Early History of Tuttington
The land around Tuttington was likely very different in pre-history. Before 6500 BCE, Britain was still linked to mainland Europe by low-lying marshland covering much of what is now the southern North Sea. Archaeologists call this area Doggerland. Around 6200 BCE Britain became cut-off from the rest of Europe (sounds familiar) as the North Sea level rose. This could have been as a result of melt-water at the end of the last ice age. There is also evidence of a mega-tsunami originating from large undersea landslides off the coast of Norway sweeping south and inundating Doggerland. It is strange to think that a tsunami could have had a direct impact on the land that was to become Tuttington.
The first evidence of human activity around the village was from the Neolithic era (from about 4200 BCE) with findings of flint tools and other artifacts and bones associated with burial structures called barrows. One such barrow is believed to be near the junction of Stow Heath Road leading to Hyltons Crossways, and Tuttington Road – which becomes Beck Lane (see panel). Another barrow – or group of barrows – is in the woodland near the junction of Aylsham Road and Wood Lane (see panel). This structure may have been built a little later that the Stow Heath barrow, in the Bronze Age (from about 3000 BCE).
Circular crop marks are also visible in a field just south of Tuttington, east of Norwich Road. These structures have a central feature. Perhaps they were ancient buildings (see panel). A possible track from the south passes to the east of the largest circular crop mark and then on to the Wood Lane barrow.
Romans and Saxons
There is much evidence of Roman occupation in the district especially around the neighbouring village of Brampton where pottery was made for several hundred years. A Roman road originating from mid-Norfolk and beyond is thought to have passed near Brampton, crossing the Bure at Oxnead. Although the road is believed to have extended towards the coast east through Dilham, some 19th Century scholars suggest the road headed in the Tuttington direction through Stow Heath. It is interesting to note that Stow Heath Road has a long straight section, a characteristic of Roman Roads.
Archaeologists working in the area have made finds considered to be from the Saxon era which overlapped the period of Roman occupation and extended up to the Norman Conquest in 1066. After the Romans left, Tuttington became part of the kingdom of the East Angles. It is likely that an early church was established in Tuttington during this period.
1066 and all that…
After the Norman invasion of 1066 and subsequent occupation of England, there are more written records about our local area. Much of this history is associated with development of the church and ownership of land. Among the first records of this medieval period is Domesday Book. Summarising the information on the Open Domesday website there are two entries for Tuttington, called at the time Tatituna or Tutincghetuna (see panel). In the first entry, it names connected nobles as Earl Harold, Earl Ralph the constable, Earl Gyrth and Archbishop Stigand, Turold and William of Warenne. In the second, the settlement is listed under the aegis of The Abbey of St Benet at Holme. There is also mention of a mill.
For an interesting short history of Tuttington church follow the link to this pamphlet.
There is a further point of historical interest relating to the church. In the village today, there are two houses with apparent eclesiastical connections: The Old Vicarage and The Old Rectory, located in different parts of the village. The records show that a Rectory was established in Tuttington in 1234, but that a Vicarage was later endowed in 1275.
Although Tuttington is rather a quiet place today, there have been times in the past when the sniff of rebellion was about. One such rebellion caused the Battle of North Walsham which occurred on 25 or 26 June 1381. The battle took place 3 miles east of Tuttington and could well have involved people from the village.
The battle was the last expression of resistance during the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 which had spread throughout East Anglia that year. The main protagonists were Geoffrey Listster (a resident of Felmingham) for the rebels and the so-called fighting Bishop Henry Le Despenser. Listster reputedly mustered his small force on Thorpe Market green whilst Despenser gathered his army at Felmingham. Listster lost the battle due to the overwhelming forces led by Despenser. The rebel leader was subsequently executed in Norwich; members of the surviving rebel band were likely put to the sword.
A later rebellion – in 1549 – which had echoes of the Peasant’s Revolt was led by Robert Kett who shared the desperation of the poor when common land became subject to enclosure. Although the action took place mainly within, and south of, Norwich, the effects were probably felt throughout Norfolk. Needless to say, this rebellion was also put down but only after Kett and his followers had captured Norwich, England’s second most important city at the time. Kett suffered a similar fate to the rebel Listster.
More rebellion on a national scale followed in 1642 as the English Civil War began. Norfolk was a supporter of the Parliamentary cause during the Civil War although there were hotspots of Royalist supporters. Most of the fighting took place in the west of the county, but there was considerable unrest in and around Norwich which must have been felt here in the village.
