Early history


The original meaning of the name ‘Whinburgh’ is thought to have been ‘Gorse hill’, with the first element hvin being Old Norse for ‘gorse’, and the second berg having Anglian origins and meaning ‘A hill, a mound; an artificial hill; a tumulus’ [reference (accessed 10/11/2019)]. The site of the ancient burgh is now called ‘Manor Yards’ (reference). However, there have been various spellings over the years, and the current ‘burgh’ is often thought to have originally meant ‘fortified place (see for example).

Westfield is easily recognisable today in terms of meaning, as its name is thought to have meant ‘Western or West’ and feld from the Old English meaning ‘Open country, unencumbered ground (eg. land without trees as opposed to forest, level ground as opposed to hills, land without buildings); arable land (from late tenth century)’ [reference (accessed 10/11/19)].

Evidence of early occupation

There is evidence of people in the area now known as Whinburgh and Westfield for thousands of years. According to Norfolk County Council, two Meolithic flint axeheads were recovered in the parish, followed by a Bronze Age looped palstave (a type of chisel), a prehistoric flint flake (a stone tool), and a prehistoric pot boiler site. Evidence of Bronze Age ditches was also found through the use of aerial photography in 1996. A small number of objects from the Roman era were found, including a coin from the emperor Claudius II mint, pieces of pottery and four brooches, one of which was dolphin-shaped. From then until the Danelaw, very little evidence of people in the area has been found [reference (accessed 10/11/19)].

The Danelaw and beyond

From the middle of the 9th Century, Danes arrived in East Anglia, and huge areas of England came under ‘Danelaw’, the system of laws agreed in a series of treaties.

The first known lord of Whinburgh was Turchetel, or Thorketel, a Dane, who owned the village and other land during the reign of Edward the Confessor. Turchetel was then ousted by Hermerus de Ferrariis (or ‘Hermer of Ferrers) by grant of William the Conqueror, shortly after the conquest in 1066. In 1086, based on information in the Domesday book, Whinburgh covered an area of 583 acres (including 22 acres of woodland), had approximately 170 inhabitants. Also listed were 8 ploughs, 34 horses, 8 head of cattle, 47 pigs, 98 sheep and 60 goats. It had 2 mills and a church [reference (accessed 10/11/19)] (and with grateful thanks to Liz Cooper for interpretation).

According to Harvey’s Deer Parks (p.5), parks in Whinburgh were noted in 1254, and later in 1581 (Rye, W., 1916, Castles and manor houses from the Conquest to the present time, Roberts & Co.).

The descendants of Hermen de Ferraris were the Bardolfs. In the mid 14th Century, it was noted that Whinburgh had a water mill, a pool called Le Lay, and a fishery called Le Motte. A family took the name ‘De Whinburgh’ in the mid-16th Century (Blomefield, F., 1809, An essay towards a topographical history of the country of Norfolk: Volume 10, Originally published by W Miller, London).

Westfield had a recorded history of 16 households in 1086, with 8 villagers and 8 smallholders. On the basis that on average, a household would contain some 5 people, this suggests an overall population of around 80. There was 1 ‘lord’s plough teams’ and 2 ‘men’s plough teams’, a 3-acre meadow and a mill. In 1066 the land was amongst that owned by the abbey of Ely (St Etheldreda), and in 1086 by Lord Phanceon. The ‘Tenant-in-chief’ was Count Alan (of Brittany) [reference (accessed 10/11/19)].

In the 16th Century Westfield was granted to Sir Thomas Wriothesly and Sir Richard Southwell. The latter paid rent to the Crown for the land. It was then inherited by the Cranes, and later by the Claytons, including Robert Clayton, Esq., ‘afterwards a knight, and Lord Mayor of London’ (Blomefield, F., 1809, An essay towards a topographical history of the country of Norfolk: Volume 10, Originally published by W Miller, London).