The Village

A brief history of Little Dunham

Little Dunham is situated in some of the highest land in Norfolk at a three way watershed which leads to the rivers Wensum, Wissey and Nar.

A view of Little Dunham village from the road

Evidence has been found in the village of Neolithic Age habitation. A roman road passed north/south through the village to the Roman settlement at Kempstone. At the time of the Doomsday Book the village was included in the King’s manor of Sporle. The original site of the village was to the west of the church of St Margaret and the humps and bumps in the meadow adjoining the church are thought also to include the site of the former hall. In medieval times an old road called Walsingham Way passed through the village and on to the shrine at Walsingham. A cross stood on this road at a location in the village which became known as High Cross.

In 1845 the village had a population of 298 (the same as today) and comprised some 1,837 acres.

rural view over the Little Dunham fields

The East Anglian railway, later the Great Eastern railway, came to the village in 1848 and the line was closed in 1968. The station of Little Dunham became a local centre for the transport of livestock, grain and milk and the station had its own pub called the Crown.

The church of St Margaret was largely built in the thirteenth century (1200’s) and stands in a parkland setting adjoining the old Rectory. It is in the early English style with some later additions. John Venn was Rectory from 1782 to 1793 who later became a prominent figure in the Clapham Sect who did much to push forward the Anti Slavery agenda of William Wilberforce. John Nelson, cousin to Admiral Lord Nelson, was Rector from 1820 to 1865 and he and his wife are buried in the church and there is a commemoration plate in the chancel to their son, Charles.

The Nelson Obelisk at Little DunhamLittle Dunham Lodge stands on the far side of the village and is reputed to be the highest house in Norfolk at 345 feet. On a clear day it is said the spires of Norwich Cathedral, Ely Cathedral and the masts of ships in King’s Lynn harbour can be seen from the roof. The Lodge was completed in 1785 and has some fine Adam fireplaces. It was at one time in the ownership of the Nelson family as was the nearby Curds Hall, now demolished. In 1814 an obelisk was built on the boundary between these two properties to commemorate the signing of the peace of that year and the actions and death of Lord Nelson. Another famous occupant of the Lodge was the poet William Cowper.

As recently as sixty years ago there were five farms in the village. Now most of the land is farmed by one farmer. For the first time in the life of the village there is no-one living in the village who is directly involved in agriculture.   The inhabitants of the village are split between those who work in the area and retired people.