Denton a village in South Norfolk, England

Village History

Two versions of brief village histories are available.

1. "A Brief History of Denton"

The following text is largely taken from the book "A Snapshot of Denton" compiled in 2000 as part of the village Millennium celebrations. Some additions and corrections have been made.

The name Denton is derived from Anglo-Saxon and believed to mean "home in a hollow" or "village in a valley". Given the original location of the village centre down by the church, this would make sense. It is believed to date from Saxon times. In the north-west of the village along Darrow Green Road there are the remains of an old motte and bailey Castle believed to have been built by William d'Albini who then went on to build the rather grander castle at New Buckenham. This may have been his hunting lodge. The name Darrow Green probably derives from 'deerhaugh' meaning 'deer park' which confirms the use of the area round the castle as a medieval deerpark. Wild deer can still occasionally be spotted on the road. (The site of the castle was bought by the National Trust a few years ago.)

St Mary's Church at the southern end of the village dates from the 12th century and is very large for such a small parish. It has a magnificent stained glass east window. In the fourteenth century many peasants would probably have lived in cottages in the valley to the west of the church. When the Black Death struck in the 1340's many village people died and their houses may have been burned down as part of the cleansing of the area. 'New' houses were built further up the village away from the area of disease. Several of these timber-framed houses are still standing today - although some hide their origins behind much more modern frontages.

The well-known author Rider Haggard, writing at the turn of the nineteenth century, had a strong connection with Denton. He owned Haggards Farm on Chapel Hill (currently owned by the Fairhead family) which is mentioned in his famous book 'A Farming Year'. The Skinner family, still resident in Denton, are also mentioned in the book as his tenants.

Denton United Reform Chapel dates back to 1658. It was founded by a 'wandering preacher' from Wattisham who founded the original congregational chapel. The present building dates from 1821. All the surrounding chapels (Bungay and Harleston) were 'offspring' of the mother chapel in Denton.

At the opposite end of Darrow Green Road from Denton Castle there was a wooden Post Mill active until the 1890s. Three nearby houses Mill House, Mill Farm (now Mutts Farm) and Mill Cottage (now Mill Farm) would probably have housed families associated with the mill.

During the second world war there were a number of United States Army Air Force airfields in this area including one at Hardwick whose perimiter touched the boundary of the village. This was the base of 93rd Bomb Group, part of the US 2nd Air Division. They flew Liberator bomber missions from late 1942 until the end of the war. The sudden effect of 2000 young American males being stationed less than a mile away as the crow flies had a huge impact. Some of them cycled to Denton on Wednesday evening to the village 'social'. Mrs Knights the schoolteacher thumped out waltzes and quicksteps on the piano at more or less the same tempo. One memorable night a USAF lorry arrived complete with American band and musical instruments. There was much laughter and jitterbugging but the local chaps were not so keen to see their village 'invaded'. There wasn't any actual fighting but choice words were exchanged between the Americans and the locals. By the next week it was back to Mrs Knights and her waltzes. By the end of the war some 80,000 British women had become GI brides including three from the village of Denton.

Denton House at the southern end of the village was used as a convalescent home for servicemen during the war years. Like most Waveney valley villages, the parish boundaries, which are Saxon in origin, extend down to the river. The parish thus includes stretches of the A143, Bury St Edmunds to Great Yarmouth, road and the old Waveney Valley Railway line. Serving nearby stations at Homersfield and Earsham, the railway opened in 1855 and closed in 1960. Within Denton the course of the railway is now occupied by the realigned main road.

Denton Village Hall was built in 1923. Prior to its building the Women's Institute met in the chapel vestry and whist drives were held at the school. During World War Two it was used as a school for evacuees. It remained very much as it was originally built until the early 1990s when it was modernised and extended. Following the closure of the last pub in the village, the Kings Head in Norwich Road (Denton's other pub, the Watch House on Trunch Hill, had closed its doors some years before), the Bowls & Social Club obtained a club licence to sell drinks to its members. In 1992 a purpose built bar and new toilets transformed the Hall and enhanced its role as the hub of village life.

In 2004 another extension to the Village Hall, at the North end, provided more secure storage and, more importantly, a games room aimed at the younger residents of the village. Then, in 2017, a further extension, replacing the old garage used for the Community Bus, was added at the South end. This again provides more storage while the new "Green Room" is used for meetings and, most important of all, improved changing accomodation for the members of DVC.

A significant change to the village came in 2019 when, probably for the first time in something like 1,500 years, the boundaries of the parish changed. For some time a number of people living in the parish of Earsham, on Middle Road, at the bottom of Danacre Road and at the top of Denton Road, Earsham had felt they were really part of Denton. In 2018 Denton PC duly requested a change; rather surprisingly Earsham did not object, and the move went through. Denton gained eight extra properties and their 14 residents.

2. "A Short History of Denton"

This one appeared, with various errors etc., in the August 1990 edition of the Parish Magazine.

Denton is a rural community in South Norfolk. The name, meaning “the village in the hole” is derived from the fact that the original settlement was built in the valley around the church. After the great plague of 1665 (sic), however, the villagers moved up the hill to settle around Well Corner. The availability of water was of prime consideration in choosing a settlement.

To the north of the village, a Saxon (sic) Motte and Bailey castle was built which boasted a track by which the cattle and livestock could be driven to safety inside the castle should marauders be sighted.

The Danes and Vikings made use of the Waveney and Yare rivers to sail inland to pillage. There is little to be seen nowadays, save a mound surrounded by a ditch, but the site has been acquired by the National Trust. Nearby are Hangman's Hill and Misery Corner - grim reminders of the rough justice dealt out in former times.

The flint church of St Mary the Virgin was probably another sanctuary in time of pillage. Part of the original round Norman (sic) tower collapsed in the 16th century and was repaired as a square tower. The beautiful East Window in the Chancel contains stained glass of many periods; the oldest believed to be from the 14th century.

The United Reformed Church (sic) was built in 1821 on the site of a former building which was thought to have been the oldest chapel in Norfolk. The church at one time, possessed an old oak chair upon which, it is reputed, Oliver Cromwell once sat.

The village sign, depicting a horse drawn plough, was the gift of Denton W.I. on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the W.I. The shield shown on the sign is believed to be the arms of the D'Albini family - the first Lords of the Manor of Denton.

The local school, which closed in 1978, and the former public houses “The Watch-House” and “The King's Head” are all now used as private residences.

The centuries of agriculture carried on in and around Denton have produced generations of skilled farm workers, but with the advent of new machinery and farming methods, these skills are less in demand.

In 1986, the churches united to form “The Church in Denton”. Services are held alternately in the United Reformed Chruch (sic x 2) and at St Mary's and the proceeds from any church fund-raising events are divided equally. It is a matter of pride that Denton people put into practice their concept of the one great faily (sic) of God. The people of the village have always extended a genuine welcome to newcomers engendering a community spirit of which they are rightly proud.

As printed in W.I. History of Norfolk Villages.

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