Great Snoring's Past

Gt Snoring Old Sign

Great Snoring is a rural village in North Norfolk by the River Stiffkey, in the East of England, UK.

Its population in the 2001 census was 168, a dramatic decrease since 1841 when it was 556 (this included 81 people in the Walsingham Union Workhouse).

At the centre of the village is the 13th century Church of St. Mary and the old Rectory. There is a rather narrow main street with houses built of brick and flint. Behind the Church stands The Manor House which was built in about 1490, and which is now a hotel, accommodating up to 16 guests.

The nearest inn and shop are in the larger village of Little Snoring which is about two miles away.

spotSEE: Personal stories of Great Snoring and its people, including many mentioned on this website (book)

Law, Government & Politics

Great Snoring is in the North Greenhoe hundred. In the 19th Century Court hearings were held in Fakenham and twice a year in Little Walsingham. The parish is in the deanary of Walsingham and the archdeaconary and diocese of Norwich.

From 1832 to 1868 Great Snoring was in the constituency of West Norfolk. From 1868, Great Snoring was in the constituency of North Norfolk.

In the 1890s the Rural Sanitary Authority and School Attendance Committee for the Walsingham Union met at the work house in Great Snoring. Joseph Bushell, a machine maker, in the village sat on the School Attendance Committee.

1870-72 - John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Great Snoring:

SNORING (Great), a parish in Walsingham district, Norfolk; 2 miles SSE of Walsingham r. station. It has a post-office under Fakenham. Acres, 1,645. Real property, £3,738. Pop. in 1861, 594; of whom 130 were in Walsingham workhouse. Houses, 100. The manor belongs to J. Dugmore, Esq. The living is a rectory, united with Thursford, in the diocese of Norwich. Value, £584.* Patron, St. John's College, Cambridge. The church is old but good, and has a fine tower. There are a national school, and charities £19.

Origins & History


Neolithic, Roman and Saxon remains have been found around the village. The Neolithic,(4000BC-2351BC), remains include flint axeheads, a stone polisher and worked flints. Roman, (43AD-409AD), remains include pottery, building fragments, tiles, coins, part of a millstone, a copper mount in the form of a dolphin, a ring, a copper snake's head bracelet, pins and blue beads. The locations of some Roman buildings and a Roman ditch have been identified. A few Saxon, (410-1065), items have been found including pottery, a brooch and a strap fitting but no remains of Saxon buildings or settlement have yet been found.

Details and locations of all these finds can be found on the website for the Great Snoring Archaeological Finds and on the website of the Norfolk Museums & Archaeological Service. Many of the finds are located at the Norwich Castle Study Centre.


1086 - Great Snoring is recorded in the Domesday Book as Snaringa. At that time it is listed as having "Households: 1 villager. 22 smallholders. 8 slaves." (The village is referred to as Snoryng Magna in some records until the 1500s. In the 1450s there is reference to the village as Mekyl-snoryng). The Domesday book also calls the village by the Saxon name Snarringes, supposedly named after an inhabitant called Snear. But see other reasons here. The book includes mention of a water mill.

The Manor

The Manor House / Old Rectory was built by Shelton family. Research into the history of the Rectory is available in the ARTHUR BENSLY WHITTINGHAM collection in the Norfolk Record Office. There is also a more detailed account with photos here.


Open fields and common land were enclosed/inclosed into larger, single ownership fields from the early medieval period in England. The number of enclosures grew under the Tudors, (1485-1603), despite local opposition such as Kett's Rebellion in Norfolk. The majority of enclosures took place between 1750 and 1860. The 1801 Inclosure (Consolidation) Act provided for local acts to be passed to enclose land. Following the 1845 General Inclosure Act commissioners could enclose local land without reference to parliament. Enclosure Maps were produced to document the enclosures.
  • 1811 A local act was passed in parliament to enclose land in Great Snoring. A map detailing fields held by each estate pre and post the inclosure act is available.
  • 1813 Allotment to trustees of poor of Hindringham under Great Snoring Inclosure Award
  • 1858 Order of Exchange of Lands between Rev Warner and Trustees of Poor of Hindringham

1200 - St Mary's Church

The church was part of a joint living with the neighbouring village of Thursford under the patronage of St John's College, Cambridge. In 1926 the parish was split from Thursford and merged with Little Snoring. The church underwent restoration work in 1898 and 1959.

See the St. Mary Church page with photos, a description and a list of ministers

There is also a Weslyan Chapel (1875-1892) and a Primitive Methodist Chapel (1874-1973). The Methodist chapel was part of the Fakenham and Wells Methodist Circuit. Records of the chapel are held within the Norfolk Records Office.

1611 - Sir Ralph Shelton, Lord of the manor, sold Great Snoring to Lord Chief Justice Richardson. Sir Ralph is reported to have said "I can sleep without Snoring".


