Parish Summary: Kettlestone

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 parish of Kettlestone is directly east of Fakenham. It is a long strip parish, with the River Wensum forming the southwestern narrow side and the River Stiffkey the northeastern boundary. Kettlestone village is located in the centre, with the site of Pensthorpe deserted medieval village, Pensthorpe Hall and Pensthorpe Waterfowl Park in the southwest. The former parish of Pensthorpe was united with Kettlestone in the early 20th century. At the same time part of the former parish of Alethorpe was added (although the site of Alethorpe Church was granted to Little Snoring parish).

A fair amount is known about the archaeology of the parish. Many site visits have taken place, plenty of sites have been identified on aerial photographs and a few excavations have taken place. There have been plenty of stray finds and quite a lot of metal detecting has been undertaken. Sites and artefacts have been recorded throughout the parish, although most have been identified close to either Kettlestone village or Pensthorpe deserted village.

A few prehistoric artefacts have been collected. They include two Palaeolithic handaxes found in a gravel quarry, a Neolithic flint axehead, two Bronze Age copper alloy axeheads, a Late Bronze Age spearhead and fragments of Iron Age pottery. In 1991 an excavation ahead of gravel extraction in the southwest uncovered late prehistoric pottery and prehistoric pits (NHER 7107).

In the southwest, to the northeast of Pensthorpe deserted medieval village, is a group of Bronze Age barrows and ring ditches (NHER 44529). In 1976 at least eight barrows survived as low mounds, but it seems probable that all have since been ploughed flat. Two further barrows recorded in the mid 20th century have also been flattened. It is likely that two ring ditches are also the remains of barrows. The only feature to survive is a low mound that may be a barrow, although it could be a natural feature. A possible prehistoric trackway (NHER 2134) passes through the centre of the barrow group. To the east of Kettlestone village is a double ring ditch (NHER 32232) that may date to the Bronze Age.

Roman coins and a brooch (NHER 13043) have been recovered from the site of an undated field system (NHER 44362) close to Kettlestone village. They may provide a date for the fields, although they need not. Roman artefacts, including pottery, coins and a key handle, have also been found in the vicinity of Pensthorpe Hall. Some of the objects were recovered from amongst the Bronze Age barrows, where evidence for an Early Saxon cremation cemetery (NHER 44367) has also been gathered. This evidence was discovered between 1826 and 1881 and includes numerous cremation urns, items of metalwork, bone counters and glass beads.  

Photograph of Early Saxon cremation urns found in the 19th century in Pesnthorpe.

Early Saxon cremation urns found in the 19th century in Pensthorpe.

Middle and Late Saxon objects (NHER 13043) found close to Kettlestone village suggest that there has been a settlement on or close to the site of the village since the Middle Saxon period. The artefacts include an early 8th century coin, two Late Saxon coins that are fused together, a Late Saxon pin head and fragments of Middle and Late Saxon pottery. Late Saxon pottery and a Late Saxon book or box mount from the site of Pensthorpe deserted medieval village (NHER 7107) suggest that its origins lie in the Saxon period.

Both Kettlestone and Pensthorpe feature in the Domesday Book of 1086. Kettlestone was called ‘Ketlestuna’, an Old English word meaning ‘Ketill’s farmstead’, and was held William of Warenne. Pensthorpe was held by Reynold, son of Ivo, and was referred to as ‘Penesthorpa’. This name may be a mixture of Old English and Old Scandinavian meaning ‘Pening’s or Peningr’s hamlet’. 

The site of the medieval village of Pensthorpe (NHER 7107) is located to where the Wildfowl Park is today. Although gravel quarrying destroyed many village remains, the northern part of the site survives and a village and moat earthworks are visible on aerial photographs. The remains of the medieval parish church survive incorporated into 19th century farm buildings and excavations have uncovered medieval ditches. Artefacts recovered include medieval pottery sherds.

All Saints’ Church (NHER 2182) is located in Kettlestone village. It was built around 1300, alterations were made during the later 14th and 15th centuries and the chancel was rebuilt in 1869. Pieces of reused 11th and/or 12th century stonework in the porch and chancel suggest that there was an earlier church on the site. In 1997 a medieval ditch and medieval and post medieval pottery fragments were discovered during an excavation (NHER 32945) carried out at a site southwest of the church.

Post medieval buildings in Kettlestone village include Church Farm, Old Barn house and barn, The Old Rectory, Kettlestone House, 77 and 79 The Street and Manor Farmhouse. The earliest of these is the 16th century timber framed farmhouse at Church Farm (NHER 21853). It has jetties at the first floor and attic levels and has been altered on many occasions. Pensthorpe Manor Cottages (NHER 44288) stand within the site of the deserted medieval village and include a 17th century house, an 18th century extension and a row of late 18th or early 19th century cottages.

Two parcels of land in the parish are recorded as having been called 'Gibbet Piece' (NHER 12692 and 21600). One is located close to Kettlestone village, with the other in the southeast. It may be that there were gibbets on both sites during the post medieval period, or that there has been some confusion between the two locations. During the 19th century a section of the railway from Great Yarmouth to Sutton Bridge (NHER 13581) was built in the parish. It passed to the east of Kettlestone village and to the south of Pensthorpe. It is now closed, although some sections of embankment survive.

To the east of Pensthorpe deserted medieval village is a Cold War Royal Observer Corps Orlit Post and bunker (NHER 25992). The bunker, an underground monitoring post, was built in December 1958 and closed in October 1968. A modern telephone kiosk, built to a 1935 design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, stands in the centre of Kettlestone village.

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. 'All Saints, Kettlestone'. Available: Accessed: 10 May 2006.

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

Pensthorpe, 2006. 'Pensthorpe: Closer to Nature'. Available: Accessed: 10 May 2006.

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


Norfolk County Council logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Powered by HBSMR-web and the HBSMR Gateway from exeGesIS SDM Ltd, and mojoPortal CMS
© 2007 - 2024 Norfolk Historic Environment Service