Life in Forncett in the Middle Ages


On Friday 19 May a packed Village Hall travelled back in time to Medieval Forncett when Marilyn Tolhurst gave us a taste of what life was like 1000 years ago. Marilyn had once lived in Forncett and has a deep interest and knowledge of its history. Mike Merrick of the Forncett History Group organised the event with proceeds going to Friends of St Peter’s.

Whilst the evening was about Forncett, it also took in America and France! The American connection comes through Frances Gardiner Davenport, an American historian. She came to England in the late 19th century to research life in a medieval village and was quickly drawn to Forncett because of its rich history. Her work ‘The Economic Development of a Norfolk Manor, 1086–1565’ tells the dry facts of Forncett, but Marilyn engagingly brought these to life by telling us what day-to-day life would have been like. And the French connection comes through Roger Bigod whose family had come to England with the Norman invasion in 1066 and who had been granted substantial land in Norfolk including Forncett.

Luttrell Psalter 1aAgricultural life in the Middle Ages. Lutteral Psalter.

 Marilyn’s fascinating talk covered the Norman invasion, the Black Death, the Forncett Hoard, the location of Roger Bigod’s Manor house and even the evolution of French names to British ones. The Black Death had a devastating effect – it’s likely that about half of the people in Forncett died. The Forncett Hoard, found in 1997 near the crossroads on Cheney’s Lane comprised 336 silver coins, some dating back to the period 128-42BC. It was probably buried by a Roman soldier following the Iceni rebellion when Roman activity in Norfolk increased significantly.

There has been a lot of speculation about the location of Roger Bigod’s Forncett Manor house and perceived wisdom was that it was just north of, and close to, St Mary’s Church. Marilyn had studied aerial photos from 1944 which suggest that it may have been located elsewhere on Low Road.

And it’s fascinating to think that the names of the ancestors of the Hulots who came from France in 1066 gradually evolved into Hewletts and the name Bolytout evolved to Bullitowt.

It was lovely to meet with friends and to hear the history of where we live. Many thanks to Mike Merrick and Marilyn Tolhurst for putting on such a wonderful evening which also raised over £180 for Friends of St Peter’s.

If you'd like to find out more about the history of the Forncetts Forncett History Group has a wealth of information.

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