Parish Summary: Filby

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

Filby is a small parish close to Great Yarmouth. The small, but sprawling village of Filby is in the east, whilst a much smaller hamlet, Filby Heath, is in the west. The name comes from a combination of Old English and Old Scandinavian, probably meaning 'farmstead or village of a man name Fili'. However, the name could also come from the Old Scandinavian 'fili', meaning 'planks', perhaps referring to a structure like a bridge.

A handful of prehistoric flint implements (NHER 16336), including Neolithic flints (NHER 8630) and a Neolithic axehead (NHER 13509) have been found, but it is the evidence from cropmarks, visible on aerial photographs, that have been  a vital element in the interpretation of the archaeology of the parish, and have revealed much about Filby's prehistoric, Iron Age and Roman past.

A Bronze Age barrow cemetery (NHER 8645), which overlies a possible Neolithic mortuary enclosure (NHER 8645), is made up of several single and double ditches barrows, which have survived as ring ditches. Several other ring ditches (NHER 183422765127664276652768442082 and 42090) have been found, some of which (NHER 42081 and 17592) may be associated with the cemetery. The cropmarks of curving enclosures (NHER 8645), close to the cemetery, may be the remains of a Bronze Age settlement. Fragments of field systems (NHER 12996 and 12997), probably dating to the Bronze Age, are visible as cropmarks. The remains of the field systems (NHER 12996 and 12997) stretch over a fairly large area, and other Bronze Age ditches (NHER 42086), which may have enclosed fields, have been found.

During the Iron Age and the Roman period, the settlements remained focused on agriculture. The cropmarks of Iron Age or Roman farmsteads (NHER 35532 and 42064) have been found, as well as a number of associated Iron Age or Roman enclosures (NHER 42074 and 42075). An Iron Age gold coin (NHER 25864) has been found, and other Iron Age coins (NHER 31050) are thought to have been found, although they have not been reported. The remains of Roman field systems (NHER 306272766627685 and 42086) are visible as rectangular enclosures and ditches on aerial photographs. One part of the Roman field system (NHER 30627) in the parish incorporated a Bronze Age barrow (NHER 27664), which was still an upstanding mound in the Roman period, and is now visible as a cropmark. Roman coins (NHER 9631, 1633620688, 2197337427 and 41870) and fragments of pottery (NHER 1633621973 and 28360) have been found scattered throughout the parish. A Roman brooch (NHER 28360), a lock pin (NHER 39916) and a gold ring with an intaglio of Victory (NHER 16336) have also been found.

The remains of possible Early Saxon buildings (NHER 27619) and burial mounds (NHER 42090) are visible on aerial photographs, and three Early Saxon brooches (NHER 3105034258 and 41987) have been found, as well as Late Saxon pottery (NHER 16336). In Domesday Book Filby is described as a relatively large settlement, with several different landholders. The emphasis on agriculture continued, and salt making seems to have been an important industry in the Late Saxon period. The present village of Filby probably started to develop in the Late Saxon period, possibly on the site of an earlier settlement, and more detailed fieldwork has the potential to greatly increase our knowledge of the parish during the Saxon period.

During the medieval period, Filby continued to develop as a mainly agricultural parish, and a large number of medieval or post medieval field boundaries (NHER 306272766827688 and 27702) and enclosures (NHER 27655 and 27683) have survived as cropmarks. One medieval field boundary (NHER 42084) has a stepped shape, representing the boundary between the medieval open field strips and Filby Common, which is shown on Faden's map of 1797. The western boundary of the parish runs through the middle of Filby Broad, which is part of the Rollesby Broad Complex (NHER 13509). The broads are medieval peat cuttings, which flooded in the post medieval period, and the Rollesby complex is shown on Saxton's map of the county, published in 1574. All Saints' Church (NHER 8653) dates mainly to the 14th century, and was restored in the 19th century. The church contains a 13th century font and important examples of 14th century ironwork. Medieval coins (NHER 21973 and 33483), fragments of pottery (NHER 16336) and medieval metalwork (NHER 2508733483 and 41987) have been found by metal detecting. 

Photograph of the Gothick summerhouse in the ground of FIlby House.

Gothick summerhouse in the ground of Filby House complete with pinnacles. (© NCC.)

The cropmark of an old road (NHER 42047) is visible on aerial photographs, and is the remains of the medieval and early post medieval main road, until the turnpike road from Norwich to Great Yarmouth was created in the late 18th century, and a toll house (NHER 18357) was built on the edge of the village. Manor Farm (NHER 41842) is an early 20th century house, which stands on the site of a house dating to about 1600, shown in old photographs. The old farmhouse was destroyed by fire. Filby Hall (NHER 8654) dates to the mid 18th century, and was extensively altered in the early 19th century. The Hall is surrounded by walled gardens, containing an 18th century Gothick summerhouse, known as The Orangery. The Homestead Barn (NHER 30803) is a 17th century brick barn, and the Old Thatch (NHER 38141) is an early 18th century thatched cottage. Filby Dissenters Chapel (NHER 31187) was built in 1705, but was badly damaged by a bomb in 1940, and was subsequently demolished. During World War Two a temporary army camp (NHER 27647) was constructed in the grounds of Filby Hall.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), November 2005.


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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