Industrialisation arguably started with the building of mills, powered by water or wind. Tuttington had a mill recorded in Domesday Book. The waterways about these parts were a good source of energy and local mill buildings today are still to be found on waterways at Felmingham, Buxton, Oxnead, Burgh-next-Aylsham and Aylsham itself. Mills have been used to grind cereal for flour, bone for fertiliser and to spin yarn for the wool trade. Wool played a major role in generating wealth for Norfolk. The large number and size of churches in Norfolk is due in part to the success of the wool trade. Norwich became the second most important city in England in Tudor times, because of the success of wool merchants.
As energy became less associated with water and wind, and more with coal and steam, the importance of our region in wool waned. But, this part of Norfolk has rich soil, and a high level of agricultural production continued to underpin the local economy.
Canals and Railways Come and Go
Development of transport links helped Alysham and surrounding villages make the most of their agricultural productivity. Our local canal, the Bure navigation, was developed along the river. Changes in level were bypassed by constructing locks and loop channels. The remains of old locks can be seen in Burgh and Oxnead. The canal opened in 1779 and Norfolk wherrys plied their trade between the staithe in Aylsham and various destinations along the Norfolk waterways and the coast. The Bure navigation was never a busy canal and it finally fell into disuse after a catastophic flood in 1912 which damaged much of the infrastructure.
Aylsham was also served by two railway stations. Aylsham South (formerly the Great Eastern station) was built in 1880 on the line between Wroxham, where it joined the Norwich-Cromer line, and County School on the line between Dereham and Fakenham. The line finally closed in 1984. Aylsham South still has trains today – but on a smaller scale than before – as it is the base of the Bure Valley narrow gauge railway.
The other station was Aylsham North on the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway – M&GN (known affectionately as the ‘muddle and get nowhere’). The line was built in 1883 and succumbed to dwindling passengers and freight as road transport took over. The line was abandoned in 1959, a few years before Dr Beeching wielded his axe on our national rail network. The Aylsham North station site is in the Dunkirk district of Aylsham and the straight section of road by the industrial estate to the A140 follows the old railway track-bed. Residents of Common Lane in Tuttington and elsewhere still use the old M&GN trackbed for recreation where it passes just north of the village.
The Medieval mill at Tuttington and other interesting historical possibilities have been discussed at length by our own resident historian and sleuth Sid Kettle of Thieves’ Lane. You can download two of his fascinating historical essays about Tuttington here: The story of Beck Lane; Tuttington Through the Ages
There is a further summary of the history of Tuttington church, St Peter and St Paul, available as a pamphlet in the church or you can download a copy here: St Peter and St Paul Tuttington. A Short guide to the church.
If you would like to see some old maps of our area, go the the Norfolk County Council Historic Maps website or (strangely) The National Library of Scotland
The Tuttington Hub is always looking for interesting fragments of history about the village. If you have any relevant documents, photos or knowledge about the history of our village and would like to present it on the website, please Contact Us.
Click the images above for a larger view. Top: crop marks just south of Tuttington: © Infoterra Ltd and Bluesky Google Earth. Bottom left: crop marks at Stow Heath just east of Tuttington: © Infoterra Ltd and Bluesky Google Earth. Bottom right: LIDAR image of the barrow (near centre of the image) at the Tuttington end of Wood Lane: © Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2015
What’s in a Name?
The entry in Domesday Book indicates that the name Tuttington has existed in different forms, including Tatituna, Tutincghetuna, Totingtonne, Totington, Tutington and, of course, Tuttington.
It seems generally to be accepted that the village got its name from a possible enclosure of Tutta’s people, perhaps from the Saxon or an earlier period. There is an alternative explanation as suggested by some scholars, including the Modern Antiquarian, that the name might have originated from the presence of a mound, maybe the barrow near Wood Lane. The suggestion is that the term is from old northern European words, Tutta or Tuta, alluding to a nipple-shaped or teat-like prominence, perhaps describing the shape of the burial mound. Did Tutta take his name from these symbols of Life and Death?
The Earl’s Fair at Tuttington
In descriptions of the history of Tuttington church, there is mention of a chapel located just to the north of St Peter and St Paul in an area called Meton-he. The chapel built apparently before 1214 was dedicated to St Botolph and there is reference to a fair being held there on St Botolph’s Day (June 17th). There is further record of the St Botolph’s Day fair in Tuttington in 1285 at which time it was called the Earl’s fair in honour of the Earl of Norfolk, Roger Bygod. Perhaps the residents of Tuttington might consider reviving this old tradition to hold a fair on June 17th in those years when there is no Open Gardens Day?