Parish Summary: Roughton

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

Roughton is a small parish in north Norfolk, close to the coastal town of Cromer. The village of Roughton is roughly in the centre of the parish, surrounded by an area of heathland and several farms. Roughton comes from a mixture of Old English and Old Scandinavian meaning ‘rough farm’ or ‘rye farm’.

During the prehistoric period the modern parish of Roughton lay within a large funerary and ceremonial landscape that extends into neighbouring parishes like Hanworth. Many prehistoric monuments have been identified and mapped from aerial photographs, and some prehistoric artefacts have been recovered. The earliest archaeological evidence from the parish is a Palaeolithic flint implement (NHER 11164), and other prehistoric flints (NHER 19468) and pot boilers (NHER 24245) have been found.

A Neolithic causewayed enclosure (NHER 13358) is visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. It occupies a slight knoll or spur, overlooking minor tributaries of the River Bure to its southwest and east. Part of an internal timber palisade is visible within the enclosure, as are a number of internal pits. Several ditches have been identified which may have been outlying features to the west and east of the enclosure. Two Neolithic long barrows or mortuary enclosures and a possible round or oval barrow, also likely to date to the Neolithic, lie just to the north (NHER 38485). Neolithic or Bronze Age enclosures (NHER 38496, 38501) and a Neolithic to Iron Age enclosure (NHER 38662) have also been identified. Neolithic axeheads (NHER 6470, 6726 to 6734, 6749, 6750), an adze (NHER 6471) and flint scrapers (NHER 6730, 24244, 24245) have been found.

Roughton Heath is notable for the high number of Bronze Age barrows that have been recorded there, both as earthworks and cropmarks. Many barrows survived as earthworks until the 19th and early 20th centuries, but have been damaged by subsequent ploughing. The two barrows known as Two Hills (NHER 6738 and 6739) were ploughed in World War Two and are now visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. A ring barrow (NHER 38671) is still visible as an earthwork. Several Bronze Age round barrows were excavated by G.J. Chester in the 19th century. The excavation at Kettle Hill (NHER 6735) revealed deposits of charred wood and a mass of burnt bones. At Rowhow Hill (NHER 6737) Chester found a cremation and four jet beads. Rowhow Hill was levelled in 1933 and subsequently ploughed. Its remains are visible as a cropmark on aerial photographs. Two Bronze Age barrow cemeteries have been identified from aerial photographs. One cemetery (NHER 38632) includes Nares Hill (NHER 6740), Hare’s Hill (NHER 6741) and the cropmark of a ring ditch (NHER 38648). The other cemetery (NHER 38652) includes the cropmarks of several ring ditches (NHER 36479, 36478, 36477, 38500). A large number of other ring ditches (NHER 12180, 36480, 3856238653, 38654, 38649, 38663, 38664, 38665, 39112) are visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs. Fragments of Bronze Age pottery (NHER 6736) have been found in one of the barrows (NHER 38664).

Although no artefacts dating from the Iron Age have yet been discovered in the parish, the cropmarks of Iron Age square barrows (NHER 38476) and trackways (NHER 38483), Iron Age to Roman field systems (NHER 38563, 38495, 38571) and possible Iron Age to Roman enclosures and field systems (NHER 39117) have been identified. Fragments of Roman pottery (NHER 19468), Roman coins (NHER 37313, 40427) and brooches (NHER 39545, 40427) have been found during metal detecting.

Early Saxon beads were found on Roughton Heath in the late 19th century (NHER 21031) and fragments of Early Saxon pottery (NHER 37313) have been found. Other Saxon artefacts from the parish include an Early to Middle Saxon buckle (NHER 40427), a Middle Saxon sceat (NHER 6747), a Middle to Late Saxon strap end (NHER 37313), a Late Saxon stirrup terminal (NHER 40537), a brooch (NHER 37313) and fragments of pottery (NHER 37315). In the Domesday Book, complied in 1086, Roughton was held by the Count of Mortain, Roger Bigot and Hugh of Montfort, who all had fairly substantial holdings. 

St Mary's Church in Roughton showing the Late Saxon round tower, the north aisle and the north porch.

St Mary's Church, Roughton. (© NCC)

St Mary’s Church (NHER 6771) is a Late Saxon to medieval parish church with an 11th century round tower with double splayed windows with evidence of basketwork. The church shows signs of alterations throughout the medieval period, and in the 19th century. In 1961 several burials were found underneath the 14th century north porch. The remains probably date to the Late Saxon or early medieval period. Areas of surviving medieval ridge and furrow (NHER 6746, 38657) have been identified from aerial photographs. The possible site of a medieval to post medieval moat (NHER 6747) survives as an earthwork to the south of the village. Medieval and post medieval material has been recovered from the site during fieldwalking. The cropmarks of another enclosure containing a possible structure have been mapped from aerial photographs to the south of the moat. Further enclosures and possible field boundaries of medieval to post medieval date are also visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs.

Strand Cottage (NHER 17125) is a 17th century cottage that was almost doubled in size in the 18th century. The cottage has an original winding stair and 17th century wall paintings. Grove Farm (NHER 34738) is a mid to late 17th century farm with a mid 18th century barn and various mid 19th century agricultural buildings including a cart shed and a milking parlour. The farm complex was once part of the Felbrigg Estate and is an excellent example of the type of improvements that were carried out on estate farms from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Flaxmans Farm (NHER 33868) is a brick and flint 17th century farmhouse with a 19th century wing. The nearby pigsty and barn also date to the 17th century.

Roughton Mill (NHER 6766) is a tower mill built in 1814. Around the mill are the earthworks and cropmarks of the probable remains of earlier mills, one of which is shown on Faden’s map of Norfolk, published in 1797. The cropmarks of other medieval to post medieval mill mounds (NHER 18245, 38552) are visible on aerial photographs, as well as the earthworks of post medieval water meadows (NHER 38468, 38498, 38557).

The most recent archaeology from the parish dates from World War Two. Several military training sites (NHER 38619, 38620, 38621) are visible on aerial photographs taken in 1946, as well as an anti-aircraft gun or searchlight emplacement (NHER 34409).

Sarah Spooner (NLA), 8 September 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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