Parish Summary: Hopton on Sea

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

A Suffolk parish until administrative boundary changes in the last century, Hopton-on-Sea is situated on the coast at the extreme southeast corner of Norfolk, just south of Great Yarmouth. Hopton comes from the Old English for something approximating ‘farmstead in a small enclosed valley’.

The earliest evidence of human activity comes in the form of an unspecified Palaeolithic flint tool (NHER 10583) and a handaxe (NHER 11481), although prehistoric but otherwise undateable flint flakes have been found (e.g. NHER 34576 and 34577) and aerial photography has identified a prehistoric trackway (NHER 43530). Neolithic finds include chipped flint axeheads (e.g. NHER 10574, 12074 and 10575), a polished flint axehead (NHER 11551) and scrapers (e.g. NHER 10572, 10575 and 10757). A variety of Neolithic flint objects were found on ploughland in 1972, including scrapers, borers, cores, a knife and a leaf arrowhead (NHER 10579), and a range of flint objects were found by a farmer between 1950 and 1968, including a Neolithic chisel and knife, Neolithic and Bronze Age scrapers and ten probably Bronze Age weapon heads, varying from arrowheads to spearheads. A Neolithic and Early Bronze Age flint-working site was discovered in 1953. Finds included spearheads, barbed and tanged arrowheads, leaf arrowheads, polished axeheads, axe hammers, fabricators, knives, scrapers and borers (NHER 10759). Other Bronze Age finds include a flint knife (NHER 39530), two barbed and tanged flint arrowheads (NHER 10757), part of a copper alloy palstave (NHER 10758) and an axehead of the same material (NHER 36627). Aerial photography has identified a couple of possible Bronze Age ring ditches (NHER 17475 and 36494) and a barrow cemetery (NHER 43526).

The only Iron Age find to date is a coin (NHER 25088), but aerial photography has identified the cropmarks of an Iron Age to Roman settlement with field systems (NHER 43494), together with roundhouses (NHER 43496) and a farmstead (NHER 43525) from the same period.

Roman finds include coins (e.g. NHER 10582, 22928, 25088 and 36627) brooches, tweezers, rings and a buckle (NHER 19799) and pottery fragments (NHER 37455). A large quantity of Roman pottery and a possible hearth or oven were reported to have been found during works in 1946 (NHER 31947).

The only Saxon find to date appears to be a fragment of pottery from an important multi-period site at NHER 11788, east of the A12. Aerial photography between 1975 and 1977 showed the cropmarks of enclosures, ring ditches and a World War Two decoy airfield with pillboxes, tank traps and gun positions. Since 1941, a great number of archaeological objects have been recovered from the area, dating from the Mesolithic all the way through to post medieval times. A good proportion of these objects are Early Bronze Age or Beaker period, and features from this time have been excavated, including a possible ritual site. 

Photograph of the ruins of St Margaret's Church, Hopton. The 14th and 15th century church was burnt down in 1865 and has stood abandoned ever since

 The ruins of St Margaret's Church, Hopton. The 14th and 15th century church was burnt down in 1865 and has stood abandoned ever since. 

The medieval period has left the parish with its oldest surviving building, though it is now in ruins. St Margaret’s Church (NHER 10760) was a 14th and 15th century church, consisting of a nave and north aisle (appearing as a double nave, unusual for the area), with a chancel, north porch and west tower. The church was burnt down in 1865 and has stood abandoned ever since, although there have been plans to consolidate it in recent years. The churchyard has been made into a picnic area by the addition of park benches.

Other medieval buildings have not survived. The site of Newton medieval village (NHER 16238) is thought to have been washed away by the sea in the late 16th century, and no trace of it remains today.

Of the surviving post medieval buildings in the parish, probably the oldest is Whitehouse Farmhouse (NHER 42883). This is a brick and roughcast farmhouse dated 1671 on its east gable, with a black glazed pantile roof. Manor House Farm Barn (NHER 33421) was also 17th century, but was destroyed by fire in 2000, though another 18th century thatched brick barn (NHER 42882) is to be found on the same estate.

Hopton Hall (NHER 31710) is a two storey brick hall of about 1825 with a tiled roof. The façade has a central columned doorway, four French windows to the ground floor and five first floor windows with wrought iron balconies. The grounds contain a whale's jaw arch, the last example of what was once a common feature in the Great Yarmouth area.

After the old church was burnt down, a new St Margaret’s church (NHER 10592) was built. This is a flint and stone parish church of 1867 with a pantile roof. In the Early English style, it consists of a nave, central tower, small transept, chancel and a gabled south porch.

Hopton’s proximity to Great Yarmouth, a perceived invasion point in World War Two and a prime target for German bombers, led to the construction of a dense network of defensive structures in the area. These included road blocks (e.g. NHER 42233 and 42258), air raid shelters (e.g. NHER 42257 and 42261), pillboxes (e.g. NHER 42494 and 42523), anti-tank spigot mortar emplacements (e.g. NHER 42524 and 42528) and an emergency coastal battery (NHER 42473). The huge scale of these defences can be seen on aerial photographs taken just after the war, although the vast majority were later demolished and cleared away. Some structures do survive, however, selected examples including a spigot mortar base at NHER 42528, pillboxes (e.g. NHER 42526 and 42527, the latter with two associated spigot mortar bases) and a concrete anti-tank cube (NHER 42525) that formed part of a road block.

This summary is intended very much as an overview, particularly with regard to the World War Two defence networks, and those wishing to dig a little deeper should consult the detailed records.

Piet Aldridge (NLA), 17 October 2006.


Further Reading

Ashwin, T. and Davison, A. (Eds), 2005. An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, 3rd Edition (Chichester, Phillimore & Co)

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

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