Record Details

NHER Number:12556
Type of record:Monument
Name:West Winch (Setchey) oilfield


Following the discovery of oily deposits on local watercourses and ponds, investigation revealed that an oil-bearing shale was situated in this area of West Norfolk. In 1918 a company called English Oilfields Ltd was created, and 900,000 £1 shares sold to fund the business. This is the site of the main oil refinery, which was in operation between 1918 and the 1930s. It is said that from every 20 tonnes of shale extracted, 3 gallons of oil were recovered, but it was discovered that the oil was irreparably contaminated. The boom that surrounded the site, which at one time had employed hundreds of men and had its own railway link (NHER 13595) to the Great Eastern Railway and may also have had horse trams, fizzled. Although the company survived for some time, it went into liquidation in the 1960s. Experimental work had continued until 1952, but the site was levelled after the company dissolved and is now the site of an industrial park. Of all the buildings thrown up to provide work spaces and accomodation for the influx of workmen, only one survives today. The former engine shed also survives. Most of the equipment was sold off to other oil companies. It is possible that shale may have been mined here as early as 1907, and it is recorded that a man brought to court for avoiding conscription in 1914 gave his occupation as an oilfields worker at Setch. Oil drilling also took place in North Creake in 1946, as well as Hunstanton in 1971.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 633 140
Map Sheet:TF61SW

Full description

Site of oil refinery. In use 1918-1930.
Oil was refined and distilled here from shale mined at NHER 12557.
Served by a railway branch and perhaps had horse trams. Later area used for surface gravel working.
See (S1).
Most of works dismantled around 1950, but of small community of wooden houses for workers, one is still in use.
See newspaper cutting in file (S2).
E. Rose (NAU), 24 March 1983.

February 1985.
House mentioned above photographed after planning permission granted for brick skin.
Weatherboarded single storey house, heavy wooden windows, central porch perhaps later; now two dwellings but no proper division. Brick stacks at gables and rear. Located against road in centre of east side of site - see newspaper
cutting (S2) for its original setting.
E. Rose (NAU), 7 February 1985.

See also newspaper cutting (S3) in file.

(S4) states that shale may have been mined here as early as 1907 and that in 1914 a man was described as an oilfields worker at Setch.
Copy in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 6 September 1999.

January 2005. Desk Based Assessment.
This survey revealed that the development site lies in an area that has been quarried for sand and gravel in the recent past, and that this activity extended to the present development site. Roman occupation is strongly evidenced from finds to the east and south. It is noted that the site lies within the area of the Setchey oilfield operations, conducted during the 1920s and 1930s, but lay between the refinery area and the shale extraction zone. The maps and available air photographs show that the development site lies close to the accommodation blocks and was crossed by light rail tracks. There is also evidence of sand and gravel extraction here, and local enquiries point to the development site as having been quarried for sand and then restored. For these reasons, it is unlikely that any Roman deposits, features or finds remain in the development site.
See report (S5) for further details.
A. Cattermole (NLA), 16 April 2008.

August 2008.
The former engine shed is now in use as Silena Automotive, 1 Garage Lane. A few years ago standard gauge railway tracks were found beneath the concrete floor (and are still there) (S6).
D. Gurney (NLA), 21 August 2008.

See also NIAS records (S7)
W. Arnold (HES) 06/12/2010

Monument Types

  • FACTORY (World War One to Mid 20th Century - 1918 AD to 1960 AD)
  • HOUSE (World War One to 21st Century - 1918 AD to 2100 AD)
  • MINE (World War One to Mid 20th Century - 1918 AD to 1960 AD)
  • OIL DISTILLERY (World War One to Mid 20th Century - 1918 AD to 1960 AD)
  • OIL REFINERY (World War One to Mid 20th Century - 1918 AD to 1960 AD)
  • RAILWAY (World War One to Mid 20th Century - 1918 AD to 1960 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Article in Serial: Forbes-Leslie, W.. 1916. Norfolk Oil Shales.. Journal of the Institute of Petroleum Technologists. Vol 3 (9), pp 3-35.
---Article in Serial: Forbes-Leslie, W.. 1971. The Occurrence of Petroleum in England.. Journal of the Institute of Petroleum Technologists. Vol 3, pp 152-190.
---Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1998. The great West Norfolk oil rush!. 14 April.
---Monograph: Torrens, H.S.. 1991. Joseph Day 1855-1946: and the development of the two-stroke internal-combustion engine.. 20-23.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Fiche: Exists.
---Photograph: CQV 27-30.
<S1>Article in Serial: Fisher, C. 1977. Norfolk Oil: A note. Journal of the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society. Vol II No 2 pp 37-38.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1983. Norfolk oil boom that never was. 22 March.
<S3>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1990. Days of Norfolk's oil boom. 29 June.
<S4>Newspaper Article: Lynn News. 1999. When they dug for oil at Setch. 3 September.
<S5>Unpublished Contractor Report: Penn, K. 2005. A desk based survey of land at Setchey, West Winch, Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeological Unit. 1023.
<S6>*Verbal Communication: Jodie McGlasson. 2008. [unknown].
<S7>Archive: NIAS. Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society Records.

Related records

13595Parent of: Route of Clarke's Drove Siding (Setchey Oil Railway) (Monument)
12557Parent of: Site of shale mine, medieval pottery sherds (Monument)

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