Parish Summary: Great Snoring

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

Great Snoring is a little parish six miles south of Wells-next-the-Sea, west of Barsham and south of part of Great Walsingham parish. The name derives from Old English and probably means 'settlement of the people of Snear'. 'Snear' has been translated as 'swift' so it may have been a nick name. The village is recorded in the Domesday Book where it is noted that it was owned by Ketel before 1066 but was now under the ownership of the King. Two mills are recorded in the parish at this time, one of which may have been a watermill located on the River Stiffkey that runs through the parish. The population of the village is now smaller than that of adjacent Little Snoring but the names indicate that in the past Great Snoring was the larger settlement. Although there are only thirty nine sites or finds from the parish recorded in the database the earliest dates to the Neolithic and the latest to the post medieval period and they provide evidence for human activity in the area from the prehistoric period onwards.

The earliest finds, as mentioned above, date to the Neolithic period. Three Neolithic flint axeheads (NHER 2117, 2118 and 11518) have been recovered, one of which is unusually small  (NHER 11518). In addition a Neolithic stone polisher (NHER 14239) and two unidentified Neolithic worked flints (NHER 2046 and 11517) have been recovered. At another site a scatter of prehistoric burnt flints has been found. These may indicate that this is the site of a prehistoric burnt mound (NHER 15456). There is also evidence from the parish for activity in the Roman period. Sites of several Roman buildings (NHER 2121, 2123 and 2151) have been investigated where the amount of Roman pottery and building material recovered suggests that this might have been an area of Roman settlement. Excavations at two of these sites identified clear floor layers that provided identification of the location of specific buildings. A Roman ditch (NHER 2120) containing 2nd century AD pottery was also excavated in the middle of the 20th century. Other Roman finds have been collected from the surface of fields in the parish. At one site a Roman blue glass bead was recovered with Roman pottery and tile fragments (NHER 2048). At other sites Roman pottery (NHER 2117) and coins (NHER 2122 and 31715) have been discovered although the amount of material collected is not enough to suggest settlement in these areas.

There is also evidence for activity in the Saxon period, although finds from this time are more rare. A fragment of Early Saxon pottery (NHER 2147) and an Early Saxon brooch (NHER 2123) have been recovered. A strap fitting dating to the Middle or Late Saxon period (NHER 2123) and fragments of Late Saxon pottery (NHER 2124 and 2151) have also been recorded. It isn't until the medieval period that there is clear evidence for settlement on the site of the modern village. The site of one of the mills recorded in the Domesday Book has been tentatively identified. Casual finds of lava millstone in the River Stiffkey and the presence of flint building rubble on the banks nearby suggest this may have been the location of a medieval watermill (NHER 2128).

Earthwork plan of medieval fishponds.

The earthworks of medieval fishponds in Great Snoring. (© NCC.)

There are also earthworks of some rather unusual medieval fishponds (NHER 11785) that are surrounded by water-filled ditches and a boundary bank. The church of St Mary (NHER 13192) dates to this period and was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. There are also the remains of a medieval stone cross within the churchyard. The site of the medieval brick kilns (NHER 2149) where bricks were made to build the Old Rectory (NHER 2125) have also been located. The Old Rectory was erected as a manor house in 1525 and the south facade of the house retains many original features including strips of decorative terracotta plaques between the storeys and turrets with gothic style brickwork. An interesting record from the parish is the discovery of a silver medieval seal matrix in 1760 (NHER 13191). The seal depicts three ox heads and has the inscription SIGILL THOME OXWYE.

Many of the database records date to the post medieval period. Several post medieval buildings within the parish still remain. Manor or Top Farm (NHER 13190) may have been built before 1619. A marriage stone on the building with an inscription of this date may relate to a shortening or alteration of the building. Dildash House (NHER 15454) dates to the late 16th or early 17th century and it is likely that the Tithe Barn (NHER 15455) was also built at this date. Both have been substantially altered in more recent times. Several of the houses on The Street (NHER 21893, 21894 and 21891) were built in the 17th century although their exteriors do not necessarily make this clear. Not all the post medieval buildings in the parish have survived however. Thursford Castle (NHER 2105), a workhouse and chapel for the Walsingham Union, was designed by Thorold in 1837 and was later used as a smallpox hospital. It has been demolished and only the chapel remains. A post medieval lime kiln (NHER 16695) is now derelict and unused. This may also have been the site of a post medieval brick kiln.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 10 January 2006.


Further Reading

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

Higginbotham, P., 2001. 'Walsingham Poor Law Union and Workhouse'. Available: Accessed 10 January 2006.

Knott, S., 2005. 'Norfolk Churches - St Mary, Great Snoring'. Available: Accessed 10 January 2006. 

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

Rusdale, E., 2004. 'Roll of Honour - Norfolk - Great Snoring'. Available: Accessed 10 January 2006.

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

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