North Walsham & District Community Archive


North Walsham Past and Present. Published 1975.


North Walsham is situated on a spur of a low sand and gravel plateau about 30 to 40 metres (100 to 125 feet)above sea-level, overlooking the valley of the River Ant which is to the east of the town. It is on a dry, well-drained site, well above the flood plain, but the water-table is near enough to the surface for its wells to keep it supplied up to its pre-industrial needs. TheTowest part of the town is the shallow valley ne"ar the beginning of Aylsham Road. This valley can be followed along Mundesley Road, past the gas. holders after which it forms a little stream, formerly a drain, which flows into the Ant beyond Lingate. This is not a classic site for a district Central Place, so other factors including the human must be important in the location and growth of North Walsham.

The name of North Walsham has varied imhistorical times. It is referred to in the Domesday Book t of 1086 as Walessam-eska, a name derived from the Anglo-Saxon, meaning 'Home of Wale, the North part of the name distinguishing it from South Walsham. The name stabilised by the 14th century when we read of a Robert de Walsham in the will of Edward, the Black Prince, dated 1373. During the East Anglian Rising of 1381 the town is referred to as Walsham Market.
The original meaning of the -ham ending was 'home-stead'and indicated that the original village was set up during the first invasion of East Anglia by the Anglo-Saxons in the late 5th or the 6th century A. D. There are many other towns and villages with the -ham ending and also others with the -ing ending(meaning territory or land of the people of.....) which were
established at the same time. Whether or not there was an earlier pre-Anglo-Saxon settlement here we do not yet know, but if there was,its name has not survived.

The settlements around North Walsham give clues about its situation in the early settlement period. The other settlements of the entry phase, when the Anglo-Saxons first arrived, were Antingham , Felmingham, and Honing . Given that the -ing ending is earlier it would appear that North Walsham was founded some time in the 6th century A.D. As more settlers arrived and the original population grew, later settlements were founded, the ending -ton being commonest for them in this district. Paston , Bacton , Swanton Abbott»Witton and Skeyton are those closest to North Walsham. With further growth of population, the older settlements created new daughter settlements out of the surrounding forest as the -field ending (a clearing in the wood) indicates. Of a similar period were the -stead (place) and -wick (outlying hut) endings which are found in Suffield and Swafield , Westwick and Worstead.

The original site of North Walsham on light soils, above the flood-plain and surrounded by forest yet to be cleared, yet not too far distant from the sea, was suffi ciently good for the original village tp maintain itself and expand. There were no insuperable barriers to transport but as yet, insufficient trade for great growth in the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian periods. North Walsham was merely one of thousands qf similar small rural settlements in Eastern England.