All Saints Church, Bawdeswell
 Bawdeswell shown within Norfolk
Area  4.87 km2 (1.88 sq mi)
Population 828 (2011 census.[1])
    density  170/km2 (440/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTG046208
Shire countyNorfolk
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post town DEREHAM
Postcode district NR20
Dialling code 01362
Police Norfolk
Fire Norfolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK ParliamentMid Norfolk
List of places

Coordinates: 52°44′48″N 1°01′47″E / 52.746618°N 1.029842°E / 52.746618; 1.029842

Bawdeswell is a small rural village and civil parish in the Breckland district of the county of Norfolk, England. At the time of the 2011 census it had a population of 828 and an area of 487 hectares. The village is situated almost in the centre of Norfolk about 14 miles (23 km) northwest of Norwich. It is on a Roman road that ran east-west between Durobrivae near modern Peterborough and Smallburgh, crossing the Fen Causeway.

The village is recorded in the Domesday Book as Balderwella. It was the home of Chaucer's Reeve in The Reeve's Prologue and Tale in the Canterbury Tales.

The medieval parish church was destroyed in World War II when hit by a de Havilland Mosquito bomber.


The village name appears to be unique, with no other example being found by internet searches, and has been spelt as Baldereswella, Baldeswell, Badswell, Bawsewella and Baldeswelle – in 1807 it was officially Baldeswell.[2] The exact meaning of the name of the village is uncertain. However, wella is a well, 'stream' or 'spring', and it is clear that there has always been water here with quite a number of wells still surviving, the water table being 12 feet (3.7 m) or less. Baldhere is an Anglo-Saxon man's name, composed of Old English elements meaning 'bold, strong' and 'army', and may date back before the 7th century. In Norse it was a mythological son of the God Odin and in Swedish meant 'The God of Light'. The name of the village may thus stem from the Old English given name Baldhere and refers to a source of water belonging to or possibly discovered by him. Therefore, an original spelling may have been Baldhereswella. In his An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: volume 8, historian, social and landscape geographer Francis Blomefield considers the meaning of balder could be quick running water and ascribes the same meaning to Boldre, Hampshire and Baldersdale, North Yorkshire.[2]


Bawdeswell Village is situated almost in the centre of Norfolk on the northeastern boundary of Breckland District. It is about 14 miles (23 km) northwest of Norwich, 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Fakenham, 7 miles (11 km) northeast of the market town of East Dereham (more commonly known just as Dereham) and 3 miles (4.8 km) west of the small Market town of Reepham which is in Broadland District. The main area of the village is situated immediately to the north of the A1067 road but there are also a few dwellings to the south of the A1067 on Dereham Road, Billingford Road and Elsing Lane. There is also a small amount of development on Reepham Road to the North of the village. The main area of the village varies between 140 and 150 feet (46 m) above sea level.

Bawdeswell is close to the village of Foxley and to Foxley Wood which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the largest remaining area of ancient woodland in Norfolk, England.

Bawdeswell Parish is adjacent to the Parishes of Foxley to the North, Bylaugh and Sparham to the south, Billingford to the west and Reepham to the east.

Six roads meet at the settlement. From the northwest the road from Fakenham and from the southeast the road from Norwich (A1067). From the west the road from King's Lynn via Litcham and North Elmham and from the east the road from Mundesley on the coast via Aylsham and Reepham (B1145). From the southwest the road from Dereham via Swanton Morely. Lastly the road south to Elsing that starts as Elsing Lane and after reaching Elsing meanders through various lanes to places south such as North Tuddenham and Mattishall.


