Parish Summary: Morston

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

Morston is located on the north Norfolk coast, between Blakeney and Wells next the Sea. In the north and northwest of the parish are Blakeney Channel, mud flats and salt marshes. The village is located in the centre, adjacent to the marshes and Morston Quay, and there are a number of houses and farms dotted elsewhere. To the south of the village the land rises up from around 5m above sea level to just over 40m.

The archaeology of Morston is reasonably well known and sites are recorded throughout the parish. There have been some stray finds, a limited amount of metal detecting and fieldwalking have taken place and sites have been identified on aerial photographs, including some recorded by the National Mapping Programme. A number of site visits have been undertaken and a few historic buildings survive.

Prehistoric flint artefacts have been discovered at a number of sites. They include Palaeolithic objects (NHER 1874), Mesolithic items, Neolithic polished and flaked axeheads and a Beaker barbed and tanged arrowhead.  The broad range and number of Mesolithic flints (NHER 1873) found at one site suggests that flint was worked and artefacts were made there. They were found in deposits overlying a Palaeolithic raised beach. This beach feature provides evidence for where the coastline would have been during the last Ice Age.

Two undated ring ditches (NHER 17658 and 36397) have been identified on aerial photographs. Both are located on land that slopes up from the salt marshes, with one situated in the east and the other to the southwest of the village. They could be the remains of Bronze Age barrows. A number of linear features have been recorded intersecting with the southwestern ring ditch. Although undated, it is possible that these could be remnants of a Late Iron Age or Roman field system.  

Drawing of part of a Late Saxon stirrup strap mount from Morston.

Part of a Late Saxon stirrup strap mount from Morston. (© NCC)

Roman artefacts have been discovered throughout. They include coins, brooches and fragments of pottery. The only Saxon objects are Late Saxon pottery sherds and a stirrup strap mount (NHER 41989) collected to the southeast of the church and village. Two submerged linear features (NHER 38488) visible on aerial photographs within Blakeney Channel could be fish traps or structures relating to mussel beds. They may be Saxon, although it is also possible that they are medieval, post medieval or modern.

Morston was called ‘Merstuna’ in the Domesday Book of 1086. This Old English name means ‘farmstead by the marsh’ and is particularly appropriate. In 1086 King William I and Roger Bigot held land in the parish and freemen, smallholders and ploughs were recorded.

All Saints’ Church (NHER 6168) is located in the southeast of the village alongside the A149 coast road. The tower and nave date to the 12th and 13th centuries and the nave aisles and chancel were constructed during the early 14th century. The porches were added and alterations were carried out in the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1743 lightning damaged the tower. The whole church was restored in the 19th century. Inside is the base of a painted rood screen of about 1480. A tomb to the Butter family in the graveyard was constructed in 1785.

Only a few medieval and post medieval finds have been collected and they include metalwork and coins. Perhaps the most interesting is a 14th century seal matrix (NHER 30457). It features two figures, with one kneeling and one standing. The standing figure is St Lawrence and the kneeling figure may be the owner of the seal.

The salt marshes have provided many resources for people living in the parish from the prehistoric period onwards. However, the earliest certain evidence for the use of the salt marshes could be two drove ways (NHER 27818 and 27819). These were used by herders to move cattle between grazing areas in the salt marshes and arable and pastoral fields inland. Their date is uncertain, although they may have post medieval or earlier origins. An enclosure (NHER 38486) on the southern edge of Blakeney Channel may have been used by post medieval shellfish farmers, possibly as an artificial mussel bed.

In 1547 an artificial channel (NHER 34582) was dug to link two creeks in the saltmarshes. It was designed to take water from one creek to another in an attempt to divert the Stiffkey River into Blakeney Haven and to reduce silting at Cley next the Sea and Blakeney. During the post medieval period attempts were made to reclaim sections of the salt marshes. These involved the construction of sea defence banks, including a bank to the west of Morston Quay. Banks (NHER 27156 and 27193) were also constructed on the southern edge of the salt marshes to defend farmland and the village from the highest tides and flooding. These probably now lie beneath modern sea defence banks. The remains of an undated timber sluice (NHER 41519) have been recorded adjacent to a bank west of Morston Quay. It would have controlled the flow of water in a channel that passes beneath the bank.

Surviving post medieval buildings include the Manor House, Morston Hall, Hall Farm barn, 27 The Street, China Row, the Anchor Public House and Coastguard House. The original Morston Hall (NHER 13116) was built in 1640 and cellars and chimneys from it survive. The majority of the present house dates to the 18th and 19th centuries. The adjacent garden may have originally been laid out during the 17th century and may have included a prospect mound.

A number of undated features were recorded at Morston Quay during the 2004 Norfolk Rapid Coastal Survey. These include revetments, jetties, a sluice and two wrecked or hulked boats. One of the boats (NHER 41512) may have been a ferry used to cross the channel or a boat used to move cargoes between other boats.

During World War Two a number of military sites were established. On the southern edge of the salt marshes was a spigot mortar emplacement (NHER 40078) and the pedestal and bank from this survive. In the south of the parish, and extending into Langham parish, was a military camp. It was probably connected with RAF Langham to the west (NHER 1891).

David Robertson (NLA), 3 July 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)

Barringer, C., 1998. Bryant’s Map of Norfolk in 1826 (Dereham, Larks Press)

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

Knott, S., 2004. 'All Saints, Morston'. Available: Accessed: 30 June 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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