Parish Summary: Pulham St Mary

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

The name ‘Pulham’ is derived from Old English and refers to a ‘homestead by the pools or water meadow’, and the parish derives its full name from the church of St Mary the Virgin (NHER 10779 ). The parish is sixteen miles south of Nowich, just off the A140 which runs along the course of a Roman road refered to as the Pye Road. The parish is roughly oblong, reflecting the shape of its sister parish to the west, Pulham Market. The village of Pulham St Mary is situated roughly in the centre, with the Sweeting’s Green, Kemp’s Corner and North Green areas to the north, and Garlic Street and Furze Green areas to the south.  

Evidence for occupation during the prehistoric periods is scarce. The only confirmed find from this period is a grey chipped flint axehead recovered from the parish at the beginning of the 20th century (NHER 10949). However, evidence of Bronze Age activity is more common, a cremation burial recovered from this parish (NHER 10766) as well as a hoard of copper alloy weapons, including spears, swords and arrowheads (NHER 10765), and a decorated palstave (NHER 10767). Unfortunately, the exact location of the recovery of these objects has not been recorded.

The only evidence for Iron Age activity is a single coin (NHER 34973) recovered in 1997 just north of the road linking the parish to Pulham Market. However, Roman activity is distinctly more common. An evaluation excavation in 2000 recovered roman ditches and an oven or heart, as well as extensive objects including tegula and box tile frgments, metal working debris, pottery sherds, and oyster shells (NHER 22927). As a result it is thought that this site, just south of the village, is a roman occupation site of some importance. 

Other finds include a number of pottery sherds (NHER 15086, NHER 15193), quern sherds (NHER 15086), and a small number of coins (NHER 22622, NHER 10779), as well as a possible Polden Hill type brooch from the 1st century AD (NHER 33198). In addition a small concentration of coins, pottery sherds, and metal obejcts as well as flue tiles has also been recovered  (NHER 22981), although this is likely to be part of the larger Roman site mentioned above, which is situated just 60m to the north.   

Evidence for the Saxon period includes a possible Early Saxon inhumation and cremation cemetary, discovered in the 19th century on the western side of Church Close. Other finds from the Saxon period are limited to a small number of objects which include a coin of the Late Saxon ruler Aethelred II (NHER 10770), a Late Saxon pin (NHER 22371), a glass bead of possible Saxon date (NHER 22622) and a Late Saxon copper alloy disc brooch (NHER 22621).   

Photograph of the magnificent late 15th century porch at St Mary's Church, Pulham St Mary. Photograph from

The magnificent late 15th century porch at St Mary's Church, Pulham St Mary. Photograph from (© S. Knott.)

Despite the small amounts of finds for the previous periods, the medieval period presents an abundant selection of sites, including a number of surviving buildings. Of greatest prominence perhaps is the church of St Mary the Virgin (NHER 10779), a grand and mostly Perpendicular church on a hill above the village street. The strong tower, which may contain work as early as the 13th century, is matched by a stunning late 15th century porch which may be the best in Norfolk, and is visible in the photograph. Inside, the panels of the rood screen contain 15th century painted images of Apostles, and in the stained glass windows some whole figures survive from the same period, despite an expenisve restoration in the 19th century.  

There are also a good number of late medieval buildings, which includes a number of farmhouses such as Crossingford Farm (NHER 12895), Boundary Farm (NHER 19250), Garlic Farm and Barn (NHER 19251) in the Garlic Street area to the south, and Home Farm (NHER 30428), 1.5km to the west. Garlic Farm itself actually contains the remnants of a medieval hall, as does Merrythought and March Cottages (NHER 30924) which are a former open-hall house situated on the eastern edge of the village.   

