Arminghall Henge, Norwich, Norfolk

This afternoon, I decided to visit Arminghall Henge. Only 55 minutes cycle ride from my home, it sits just outside of the Norwich southern bypass, near to County Hall. It was not in any way sign posted. Not as much as an information sign. Even though the "Boadicea Way" trail runs right past it:



Indeed, the only way that I found it was through online resources and my GPS:



It was first spotted in 1929 - a first in the history of aerial photography for archaeology. It was excavated in 1935:



The ambiance can only detected by the imaginative. As a seasoned time traveller, it gave me the kick, despite it being in a horse field, with overhead HV power cables, right next to a major power sub station for the City of Norwich:



Not really an attraction for tourists. No standing stones. this is East Anglia, we don't have boulder-stones. The Neolithic creators of this site erected earthworks and massive timbers - the post-holes that sometimes be seen from above. Incidentally, in archaeology, a "Henge" is not a stone circle. Stone circles were sometimes erected inside a henge, often later. It's a circular bank and ditch earthwork, with the ditch on the inside - as though keeping something in - a defensive rampart has the ditch on the outside. A henge keeps something "in". Interesting is that the most famous henge - Stonehenge, breaks that convention.



Looking up at the site of the Henge from the nearby water course at the bottom of the valley.



and the modern water course itself.

If you've seen my posts in this section before, you know that I like to do a little mole hill archaeology:



Yes, that's a flint flake in the mole hill. Displaying it's dorsal surface, showing the scars of previously removed flakes.



An inspection before returning it to it's topsoil context. I'm here showing you the striking platform, point of impact, and conchoidal fracture bulb. On the right, I can tell you it has wear from being used as a "notched flake", maybe to clean a bone, or an arrow-shaft or similar.



Another flint flake, dorsal surface, showing the scars of previously struck flakes from the core.



Finally, more recent archaeology. A lens cap circa AD 2010?

I hope that someone out there gets some enjoyment from these third person explores of East Anglian sites.

Spong Hill Anglo-Saxon Cemetery to Gressenhall Workhouse

I recently visited Sutton Hoo, the ship-burial ground of early East Anglian kings.  However, Sutton Hoo, in south-east Suffolk, isn't the only known focus for the Anglo-Saxon kingdom.  Another exists closer to me, in mid-Norfolk.  Today I took a local field/road trip!

This blurry poor quality photo of a field was taken by myself earlier today.  I had to endure hunting around with grid references, and thorn scratches in order to take that.  I'm pleased.  I know what the legendary Spong Hill looks like now.  It doesn't look much does it?  However, this field has had the hell dug out of it over the past 250 years.  Why?  Because it yielded thousands of finds.  It is the site of a large and important Anglo-Saxon cemetery.  It is thought that around 3,000 people ended up here, the majority cremated.  That's a significant cemetery - 2,200 cremations dated to between 410 AD and 550 AD have been recorded here.  Many accompanied by stamped Anglo-Saxon urns, including some displayed in the Norwich Castle Museum exhibit below:

Cremations appear to have been the favoured method of disposing the dead in this cemetery, although later burials do exist on the site.  However, many of the early cremations here must have included the first wave immigrants from the Anglo-Saxon homelands on the Continent.  The most famous single artifact find in this field must be "Spong Hill Man".  The ceramic figure from an urn lid in the image at the top of this page.

My field trip today didn't end there.  Next stop had to be in the same parish.  A premium Late Anglo-Saxon site.  Again, it's appearance disguises it's former importance.  A low level ruin of a Norman chapel.  It is however believed that previous to being used as a norman chapel, and later as a medieval castle, it was the site of the very first Cathedral of East Anglia.

Today North Elmham is a village in Norfolk.  However, Spong Hill, and later, the Cathedral site, suggest that to the early East Anglians, this parish held far more importance.  North Elmham in mid-Norfolk was the first known ecclesiastical centre of East Anglia.  After the Conquest, the mantle was passed to Thetford briefly, before moving to Bury St Edmunds.  If you were not informed otherwise, today, you would have no idea that this village had once played such an important part in East Anglian, and English history.  An early base of the Anglo-Saxons perhaps?  Spong Hill had indeed been used by a significant local community.

