12 little-known facts about Norfolk’s ‘New’ places

PUBLISHED: 13:26 20 January 2020

HM the Queen arriving for the Sandringham WI meeting at West Newton Village Hall (photo: Ian Burt)

HM the Queen arriving for the Sandringham WI meeting at West Newton Village Hall (photo: Ian Burt)

Archant 2018

Start the New Year with 12 ‘who knew?’s from Norfolk communities starting with New

1. Newton Flotman

This new town was thriving by the time the Doomsday Book was written almost 1,000 years ago. The Flotman bit of the name might have referred to a ferry or 'float' man across the River Tas. Another suggestion was that the area was originally a farm owned by a man who had floated from foreign parts on a Viking boat. For more than 200 years the Long family were lords of the manor and also provided an uninterrupted succession of rectors of the parish church from 1797 to 1948.

St Mary's Church, Newton Flotman (photo: Simon Finlay)St Mary's Church, Newton Flotman (photo: Simon Finlay)

2. Another angle on Newton Flotman

The protractor, that stalwart of school stationery sets, was invented by 16th century Newton Flotman mathematician and landowner Thomas Blundeville. As well as his brilliance at maths he was renowned for his scholarship, writing about logic, astronomy, education and horsemanship. Although devices for measuring angles were known as far back as ancient Egyptian times, the modern protractor was first described by the Newton Flotman man and used by him to make maps and navigational charts.

3. New Buckenham

Another Norfolk new town which is actually very old. William the Conqueror gave Old Buckenham to William d'Albini. He built a castle here (he already had the mighty west Norfolk fortification at Castle Rising) but decided to add another castle, plus a new town, about a mile to the east.

New Buckenham, which was originally surrounded by its own moat, connected to the castle moat, is a rare example of a planned Norman town which has been only slightly altered (by the building of a church in the 13th century).

The new Norman castle included huge ramparts surrounding a circular stone keep which was the earliest of its type and probably the biggest in England. It survived 500 years, including withstanding an attack in 1263, and another during the Wars of the Roses when Lady Alice Knyvett saw off raiders by shouting her defiance from the top of the tower.

However, much of the castle was demolished by order of Parliament in 1649 for fear it would be used in a royalist fight-back. Visitors can still marvel at the impressive ruins by borrowing a key to the castle grounds.

New Buckenham Castle (photo: Angela Sharpe)New Buckenham Castle (photo: Angela Sharpe)

4. New Year and all year

An annual January 1 'Hair of the Dog' walk is organised by the New Buckenham Society.

Beautiful New Buckenham Common is one of more than 50 nature reserves cared for by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. The largest of its pools and ponds is known as Spittle Mere and is home to great crested newts. Four types of orchid have been recorded here, with a particularly impressive display of the purple green-winged orchid every May and June.

The mere on New Buckenham Common on a frosty morning (photo: Sonya Duncan)The mere on New Buckenham Common on a frosty morning (photo: Sonya Duncan)

5. Newton St Faith

Horsham St Faith and Newton St Faith were once separate parishes and are now joined as St Faiths. They are named after the Norman priory of St Faith. It once had a great church and cloisters but just the dining hall survived Henry VIII's destruction.

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It is now a private home - with astonishing 13th century wall paintings. They run, like a comic strip, across the eastern wall of a room where monks once ate. They show a man and his wife being captured by bandits as they return from a pilgrimage to Rome. They pray to St Faith and are released and build a monastery to the saint when they return to Norfolk. They also show a wheelbarrow - the earliest known depiction of a wheeled barrow in Europe.

6. New Houghton

When England's first Prime Minister decided to build himself a palace in Norfolk he did not want to be gazing out of his mansion windows at poor people. So he had the ancient village of Houghton demolished and rebuilt towards the edge of his lavishly landscaped estate. The 13th century church was picturesque enough to stay within sight of Houghton Hall, and the striking houses of New Houghton (originally shielded from the hall by woodland) are now also all listed buildings.

7. Trowse Newton

The new town, or Newton, at Trowse, just outside Norwich, was once a separate settlement, and larger than Trowse. It was owned by the Saxon Bishop Stigard, becoming part of Norwich Cathedral's lands in 1205. The prior of the cathedral built a country retreat here and entertained the king and queen of England in 1335. Ruins of Trowse Newton Hall still stand between Whitlingham Lane and the lake.

The Colman family bought the estate in the 1870s and began transforming Trowse into a model village for their staff. They built terraced houses for factory workers, semis for foremen, plus homes for pensioners and a school and turned the manor house into a reading room. Gardens, allotments and a huge common add to the rural feel of this model village created by enlightened owners. It is said all the houses once had mustard-yellow doors.

Trowse village (photo: Denise Bradley)Trowse village (photo: Denise Bradley)

8. West Newton Village Hall

Every year the Queen attends the January meeting of Sandringham Women's Institute in West Newton Village Hall. She is honorary president of the group, founded 101 years ago by her grandmother, Queen Mary. This month she will join her fellow WI members for tea, gingerbread and a talk. She is also a regular visitor to West Newton church where the lych gate is a memorial to the dead of the First World War - including workers from the royal estate, slaughtered at Gallipolli. A legend grew up that the doomed company of estate workers, led by the king's trusted land agent Frank Beck, had been swept away by a mysterious cloud.

The Queen meets the crowd during her visit to West Newton Church (photo: Denise Bradley)The Queen meets the crowd during her visit to West Newton Church (photo: Denise Bradley)

In other News…

9. Newgate is the part of Cley which includes its magnificent church and triangular village green. Once the sea swept inland almost as far as here and the huge harbour of Blakeney Haven stretched half a mile across to Wiveton.

10. Newton by Castle Acre is another very old new town. Its Saxon church of St Mary and All Saints has been used for worship for more than 1,000 years. It is one of the oldest churches in Norfolk and its tiny congregation is currently raising money to repair its ancient roof.

11. Newport is a tiny settlement, with a big caravan park, on the coast close to Hemsby.

12. New Catton was created in early Victorian times from parts of Norwich, Old Catton and Sprowston as the city suddenly expanded beyond its medieval walls.

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