Foxley is a very ancient village mentioned in the Domesday Book.

The name is from old english fox-leah. Leah being a clearing in or around a wood.

There is an impressive moated site of a former Manor House, a Medieval church and extensive natural woodland once a hunting ground of kings.

Today the village is cut in two by the modern highway between Norwich and Fakenham.

Two flourishing industries exist here. A plant breeding company called Floranova and  Davis Egg distributors.

There are a group of holiday homes known as Moor Farm Stable Cottages and a man-made fishing lake.


Foxley Wood


April and May is the time to see the great swathes of Bluebell for which Foxley Wood is famous. Painters and photographers have captured it, but you really need to see it with your eyes to enjoy the scale of it.

Clearly visible from space, this is the largest remaining block of ancient woodland in Norfolk.

The Doomesday Book noted that it was a large enough area for 300 swine. That is said to be a way of measuring it. It is quite possible it was a hunting ground of kings.

In the 20th century the demand for traditional coppiced wood and bark declined and the area became neglected. In the 1960’s the Forestry Commission took over and replaced large areas with conifers for pit props and the paper industry.

The continuous shade provided by the commercially grown conifers inhibited the wealth of ground flora and fauna that existed there – much of it quite rare. Then the Forestry Commission let the shooting rights and a diligent gamekeeper kept the public out – sometimes at gunpoint! Happily the Norfolk Naturalists Trust was able to purchase the wood in 1988 and not only opened this delightful area to the public but have done great work in felling the conifers and returning the vast majority of the forest to its original state, re-establishing coppicing management.

The wood was cut over the centuries to provide a continuous, renewable source of rods, poles, brushwood and timber. In 1784 there is an entry in the accounts of the Evans-Loombe estates: “Received of Thomas Bacon on 29th December for barke out of Foxley Park £4-10s”. 

This is the practise of cutting trees close to the ground in order to encourage new shoots which spring up around the stumps and are harvested. The coppice in Foxley is mainly hazel and ash with some field maple, sallow and small-leave lime. In the past it has been used for fuel, wattle fences, thatching and laths for building. Nowadays twelve foot lenghts are bundled together as faggots and used to create river and sea defences.

One of the major features of Foxley Wood is the series of wide tracks, known as rides, that criss-cross the Wood. These were developed to allow easy removal of timber but now support a tremendous variety of flowers including various St John’s wort, orchids, stitchworts and bugle. Some of the rides are dominated by drooping orange-pink flowers of water avens.

And what of the birdlife and animals? Well as you can imagine there is a wealth of this too. Sparrowhawks and tawny owls breed in good numbers and all three species of woodpecker are present. Young coppice supports garden warbler, black cap and whitethroat. Good numbers of bank vole and wood mouse keep the resident weasels, stoats and foxes well supplied. Roe, red and muntjac deer visit the wood.  Evidence of wild boar has been found and at least one eye-witness report of a sighting in the vicinity.

Foxley Wood is a great treasure house of nature and we are very lucky to have it on our doorstep – accessible for us to enjoy. It is open from 10am – 5pm every day except Thursdays. No charge is made. SORRY NO DOGS.

Much of the above is taken from the leaflet Foxley Wood published by

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust,
Bewick House
22 Thorpe Road

Telephone 01603 625540

Fax 01603 598300



Moated Sites

From the Reeve’s Tale – June 1998

The Moats in Foxley are the site of a Manor House and farmstead dating back to somewhere between 1100 and 1500.

The Norfolk Heritage Explorer says:  “In 1305 during the 14th century the manor of Bigod is recorded in documents. The site of this large manor may have been identified in Foxley. A large rectangular medieval moat can be seen on aerial photographs taken of the parish and it has been suggested to be the site of Bigod’s manor.”

Foxley Moat

Moats were very common during that period. They were dug for a variety of reasons.

Defence was one. Either defence from raiders or from foxes and wolves attacking livestock.

Another was to make a firebreak and water supply – the buildings were usually made of wood and close to woodland.

 A large open fire would burn in the main hall and easily set the house on fire.

Drainage was another good reason, if the land got waterlogged, and another – for keeping fish in to eat.

