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History of place names in the Burnhams

PUBLISHED: 09:53 31 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:27 07 July 2010

Emma Knights

A book delving into the history of part of north Norfolk by recording place names past and present is being launched this weekend.

Clarky Bottoms and Small Hopes: An Atlas of Place Names in the Burnhams, Norfolk, has been compiled by Sally Francis who grew up in Burnham Norton.

A book delving into the history of part of north Norfolk by recording place names past and present is being launched this weekend.

Clarky Bottoms and Small Hopes: An Atlas of Place Names in the Burnhams, Norfolk, has been compiled by Sally Francis who grew up in Burnham Norton.

Dr Francis, an agricultural writer and consultant with a doctorate in arable crop research, has spent the past three years doing research for her book which contains 1,000 current and old names going back as far as the 1790s for many different fields, woods, tracks, creeks and other places in Burnham Market, Burnham Norton, Burnham Overy Staithe, Burnham Thorpe, Burnham Deepdale, Scolt Head and the surrounding areas.

The book provides an intriguing insight into the area, uncovering tales of murders, smugglers, industry and more.

Dr Francis said: “Field and other place names go back hundreds of years but aren't written down. In some parts of the country they have already been lost, but now we have a permanent record of place names around the Burnhams. There is such richness to these names - you couldn't make them up! And it is interesting to realise the scope of this unwritten story covering the countryside.”

Many of the places featured in Dr Francis' book are field names and she said one of the biggest surprises was finding evidence of a former saffron growing industry in the Burnhams.

“Three fields contain the word saffron and one of these showed a saffron crop in situ on an old map. I'd guess this would be a revelation to most locals,” she said.

Another thing she found fascinating was looking at how place names changed over the years.

She said: “Because they often aren't written down, their names change over time, for example Quarter Fathom was originally Chalk Pit Furlong, and Bankers Close was originally Burnthouse Close. Some names have proved impossible to work out, for example Lillies Castle and Debel Hols.”

The book is being launched at The New Cottage, Overy Road, Burnham Market, from 5pm until 7.30pm today and from 10.30am until 12.30pm tomorrow. Copies of the book cost £7 at the launch.

Dr Francis also hopes to sell the books at local bookshops where the recommended retail price will be £8, or people can order the book by sending a £9 cheque (including postage and packaging), made payable to Sally Francis, to 21 Norton Street, Burnham Norton, King's Lynn, PE31 8DR.

Some of the place names with the history behind them:

t Shillings - a field along the Creake Road south of Burnham Market.

In 1786 a local carrier was fatally wounded about a mile south of Burnham Market. He was able to return to Burnham Market and identify who shot him before he died the next day. The guilty man, John Shilling, was executed at Norwich and his body was hanged upon a gibbet overlooking the site of the shooting.

t Murderer's Wood - an alternative name for a field called Sandpit Plantation in Burnham Thorpe.

In 1851 a new superintendent called John Ayton was appointed at the brickyard at nearby Peterstone. His first move was to dismiss labourer Henry Groom for bad work. Groom bore a grudge against Mr Ayton and killed him with a single shot at the sandpit.

t Smugglers Gap - a gap in the sand dunes along the seaward edge of Scolt Head

Smuggling was once rife along this part of the coast and a Brancaster smuggler who used Scolt Head regularly paid a shepherd to run his flocks over the cart-tracks made returning over the marshes so that his tracks could be hidden.

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