Indeed, another site has recently been excavated - a Middle Saxon (AD 650 - AD 850) cemetery, only a few miles north of North Elmham, at Great Ryburgh.  This newly recorded site has hit the archaeological headlines for it's water logged timber coffins.

I love archaeology and all sorts of heritage.  However, I'm primarily a genealogist.  I'm of the school that 1) we should tell a story, and 2) we should embrace local history, archaeology and population genetics in order to tell a deeper story.  So how can I link the above sites to my family history?  Quite easily.  You see, I have lot's of recorded ancestors from my father's side - just a few miles to the south of Spong Hill.  Not all of their ancestry would have likely originated with the customers of the Spong Hill cemetery, or have venerated the timber cathedral at North Elmham.  However, in all likelihood - some of them would have.

So on this field-road trip, I venture only a couple of miles from Spong Hill, to a 19th century site of my ancestry that has a story worth telling.

Gressenhall Workhouse.  Built in 1779 to house the poor of the local hundred.  It transformed into a less friendly place with the Poor Law Union Act.  I have joked that this is the family estate, as a number of my father's ancestors were associated with it.  As inmates unfortunately.  My 2xgreat grandfather William Bennett Baxter was born here in 1846:

His birth was illegitimate, and his mother, Eliza would have been a Jacket Woman:

He was not listed in the workhouse during the 1851 census.  He did later, on in a marriage register, claim William Bennett (who was a young but married local miller) to be his father.  His known ancestry was all local to the Dereham and mid-Norfolk area:

Could this be his initials that I today saw there on a wall in what use to be the boy's courtyard?

He married Harriet Barber who had also been born in Gressenhall Workhouse!  She was born there in 1847.  Harriet was also of a local family - and one with a history of illegitimacy.  The below pedigree chart is of her mother, also Harriet Barber, born at nearby Swanton Morley in 1826:

Her family were mainly in Swanton Morley - and with that high level of illegitimacy, I have tongue-in-cheek, suggested that as Abraham Lincoln's paternal line were in that same village, that we could be related there.  The point that I'm making is that these were local, rural, poor people, with most likely, local ancestry in that area.  The people inhumed at Anglo-Saxon cemeteries nearby most likely did count within at least a part of their ancestry.

So both William and Harriet were born illegitimate in the workhouse at Gressenhall.  The surprise that follows is that so were their first two children some years later.  Then they settled down in the Swanton Morley and Northall Green area near to Dereham.

I'll finish off this photo-blog of today's journey through ancestry with a simple photo, of a local lane in the area:

Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century

I spent too much money today on reading materials.  I was delighted to find a used copy of The Norfolk Broads A landscape history by Tom Williamson 1997 (Manchester University Press).  I had a copy of this excellent landscape history when it was published, but unfortunately lent it out, and never saw it again.  A brilliant book for tying my mother's East Norfolk ancestors to their ancestral landscape.

The April 2017 edition of Current Archaeology magazine has an interesting article on an excavation of an Iron Age site in Fenland, and is celebrating their 50th anniversary of publication.

The real treasure of today's book shop excavation however, was an old booklet published in 1969 by Leicester University Press in their Department of English Local History Occasional Papers.  It is entitled Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century by R.A McKinley.  Flicking through it's pages on the way home, sitting on the bus, I was well, almost mind blown - as some of the conclusions knocked down some of my preconceptions of my Norfolk ancestry and heritage.  An old, yellowing booklet that I've never heard of, found on a shelf in a second hand book shop in Norwich.

The book draws on surnames recorded in the County of Norfolk, during the 16th Century AD.  It uses as it's sources several returns, and rolls particularly a military survey, and subsidy roll from between 1522 and 1525.  I want to share at least some of the key points from two chapters of "Norfolk Surnames in the Sixteenth Century": 1) Surnames derived from localities in Norfolk, and 2) Locative surnames originating outside Norfolk.