Bawdeswell is sited on a Roman road that ran from Durobrivae near modern Peterborough, across the Fen Causeway to Denver, followed Fincham Drove and crossed Peddars Way between Castle Acre and Swaffham, thence towards North Elmham and Billingford, to Bawdeswell and Jordans Green, and on to Smallburgh. It was a major east-west route and possibly continued via the large Roman settlement at Brampton to Caister or an important port since eroded by the sea. The village lies just over 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Billingford that was a Roman settlement and river (Wensum) crossing (wooden Roman Bridge) point. Some Neolithic and Anglo Saxon artefacts found in Bawdeswell are listed by Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. An excavation at The Gables in 1998 revealed a variety of items from prehistoric to post medieval including Roman pot sherds and evidence of Roman field boundary ditches. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Balderwella and again in the 'Norwich Domesday Book' of 1291. Alfheah and Godric held Bawdeswell ffom Count Alan, with thirteen freemen, three and a half ploughs, meadow, woodland and ten pigs recorded.[3][4] Evidence has been found of a church here since about 1100.

Bawdeswell was the home of Chaucer's Reeve in The Reeve's Prologue and Tale in the Canterbury Tales from which the village magazine 'The Reeve's Tale' gets its name. He was "Osewald the Reeve", "Of Northfolk was this reeve of which I telle, Byside a toun men callen Baldeswelle".

There were four coaching inns and a toll gate on a turnpike. It was a busy stopping off point for the changing of horses and coaches, including the mail coach, for travellers including Walsingham pilgrims. As with many villages, all the original pubs closed, mostly in the 1920s, but the Bell Inn stayed until 1970 when it was closed and converted into flats.[5]

The buildings of the tollhouse and of the four original public houses are now residential dwellings within the conservation area of the village. The tollhouse was built in about 1823 and by the 21st century was semi-derelict but in 2002 work commenced to restore and extend it as a residential dwelling now known as Tollgate Cottage. Chaucer House is reputedly the oldest building in the village dating to the 14th or 15th century and up until 1920 was The Crown Inn (previously Bear Inn) after which it was Crown Farm (farmhouse) before being given its current name. The Ram Inn closed in 1929 and is now a private house 'The Willows'.[6]

Conservation area

The centre of the village has been preserved by the creation of a conservation area in 1975. Breckland District has some 50 Conservation areas in 45 of its 112 parishes.

Listed buildings

The following buildings are all Grade II Listed.

Bawdeswell Hall, Chaucer House (formerly 'The Crown Inn' and 'Crown Farm'), Church of All Saints, K6 Telephone Kiosk, The Gables (now known as 'The Old Workhouse Bar' and 'Church View') and The Willows (formerly 'The Ram Inn').[7]

Bawdeswell Hall

Bawdeswell Hall is a Dutch gabled building dating from 1683. Originally built by a Henry Eglington it is now owned by the Gurney family. Gurney's Bank was based in Norwich and connected through marriage to Barclays Bank of London with which it merged along with Backhouse's Bank of Darlington and several other Provincial banks in 1896 to form what is now Barclays Bank. Elizabeth Fry, the famous prison reformer, was born a Gurney and the portrait from which the image on the reverse of the £5 note is taken hangs on the main staircase in the hall.

Its Grade II listing says – House. 1683 according to gable tie-ends. Refurbished in 1861. Brick with plain tile and pantile roofs. Roughly E plan with west wing and porch of 1861. 2 storeys with attic. Facade of 9 bays of Victorian mullion and transom windows in some instances set into original openings. Single storey Victorian canted bays to projecting wings. Original platband with ovolo moulded lower edge. C19 dentil cornice and curvilinear gables – original to west gable of main block and east projecting wing. Several moulded chimney shafts in Tudor style. 2 original openings (one blocked) to east facade with skewback arches. Extensive later additions to rear. Initials CS on rainwater hoppers.

Chaucer House

Reputed to be the oldest surviving building in the village it was quite badly damaged in the plane crash which destroyed the Church in 1944. It's Grade II listing says – House. Late medieval and later. Eastern section rebuilt after 1945. Colour-washed brick and flint (rendered to road side) supporting a jettied timber framed first floor. Pantile roof. Section of jettied first floor elevated: believed to represent carriage entrance. 2 storeys with vaulted cellar to rear. Irregular fenestration with 2 3-light and 2 2-light modern mullion windows to ground floor street side and 3 3-light casements to upper floor. Upper floor close-studded to both sides. Irregular fenestration to rear with C18 and C19 casements and evidence for one C17 plain chamfered mullion window. 2 axial stacks and an C18 or C19 shallow pitched roof. Interior. Large plain chamfered spinal bridging joist with straight stops. Evidence for 2 opposing long windows. Moulded brick corbelling probably for a first floor fireplhce. Arched doorway with exposed medieval bricks.

