St Mary's Church, Haddiscoe.

Etching of St Mary's Church, Haddiscoe.

The round west tower at St Mary’s Church, Haddiscoe (NHER 10702) is probably also late 11th century. The nave doorways may be of a similar date or 12th century. The church was altered during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries and restored in 1861. The north aisle was built during the early 14th century and it may have replaced a late 11th/12th century chapel.

A preceptory of the Knights Templars is mentioned in records of 1218 and was dissolved in 1312. Unfortunately its exact location within the parish is unknown. A mound in the Thorpe Marshes could be a medieval saltern (NHER 24370). Undated earthworks near Haddiscoe Bridge may have been associated with a salt works.

Surviving post medieval houses include Thorpe Hall, The White House, Raven Hall, The Crown, White House Farmhouse, Haddiscoe Manor and Walnut Tree Cottage. The earliest is Thorpe Hall (NHER 10710), the main section of which was built in the late 16th century. Raven Hall (NHER 39267) was constructed around 1700 and, although mostly 18th century in date, The Crown (NHER 43087) may include an earlier core. There is a 19th century milestone in the centre of Haddiscoe village. The site of a windmill in the west of the parish is marked on Faden’s map of 1797. During the early 19th century a windmill (NHER 13805) was built between Haddiscoe and Thorpe, but it has since been demolished.

The sites of seven wind pumps (drainage windmills) are marked on Faden’s map. Four of these were located alongside the River Yare, two were beside the River Waveney and one was sited in Thorpe Marshes. Three further wind pumps appear on 19th century maps, with two sited by the Waveney and one alongside Haddiscoe Dam. None of the 18th century wind pumps survive, although 19th century structures still stand in four locations (NHER 10490, 10492, 10495 and 15095). A timber framed pumping station (NHER 16716) was built close to Haddiscoe Bridge in the mid 19th century. It has been demolished and replaced with a modern building, although the 19th century engine is at Strumpshaw Steam Museum.

The ‘New Cut’ passes northwest to southeast through the parish close to Haddiscoe Bridge. This canal linking the River Waveney and the River Yare was constructed during the early 19th century and was designed as part of a scheme to link Lowestoft harbour with Norwich. It was hoped that the scheme would allow coastal vessels direct access to Norwich. The canal opened in 1833, but was later superseded by the construction of the Norwich to Lowestoft railway.

During World War One a pillbox (NHER 18083) was built to the west of St Olaves bridge. It survives and is one of only a few to do so in Norfolk. World War Two saw barbed wire obstructions, pillboxes, tank traps and trenches (NHER 43670) constructed around the World War One pillbox. These were designed to protect the bridge and the railway line in the event of invasion and formed part of a wider system of defences.  Bomb craters visible on aerial photographs around the railway show that the area was attacked from the air. A spigot mortar emplacement (NHER 34344) was established in the centre of the village. It is now almost completely concealed, with only the stainless steel spigot visible.

David Robertson (NLA), 10 May 2006.


Further Reading

Ashwin, T. & Davison,. A., 2005. An Historical Atlas of Norfolk (Chichester, Phillimore)

Barringer, C., 1989. Faden’s Map of Norfolk (Dereham, Larks Press)

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

Knott, S., 2005. 'St Mary, Haddiscoe'. Available: Accessed: 10 May 2006.

Knott, S., 2005. 'St Matthias, Thorpe by Haddiscoe'. Available: Accessed: 10 May 2006.

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

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

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