Parish Summary: Field Dalling

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

Field Dalling is an unusually shaped parish located in north Norfolk, between Holt and Little Walsingham. The irregular route of the parish boundary partly reflects the fact that in the mid 20th century the modern parish was created from the two separate parishes of Field Dalling and Saxlingham.

Field Dalling village is situated in the west of the modern parish, alongside the Gunthorpe to Langham road. Saxlingham village is in the centre, to the west of the B1156 Sharrington to Blakeney road. This road curves through the parish from north to south. A few farms and small clusters of houses are scattered throughout the parish.

A considerable amount of fieldwalking and metal detecting has been carried out. This has provided a large and valuable amount of information about past activities. However, most work has concentrated on the areas around the two villages. This means that there is a high concentration of findspots in two sections, with very few sites recorded in the far west, south centre and east. As a result, the arrangement of sites reflects archaeological investigation more than past behaviour. Nonetheless, the intensive fieldwalking and metal detecting does mean that a lot can be said about archaeology of Field Dalling.

A large number of prehistoric flint artefacts have been found. Unfortunately many of these cannot be more closely dated than to the ‘prehistoric period’ in general. The artefacts include blades, scrapers, flakes and knives. One site (NHER 24571) close to Field Dalling village has produced over 1100 flint artefacts, whilst others have produced several hundred. Two prehistoric stone querns and the sites of five possible prehistoric burnt mounds have also been discovered. One of the possible burnt mounds (NHER 21489) survives as an earthwork about 0.5m high.

Some of the prehistoric flint artefacts can be dated more securely than to the ‘prehistoric period’. A few of these are Mesolithic and include a Late Mesolithic microlith (NHER 25945) found to the west of Field Dalling village. More Neolithic objects are known and include at least seven polished axeheads, five flaked axeheads, an arrowhead and a laurel leaf tool. Two flint knives (from different sites) are either Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age in date.

Until it was destroyed in 1979, a Bronze Age barrow (NHER 3203) stood close to the B1156 in the south east of the parish. No artefacts or features were found during its destruction. One or two ring ditches are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs of the area south of Field Dalling village. They could be the remains of Bronze Age barrows and a Late Bronze Age copper alloy socketed spearhead (NHER 21317) has been collected close by. An Iron Age terret has been found to the north of Saxlingham village, while a Iron Age bracelet has been recovered to the east of Field Dalling village. Iron Age pottery has been found at fifteen sites.

Roman artefacts have been found at forty one sites. Pottery, tiles and metalwork (including over 100 coins) collected at one of the Iron Age pottery findspots suggest that there was a settlement (NHER 21317) on the site during the Roman period. While this possible Roman settlement is located in the southwest, a second possible settlement (NHER 25251) is situated in the northwest. Roman brooches, over 100 coins (including about ten coins fused together) and a large amount of pottery have been found at this site. At a location between the two possible settlements material that may have come from a kiln (NHER 25945) has been found. This suggests that there was industrial activity during the Roman period.  

Drawing of a complete Early Saxon small long brooch from the cremation and inhumation cemetery at Saxlingham in the parish of Field Dalling. Traces of the iron pin were found in the catchplate.

A complete Early Saxon small long brooch from the cremation and inhumation cemetery at Saxlingham in the parish of Field Dalling. (© NCC.)

Early Saxon objects have been found at fifteen sites. Early Saxon pottery, brooches and a wrist clasp recovered on the southern Roman settlement (NHER 21317) indicate that occupation may have continued beyond the end of the Roman period. The same may have been true at the northern settlement. Early Saxon metalwork (NHER 31558), including a buckle, a brooch and part of a sword belt, has been discovered close by, suggesting settlement and burial in the vicinity during the Early Saxon period.

In 1975 an Early Saxon cremation and inhumation cemetery (NHER 6164) at Saxlingham was revealed when over sixty cremation urns were unearthed during ploughing. An excavation followed, during which a further forty seven cremations and two inhumations were recorded. Since 1987 metal detectorists have worked in and around the area of the excavation and have found more Early Saxon artefacts.

The discovery of large amounts of Middle and Late Saxon pottery (NHER 25699) close to Field Dalling village suggests that there was a settlement near to or on the site of the modern village during the periods. Middle Saxon pottery has been found at fourteen sites, with Late Saxon pottery collected from twenty four (including the possible settlement site). Middle to Late Saxon metal objects found include strap fittings and three 10th century brooches. A ditch (NHER 3166) excavated in 1977 in Saxlingham village could date to the Late Saxon period.

Field Dalling is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as ‘Dallinga’. This is an Old English place name meaning ‘Place of Dalla’s people’. In 1272 the name ‘Fildedalling’ was used, with the word ‘filden’ (meaning ‘open country’) having been attached. In 1086 the vill was held by King William I, Count Alan, Roger Bigot and Robert of Verly. The King’s land was an outlier from estates at Holt.

Saxlingham appears in the Domesday Book as ‘Saxelinghamhaham’ (an Old English name possibly meaning ‘the homestead of Seaxel’s people’). It was held by Peter of Valognes and the Bishop of Thetford. The latter’s land was an outlier of estates at Thornage and included a church. This church may have stood in Saxlingham village on the site of St Margaret’s Church (NHER 3201). The existing building dates to the 15th century, has extensive 19th century restoration and in the late 18th century housed the Heydon family tomb.

St Andrew’s Church (NHER 3192) is located in Field Dalling village. It is a medieval church with 19th and 20th century restorations and there is a stone cross in the churchyard. Close by two medieval moated sites survive as earthworks. In the south of the modern settlement is a moat (NHER 3199). In the west are a moat, a hollow way and possible fishponds (NHER 11338 and 31536).

There may have been several manorial sites in medieval Saxlingham. The site of a medieval manor (NHER 3166) in the south of the village is described in 16th century documents, although excavations on the site in 1977 found little evidence for it. A pond and cropmarks (NHER 3202) to the south of this site suggest that there was once a medieval moat close to Green Farm. A large 15th century barn (NHER 14251) stands in the north of Saxlingham village. An owner of one of the manorial sites may have been involved in its construction. In the far east of the parish four areas of possible medieval ridge and furrow (NHER 38282) are visible on aerial photographs.

Heydon Hall (NHER 3167) was built on the eastern side Saxlingham village in around 1550. Additions were made during the post medieval period, but it was destroyed by fire in 1900/1901 and then restored in the mid 1980s. Other post medieval buildings in Saxlingham village include those at Guybons Farm, Church Farm and Warner’s End farm. In the north of the village are a pond, a dammed stream, a culvert, a flint-lined well and walls from two ruined flint buildings. These features are probably the remains of a post medieval tannery (NHER 14251). To the east of the village Bayfield Park, a post medieval landscape park, just encroaches into the parish.

Post medieval buildings in Field Dalling village include Manor Farm, Church Farm, Tudor Cottage, Crossways, The Old School House and Mountgrace Manor. The Hall (NHER 43973) was built in 1906 by Edward Boardman. Two windmills once stood to the north of the settlement. One appears on a map of 1797, whilst the other was built in 1837 and demolished in the 1890s. A third windmill stood to the east of the village and is marked on a map dating to 1826. To the northwest is the site of a late 19th or early 20th century floated water meadow (NHER 31890). During World War Two two spigot mortar emplacements (NHER 24569) were constructed close to Manor Farm.

David Robertson (NLA), 28 November 2005.


Further Reading

Ashwin, T. & Davison, A., 2005. An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, 3rd edition (Chichester, Phillimore)

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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