The Willows

Another very old building in the village. Previously The Ram Inn it is now a private residence. It's Grade II listing says – House. Late medieval and C17 with modern refacing and additions. Former timber frame surviving to first floor of east side only. Replaced with brick. Pantile roof. C15 or C16 bay to street side with C17 addition to south. Later extensions to sides and rear. 2 storeys with former attic. 3 bays of modern tripartite sashes with glazing bars beneath skewback arches with cambered soffits. One axial and one gable-end stacks. Interior.C15 or C16 bays with large encased spiral bridging joist below. Original roof of closely spaced trusses with collars and former collar purlin and crown posts. C17 bay with ovolo moulded bridging joists, fireplace bressummer and tie beams. Fine oriel window projecting into landing on shaped brackets; of 5 lights with ovolo moulded mullions and transom. Flanked by 2 small 2-light ovolo-moulded mullion windows. Roof with collars, butt purlins and wind braces.

All Saints' Church

There has been a parish church on this site since circa 1100 but there are no records before 1313 when the current list of some 58 rectors begins. All Saints' is said to be the only Norfolk village church destroyed in World War II having been hit by an RAF Mosquito bomber from 608 Squadron at RAF Downham Market that crashed in the village in November 1944. Sadly, both the crew perished and there is a memorial plaque in the church made from aircraft parts by John Ames (PCC Secretary 1972–1980 and Churchwarden 1980–1994).[8]

The Church was replaced with one of Neo-Georgian design by architect J Fletcher Watson.[9]

Bawdeswell is one of six parishes in the FLEBBS benefice which includes Foxley, Lyng, Elsing, Bawdeswell, Bylaugh and Sparham parishes with one 'Priest in Charge', Revd Lynda Page, based in Lyng. The parish finances are ably supported by 'The Friends of Bawdeswell Church', who with various fund raising events and appeals, contribute towards the running costs of the church building and have paid for recent rewiring. A fund was set up in 2008 to raise funds for a replacement organ that has now been installed although fundraising continues to meet the full costs. The previous organ dating from about 1901, came from the Dower House Music Room at Shotesham, and was purchased second hand when the church was rebuilt.

Plane Crash 1944

Mosquito KB364 was one of twelve aircraft from 608 Squadron which set out from Bexwell, Norfolk, known then as RAF Downham Market, to attack Gelsenkirchen in Germany on 6 November 1944. The attack was a diversionary raid to draw German fighters away from two bigger raids elsewhere. (235 Lancaster bombers attacking the canal at Gravenhorst and 129 attacking Koblenz.) The attack commenced as planned, five minutes ahead of the two other raids at 19.25 hours. The Mosquitos dropped a mixture of red and green target indicators and high explosive bombs from 25,000 ft. A few searchlights and very light flak were reported by crews over Gelsenkirchen. Eleven of the Mosquitoes from 608 Squadron carried out successful missions and returned safely to Norfolk. Cloud and icing conditions were encountered. KB364 is thought to have become severely iced-up during the return descent through cloud over Norfolk, and it was considered likely at the time that the pilot lost control and was unable to maintain height. The aircraft hit some electricity cables in the Reepham Road and struck All Saints Church, setting it on fire. Parts of the aircraft carried on and hit Barwick House and Chaucer House opposite, causing considerable damage to both. Debris was spread over a wide area. The crash took place at 20.45hrs. The Dereham Fire Brigade and firefighters from the American airbase at Attlebridge (Weston Longville) attended and it took four hours to control the blaze. Both crew members died in the crash.

