Parish Summary: Ingoldisthorpe

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

Ingoldisthorpe is a small parish in the West Norfolk district. It lies just south of Snettisham and north of Dersingham. Land in the village is recorded in the Domesday Book and there are two entries relating to the two main landowners and manors. In addition to the manors two mills, a salthouse and two fisheries are recorded. The village name derives from Old Scandinavian. It means ‘outlying farmstead or hamlet of Ingjaldr’. The River Ingol that flows through the parish may have got its name from the same person or family. The Snettisham bypass goes through part of the parish and fieldwalking and excavation along the line of the route led to increased awareness of how the landscape was used in the past. The National Mapping Program has examined aerial photographs of some of the area and this has revealed a complex criss-crossing of cropmarks over much of the parish. By identifying the finds found on these fields archaeologists have been able to interpret the presence of a complex and extensive Late Iron Age to Roman settlement and field system in the Ingol Valley. 

Drawing of an Iron Age copper alloy strainer bowl spout in the shape of a fish from Ingoldisthorpe.

An Iron Age copper alloy strainer bowl spout in the shape of a fish from Ingoldisthorpe. (© NCC. and S. White.)

There is also evidence for earlier activity. The earliest finds recorded in the database are Mesolithic worked flints (NHER 30418) including a Mesolithic blade (NHER 17626). Neolithic flints (NHER 30418) have also been found and a Neolithic axehead (NHER 1549) was recorded in 1935. Metal detecting and fieldwalking have recovered other prehistoric objects including a Bronze Age awl (NHER 1558) and several Iron Age coins (NHER 1550 and 18033). On one site two Iron Age gold ‘Gallo-Belgic C’ type coins (NHER 17626) that were made in France were recovered. An unusual animal or fish-head strainer spout (NHER 34531) has also been found. This is only the third example of a fish-headed strainer spout to be found in Britain. It appears these were only made and used in East Anglia.

These single finds are hints of the archaeology that is hidden underneath the soil. Analysis of aerial photographs has identified a massive area of Late Iron Age to Roman cropmarks (NHER 26626). These include settlement (NHER 26626), field systems (NHER 20199, 38288 and 26613) and droveways connecting areas (NHER 36211, 20199 and 26613). It appears that was concentrated in the Ingol Valley from the 1st to the 3rd century AD.  It has been suggested that it was the construction of the villa at Park Farm, Snettisham (NHER 1514) that led to the movement of activity away from this area. We are able to date the cropmarks from the finds including coins, pottery fragments and objects found on the fields. One part of the cropmark complex was excavated during the construction of the Snettisham bypass. This excavation (NHER 1555) revealed a complex site with five main phases of activity dating from the 1st to the 3rd century AD. A small roundhouse and enclosure grew into a much larger domestic site where craft and industrial activity took place. The settlement was based on a mixed economy of farming and industry. Roundhouses and handmade pottery were used into the Roman period.  During the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD occupation decreased and the site was divided into small agricultural enclosures. A corn drier was built during this phase. Later activity decreased and rubbish was dumped in the wells, ditches and pits.

Around this settlement site there have been numerous discoveries of exciting Roman finds. These include coins, pottery and brooches. The earliest discovery dates back to the 18th century when two coins (NHER 17204) were recovered. At one site over 200 coins (NHER 1554) have been recorded. At another decorated pieces of samian pottery (NHER 1552) were found. One of these depicted the head and shoulders of a horseman wielding a spear. Two patera (NHER 1554), or flat dishes with a handle, were found in pieces. These may have been buried by a metalworker.

Surprisingly there is very little evidence for Saxon activity. Pieces of Early Saxon (NHER 11829) and Saxon (NHER 11988) pottery have been recovered. On one site a cluster of Late Saxon pottery (NHER 1558) was recorded in the same position as a scatter of chalk rubble.

St Michael and All Angels’ Church (NHER 1575) dates to the 14th century although most of the structure was heavily restored between 1857 and 1858. The rectangular Norman font has also been altered and is now octagonal. The only other clearly medieval site recorded is the moat surrounding parts of Shernborne Hall (NHER 1692). This may have originally stood around the site of a medieval manor. Medieval finds include a seal matrix inscribed SIGIL HENRIC HIC (NHER 1559) and a tiny copper medieval key (NHER 34411). A dagger scabbard (NHER 31244), a harness pendant (NHER 34250) and parts of a copper alloy cauldron (NHER 24506) have also been recorded.

Shernborne Hall (NHER 1692) is later than the medieval moat. It is one wing of an originally much larger Elizabethan house. The Old Hall (NHER 12681) dates to the early 17th century. In the 1930s there was an unusual water force pump used to power a water fountain in the park of the hall. Ingoldisthorpe Hall (NHER 12680) was built in 1757 in Corinthian-Rococo style. The 19th century side wings encapsulate earlier side pavilions. The stable block also dates to 1745, but it was remodelled later into an early mock-medieval folly with unusual Gothick towers. The site of a possible lighthouse (NHER 36192) is marked on Bryant’s map of Norfolk made in 1826. The site of an early 18th century manor house (NHER 1574) was developed after two fires ravaged the building in the 20th century. There are now new houses on the site. The location of old sea defences and land reclamation banks (NHER 26631 and 26632) can be seen on aerial photographs.

The most modern site is a Cold War Royal Observation Corps site (NHER 25262). It was built in January 1959. It may have replaced an earlier World War Two monitoring post. The site would have been used in the event of a nuclear war to measure fall out. It went out of use in 1991, but has been completely restored with all its fittings still installed and is occasionally open to the public.

Megan Dennis (NLA), 11 April 2006.


Further Reading

Brown, P. (ed.), 1984. Domesday Book, 33 Norfolk, Part I and Part II (Chichester, Philimore)

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

Rye, J., 2000. A Popular Guide to Norfolk Place-names (Dereham, The Larks Press)

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