At a  later  date  moats  were dug  in imitation of the great castle moats just to enhance social standing and to show off.  The one at Oxborough Hall  in  West Norfolk is a fine example of this.

Foxley Manor is recorded as being granted by Henry II (1154 – 89) to Sir William de Munchensey. Bawdeswell and Sparham were part of the Manor.

By 1700 it was in the hands of the Lombe family, whose descendants today live in Marlingford Hall.

At the time of writing the moated site is owned by a farming company called Albanwise Limited, based at Hill Farm, Barton Bendish in West Norfolk .

The writer does not know when the old Manor House disappeared.


St Thomas Church Foxley

Foxley Church


The lower part of the Nave walls date from the late Saxon or early Norman times; and in evidence can be seen the typical coursed flint work of that period up to the sills of the windows on the South side; also rough quoins of 11th/12th century work. In the perpendicular period the Nave windows were much enlarged and the buttress added.

The Tower was built about 1380 in the style of the Decorated period, and contains a fine ring of 6 bells, two of which are in need of repair. There are beautiful square cut white flints on the parapet, with much decoration.

The Chancel was largely rebuilt about 1300, and the priest’s door is typical of this period: inside can be found the initials of Louis Norgate the then Rector, who restored it in 1848.

The Porch was added sometime between 1480 and 1510, and was intended for secular  use; it was poorly  built, typical of the falling standard of that age. Its windows were blocked in the 17th or 18th Century. A niche above the entrance was presumably meant for a statue of St Thomas.

The inner door is a beauty, somewhere about 680 years old: its handmade key, no doubt fashioned by a local smith, is enormous, fortunately far too big to mislay!


The interior

The pews here illustrate the social gradations of a former age, with six box pews for the farmers and their families at the front, dated about 1710, and benches behind with poppy heads, drilled to carry pricket lights. These date from about 1610.

There are Maid’s seats and remains of others against the wall for the maidservants of the small farmers or tradesmen. Such examples are rare.

There is a Regency Gallery which was added by local craftsmen to accommodate the rising population of the village.

The Reading Desk dates from the time of Elizabeth 1 (1558-1603) and adjacent to it is  the pulpit which dates from Queen Anne (1702-1710), contemporary with the box pews.  The Parish Clerk used to sit in the pew next to the Reading Desk, and the desk is in its original state.

Behind the pulpit have been found traces of an early 15th Century Chantry Chapel of St Thomas a Becket. Here also is the former entrance to a Rood loft, filled in to strengthen the chancel arch.

There are a few remaining traces of the 15th Century flooring in the nave in front of the reading desk and a few pamments in the SE corner of the nave.

The Font is 15th Century and has on its rim the mark of hasps which kept holy water locked in pre reformation days.

The Communion Rails with their pillars so close together must date from the time of Charles I, when Archbishop Laud decreed that dogs must be kept out of the Sanctuary!

The Chancel is now used for regular worship by the congregation each Sunday.

The Chancel Screen was sawn off in Edward VI ‘s reign, and then at Queen Elizabeth’s command was restored in 1558 by joining it with iron straps. The loft and rood had gone.

The above text is copied directly from the leaflet  “St Thomas Church, Foxley – A SHORT GUIDE” to be found in the church, and the original material is acknowledged as being the work of Richard Butler-Stoney.


The Church bells restored in the year 2013

The bells are back in the tower and named after the 6 Saints of St Thomas’ Church.

We had a very pleasant blessing service led by David Head, which many from the local community attended. It was also pleasing to see the primary school children from Bawdeswell there who had taken up hand bell ringing. They put the name labels on the 6 bells. The bell names are Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory, Jerome, Thomas the Apostle, and Thomas a Beckett, the martyr. We managed to get 5 bells hoisted up in the tower that afternoon. It took three weeks of hard labour to do the rest of the work. Today the bells are rung by visiting bell ringers from across the county – the tenor having been silent since 1952 the others pretty well since 1984.


Foxley Plane Crash



The always stressful and often tragic events and circumstances which surrounded the 392 Group combat operations on a daily basis during the Second World War, saw many individual fatalities in the planes of men coming home to base with their crews; still others were lost during combat operational maneuvering enroute, practice training missions or in accidents while performing aircraft flight tests – all while still flying within friendly English air space and not over enemy held areas.