The Workhouse

The building was erected in about 1781 as a workhouse for the Bawdeswell Gilbert Union, serving the parishes of Bawdeswell, Billingford, Bintree, Bylaugh, Foxley, Lyng, and Sparham. The building was no longer required when the new Gressenhall workhouse was built in 1835 to serve all the parishes in the new Mitford and Launditch Union.[10] The building was then used as a school. It later became a bakery and shop with a blacksmiths shop in outbuildings and an early petrol pump outside, a pub and a private dwelling.


Crest on the bell tower of Bawdeswell School

A free school for twelve boys from Bawdeswell and eight from Foxley was endowed by John Leeds esq. in 1728[11]

From about 1828 there was a school in The Old Workhouse building with up to seventy pupils.[12] The current village primary school was built in 1875 for Bawdeswell, Bylaugh and Foxley at the sole expense of the Rev Henry Lombe of Bylaugh Hall, who was the Lord of the Manor. His family crest is on the front with the motto "PROPOSITI TENAX" (Firm of Purpose).[13] The school had a roll of 100 as of May 2016.[14] Arrangements are now in hand for the school to join the 'Synergy Multi Academy Trust' headed by Reepham School by spring 2017.[15]

Most secondary school children attend Reepham High School.[16]

Village development

There has been significant development in the village in the last few decades. The population had declined from 410 at the 1891 census to 331 in 1971 increasing to 574 in 1981, 652 in 1991, 766 in 2001 (all census figures) and to 828 in the 2011 census.[17] This increase was in no small way due to the development of the Hall Road and Two Fields Way area plus Paradise Road. Since 2000 the developments at Saxon Meadows, All Saint's Court and Chaucers Heath (Reeve's Close) plus other infill have added at least 24 new houses and the redevelopment of the sheltered housing accommodation at Folland Court completed in August 2009 has seen eight larger family houses built. There is considerable opposition within the village to any further large scale development, especially of sixty or so houses on the site near Two Fields Way proposed by the 'Gladedale Group', expressed at the Annual Parish Meeting in May 2007,[18] and the draft Breckland Local Development Framework (LDF) has not listed Bawdeswell for any significant development. Recently, planning permission has been granted for 2 more houses in Saxon Meadows.[19]

Parish Council Policy has been to resist attempts to make Bawdeswell an LSC (Local Service Centre) and to opt for minor development only within the existing development boundary and to accept two small sites to be included in a minor adjustment of the settlement boundary. Breckland Council's Core Strategy which does not list Bawdeswell as an LSC or for any significant development has been broadly accepted by The Planning Inspectorate in their report.[20] and was adopted on 17 December 2009.

The Breckland LDF Task & Finish Group examined ten site specific submissions for the village and rejected all of them.[21][22]

A development of some 36 houses on a site of Hall Road better known as 'The Two Fields Way site' was, despite numerous objections, approved by Breckland District Council on 25 July 2016 subject to a section 106 agreement.[23] Completion of this development will mean that the village will have virtually tripled in size since the 1961 census.

Consultation is in progress on the future development of Bawdeswell as part of the Breckland District Council Local Plan.[24]


The village pub, The Old Workhouse Bar

As well as the pub, Bawdeswell has a some shops, a reasonably sized garden centre and a garage.

Village hall

The village hall was moved from the centre of the village on the site of what is now five houses at Old Woods Green to the recreation ground north of the village in the early 1990s. A modern steel and timber structure was designed but was only one third completed with available funding and the actual hall was not built. It had a high pitched roof and the original plan was for there to be a badminton court in the main hall. Despite these adversities, the hall had reasonable facilities and was well used, but its size restricted it to one activity at a time.[25] A new larger hall was initially planned through Project Bawdeswell but this was taken over by the Village Hall Committee.[26] A new community hall with a larger hall and two further activity rooms, improved toilet, kitchen and storage facilities and an outside patio area, has been built with help from the Big Lottery Fund.[27]

Recreation ground and play area

The recreation ground includes a soccer pitch, a basketball/short tennis court and a play area which was rebuilt in 2010.

