This page contains various articles and pictures relating to the history of Claxton and the surrounding area, and is added to on an ongoing basis. Another site which may be of interest is Norfolk Heritage Centre.
A class in front of old Claxton School near St Andrew’s Church (now a private dwelling)
Left – First (Mrs Sharpen) and last pupils at new Claxton School
St Andrew’s Church, Claxton (see photo above from 1928) dates from the 12th century, though the west tower and porch were added in the 16th century and the chancel was rebuilt in the 19th century. It is built of flint and red brick with limestone and brick dressings. The Nave is thatched, the chancel is plain-tiled with crested ridges, and the porch is pantiled. It was Grade I listed in 1960.
In the chancel south-east corner there is a reset double piscina from the 13th century, with petalled bowls, central shaft and restored heads. In the north-east corner there is a monument to Sir Henry Gaudy d.1620. There is also a 15th century octagonal font with a stem with lions and slim-buttresses, and angel corbels below bowl. A separate historical note can be viewed here.
The outstanding name in the early history of Claxton is that of the knightly family of de Kerdeston from the village of that name, now absorbed into Reepham, who held lands in Norfolk and Suffolk from very early times. Leaving their earlier pedigrees and matrimonial alliances we come to Sir William de Kerdeston, who, in 1339, obtained the much-coveted licence to castellate his Manor House at Claxton, and “a fortified house”, as pointed out by Mr Walter R Rudd, “was not only the hall-mark of gentility, but (as proved by such incidents as the successful attack on Paston’s house at Cresham and Hellesdon and the siege of Caistor Castle, neither events of general civil war) ofttimes a very present help in trouble”. This William – “Lord Kerdeston” as he has been called – was a notable warrior. In 1340-41 he was fighting in Flanders, and obtained from Edward III the grant of a market and fair at Claxton, most valuable privileges in those days. He sent ten men-at-arms to the expedition against the Scots in 1341. Later he was in the French wars, notably at the great battle of Crecy in 1346. William de Kerdeston and Prior William de Claxton were amongst the witnesses to a charter to Richard Spynk, who environed Norwich with walls in 1343. This powerful baron died in 1361.
An excellent and full account of de Kerdestons castle at Claxton is given by Mr W R Rudd in “The Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany”, New Series, i pp. 86-93, with which is a fine illustration of the castle ruins from a charming photograph by Mr E Peake. The remains are still considerable, though they have attracted very little attention from historians and antiquarians.
Click here for more information about Claxton Castle. A recent photo of some of the castle wall remains shown from the rear is below.
The Claxton smockmill was a 12-sided horizontally-boarded mill built over a single storey 19-foot high brick base. The boat-shaped cap had a petticoat, a gallery and a 6-bladed fan. The mill was powered by two pairs of double-shuttered patent sails, one pair having 8 bays of 3 shutter and the other 7 bays of 3 shutters. Striking was via a chain pole.
An auxiliary steam engine had been brought in by 1875 and appeared to still be in operation until c.1933 when it was replaced by an oil engine that was eventually used in preference to wind power by 1937. Albert Arthur Culling Snr last used the windmill in 1938-39 and his son Albert Arthur Culling Jnr took over the oil powered mill in 1947. He also ran Mill Garage on the same site from where he operated the firm Culling & Son (Norwich) Ltd. – Coach Hire & Road Haulage Contractors. The premises were eventually sold by the family in 1971. c.1934: The mill ceased to operate by wind power. 1938-39: The mill ceased operation. 1945: The mill was demolished after part of it fell down. It was thought also to be a landmark for enemy aircraft. 1971: The mill base was used as a hut situated near the garage office of Culling & Son (Norwich) Ltd road haulage firm, until its sale later that year.
The Folly Inn
The photo (left) shows Mr and Mrs Farman outside the Folly Inn, which was built in 1911.
Mr Farman held a licence from 1904-1929. The building is now a private residence on the corner of The Street and Folly Lane.
What now serves as an access road to Claxton Manor Farm once used to carry the 1928 extension of a narrow gauge railway which between 1926 and 1936 ran the 1.6 kilometres from Claxton Manor Farm to the south bank of the River Yare – in 1928 it was extended south to Staines Barn just east of the church. The railway transported sugar beet which were loaded onto wherries and transported to the Cantley sugar factory which is situated 3.5 miles to the south-east.
Local Places of Interest/History