Parish Summary: Aldeby

This parish summary provides an overview of the large amount of information which we hold about the parish, and only a representative sample of sites and artefacts from each period are mentioned. If you have any feedback on this article please contact us using the link on the left-hand menu or by emailing

Aldeby is a parish in southeast Norfolk in the valley of the River Waveney on the boundary with Suffolk. It is bordered on three sides by water – the river and the North Sea. The village name means ‘old or disused stronghold’ and is recorded in the Domesday Book as ‘Aldebury’. It is believed to have had Viking origins and has developed around this early settlement and the later Benedictine priory. The village settlement is now concentrated along the main road, away from Aldeby Hall.

Prehistoric finds from the parish are fairly common, thanks in part to the gravel extraction industry that has led to the recovery of particularly early worked flints, including three Palaeolithic handaxes (NHER 10723 and 10740). Finds dating to the Neolithic have also been recovered during gravel extraction and these include several axeheads (NHER 10742, 10724 and 11660) and other worked flints. The double ditched henge monument (NHER 12137) to the north of the village was used in the Neolithic as a ritual site. A possible Neolithic long barrow (NHER 44860) can be seen on aerial photographs. The Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery fragments found across the parish are evidence for later prehistoric occupation. Four Bronze Age barrows (NHER 12139, 12140, 16003 and 16882) have been identified from aerial photographs. An almost complete Beaker vessel (NHER 36668) was also excavated by NAU in 2001. The earliest iron working site (NHER 34099) in the British Isles dating to the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age has been excavated in the east of the parish.

Drawing of early ironworking furnaces excavated at Aldeby.

Early ironworking furnaces excavated at Aldeby (©NAU Archaeology)

There was activity at the henge in the Roman period when it appears that this was the site of a Roman temple (NHER 45036). There is also evidence for a local Roman settlement (NHER 12138) where a concentration of Roman pottery, metal objects and brick and tile have been recovered during fieldwalking. Cropmarks of a Roman farmstead (NHER 44888) can be seen on an aerial photograph. An Iron Age to Roman field system and trackway (NHER 44864) have also been recorded. Cropmarks of a cluster of possible Saxon sunken-featured buildings have been recorded north of St Mary's Road (NHER 44948), not far from the findspot of an Early Saxon girdle hanger (NHER 41979). 

By the medieval period, however, we see a wide distribution of pottery throughout the parish and sites include the Benedictine Priory (NHER 10725) that was founded in 1100 as a cell to Norwich. The presence of the priory explains the extraordinary length of the nave of the 13th to 14th century church (NHER 10756) that had to accommodate monks as well as villagers. The parish also contains Thurkeliart deserted medieval village and church (NHER 22202) which can now only be seen as earthworks. The earliest buildings still standing in the parish include 16th century barns and outbuildings (NHER 10725) of Priory Farm and The Grange (NHER 15090). Aldeby House (NHER 13348) was built in the 17th century. Slightly later 18th century College Farm (NHER 37169) may also be the site of an earlier manor. In the former 16th to 17th century pub, The Tuns (NHER 13950), a donkey-powered sawmill was housed in one of the outbuildings.

In the post medieval period the site of a steam pumping station (NHER 40779) close to the River Waveney shows the advances in technology from the earlier windpumps (such as NHER 40676) used to drain the land. In the 19th century the arrival of the railway (now dismantled) and gravel extraction began to change the landscape. A bunker site was set up here in 1945 by the Royal Observation Corps (NHER 24940) to monitor nuclear fallout in the event of war. The most recent addition to the archaeology of the parish is the erection of a number of large boulders from the south coast of England around the parish boundary and in the village to commemorate the new millennium.


Megan Dennis (NLA), 28 July 2005.

David Gurney (NLA), 28 March 2008.


Further Reading

Dean, J., 1997. 'Ritual protection marks on Norfolk buildings: a recent survey'. Available: Accessed 28 July 2005.

Knott, S., 2005. 'St Mary’s Aldeby' Available: Accessed: 28 July 2005.

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

Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes (ed.), 1990. The Norfolk Villages Book (Newbury: Countryside Books)

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