As well as buildings, a number of moats have been recorded, such as ‘Golden Cradle’ moat (NHER 10773), which incoporates the remains of a causeway, pond and island. Other potential moat sites include the ‘Old Hall’ moat (NHER 10776), and another just north of Upper Vaunce’s Farm (NHER 11024). Pits and ditches dating to the medieval period have also been recorded on the southern border of the parish (NHER 43959), and just south of the village (NHER 22927). 

Of particularly note is Pennoyer’s School (NHER 10778), which although is currently housed in a 19th century brick building, retains an attached schoolroom established by the namesake, William Pennoyer, in 1670. This schoolroom was built into the chapel of the Guild of St James, which was established in 1401, the remains of which include a small rectangular flint chapel that can be seen today.  

There have also been a number of objects recovered from this parish dating to the medieval period, including coins (NHER 29352), pottery (NHER 22927), tokens (NHER 22371), as well as a number of seal matrices in copper alloy (NHER 22622, NHER 13711) and lead (NHER 30019). There has even been a gold signet ring with a bird device recovered (NHER 10769). A particularly surprising recovery is a silver double patard coin of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, as Count of Flanders, dating from 1467 to 1477.  

Objects dating to the post medieval period are rarer, largely limited to a pottery sherds (NHER 10773, NHER 15086) coins (NHER 22886), and domestic objects (NHER 22371), though there have been some shoes recovered from Crossinford Farm (NHER 12895) and some examples of buckles and strap fittings (NHER 22927, NHER 22622). This contrasts with the large number of buildings built or modified in the post medieval period in this parish, of which fifty are listed by English Heritage. A large number of these are located in or near the village, with a smaller  concentration in the Garlic Street and North Green areas, and along the roads connecting those areas to the village.  

A number of the buildings have timber frames (NHER 47852, NHER 45691), and a number have been fronted in brick at some point in their histories (NHER 41778). Of all of these buildings, the Old Hall is worth mentioning, for despite being situated in a possible medieval moated site, the house on this site is actually Victorian with some 20th century additions, although it may contain beams reused from an earlier building (NHER 10776). 

Unlike its sister parish, Pulham Market, this parish retains some evidence from the industrial period. This includes the Maltings (NHER 43298), a long range malting building with kilns and a very fine open queenpost roof in one of the wings. The older sections of this building appear on a map of 1883 and are of 19th century flemish bond. The sites of several post mills (NHER 15559, NHER 15560), a windmill (NHER 16397) and a brick kiln (NHER 15562) have also been recorded. 

The parish also contains an exciting site associated with the construction of, and experimentation with, airships. The shape of these massive hardshelled balloons and their early yellow-buff colour led to them begin referred to as ‘pigs’, and the site, initially owned by the Admiralty, gained the nickname ‘Pulham Piggery’ (NHER 12413). After World War One captured Zeplins were stored here whilst being examined by engineers, however the failtures and disasters of airship operation in the 1910s and 1920s led to the eventual clossure of the Piggery as an airship base, and the dismantling of the huge hangars required to house the ships.   

Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 12 January 2007.


Further Reading

GENUKI. 'Norfolk: Pulham St Mary the Virgin'. Available: Accessed: 12 January 2007 

Hunt's Directory of East Norfolk with Part of Suffolk, 1850.

Knott, S., 2006. ‘St Mary, Pulham St Mary’. Available: Accessed: 12 January 2007

Mortlock D. P. & Roberts, C. V., 1981. The Popular Guide to Norfolk Churches No. 2, Norwich, Central and South Norfolk (Acorn Editions)

Morris, J. (General Editor), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

Pevsner, N., 1997. The buildings of England: Norfolk 2: Northwest and South (London, Penguin Books)

Rye, J., 1991. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place Names (Dereham, The Larks Press) 

Southall, H., 2006 ‘A Vision of Britain Through Time:Pulham St Mary CP’. Available: Accessed: 12 January 2007 

Southall, H., 2006 ‘A Vision of Britain Through Time:Pulham St Mary the Virgin AP/CP’. Available: Accessed: 12 January 2007 

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