in and around Martham are often very ancient. In
this section, Ann Meakin has mapped and recorded the
local footpaths as part of a University of East Anglia
project, in 2013. Photos: Chris Harrison.
The footpaths can become good walks. Why not
check them out and see what's changed in the last
A Study of the
Footpaths of Martham and their Historical Origins
by Ann Meakin with photographs by Chris Harrison was
part of the UEA ‘Pathways to History’ project in 2013.
understand the layout of the footpaths of Martham you
need to appreciate how they reflect the history of the
village going back over the last few thousand
Moregrove evidence has been found of a prehistoric
settlement dating back about 4000 years. A
Bronze Age burial circle has been identified on the
field on the south side of Somerton Road opposite the
present High School at about TG460188. From
looking at Ordnance Survey maps, Celtic field systems
have been identified. Therefore we know that
there was human activity in our parish for thousands
of years before the Saxons discovered the delights of
living on the Island of Flegg.
thought that the Saxon settlement of Martham was
around an enormous village green. In later
centuries people settled along the edge of the
extensive area of marshy common land alongside the
River Thurne which formed the northern boundary of the
parish. However, exactly when the Common
was designated as such is not known. The Common
is shown in yellow on the digital map and the present
day parish boundary in pink. You may need these
maps for other footpaths!
Norman Conquest, Martham had two manors, each with a
large acreage of demesne land. The Bishop’s manor
was centred where Martham Hall now stands and held
land in the south of the parish. One vital route
from that manor was towards Hemsby where there was
another Bishop’s manor and a huge barn in which to
store the crops harvested. The other route was to
the Green and the Church.
Manor was situated in the northern part of the parish
on the upland sloping towards the River Thurne.
to these manors there were the Common and the three
vast open fields which were controlled by the Lords of
the Manors - the east field, the largest part of which
lay between the roads to Hemsby and Somerton, the west
field which lay to the west of the access road to the
crossing point of the River Thurne, and the south
field which lay south of the roads to Repps and Hemsby
and towards Rollesby.
existing roads to Somerton, Hemsby, Rollesby and Repps
probably follow the main routes that have existed for
centuries. In addition there are existing
footpaths that may also have existed for centuries
going to those places over lower ground which may have
been usable only in drier weather.
strips in the open fields there must have been tracks
used for access. Some of these tracks have
presumably survived because the Enclosure Award of
1812 stipulated that they were to be there as ‘private
roads’ to give access to the small fields by then in
the ownership of about 90 different people.
There were 20 ‘private’ roads created at the time of
the Enclosure. Very few of these seem to have
been completely new stretches of road - the rest being
existing tracks which the Commissioners considered
should remain and have therefore become green lanes.
a map you will realise that a great many tracks lead
towards the Parish Church. Even from
pre-Christian times these were very important because
people’s lives centred on the rites of pagan
worship. The church was most likely built on the
site used for pagan worship. Once Christianity
had been established people would have gone to the
Church regularly on Sundays and saint’s days, for
baptisms and marriages, and also to bury their dead.
starting points for many of the routes of this study
are from grid reference TG453185. From there the
road to the Ferry goes northwards. Although this
is now a single track surfaced road it is a very
ancient route connecting the village with the river
and the ancient river-crossing place.
recording of the footpaths has not been easy. It
seemed that photographs would give a clearer
impression than many words, so they have therefore
been provided. Also a copy of Faden’s Map of
1797 has been included above for further information.
find only three living trees that we thought might
measure four metres in girth, but none of these was
accessible enough to be measured.
the existence for all the footpaths except one could
be found. The exception is Footpath
13. This is a very ancient lane that can
be identified on Faden’s Map and is shown on the
Enclosure Map but is not referred to in that
document. Is there a very interesting historical
21 historic footpaths around Martham. Start with
Footpath 1 here.
If you wish
to stay within the village try our Martham History