1811-1859 National School

Kelly's directory of 1854 refers to a National School in Great Snoring and the earlier directory of 1845, whilst not mentioning the school, notes Benjamin Bray as schoolmaster in the village. National Schools were founded by members of the Church of England who formed the National Society after 1811 to provide the children of the poor with an Anglican education.

Some sources claim that National Schools were formed in reaction to British Schools that provided a non-conformist education. (Records of individual schools are held in the National Archives and may include further records on Great Snoring).

Benjamin Bray was born in Great Snoring and was the son of William Bray, a farmer. Born in 1828, Benjmin would have been just 17 when teaching in Great Snoring. By 1851, he had moved to King's Lyn where he remained as a teacher at the National School in St Margaret's parish until 1881.

1859 - Great Snoring School (See Schools Page)

Schools Page

Great Snoring School was a mixed school built in 1859 for 100 pupils. Boys from the workhouse went to the school, whilst the girls went to Thursford. (Kellys 1892/6) The teachers at the school were:

  • 1851 - Christopher Mallett born in Blakeney, Norfolk in 1829 and was the son of a tailor. In 1851, Christopher lodged with Benjamin Bray's family in Great Snoring and in 1853 Christopher married Benjamin's sister Catherine Leeder Bray who later served as School Mistress. Christopher is buried in the village churchyard with a splendid gravestone. The Mallet's cottage on the High Street served as the Post Office.
  • 1892 - Henry Green born in March, Cambridgeshire.


Before 1849

By 1839 coach service to London, (the Hero), left from the Black Lion pub in Walsingham every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning at 6.30 am. The service started in Wells and went via Fakenham, Newmarket and Cambridge. The return coach on Monday, Wednesday and Friday called at the Black Lion, Walsingham at 9pm. The coach journey from north Norfolk to London took over 12 hours.

The Railway

After 1849, the people of the village had access around the coast to Lowestoft, Norwich, King's Lyn, Peterborough, local lines in south Lincolnshire and the main East Coast line to Edinburgh, via stations just a few miles walk away at Fakenham West (1849 - 1959) and also Fakenham East until 1960 and Walsingham. By the 1840s trains from Norwich to London took just 4 hours.


1854 - Francis White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Norfolk describes the village as having:

  • 99 houses, with a total population of 656
  • John Dugmore, Esq as lord of the manor
  • The Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary with a "fine tower" (formerly a spire), containing curious old brasses of the Skelton family
  • The rectory house, built by the Skelton family, described as a "fine specimen of ornamental brick work", valued at £24 and occupied by Rev. D. H. Lee Warner
  • Walsingham Union House, a workhouse with 164 staff and occupants

Population Movement and Relocation

Due to the collapse of the agricultural industry, and other factors, many of Snoring's agricultural workers were actively recruited to work in the up-and-coming factories of the North, and in London. These maps below list the families who moved, and where they went.

Google map and names: Great Snoring - Migration 1871

View Great Snoring - Migration 1871 in a larger map

Google Maps of Migrating workers from Gt Snoring - Migration 1861

View Great Snoring - Migration 1861 in a larger map

1914-1918 - the Great Snoring War Memorial lists 22 men who died in the first world war.

Population of Great Snoring
Year 1841 1854 1861 1871 1891 1911 1921 2001
Population 556 656 594 598 543 484 413 168

The Walsingham Union Workhouse

On 12th April 1836 Walsingham Poor Law Union was formed, and a new Walsingham Union workhouse was built at Great Snoring in the same year to accommodate up to 250 inmates. The architect was William Thorold, and he based it on Sampson Kempthorne's model cruciform plan published by the Poor Law Commissioners in 1835. Four accommodation wings were joined to a central supervisory area, allowing segregation of different categories of inmate. Areas between the wings were used as exercise space. Workshops and service buildings around the edge gave the overall site an octagonal shape. To the east of the site a chapel was built.

Since the closure of the workhouse, the buildings have had various uses: as a smallpox hospital in the 1930s; by the Civil Defence in the 1950s; and most recently, plans to convert the building into 35 flats were approved in 1961. But no conversion was carried out and the buildings have now been demolished.

Further Information


  1. Great Snoring Norfolk, village information, holidays, cottages, bed and breakfast, pubs and businesses.
  2. William White's History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk 1845. GENUKI
  3. Great Snoring Manor House. Prestige Hotels.
  4. Ernie Rusdale (2004). Roll of Honour - Norfolk - Great Snoring.

Image Gallery

Find your ancestors in Norfolk Parish Registers and Records for Norfolk Ancestors and Genealogy for Norfolk The Family Trees of Norfolk Church Records of Gt & Lt Snoring Norfolk Great Snoring Memorial Inscriptions


The Snoring Villages: a website for those researching their family trees, and for anybody curious about the history and whereabouts of these two small villages in Norfolk, UK.

Contact The Snorings

I no longer live in Norfolk. I cannot visit graves, make local enquiries or provide contacts for you. Please be aware that I have no information other than that on this website..

Address: Derbyshire, England
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E-mail: tricia (at)