Evidence of human activity in these
villages reaches back to the period between 8000 and
1000 BC. The discovery in 1968 of a hoard of 110 silver
coins provides a link with the Roman period. However
no proof of Roman occupation has been found so far.
The four panels of the Mattishall village sign, erected
in 1984, depict different periods of history from
Roman, the Domesday Survey of 1086, medieval. to the
All Saints church, Mattishall dates
from the late 14th century, possibly replacing an
earlier church on the site. The Patron is Gonville
and Caius College, Cambridge and it is thought that
Dr. Caius was instrumental in initiating the building
of the larger church. Saint Peter's, Mattishall Burgh,
which is much smaller, is mainly late 13th century.
Mattishall has been divided in a religious
sense for many years, first with the Reformation,
then the growth of Quakerism. The Quakers established
a Meeting House in 1687. Almost 100 years later the
Old Moor Congregational Chapel was built. Both had
their own burial ground. When it become uneconomical
to continue at Old Moor, the Congregationalists transferred
to their Lecture Room in Welgate built in 1829. It
is now the United Reformed Church. Primitive Methodism
gained a following in the 19th century but it was
not until 1900 that a site was found for a permanent
meeting place along the main road. The second half
of the 20th century saw the establishment of the Evangelical
During the reign of Edward VI, cleric
Matthew Parker married Margaret Harlestone of Mattishall.
He became the first Archbishop of Canterbury to be
appointed under Elizabeth 1. Local tradition has it
that the house behind the butcher's shop in Church
Plain was the Harlestone family home.
In the 16th century the wool merchants
of Mattishall were well known, even notorious, in
East Anglia. A number of them were warned or fined
by the Court for failing to sell their wool through
Norwich market. They had found more lucrative outlets
in Suffolk and other places.
Apart from husbandry, wool combing
and weaving, many other trades were followed in the
area. There was a decline in the wool trade in the
18th century, which led to unemployment for combers
and weavers. These occupations had almost disappeared
by the beginning of the 19th century. Some found work
on the land but others became chargeable on the Parish
and either suffered the indignity of living in accommodation
set aside for paupers or worse still were sent to
the Workhouse at Gressenhall.
Most farmers brewed beer but brewing
on a larger scale centred on the Malthouse which was
demolished in the 1920s. Apart from the Swan Inn,
The George and Cross Keys there were several ale houses
dotted around the villages and in the 19th century
included The White House, The Ringers, Ivy Cottage,
The Duke of Edinburgh and the Crown and Anchor. Today
only the Swan survives as a public house, in a 20th
century building, which replaced the old thatched
place of centuries past.
The population of the two villages
reached a peak of 1385 in 1841 and then began to decline
as, due to mechanisation on forms, people left the
area to look for work. By 1931 the figure had dropped
to 829 and by 1961 was only 929. Since then substantial
development and infilling has taken place resulting
in rapid increases in the population. Despite the
growing size numerous local shops and businesses have
not survived the advent of the family car and of super-
and hypermarkets. The haulage business of A. J. Farrow
provided local employment for many people for more
than 50 years. Other family business, names which
have gone, include Dobbs, King, Horne, Fisher, Howard,
Turner and Reynolds. Norton's Bakery is still run
by a member of the family but Hewitt's Butchers is
just a trade name now. In farming, the names of Hill
and Edwards span several generations.
Some of the very old buildings in
Mattishall are hidden behind brick and mortar skins
and Georgian facades, but others remain to be admired.
Of the three 19th century, mills the bases of two
remain. One has been converted recently into a holiday
The National School was built in 1872.
A notable Headmistress was Miss Johnson (1884 - 1919),
the daughter of the Station Master at Hardingham.
Miss Mildred Edwards, a pupil-teacher, was still around
when the school celebrated its centenary. It was she
who planted the conker, which grew into the very large
chestnut tree in the garden of Church Cottage near
the corner of the school playing field.
The fortunes and well being of the
villagers have fluctuated over the centuries. In 1835
the family of Sir Edward Parry, the Polar explorer,
occupied South Green House (now Mattishall Hall) for
a few months. On half pay from the Navy, he was sent
to Norfolk as an Assistant Commissioner for the New
Poor Law. His sister-in-law wrote to her mother:
....... a large population, immense families, and
not work for half, and no resident gentleman near
to do anything for them ...... such a disagreeable
neighbourhood....' How would she view Mattishall today
This is a pleasant place to live although
it is in danger of losing its rural character. There
have been many developments since the 1960s; a Memorial
Hall. Sports and Social Club, new school buildings
on a large site and an excellent surgery and pharmacy.
Written for the Mattishall Village
Appraisal 2001 Report