Parish Summary: Heydon

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 Heydon is situated in northeast Norfolk, to the northwest of Cawston. Its name comes from the Old English for ‘Hay Hill’.

The earliest evidence of human occupation in the parish comes in the form of Neolithic flint tools, three axeheads, two partly polished (NHER 7324 and 7325) and one wholly polished (NHER 7335). The Bronze Age is represented by finds of part of a copper alloy spearhead (NHER 3107) and an axehead (NHER 35057). Also noted after advances in aerial photography is a possible Bronze Age ring ditch (NHER 32246). This feature is probably the remains of circular burial mounds or barrow, ploughed flat over the centuries but with its surrounding ditch still visible as a cropmark from the air.

There are currently no finds from the Iron Age, but a possibly Roman enclosure has been identified from the air (NHER 36407), and Roman finds include pottery fragments (NHER 35058 and 41829), coins, brooches and a tile (NHER 41829). As yet, there is no evidence of Saxon activity. 

Photograph of SS Peter and Paul's Church, Heydon.

SS Peter and Paul's Church, Heydon. (© NCC.)

The medieval period has left the parish with its oldest surviving building, the church of St Peter and St Paul (NHER 7369). The building consists of a tall west tower of knapped flint, an aisled nave with a clerestory, a chancel, north and south porches and a mortuary chapel to the Bulwer family. It was originally 14th century, but was remodelled in the 15th century, when the large windows were inserted into the nave and chancel. Inside is an impressive 13th century font, fine late 14th century wall paintings and a huge black tomb  chest  for Erasmus Earle, a celebrated lawyer who bought Heydon Manor in 1650.

There is also a medieval cross (on a later plinth and somewhat repaired) in the parish (NHER 7362), though it is thought to have been moved from its original setting in Wood Dalling.

Other medieval buildings have not survived, but have left a footprint in the form of their surrounding moat. An example of this was at NHER 22182, a moated site marked on 19th and early 20th century maps. The site was destroyed by farming in about 1930.

Medieval objects found include quite a few coins (e.g. NHER 35057, 36277, 39939, 41828 and 42704), a brooch (NHER 35057) and pottery fragments (NHER 23398 and 41829). 

Photograph of Heydon Hall, a fine country house that was built in 1582 for Sir Henry Dynne, one of the auditors of the Exchequer of Elizabeth I.

Heydon Hall, a fine country house that was built in 1582 for Sir Henry Dynne, one of the auditors of the Exchequer of Elizabeth I. (© NCC.)

Without doubt, the most striking post medieval building is Heydon Hall (NHER 7358), the central part of which was built in about 1580 for Sir Henry Dynne, one of Elizabeth I’s exchequer auditors. The hall was then bought in 1650 by Erasmus Earle, an eminent lawyer who was Oliver Cromwell’s personal Sergeant at Law. It eventually passed by marriage to the Bulwer family, who still own it. The original hall was considerably added to in the 18th and 19th centuries, but these extensions were demolished in the 1970s during a restoration programme that broadly restored the house to its original proportions. The hall stands in its own parkland (NHER 30440) which is dotted with various ancillary buildings, including a service wing (NHER 43258), an estate office (NHER 43255), barn (NHER 43261) and four lodges (NHER 43256, 43257, 43264 and 43265).  An ancient oak tree in the grounds (NHER 7360) is said to have been Oliver Cromwell’s refuge when he was chased by a bull while visiting Earle at the hall. 

The mid 19th century lodges at Heydon Park, showing the two single storey lodge cottages on either side of the entrance gates.

The 19th century lodges at Heydon Park. (© NCC.)

In broad chronological order, the other post medieval houses on the record include the Old Bakehouse (NHER 12730) and Park Farmhouse (NHER 30775), parts of which date to the 16th century. Ollands Farm (NHER 12726), Cropton Hall (NHER 7359), The Grange (NHER 30773) and Dower House (NHER 30774) all have 17th century origins, though much altered later. The Earle Arms pub (NHER 43271) is 18th century and later as is Heydon House (NHER 43267), a former vicarage. 

Photograph of the blacksmith's workshop in Heydon. Photograph from Eastern Daily Press.

The blacksmith's workshop in Heydon.  Eastern Daily Press.)

19th century buildings include  Blacksmith’s Forge (NHER 12729), which is still in use, and an ice house (NHER 12840), once underground but now with its brickwork exposed. The early 19th century also saw the construction of several estate workers’ cottages and shops. These include NHER 43268, 43269, 43270, 43272 and 43273. The octagonal flint and brick tower at NHER 7363 is 19th century too, and was probably a recreational lookout, though today it is below the level of the surrounding trees.

Post medieval finds include a key (NHER 17411), brooches (NHER 35057 and 41829), pottery fragments (NHER 41829) and a Flemish jetton (NHER 36277). Also found in about 1964 in the easternmost of the lodges on Village Street were two witch bottles (NHER 15803), one under the doorstep and one under the hearth. These were placed in houses to ward off evil spirits.

The most historically recent entry on the record is a World War Two brick Home Guard shelter (NHER 32492). Dating to about 1940, it stands in trees near the village hall. Not separately numbered, but well preserved, is a World War Two air raid shelter in the grounds of Cropton Hall (NHER 7359).

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 23 May 2006.


Further Reading

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

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