Parish Summary: Briningham

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 parish of Briningham is situated in the north of the county, south of Gunthorpe and Brinton , and north of Melton Constable. Its name comes from the Old English for ‘Homestead of Brina’s people’, and it was certainly in existence prior to the Norman Conquest, having three entries in the Domesday Book (1086).

The earliest evidence of human activity in the parish comes in the form of a Mesolithic flaked axehead, which was part of a very large scatter of 339 flint tools found during fieldwalking in 1995 (NHER 31484). Other flint tools on this site dated from the Mesolithic through to the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age (despite the names of the latter two, flint continued to be used as a tool making material). Other prehistoric finds from the parish include a quartzite macehead (NHER 3213) and a Bronze Age flint blade (NHER 3212). 

Drawing of a Roman bird figurine from Briningham.

A Roman bird figurine from Briningham. (©NCC)

Currently, the archaeological record is silent during the period from the Iron Age. Of course, this state of affairs may change with further investigation. Metal detecting has recovered a Roman bird figurine (NHER 44766) and a Saxon gold pin decorated with garnets (NHER 29397).

Memeorial to the Brereton family depicting the family crest, the muzzled bear. The memorial is in the churchyard of the Church of St Maurice, Briningham.

Memorial to the Brereton family depicting the family crest, the muzzled bear, in the churchyard of the Church of St Maurice, Briningham. (©NCC)

The medieval period following the Norman Conquest has given the parish its oldest surviving building, St Maurice’s church (NHER 3239). This mainly dates to the 13th and 14th centuries, though the north wall may well be Norman. The church is unusual in having a southwest porch tower instead of the standard west tower. There are interesting gravestones in the churchyard, including one in the shape of a pyramid, topped with the head of a muzzled bear. Inside the church, a 14th century font and the remains of a 13th century bell frame can be found.

Individual medieval finds in the parish include pottery fragments (NHER 14778 and 14779), a coin (NHER 25802), a lead seal matrix (NHER 29726) and a horse harness pendant (NHER 42640).

Turning to the post medieval period following the Dissolution of the monasteries, probably the oldest building to survive is Boundary Farm (NHER 36963), which dates to about 1600, although of course with later alterations. The building contains some reused stone, possibly taken from Binham Priory (NHER 2081). The house stands near to a fine barn of 1713 that has been converted to residential use.

The Old White Horse (NHER 19512) dates to the 17th century, and was a cottage, extended in 1743, before becoming a pub in the 19th century, when it was much modernised. It is now once again residential, although two horse harness rings remain on the west wall from its pub days.

Bellevue tower (NHER 3242) is an intriguing building, and there has been some discussion about its origins. The most likely explanation as to its history is that it began as an early 18th century smock mill, and was then converted to an all brick folly by 1783. Discussion continues, but in any event the building is now residential.

19th century buildings include Briningham House (NHER 3237), a large, broadly cube shaped house built on new ground in 1838, and Home Farm (NHER 41784). The White House, Mission Hall, and Mission Hall Cottage (NHER 40088) are also from this century.

The last matter to note is that there were two windmills in the parish (NHER 18038), marked on a map of 1797. However, nothing remains of them today.

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 6 June 2006.


Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. The Domesday Book: Norfolk  (Chichester, Phillimore)

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



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