1) Surnames derived from localities in Norfolk

  • The chapter begins by discussing the problems of using locative surnames in a study.
  • "The two main sources used for this study list 739 persons bearing locative surnames derived from places within Norfolk.  Of these, only 23 were living at the places from which their names were derived.".
  • A table then shows the distances of the persons (still within the County of Norfolk) with these locative surnames from origin.  23 were still at the place of origin, 81 were still within 5 miles of it, 123 were within 6 - 10 miles away, 239 were 11 - 20 miles away, 151 were 21 - 30 miles away, and 122 lived over 30 miles from the locative place of origin.  However, these are the locative surnames that still remain in Norfolk, that appear to have an origin within the County.  Many more would have crossed county boundaries into Suffolk, Lincolnshire, etc.
  • "It seems probable from this evidence, however, that most Norfolk families must have changed their place of residence at least between the period when surnames became hereditary, and the early sixteenth century.".
  • There was no pattern to suggest a large migration from any one part of the County, to another.

2) Locative surnames originating outside Norfolk

  • "In the two main sources, there are 1,260 persons bearing surnames which can be derived with fair certainty from places in England, but outside Norfolk".
  • The author then discusses possible biases, for example, some parts of England appear to have generated more locative surnames than others.  It also suggests that about a third of all English surnames are locative, and proposes a rough approximation, that this could "be about 2,500 persons of outside origin amongst the total of about 18,000 listed in the two main sources, or rather more than 13 per cent".  This suggests quite a few people had been moving from other parts of England, into Norfolk between the 13th and 15th centuries AD.
  • Where were they from?  The two main contributors were the neighbouring counties of Suffolk and Lincolnshire. Some had simply moved from close to the Norfolk county boundary.   
  • Cambridgeshire, another neighbouring county, for some reason contributed far fewer.  The East Midlands was also, surprisingly, not a major contributor of locative surnames in 16th Century Norfolk.  There were no locative surnames from Wales.
  • Here is another surprise, Yorkshire turned our to be a common origin - equally spread through the three ridings.  Each riding of Yorkshire had contributed about 40 persons in Norfolk with locative surnames.  The author does point out that Yorkshire is a big county, and is particularly rich in locative surnames, however: "it is evident that there must have been considerable movement from Yorkshire to Norfolk.  Yorkshire surnames are distributed throughout Norfolk in the early sixteenth century.  They are not particularly concentrated in ports or coastal areas, and indeed, are as widespread in central Norfolk, well away from the sea, as in other parts of the county.".
  • There was also a notable contribution of locative surnames from NW England - Lancashire, Cumbria, and Westmorland.
  • The distribution of these surnames was by no means urban based.  Yamouth and Norwich had lower concentrations than the average.  These migrations look more rural.
  • There were very few surnames of any origin type that could be safely regarded as Welsh.
  • There were very few surnames of any origin type that could be safely regarded as Scottish.
  • The author then moves on to records of other foreign born aliens.  I am aware of the influx of Dutch and Flemish religious refugees, into the City of Norwich during the early 16th Century, however, here I learn something new.
  • "there was certainly a considerable migration of aliens into Norfolk, and foreign immigrants came to reside in many Norfolk villages, not merely in a few ports or large towns.  In 1436, for example, when many aliens took oaths of allegiance, 146 persons who took oath are noted as living in Norfolk.  This was not the whole number of aliens in Norfolk...".  A list in 1440 for example, lists 192 aliens residing in Norfolk at 62 different places.  The author feels that those 15th Century records understate the real percentage of immigrants living in Norfolk at that time.
  • The Continental immigrants did not bring in many new surnames.  Many had no surname listed, or had adopted local surnames.  For example, immigrants listed at Norwich in 1440, included persons by the surnames Rider, Johnson, Forest, Skynner, Couper, Bush, Goldsmyth, and Glasier.  Some surnames marking their nationality did survive in 16th Century Norfolk, such as French, Ducheman, Briton / Brett (Breton) etc.

Brancaster, a North Norfolk village.

In summary, what this book has taught me today:

  1. Many families, despite our ideas of the dying fuedal system, were moving around East Anglia, and even England between the 13th and 16th centuries.
  2. There were relatively few people in 16th century Norfolk, with origins in Scotland, or Wales, and perhaps few from the nearby East Midlands or Cambridgeshire.  However, there was migration down from Northern England, particularly from Yorkshire, but even from NW England.
  3. There were also migrations, from the nearby Continent, and these migrations (and the above Northern English) migrations were not strictly urban.  They reached many villages.

