About our Village

Domesday Book 1086 Page 329

[Potter] Heigham was a settlement mentioned in the Domesday Book, in the hundred of Happing and the county of Norfolk.

It recorded population of 2 households in 1086, putting it in the smallest 20% of settlements recorded in Domesday.

The original folios of Domesday Book (page 329), is a complete survey of England written in AD 1086.

Domesday carefully records the owners of each manor (estate) in 1086, as these were the people liable for tax. All land was ultimately owned by the Crown, but held by lords, who provided military resources or tax in return.

·       - Lord: free men, two

·       1068 - Tenant-in-chief (Godric of Heigham): The main landholders listed in Domesday Book. Either King William himself, or one of around 1,400 people who held land directly from the Crown, mostly Norman knights.

·       1068 Lord (Godric of Heigham): The immediate lord over the peasants after the Conquest, who paid tax to the tenant-in-chief. Sometimes the same as the tenant-in-chief, sometimes a tenant granted the estate in return for tax. The immediate lord over the peasants after the Conquest, who paid tax to the tenant-in-chief.

By 1182 it was referred to as Heigham Potter, due to the extensive manufacture of pottery taking place in the ‘Pothills’ area in the very northwestern corner of the parish.

By 1797 the village had become known as Potter Heigham, though the marshes retained the older Heigham Potter name.

Specific evidence for Bronze Age period activity in Potter Heigham is limited to a single copper alloy palstave dredged out of Hickling Broad, and there have been no artifacts recovered that can be confidently dated to the Iron Age. Only one site with Roman artefacts has been found, in the village area just south of the A149, but it is of great interest.

In 1972 three copper coins and ‘half a barrow load of old leather and iron buckles’ were recovered from a waterlogged site during the construction of a soak-away. The coins and buckles were subsequently identified as Roman, although the leather perished before it could be conserved and analysed. Had it been saved, who knows what we might have discovered. 

Potter Heigham is a popular boating centre in the heart of the Norfolk Broads. The medieval bridge of Potter Heigham is a Broads landmark, and the low height (6 ft 9 inches headroom) of the central arch provides a challenge for boats passing through.  Many boating holidays start from Potter Heigham.

The bridge was built around 1385 and still carries road traffic over the River Thurne.  Motorists have to wait their turn to go over the humpbacked arch, but it is boating enthusiasts who need the most help.  The bridge opening is so narrow that only small, narrow boats can pass through it, and then only at low water.

A tale is told that in 1742 Lady Carew and her daughter Evelyn were taken away on Evelyn's wedding day by a phantom coach driven by skeletons. The coach reportedly caught alight as it crossed Potter Heigham bridge.  It is also said that the ghost of a drummer boy skates across the Broad during the month of February.  Both Evelyn and her mother Lady Carew were lost.

Near the bridge, on the north side of the river, is Lathams, a popular department store, while the area south of Bridge Road is taken up by large boat hire companies and boatyards.

The parish church of St Nicholas dates to the 12th century. The striking tower has a round 12th-century base and an octagonal 14th century top.  The interior features 14th-century wall paintings and a very unusual red brick font dating to the 15th century.

As far as I know, there are only three fonts made of brick in England and Wales, making the Potter Heigham example exceptionally rare.  Perhaps the most important historic feature is the superb 15th-century hammerbeam roof.

The long-distance Weaver's Way trail passes through the village on its way from Great Yarmouth to Cromer.  To the north is the Ludham-Potter Heigham National Nature Reserve, while the Heigham Holmes National Nature Reserve lies to the west.

Author Arthur Ransome used Potter Heigham as a setting for several of his popular children's books, including Coot Club (1934) and The Big Six (1940).  We read the books to our children, and when we had the chance to visit Potter Heigham as a family it was a big thrill to see the places that Ransome describes so vividly.


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