Edingthorpe was added to the civil parish of Bacton under the County of Norfolk Review Order, 1935. The village is thought to date back to the 11th century. Its name possibly comes from ‘Eadhelm’s thorpe’, where ‘Eadhelm’ was a female Anglo-Saxon name and ‘thorpe’ meaning a village or outlying settlement.
The parish of Edingthorpe is elongated in shape and is bordered by Bacton in the north, Witton to the south-east, North Walsham to the south-west and Paston to the north-east. It is also quite spread out, with three distinct areas – the village around Rectory Road and Church Lane, Edingthorpe Green at The Street and The Green, and part of Bacton Road and Mill Road, which extends towards Bacton Woods.
The dispersed nature of the community has often been commented upon. In 1940 Arthur Mee stated in ‘The King’s England’ that ‘the cottages are scattered about its lanes and the church is on a lonely hill’. Although there has been some limited development since, it still remains quiet and spread out. There is no longer a village shop, which was once on the corner of Rectory Road and Church Lane, or a post office; the surrounding countryside is mainly composed of arable fields intersected by hedgerows and small areas of woodland.
Although not that well known, (some residents of North Walsham haven’t even heard of it!) Edingthorpe is significant in a number of ways. Firstly, the lovely thatched church of St Peter and St Paul, which sits on a rise looking over the village, has important wall paintings that date to the 14th century. It is one of the Norfolk’s ‘round tower’ churches, although it has an unusual octagonal belfry. The lych gate leading into the churchyard is also special, built to commemorate a rector’s son who died in the Great War.
The war poet Siegfried Sassoon used to spend his summer holidays in Edingthorpe as a child, staying at The Old Rectory. In his memoires he reflects on his time spent there, and talks about the church and the village pond. Another author, William Riviere, set his novel ‘Echoes of War’ in the area.
Edingthorpe also had a role in the introduction of sugar beet into the UK. A Dutch company realised that the local soil and climate were suitable and set up the first processing factory in Cantley in 1912. A supervisor was sent over from Holland to oversee the factory and to buy up farms suitable for growing the crop. One was in the neighbouring village of Paston, which he then managed on behalf of the company.
In the mid-1920s, his nephew Antonius de Feyter came to Paston for a holiday, and liking the area, asked his uncle to find him a farm to rent. Green Farm in Edingthorpe was secured; he started farming in 1929 and in 1930 married a local girl from Paston. The farm was subsequently purchased and the de Feyter family still farm there today.
The Grade 1 listed, thatched church of All Saints dates from late Saxon or early Norman times. It north of Edingthorpe village and stands on a low hill surrounded by trees. Its construction is of flint and brick with freestone dressing. The earliest parts of the church are the north and west walls of the nave, which are probably late Saxon or early Norman in date. The west tower is 12th or 13th century, topped with an unusual 14th century octagonal belfry. The chancel and most of the remainder of the church is 14th century with later alterations. The nave roof is thatched, while the chancel is pantiled.
On entering the church through the medieval south door there is a 14th century decorated octagonal font and hanging behind it, the remains of the 12th century north door, which was replaced in 2000.
Of particular note are the paintings on the north wall dating from the 14th century. They show St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child on his left arm and his flowering staff in his right. Fish are swimming around his legs to indicate that he is wading through water. The Christ Child sports a halo and an orb of the world, and is giving a gesture of blessing. Further on is the remains of a tree with scenes on its branches depicting the Seven Works of Mercy, and a niche with a red and black floral surround. There may be yet more paintings under the plaster.
The rood screen, which separates the body of the church from the chancel, also dates to the 14th century, and is one of the earliest surviving in Norfolk. The six panels show figures of saints, largely painted in red and green, and on top are arches with black and white spiral decorations with two tracery wheels in the centre. In the chancel is a striking modern sculpture of the Virgin Mary fronted by the Christ Child with outstretched arms. This was made by pupils at North Walsham High School.
The church has remained largely unchanged, a fact noted with approval by the Great War poet Siegfried Sassoon, who spent childhood holidays in Edingthorpe, and visited again in the 1930s. Behind the church there is a splendid view towards Knapton, Paston and the Bacton Gas terminal. The peaceful churchyard is full of wild daffodils in spring.
The Lych Gate – a Commonwealth War Memorial
The lych gate is very special, being classed as a Commonwealth War Grave. It commemorates Lance Corporal Bernard John Muriel who died in the Great War. He was the son of Harvey Muriel the Rector of Edingthorpe from 1903-1922, who died in 1924 and is buried in the churchyard. His son Lance Corporal Muriel served with the 1st battalion (9th foot) Royal Norfolk Regiment from 1904, went to France in August 1914 and took part in the retreat from Mons, the battles of Le Cateau, Marne and Aisne, and the first battle of Ypres. After being invalided home, he rejoined his regiment and in April 1915 was gassed at Hill 60. On his recovery he was transferred to the 1st battalion Essex Regiment, and was drowned in August 1915 when his transport ship HMT Royal Edward was sunk by an enemy submarine on its way to Gallipoli. Others lost in WW1 are commemorated on the reverse side of the gate as well as in the chancel, along with those in WW2. A remembrance service is still held at the gate each November.