A visit to Sutton Hoo - Kings of East Anglia

A day off from work, and I had promised myself that I was going to get out and tick off a job that's been waiting some time.  A visit to the Anglo-Saxon ship burial site at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.  Maybe I should have checked the weather forecast first.  I would have seen that Storm Doris was going to hit East Anglia.  Never mind, I got there and back in one piece, having circumnavigated a number of fallen trees.  Luckily, I arrived before the centre shut it's gates.  I was advised not to walk to the mounds, for fear of windfall - but only mad dogs and Englishman.  At least it was quiet.

The nature of these mounds was revealed back in 1938, when the land owner, Mrs Edith Pretty, commissioned an investigative excavation.  The burials have included whole ships, warriors, swords, grave goods from all over AD 7th Century Europe, and a horse.  The interpretation is that it was the burial site of the Kings of East Anglia during the 6th and 7th centuries AD.

The 1938 excavation revealed the soil marks and iron rivets of a burial ship.  Built in a clinker design, it appears similar in many respects to ship burials in Sweden, only at least two hundred years before the classic Viking examples.  Initially Mrs Petty and her team thought that they had found a Viking ship burial, but at it's centre - although there were no surviving human remains, they found a treasure of grave goods that suggested an Anglo-Saxon origin.  Nothing like it had been found before.

Excavations of the mounds have also revealed that treasure hunters and grave robbers had removed many artifacts during previous centuries, and caused much damage.  One reported dig in another mound here, during the mid 19th Century reported that they found no treasure, just lots of iron rivets - that they sold to the local iron smith to produce horse shoes!  This suggests at least one other ship burial at this site.

Mrs Pretty lived in a house close to the mounds, that is partly open to visitors.  Artifacts, letters, photos of the 1938 dig are displayed in the house.

The original Sutton Hoo Treasure is held in the British Museum in London.  I've seen it several times, but this was my first ever visit to the dig site itself.

Above, a proposed reconstruction of what the chamber in the ship may have looked like at the time of burial.  Although no human remains survived, it is speculated that this was the burial of King Raedwald, who ruled as King of the East Anglians AD 599 to AD 624.  Raedwald is considered the most powerful early 7th Century Anglo-Saxon king in the British Isles.  He belonged to the Wuffinga Dynasty of early East Anglian royals.  Below is a replica reconstruction of the famous ceremonial helmet found in the 1938 ship burial.

The helmet appears styled on ceremonial helmets worn by Roman generals in the late Western Roman Empire.  It has been suggested that the craftsmanship appears Swedish.  The Swedish links have led some to speculate that the Wuffing Dynasty may have had links to Sweden.

More replica reconstructions from the treasure that can be seen at the Sutton Hoo visitor centre.

Grave goods appear to have came from all over contemporary Europe - from Ireland, France, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Scandinavia.  This demonstrates the ability of the East Angle elites to trade goods from far away.



My Ancestral Events Mapped

Here I map the ancestral events as recorded on my Gramps genealogical database.  These events can be baptisms, marriages, census records, etc.  The larger the dot, the more events for that particular parish.  I have modified images of Southern England from OpenStreetMap.org Copyright attribution-sharealike 2.0 generic.

My Mother's Ancestral Events.

This includes the recorded events for my mother's 134 recorded direct ancestors and siblings.  As you can see, her known ancestry over the past 330 years has been incredibly localised!  All English.  All East Anglian.  Almost entirely in Norfolk - with one line drifting back to nearby Suffolk.  An incredibly dense cluster in East Norfolk, around the River Yare in Broadland.  Sure enough second cousin and third cousin marriages have been detected in her tree.

My Father's Ancestral Events

This includes the recorded events for my late father's 116 recorded direct ancestors and siblings.  A little more travelled over the past 330 years, although I feel that the events record has a bias in research to show this - as indeed, I estimate his known Norfolk ancestry over the past 330 years to amount to at least 70% of his combined heritage.  Nonetheless, some of his lines trace back temporarily to London, then back mainly to Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley.  All South-East English again.

None of this makes my family any more special than any other family anywhere else in the World, with any type of recent heritage and admixture.  Indeed, the English are a particularly admixed population. However, in testing commercial DNA tests for ancestry, I feel that we offer a good reference sample of SE English, and even East Anglian Norfolk.

