Parish Summary: Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby

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

Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby is a small parish on the east coast, close to the town of Great Yarmouth. The village of Scratby is directly on the coastline, whilst Ormesby St Margaret is situated slightly inland. Ormesby comes from the Old English meaning ‘farmstead or village of a man called Ormr’, and Scratby is derived from the Old English meaning ‘farmstead or village of a man called Skrauti’.

The earliest archaeological artefacts from the parish are prehistoric flint implements (NHER 31738, 34025, 34027, 34028, 34030, 34031), including flint flakes (NHER 13999, 25110, 35637), Mesolithic flints (NHER 34032), a Mesolithic or Early Neolithic flint blade (NHER 18914), Neolithic flints (NHER 8628, 8663, 14009), axeheads (NHER 8629, 20357) and an arrowhead (NHER 25263). The prehistoric landscape of the parish has been mapped from the cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. A Late Neolithic to Bronze Age causewayed ring ditch or possible henge (NHER 27403), a Bronze Age barrow cemetery (NHER 27350) and the cropmarks of several ring ditches (NHER 12179, 18151, 18341, 33744, 27611, 27607, 27606, 27605, 42048, 42049, 42053, 42237, 42050, 43380, 43381), probably of Bronze Age date, have been recorded. These probably represent a dispersed group of funerary monuments that were surrounded by Bronze Age field systems (NHER 27259, 12828). The cropmarks of one Bronze Age field system (NHER 12828) have been recorded in the south of the parish, crossing the boundary with the parish of West Caister. A field system of Iron Age to Roman date has been recorded on the same site, excavated by the NAU, revealing a complex series of prehistoric pits and ditches. Other features include Bronze Age, Iron Age or Roman enclosures, ditches and trackways (NHER 27400).

An Iron Age gold coin (NHER 24556) is the only Iron Age artefact to be found in the parish, but an Iron Age to Roman field system (NHER 27259), field boundaries (NHER 27402) and a farmstead (NHER 42055) have been identified from aerial photographs. Probable Roman enclosures (NHER 27612) have also been recorded, and metal detecting has recovered Roman coins (NHER 13687, 17195, 24047, 33161, 35309, 35312, 36236, 38130), fragments of pottery (NHER 18914), a brooch (NHER 22362), a cosmetic set (NHER 28641) and a mount (NHER 34025). 

Drawing of an Early Saxon terminal from a drinking horn from Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby.

An Early Saxon terminal from a drinking horn from Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby. (© NCC)

No archaeological sites from the Early Saxon period have been identified in the parish, but an Early Saxon terminal from a drinking horn (NHER 34685) has been found during metal detecting. An evaluation carried out by the NAU in 1996 in advance of the construction of a new road revealed an inhumation cemetery of probable Middle Saxon date (NHER 31773). Sixty graves were excavated, all orientated east to west and without any grave goods, suggesting that this is a Christian cemetery dating to the time before burial next to the parish church became usual. The skeletons were reburied on the village green in 2001. Other Saxon finds from the parish include a Middle Saxon caterpillar brooch (NHER 24047) and fragments of Middle Saxon pottery (NHER 34026, 34029), Late Saxon pottery (NHER 18914), part of a Late Saxon stirrup with an integral plate, only of only two examples from Britain (NHER 24047), and a stirrup strap mound decorated with engraved beasts (NHER 37557). An archaeological evaluation carried out by the NAU in 2002 at 1 Firs Avenue revealed a series of post-holes, gullies, pits and ditches that probably dated to the Late Saxon and early medieval periods (NHER 37383). A row of post-holes probably represented a building of medieval date. The foundations of a later flint and brick building, possibly the late medieval manor house shown on the tithe map of 1841, were also recorded during the evaluation. Probable Saxon to post medieval field systems (NHER 17673, 27266, 42063) have been recorded as cropmarks on aerial photographs.  

Drawing of a Late Saxon stirrup with integral plate from Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby.

