Parish Summary: Hellesdon

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

Hellesdon is a small parish to the north of Norwich, on the edge of the city boundary. The modern parish of Hellesdon encompasses an area of arable fields, shown on 19th century Ordnance Survey maps. The village of Old Hellesdon is just over the modern parish boundary, within the City of Norwich. During the 20th century these fields have been swallowed up by new developments, and Hellesdon has become part of the suburbs of Norwich.

The earliest archaeological finds from the parish date from the Palaeolithic period, including a handaxe (NHER 31389) and an unusual example of an Upper Palaeolithic flint burin (NHER 7859) and an Upper Palaeolithic flint blade core (NHER 28179). Prehistoric flint flakes (NHER 8090, 17463, 29164 and 29439), a Mesolithic scraper (NHER 14537) and Neolithic flints including scrapers, flakes, core and other implements (NHER 7860, 8085, 8086, 8091, 8097, 8099, 11389 and 19261), Neolithic axeheads (NHER 8100, 8092, 8093, 8094, 8095, 8096, 8098, 14716 and 15874) and arrowheads have also been found. A Neolithic flint-working site (NHER 7859) has been discovered in the garden of 41 Drayton Wood Road. Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowheads (NHER 8084, 16759, 21640, 35275, 36580 and 37459) and a Bronze Age flanged axehead (NHER 17167) have been found in gardens and by metal detecting. The remains of a Bronze Age round barrow (NHER 8100) were recorded in 1893 on Middleton’s Lane, but the site has now been built over.

A Roman cremation (NHER 21500) was discovered during the construction of a new factory in 1985. A hoard of silver Roman coins (NHER 21500) is rumoured to have been found by metal detecting in the area. Roman pottery (NHER 7860), coins (NHER 7861, 7862, 8124, 18514, 30663 and 31993) and brooches (NHER 30663 and 30664) have also been found.

Hellesdon comes from the Old English meaning ‘hill of a man named Haegal’, and is first mentioned in a document dating to 985. Early Saxon brooches (NHER 18514 and 20479) have been found during metal detecting. In the Domesday Book Hellesdon was held by Godwin Haldane, and is listed with a church, a fishery and two mills. A Middle Saxon coin of Eadbert Praen (NHER 8104) was found in the parish in 1846, and a Late Saxon mount (NHER 23461) has been found more recently during metal detecting. 

Photograph of St Mary's Church, Hellesdon.

St Mary's Church, Hellesdon. (© NCC.)

The medieval parish church of St Mary (NHER 8139) is in the southwest corner of the parish, on the edge of the old village of Hellesdon. The church dates back to the 12th century, with extensive later medieval alterations. In the churchyard is a medieval stone cross (NHER 8136) marking the boundary of the City of Norwich. Another medieval boundary cross (NHER 8135) is at the junction of Boundary Road and Drayton High Road. A medieval coin balance (NHER 8106), medieval coins (NHER 15601 and 18514) and other metal finds (NHER 30663 and 30664) have been found in gardens and by metal detecting.

The site of Hellesdon poor house (NHER 12483), or workhouse, is marked on Faden’s map of 1797 on Boundary Road. A post medieval windmill (NHER 18096) is shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1836 on the site of Hellesdon Hospital. 

Photograph of a World War One hanger in Hellesdon. This large wooden hanger was constructed on the Mann Egerton site in 1916. The company
manufactured Short bombers, Sopwith fighters and other aircraft until 1919. Photograph from Eastern Daily Press.

World War One hanger in Hellesdon.  Eastern Daily Press.)

A large wooden hanger (NHER 13161) was constructed on the Mann Egerton site in 1916. The company built various World War One fighter planes until 1919. The hanger was demolished in 1984. World War Two anti tank blocks and rails (NHER 32490), a pillbox (NHER 32546), an anti aircraft battery (NHER 34203) and an air raid shelter (NHER 41277) were all part of Norwich’s perimeter defences. A Royal Observer Corps monitoring post (NHER 35393) was opened in the late 1950s and closed in 1991.

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 2 March 2006


Further Reading

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

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

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

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