I'm particularly interested in how these commercial DNA companies are failing to discriminate ancient or population admixture, from recent (350 years) family admixture.  Some populations they are able to detect with some certainty and accuracy.  However, others such as the English, not at all.  They are unable - despite their claims otherwise, to break recent autosomal admixture on lines over the past ten generations, from earlier, sometimes much earlier population admixtures.

I'm looking forward to seeing if the new Living DNA test fares any better, with it's rich British data set.

Bunwell, Norfolk - ancestral parish

I took a little local bicycle ride today, along the extremes of my recorded maternal line - that which should carry my mt-DNA.  23andMe tested it as H6a1.  WeGene and mthap analyser both suggest H6a1a8.  I'm looking forward to see what Living DNA make of it.  The haplogroup, based on current evidence, most likely originated on the Pontic and Caspian Steppes, before spreading into Western Europe during the Early Bronze Age.  However, on documentary record, I've traced it back to Generation 9 - my maternal G.G.G.G.G.G Grandmother, Susannah Briting (Brighten, Brighton) who married my ancestor John Hardyman (Hardiment, Hardimend, Hardiman), in the Norfolk parish of Bunwell in 1747.  According to the Bunwell Parish Registers, between 1748 and 1754, John and Susannah had four children baptised at the local church of Bunwell St Michael & Angels: John, Martha, Elizabeth, and Thomas Hardyman.  My G.G.G.G.G Grandmother Elizabeth Hardyman, went on to marry my ancestor Robert Page at nearby Wymondham in 1779, and continued my maternal line down to my Mother.

Bunwell, Norfolk, East Anglia

Bunwell is a parish of scattered settlement and hamlets, located above the Tas Valley, on the high boulder-clay soils of South Norfolk.  These heavy soils encouraged a pattern of dispersed settlement during the Late Medieval, with occupation often taking place along the edges of common land.  This could suggest limited manorial control.

I took this photo of the local landscape.  Large medieval open fields were divided into smaller enclosed fields during the 17th to 19th centuries.  These small parceled and enclosed fields were then opened up again into larger fields, with the removal of many hedgerows, during the 20th century.  Main land uses today are arable agriculture - modern crops include sugar beet, wheat, oil seed rape, etc.

Counting the number of plant species within a designated length of hedgerow has been used as a dating process.  The number of species increasing across the centuries.

Vernacular tradition includes many classic South Norfolk farmhouses, of which the following example is a striking example:

The owner has been renovating it from many years, having inherited it from his father.  Aside from the chimney (which was replaced following a lightening strike), the newest sections of the house date to the 1740's.  The eldest have not been dated, but perhaps extend to the Late Medieval.

The Church building is of the Perpendicular tradition, and dates to circa the 1450's, although it was most likely built on the site of an earlier church.  It is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels.

It is very much still an active church.  A knitting club were busy at work on my visit.  The church warden also called in.  The locals told me that there were, or still are Hardiment and Britings living in the parish.  I had a look around the surrounding graves.

This headstone is a good example of 18th century headstones in East Anglia.  Sadly, not one of my known ancestors.  Note the extra information Late of Starston.

I didn't spot any Britings, but I did find a cluster of Hardyman graves, including this example:

Not one of my direct ancestors, but most likely, a cousin.

My mtDNA ancestor Elizabeth, moved away from Bunwell, marrying nearby at Wymondham. From there, my mtDNA line moved through other nearby villages, including Bestthorpe.  Another generation on, it made an unusual leap (my Norfolk ancestors rarely moved far) to the opposite side of Norwich, to the parish of Rackheath in Broadland.  It then moved further East, to the parishes of Tunstall and Reedham.  On to Hassingham and my mother carried it back west to the Norwich area. We've ironically both  carried it back to the Wymondham area.


Immigration into East Anglia

Hear a sentence like "immigrants in Eastern England", and many people might think of the recent immigration from countries such as Poland, Lithuania, and Romania.  However, I'm interested in the longer picture, and how that has impacted the genetic genealogy of East Anglians.

I have noticed, that my mother's 23andMe ancestral composition, is more similar to those of some Dutch testers, than most Irish, Scottish, or West British testers.  23andme has reported at least one small segment shared with a Dutch tester.  My mother on Ancestry Composition speculative mode, scored only 36% "British & Irish", followed by 13% "French & German", 4% "Scandinavian", 2% "South European", and 40% unassigned "Broadly NW European".