A Late Saxon stirrup with integral plate from Ormesby St Margaret with Scratby. (© NCC)

St Margaret’s Church (NHER 8651) dates back to the 14th century and was extensively remodelled in the 15th century. The church has a two storey porch that was built in the 15th century, and the whole building was re-roofed in the 19th century. Inside there is a 15th century font, a medieval brass with an effigy of Sir Robert Clere who is depicted wearing his armour and a mail skirt. St Peter’s Church (NHER 8648) stood just outside the village of Ormesby St Margaret. The church was abandoned at the end of the 16th century and there are no upstanding remains. However, the plan of the church is clearly visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs, with a round west tower, a rectangular nave and a chancel. In fact, two different chancels are visible as cropmarks, one apsidal and one rectangular, showing the different phases of the churches development. All Saints’ Church (NHER 8670) in Scratby was consolidated with Ormesby in 1548. A licence to demolish the church building was granted in the same year. St Andrew’s Church (NHER 11737) in Ormesby was in use until the late 16th century. The foundations of the church were discovered in 1927, but there are no visible remains on the site. The cropmarks of enclosures and roads associated with the medieval village of Ormesby (NHER 18320) are visible on aerial photographs.

Several gold coins (NHER 8664, 8665, 12577, 21252, 29295) dating from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Charles I have been found on the beach near California since the mid 19th century. The coins are probably part of a hoard that was hidden during the Civil War, and the coincidence of the finds of gold coins and the Californian gold rush are reputed to have given the hamlet of California its name.

Ormesby Old Hall (NHER 8695) is a mid 17th century house that was remodelled and refronted in 1735. The south front of the house is built solely in header bond, which is very rare, and has a central pediment, a central door with Tuscan columns and sash windows. To the west is a single storey library built in 1900 by R.W. Edis. The interior has many elegant 18th century features, including marble fireplaces and moulded plasterwork. Old Hall Cottage (NHER 42894) is a mid 18th century former coachman's house to Ormesby Old Hall. The one storey house is of brick and flint, with a façade of six bays defined by pilasters. Ormesby Hall (NHER 8650) was an 18th century house with early 19th century Gothic additions including a Gothic conservatory and vaulted entrance hall. The hall was demolished in the 1960s, although the 18th or 19th century ha ha (NHER 42043) survives on the site of the gardens. The earthworks of possible medieval or post medieval building or garden platforms (NHER 27401) have been recorded from aerial photographs in the grounds of Ormesby Hall. Ormesby Lodge (NHER 42895) is a mid 19th century lodge with crenellated oriel windows. Scratby Hall (NHER 15112) is a mid 18th century house that was enlarged and partially rebuilt in the late 19th century. The house was converted into a boarding school after World War Two, and has now been re-developed. The Grange Hotel (NHER 8696) is a late 18th or early 19th century brick house with shaped gables that is now a hotel. Boarded Barn Farmhouse (NHER 42892) is a brick farmhouse dating to about 1750 with late 18th century addition to the north. The south block of the house has a porch with a portico, tapering columns and pilasters. To the north of the farmhouse is a 17th century timber framed barn (NHER 42893).

A 19th century smock mill (NHER 16356) stood near the present Mill Farm until its demolition in the 1950s. Scratby Road Mill (NHER 16359) is marked on Bryant’s map of 1826 but the mill collapsed in 1867. In the 19th century there was a brickworks (NHER 16672) on Yarmouth Road, but the last remains of the brickworks were demolished in the 1960s.

During World War Two the coastline of Norfolk was heavily defended against the threat of a possible German invasion. Aerial photographs taken in the 1940s show the extensive network of defences in the parish, including pillboxes (NHER 18356, 22362, 27277, 27275, 41612), an air raid shelter (NHER 27390), a spigot mortar emplacement (NHER 18356), slit trenches (NHER 27274, 27471, 27525), a military camp (NHER 27524) and other coastal defences (NHER 27276, 27543, 27278). A Royal Navy wireless telegraphy station (NHER 27662) and an 'Oboe' station (NHER 18359) are visible on aerial photographs taken in the 1940s and 1950s. The 'Oboe' navigation system was used by the RAF to navigate their bombers to enemy targets. The buildings on the site have now been demolished.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 2 August 2006.


Further Reading

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

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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