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History of Herringfleet and St. Olave's
Part1 - Pre-history

Though sparsely wooded, being between the tidal River Waveney on the west and heavily wooded region of Ashby Water to the East (Fritton Lake), it cannot have escaped some occupation by early Neolithic man, with an area congenial to settlement with much wood, good agricultural land and pasture, and the large expanse of the Lake for fishing, this being originally much bigger than it is now, with its own springs, and depths scarred by the melting ice of the Ice Age. It is not a Broad but in pre-historic times was part of the waterway between the North Sea and the River Waveney. Peat digging there may have been, but along the boggy land adjacent to the Lake rather than in the central area.

Neolithic axes and flint tools have been found in the adjacent parish of Ashby, as well as a later Bronze Age bowl. In 1927 a Bronze hoard of some 27 tools was found at the Old Rectory, Somerleyton, and there is evidence of settlement in these nearby parishes from the earliest times, with very early examples of textile culture.

But as yet no pre-historic remains have been found in Herringfleet. Two finds, however, of Roman date in Herringfleet are worthy of note:-

i. A Roman bronze 'soup ladle' vessel with handle and the maker's name Quattenus on the handle. Found in July 1724 it was presented to the Norwich Castle Museum by Col. H. Mussenden Leathes of Herringfleet Hall in the mid-19th. Century. It is a fine example of the Roman 'patera' - a bowl with a flat handle and a hole at the end for hanging, used for drinking or making libations to the gods 'in domo'.

ii. A Roman nether mill-stone at the base of a pillar at the Priory, measuring 4ft across and 21/2 ins thick, of trachyte stone, originally imported from Saxony or Coblenz on the Rhone. But this was probably brought from Burgh Castle, the old Roman fort of Gariannonum.

Moving forward to Saxon times, on the site of the present Manor Farm, there probably existed a Saxon Manor house and settlement, with nucleated buildings centred round a sunken wooden house - a Graubenhaus. This site, occupied by a Saxon freedman, possibly had a Great Hall where the present barn stands, numerous small auxiliary sheds and outhouses, and all surrounded by a wooden pallisade with a moat - not so much for defence but as a catchment area for water for the cattle, and acting as a persistent perimeter to contain livestock when brought in. You will see the remains of part of this moat on the East side of the Manor Farm today (marked on the O.S.) with spring origins, the level of which never went down very much even in the drought of 1976. At the end of the 19th. Century, this moat was cleaned out and a large stone with the (later) Bacon Arms was found.

This Saxon nucleated settlement - with king-posted house and barn, and courtyard for the animals - lay on the highway from Somerleyton to the St. Olaves Bridge. The present road cuts across the western end of the site and in due course obliterated the moat on that side.




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This page first posted on 20 April 1999


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