Parish Summary: Gooderstone

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

Gooderstone is in the southwest of the county located north of Foulden and south of Cockley Cley. The parish has finds dating from the Mesolithic period and the most recent archaeology belongs to World Wars One and Two. The village name, recorded as Godestuna in the Domesday Book, comes from Old English and means 'Guthhere's enclosure'. The Domesday entry suggests that the village was settled by at least the Saxon period and the survey records three mills here before 1066 and five after. There was also a fishery. Although there are no historical records of the village earlier than the Domesday Book in 1086 the archaeology suggests that it was also settled in earlier periods.

The earliest finds are two Mesolithic tranchet flint axeheads (NHER 20942 and 20943) found on the surface of fields. A Mesolithic blade (NHER 35707) was also recovered during the excavation of a site prior to redevelopment. There is also plenty of evidence for activity in the Neolithic period. Several Neolithic flint axeheads (NHER 4568, 4588 and 17684) have been recovered and other surface finds include a Neolithic flint knife (NHER 14663), a Neolithic pick or chisel (NHER 20938) and a Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead (NHER 20944). These flint tools were replaced by copper alloy tools in the Bronze Age, but flint continued to be used for some objects including the Beaker period dagger (NHER 4570).

Illustration of Late Bronze Age socketed axehead.

A Late Bronze Age socketed axehead made of copper alloy. (© NCC.)

A copper alloy Bronze Age socketed axehead (NHER 23876) with a loop and ribbed decoration has also been found and a more unusual miniature axehead (NHER 4574) was also made of copper alloy. A possible Bronze Age barrow (NHER 4573) has been identified and prehistoric worked and burnt flints have been found here. Archaeologists are in disagreement about the mound however. Some think it may be a natural feature. Other possible Bronze Age ring ditches (NHER 35506) have been identified from aerial photographs. The area continued to be used by humans during the Iron Age. Several Iron Age coins (NHER 18178) have been recovered including one called a potin (NHER 22731). This unusual coin is made of a high tin alloy which would originally have had a silvery appearance and was produced in Kent. It is unclear how it got to Gooderstone. These prehistoric finds seem to concentrated in the central part of the parish on the greensand deposits overlooking the river valley gravels to the north where the modern village is located. Scatters of prehistoric worked flint collected during a fieldwalking survey are also concentrated in this area.

Activity in the area seems to increase during the Roman period. Excavations in the 1950s revealed parts of a Roman building (NHER 4575) where painted wall plaster and a ceramic and concrete floor layer were uncovered. A Roman rubbish pit was also excavated here and five children's skeletons may have been found on this site. It may be part of a larger scatter of Roman material in the centre of the parish that has been recorded by fieldwalking and metal detecting. This scatter of material, including many Roman coins, metalwork and pottery fragments, has been interpreted as a Roman settlement (NHER 18179). The settlement is scattered along a probable Roman road (NHER 4585). This road is part of a wider network. In the north of the parish there is a junction with another possible Roman road (NHER 4595). The modern village of Gooderstone is located on this second road, and Roman material found in the village suggests there may also have been settlement here in the Roman period. A Roman cist grave (NHER 1126) found during agricultural work in the 1970s may also be related to the settlement. Roman objects have also been found in other parts of the parish including coins (NHER 4576, 16889 and 22898), brooches (NHER 4577, 4584 and 22731) and pottery (NHER 19411 and 20940). Some of this pottery comes from as far afield as central Gaul in mainland Europe (NHER 19411). A strange group of objects (NHER 18180) were discovered by a metal detectorist. Two bracelets and a circlet wrapped in a chain were found in a hollow which had been filled with soil from a carrot washing machine. The objects must have slipped through the sieve. They may be Roman or medieval.

Evidence from the Saxon period is more dispersed but metal detecting has recovered several objects from the central part of the parish and the modern village suggesting these two areas were important centres.

Illustration of Early Saxon brooch, found in two fragments.

Two fragments of the same Early Saxon brooch. (© NCC.)

Two fragments of the same ornate Early Saxon brooch (NHER 4575) were found by two different metal detectorists on one site and fragments of several other Early Saxon brooches (NHER 21593) were recovered from another location. More unusually the arm of a pair of Early Saxon tweezers (NHER 32091) has also been discovered. There is less evidence for the Middle Saxon period but fragments of pottery have been identified (NHER 35779) suggesting there was activity in the modern village at this time and part of a Middle Saxon hanging bowl (NHER 32091) has also been recovered. The evidence for Late Saxon Gooderstone is more unequivocal. Excavations in the village have identified areas of Late Saxon activity (NHER 35707) and a square pit, post holes, a gully and ditch have also been recorded (NHER 35779). A piece of daub found in the pit suggests that there was a wattle and daub building nearby. Further afield a Late Saxon iron sword (NHER 4578) was found. This was an unusual deposit as the sword had been bent beneath the silver gilt hilt. This practice of bending swords is practically unknown in Saxon Britain but is recorded in Scandinavia. A Late Saxon or early medieval prick spur (NHER 36082) was also found nearby. The curved sides of the spur ended in two animal head terminals. 

St. George's Parish Church, Gooderstone. One of Simon Jenkin's 1000 best churches.

St George's Parish Church, Gooderstone. (© NCC.)

By the medieval period all activity seems to be centred on the modern village of Gooderstone. Parts of St George's church (NHER 4594) were built in the Norman period and the rest was added and adapted in the 13th to 15th centuries. The site of a medieval stone cross (NHER 14478) is also recorded on 19th century maps but has since disappeared. The site of a medieval moat (NHER 4579) can be identified from the air and some medieval fishponds (NHER 17685) are also recorded. The medieval rabbit warren of Gooderstone (NHER 4595) was bounded by a large bank on the north side. This bank still acts as the parish boundary in the north of the parish. In addition to these monument records several interesting finds have been discovered. In 1849 an unusual seal matrix (NHER 12447) depicting a man with a lion's tail and with the inscription 'I was a man' was found in the parish. It has been suggested that this may have belonged to the 17th century lexicographer Simone Browne who went mad and claimed he had turned into a beast. A beautiful medieval harness pendant (NHER 38100) decorated with a red enamel and gilt butterfly motif was also found. A medieval stock jetton (NHER 31140) all the way from Tournai in France was also recovered.

More recent archaeological sites include the sites of several mills. The Domesday Book mentioned that there were five mills in Gooderstone in 1086. In the post medieval period it is thought that there were four windmills and one watermill (NHER 4590, 14476 and 14477). The most recent site in Gooderstone is the World War One airfield (NHER 12416). This was used as a night landing field in 1918 and is thought to have been reused in World War Two as a bombing decoy.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 4 January 2006.


Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I (Chichester, Phillimore)

Hooker and Perron, 1999 to 2002. 'Coin No: 870692, Celtic Coin Index Online, bronze unit of Cantii, VA 139-1'. Available: Accessed 6 January 2006.

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

Neville, J., 2003. 'Norfolk Mills - Gooderstone'. Available: Accessed 6 January 2006.

Neville, J. 2004. 'Norfolk Mills - Gooderstone Chalkrow Lane tower windmill'. Available: Accessed 6 January 2006.

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B., 1999. The Buildings of England. Norfolk 2. North-west and south (London, Penguin Books), 2002. 'Roll of Honour - Norfolk - Gooderstone'. Available: Accessed 6 January 2006.

Rye, J., 2000. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham, The Larks Press)

Unknown Churchwarden, 'St George's Church Gooderstone'. Available: Accessed 6 January 2006.

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