Parish Summary: Rockland 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

Rocklands St Mary is a parish in the South Norfolk Local Government district, situated some 8km to the east of Norwich. The parish itself contains the settlement of Rockland St Mary, the oldest part of which is situated at the westerly end of The Street, along which the more recent housing straggles.  The east of the parish contains Rockland Broad and Marsh, and is criss-crossed by drains connecting with the River Yare, on the easternmost border. The name ‘Rocklands’ is derived from the Old Norse for Rook Grove.

A number of objects from the earliest periods of human history have been recovered from this parish. These include a number of worked flint tools (NHER 10291), as well as Neolithic axeheads (NHER 10292, NHER 10293, 10294) as well as a prehistoric whetstone (NHER 10300). Two Bronze Age copper alloy palstaves have also been recovered from the parish (NHER 10296, NHER 12508), though there have been no objects from the Iron Age recorded.

Two possible Bronze Age ring ditches (NHER 17678, NHER 17692) have also been identified in this area, in the south of the parish below the village. A Roman clay furnace or oven has also been discovered, just north of the Starloke track near the southern border of the parish. A few Roman objects have also been recovered, the majority of which are pottery sherds (NHER 10298, NHER 33754) and coins (NHER 10297, NHER 24349), although some metal objects (NHER 23263) have been recovered from fields to the west of the village. 

 Drawing of an Early Saxon gilded pendant from Rockland St Mary.

An Early Saxon gilded pendant found in Rockland St Mary.

Copyright Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service.


Only a small number of objects dating to the Saxon period have been recovered. These are an Early Saxon pendant (NHER 23408) and a buckle (NHER 40487), as well as a Late Saxon mount (NHER 35962). Although there are no recorded Saxon buildings, the Domesday Book mentions the presence of a church, though there is no mention of the dedication.


The present day parish church is St Mary’s (NHER 10329), though there is no evidence that the current building was constructed any earlier than the 14th century.  However, situated just a few metres to the east are the ruins of St Margaret’s Church (NHER 10330), of which very little survives. Unfortunately very little is known about the foundation date, and only a low flint wall now survives.


Unfortunately there are no other standing monuments surviving from the medieval period, however the site of a hall (NHER 15586) is noted less than a hundred metres south of the present church, as is the presence of a medieval cross (NHER 24148), although the exact location is not known.


Luckily a few more buildings survive from the post medieval period, a number of which have been listed by English Heritage as of architectural interest. Old Hall (NHER 13166) is one of these, a 17th to 18th century brick house on the main road through Rocklands. Also of interest is the Old Farmhouse on Surlingham Lane (NHER 34197), a 17th century thatched house, and The Normans on Run Lane (NHER 48448), an early 18th century brick farmhouse.


Rockland Broad (NHER 13524) should also be noted, as it is now the largest area of open water in the Yare Valley. During the medieval period peat extraction took place in this area, and during late medieval times the excavations flooded. Interestingly, the line of parallel islands that can be seen to the northwest of the broad are actually the overgrown hulks of wherries which were sunk in 1931 in order to improve water flow.


There have also been a small number of medieval objects recovered, though these are largely coins (NHER 23265, NHER 24594, NHER 31999) and pottery sherds (NHER 28437, NHER 31533, NHER 40488), though a small number of metal objects have also been recovered (NHER 23263), as well as a copper alloy ‘Jews harp’ (NHER 24997). Similar objects have been recovered from the post medieval period, including a post medieval book clasp (NHER 35962) and a German coin (NHER 31998).


Ruth Fillery-Travis (NLA), 2 April 2007.


Further Reading


Knott, S., February 2005. ‘St Margaret, Rocklands St Mary’. Available: Accessed: 2 April 2007

Knott, S., February 2005. ‘St Mary, Rocklands St Mary’. Available: Accessed: 2 April 2007 

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

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

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