Parish Summary: Elsing

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

Elsing, from the Old English meaning a ‘settlement of the family or followers of a man called Elesa’, is a small parish in central Norfolk, close to the town of East Dereham. Today Elsing is a parish of fairly dispersed settlement around the village of Elsing itself, Peaseland Green in the south of the parish, and Mill Street in the north of the parish, close to the river Wensum.

Several Neolithic flint implements (NHER 3034) have been found in the parish, including a flint adze (NHER 39269) and a flint pick (NHER 2998). Two Bronze Age axeheads (NHER 36591 and 37108), made of copper alloy, have also been found. The sites of three ring ditches (NHER 18242 and 31751), probably the remains of Bronze Age barrows, are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs, and prehistoric flint flakes have been found by field walking on the site of one ring ditch (NHER 18242). A prehistoric burnt mound and pot boilers (NHER 21454) have also been found, but no prehistoric settlement site has been identified. 

photogrpah of a Roman copper alloy box mount in the shape of the head of Pan from Elsing.

Roman copper alloy box mount in the shape of the head of Pan from Elsing. (© NCC.)

Metal detecting has recovered evidence for Roman occupation. Roman coins (NHER 39269, 40010, 28643, 36591, 37108 and 37680), pottery (NHER 13731, 18242 and 39269), and other objects including brooches (NHER 36591, 39300 and 37086), a steelyard weight (NHER 40644) and a box mount in the shape of the head of the god Pan (NHER 30334).

Settlement continued to develop during the Saxon period, and an Early Saxon hearth (NHER 3062) was found underneath St Mary’s Church (NHER 3062), suggesting that the Saxon settlement grew up around the church, before drifting onto the edges of commons in the medieval period, giving the parish the dispersed pattern of settlement that it has today. An Early Saxon buckle (NHER 36591) and brooch (NHER 39269), a Middle Saxon coin (NHER 37108), and two Middle or Late Saxon disc brooches, one decorated with the head of a saint (NHER 36591), the other with a backward facing animal (NHER 28643), and a Late Saxon strap fitting (NHER 28643), bridle piece (NHER 36591), key and mount (NHER 40644) have been found by metal detecting. Elsing is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a single manor, which was held by a free man named Lokki in the Late Saxon period. The manor held a substantial amount of woodland, and a number of beehives. A church is also mentioned in Domesday Book, although St Mary’s Church (NHER 3062) does not contain any obvious evidence of an earlier building.

Elsing Hall (NHER 3009) is a medieval moated manor house, at some distance from the village, which was built in the late 15th century for the Hastings family. The Hall was extensively restored in the 1850s by Thomas Jekyll, and the oldest surviving medieval work dates from the 15th century, although the Hall may incorporate elements of an earlier building. The foundations of a 15th century gatehouse have survived, as well as 15th century bastions which once surrounded the moat. The Hasting family dominated the life of the parish in the medieval period, and St Mary’s Church (NHER 3062) was entirely rebuilt by Sir Hugh Hastings in 1347. The church has been little altered since, and is renowned for Sir Hugh’s memorial brass, which is one of the best examples of medieval brasses in the country. The church also contains an elaborate 14th century font and screen. During the medieval period Elsing was an agricultural parish, as it still is today, and the remains of a field system of unknown date (NHER 2999) is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. Metal detecting finds offer a tantalising glimpse into medieval life in the parish, including a lead pilgrim’s badge (NHER 31349), a French jetton from the 15th or 16th centuries (NHER 30251), a medieval crossbow nut (NHER 37108), and a gilded medieval mount depicting an animal raising its front paw (NHER 31350).

During the post medieval period the parish continued to be dominated by agriculture. Green Farm (NHER 39523), in Peaseland Green, is a timber framed house dating to about 1600. The timber frame was largely replaced in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Guildhouse (NHER 20558) is a 17th century brick building, with a large cellar, which may have been used as a guildhall. The Old Rectory (NHER 20559) is a 17th century timber framed building, with original 17th century fireplaces. Elsing Mill (NHER 3015) was built in the early 19th century on the site of an earlier mill, and has now been converted into a private house.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 16 November 2005.


Further Reading

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

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

Norfolk Federation of Women’s Institutes, 1990. The Norfolk Village Book (Newbury, Countryside Books)

Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B., 1997. Norfolk 2: North West and South (London, Penguin)

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

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