Bawdeswell Heath

Bawdeswell Heath is all that remains of a huge area of common land following the inclosure acts in the late 18th and early to mid 19th centuries. There are 37 acres (15 ha) in total that can be accessed from Dereham Road with parking available about 1/2-mile Southwest of the A1067 or by foot from 'The Layby' in Billingford Road about 1/3-mile West of the A1067. The Heath is administered by a board of trustees except for 2 acres (0.81 ha) administered by the Parish Council as trustees.

Adam's Pit

Adam's Pit is a small pond/wildlife sanctuary situated at the junction of Dereham Road and Paradise Lane immediately to the north of the A1067 road. It is held in trust by the Parish Council and has recently been transformed from a muddy overgrown pond to a well managed wildlife conservation area. Financial assistance has been received from Norfolk County Council who have also given advice. The origin of its name is unknown.


Bawdeswell is situated on the X29 bus route between Norwich and Fakenham with a regular daytime service. Norwich railway station is 15 12 miles (24.9 km) distant by road. There is a service to and from London and frequent trains to Cambridge, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, Cromer and Sheringham plus a cross country service to Liverpool. Norwich International Airport is 13 miles (21 km) by road from Bawdeswell and can be reached in about 25 minutes by car. A community car scheme for transport to medical appointments is run by the Parish Council with financial assistance from Breckland Council.


The parish council consists of seven councillors and a parish clerk. The council has ten meetings each year, normally on the 1st Monday of each month at 7.45 pm currently in the village hall meeting room. There are no meetings in January or August and the May meeting which includes the Annual Parish Council Meeting is usually on the 2nd Monday of the month. The Annual Parish Meeting is held on a separate day.[28]

The election for the seven parish councillors due to be held on Thursday 7 May 2015, was uncontested as there were only five nominees and the Returning Officer declared that these five were elected. The remaining two positions have been filled by co-option.

Westminster – The village is part of the Mid Norfolk Parliament constituency,the Member of Parliament being George Freeman (politician) (Conservative). An election was held on 7 May 2015

Norfolk County Council – Bawdeswell is in the Elmham and Mattishall Division and the councillor is Bill Borrett (Conservative).[29] The last election was held on 2 May 2013 and elections are held every four years.

Breckland District Council – Bawdeswell was until May 2015 part of Eynsford ward but following the 2015 changes to electoral boundaries is now in a new 'Upper Wensum' ward with 2 councillors – Gordon Bambridge (Conservative) and Bill Borret (Conservative) elected. The last election was held on 7 May 2015 and elections are held every four years.


  1. Census population and household counts for unparished urban areas and all parishes. Office for National Statistics & Norfolk County Council (2001). Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  2. 1 2 Francis Blomefield. "Eynford Hundred: Baldeshwell". An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: volume 8. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  3. Summary of catalogued finds at Norfolk County Council: Heritage
  4. "Parish Summary: Bawdeswell". Norfolk Heritage Explorer. 2007–16. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  6. British Listed Buildings (non-official website) Retrieved 7 May 2011
  7. Friends of Bawdeswell Church
  8. Baudeswell Church
  9. Bristow, Mike (2010). "Bawdeswell Gilbert Union". Norfolk Poor Law before 1834. GENUKI. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  10. .Francis White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory, of Norfolk 1854, p. 434.
  11. The Workhouse
  12. Kelly's Directory for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk, 1883, pp. 241–242
  13. [h]
  14. Norfolk County Council
  15. (
  16. Bawdeswell Parish Council Minutes Retrieved 26 November 2010
  17. (
  18. Planning Inspectorate report Retrieved 26 November 2010
  19. Breckland Council document, pages 31, 37 & 38 and minutes of the group for 25 November 2009 Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 26 November 2010
  20. Breckland Council document, pages 3 & 4 Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 26 November 2010
  21. Village hall website Retrieved 24 July 2015
  22. Village hall minutes Retrieved 24 July 2015
  23. Big Lottery Fund Retrieved 8 June 2015
  24. Bawdeswell Parish Council Website Retrieved 4 December 2010
  25. Norfolk County Council website Retrieved 4 December 2010

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