My first reaction was that the 23andme calculators and references were confused by relatively ancient admixture, specifically Early Medieval Immigration between the 5th and 11th centuries AD.  The Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods.

However, I'm beginning to review how I see the history of East Anglia.  I think that like many people, I've underplayed the contribution not only of earlier unrecorded immigration events, but also of ongoing later immigration from the European Continent, into East Anglia.

A shock historical suggestion, is that during the late 16th Century, almost a third of the population of the City of Norwich, belonged to an immigrant community of Dutch, Flemish, and Walloon protestants, that had recently settled there, as refugees from persecution on the Continent.  I don't know how many of these immigrants, into centres such as Norwich, Ipswich, kings Lynn, and Great Yarmouth, left descendants in East Anglia.  My parent's recorded Norfolk ancestry is very rural - outside of Norwich.  However, how much DNA did these more recent immigrants leave behind in Norfolk, and East Anglia as a whole?

The immigration events of the 5th to 11th centuries AD into East Anglia, were most likely the most significant.  However, I believe it is wrong to see them as the only immigration events.  The POBI Study found DNA evidence of an earlier, perhaps late prehistoric immigration from the Continent.  Caesar claimed that the people that he called the Belgae had recently immigrated to South East Britain, from the area that is now Belgium.

Neither were the Anglo-Saxon, Dane-Law, nor Norman immigration events the last to the region.  It continued as a background, with occasional known events, such as the Strangers from what is now Belgium and the Netherlands, to Norwich.  East Anglia has always had stronger connections to across the North Sea, than some other regions of Britain. Therefore it should be no suprise, that my mother, with her strong recorded East Norfolk ancestry, has an autosomal ancestry composition, that resembles the Dutch, more than the Welsh or Irish.

I visited the Bridewell Alley Museum today, for the first time for many years, and picked up a new book: Strangers.  A History of Norwich's Incomers by Frank Meeres 2012.  It's full of references to the history of immigration into Norwich.  I thought that it might be useful, to harvest some of the continental immigrant surnames mentioned in this book:

Medieval

  • Addurge (French)
  • Asger (Bruges, Belgium).
  • de Norwege (Norway)
  • Dutchman
  • Glasier (French)
  • Hensser  (Dutch)
  • Isborne 
  • Jevort (French)
  • Johnson (Dutch)
  • Kempe de Gaunt (Ghent)
  • Kenneton (French)
  • Mouner  (French)
  • Oreng (French)
  • Peterson (Dutch)
  • Petirson (Dutch)
  • Rijsel (Flemish)
  • Tiphany (French)

In 1343, a boat capsized at Cantley.  It had passengers from Latvia and Sweden.

The Strangers 1560 - 1600 AD

In 1571, a return of the Strangers, recorded that there were 4,013 Strangers in Norwich.  This included 868 Dutchmen, and 203 Walloon men.

  • Bateman
  • Clarebote (Winnezele)
  • Clapettia
  • Clercke (Dutch)
  • Baet
  • Bake (Ypres)
  • Bartingham (Dutch)
  • Coene (Ypres)
  • Dedecre (Dutch)
  • De Linne
  • De Mol
  • De Turk (Flanders)
  • Der Haghe
  • Des Passett
  • Faber (East Flanders)
  • Goddarte
  • Gruter (Antwerp)
  • Herjtes (Flemish)
  • Hodgeson (Dutch)
  • Johnson (Dutch)
  • Keerlinck (Ypres)
  • Lewalle (Walloon)
  • Moded (Antwerp)
  • Navegeer
  • Le Dente
  • Poultier (Dieppe)
  • Powells (Dutch)
  • Steene (Dutch)
  • Vamboute (St Jans-Kappel)
  • Van Brugen (Dutch)
  • Waells (Houtkerke)
  • Wervekin (Ypres)

These are just the surnames of some of the Norwich Strangers, mentioned in the above book.  Just how much did they, and others, contribute though, to the genealogy of Norfolk and East Anglia.  Most belonged to aspiring classes of artisans and merchants.  Weavers, printers, hat makers, etc.  How much of their DNA might have seeped into the surrounding countryside?