This day would see a tragic airborne accident befall crews of the Group which occurred on a local practice mission and involved a crew from the 579th and 576th Squadrons.

Little information is available from all records to this research effort on the exact circumstances surrounding the mid-air collision of the two aircraft. Through a detailed examination of different source materials, including crew loading lists before and after this mishap as well as cemetery burial listings for the 392nd, the following accounting of crew member fatalities was judged conclusively to be the most accurate and correct assessment regarding these two crew losses on this date. Deaths involved were eleven crewmen, five on the 576th crew and six on the 579th’s, as tabulated below.

  1. 1/LT Reese, R.L. (P) 576th KILD
  2. 2/LT Lannotta, J.S. (CP) 576th KILD
  3. F/O Minzenberg, W.O. (N) 576th KILD
  4. S/S Thornton, M. (MNI) (G) 576th KILD
  5. S/S Patzmann, R.O.E. (G) 576th KILD

This aircrew was flying B-24H Model #41-28731, Call Letter “V”, no nickname of record, which ship had completed seven combat missions up to this local practice sortie. The plane suffered a mid-air collision with the 579th aircraft while returning from a Group practice mission around 11.30 hours. Four crew members managed to safely bail out of this stricken Liberator (and would crew up to fly again later on other 392nd crews): 2/Lt. J.E. Walters; Sgt. W.R. Blankham; Sgt. E. (NMI) Ellis; and Sgt. D.H. Schumaker. On burial information, Lt. Joseph S. Iannotta is interred at CAMBRIDGE, England in Grave G-7-2 and was awarded an Air Medal but no Purple Heart is indicated. The interments of the other deceased members is not known from the records. Lt. lannotta’s home State was New York.

  1. 2/LT Fidel, P.M. (P) 579th KILD
  2. 2/LT Fitzgerald, RM. (CP) 579th KILD
  3. 2/LT Levine, G.S. (N) 579th KILD
  4. S/S Rasmussen, M.D. (G) 579th KILD
  5. S/S Causey, W.W. (G) 579th KILD
  6. SGT McCormick, S.G. (G) 579th KILD

Lt. Fidel’s crew was flying B-24H Model #42-95092, Call Letter “Bar T” with no nickname of record. This plane had completed a total of four combat missions up to this accident. After the mid-air collision with the Reese aircraft, it crashed and burned near the village of Foxley, Norfolk.  Three crewmen survived this mishap and bailed out safely: 2/Lt. Q.S. Fletcher, Sgt. S.J. Placht, and Sgt. RE. Zollinger. Two of the fatalities are buried in the U.S National (overseas) Cemetery at CAMBRIDGE, England: Lt Paul M. Fidel in Grave F-3-26 and Sgt. Warren W. Causey in Grave C-2-52. Lt. Fidel’s awards were one Air Medal, but no Purple Heart citation is noted and Sgt. Causey’s citation also is an Air Medal with no indication of a Purple Heart award. Lt. Fidel had a home State of record of California while Sgt. Causey’s was Indiana.

More B24 records can be found at

A note from the Editor
Eyewitnesses from Foxley today remember a crashing plane to the West of the village just 50yds north of the sharp bend in Mill Lane, and aircraft instruments and ammunition have been dug up to the east near the edge of Foxley Wood.  Did the aircraft perhaps collide over the woods and come down to earth on both sides of the village?

The Surveyor’s Land

Foxley Map

In a previous issue of the Reeve’s Tale the story of Bawdeswell Heath was related, its origin dating back to the Land Enclosure Acts at the beginning of the 19th century. Likewise the Parish of Foxley was allocated a parcel of land for the use of the people.

John Fletcher has contributed this account of:

We have a number of documents dating back to 1735 relating to our home, and we noted references in some of them relating to “Surveyor’s land”. The references were in the awards of land allocated under the “Act for Inclosing Lands within the Parish of Foxley, in the County of Norfolk”, dated September 22nd 1815. There is a paragraph entitled “Allotments to the Surveyors of the Highways”. This land was that now known as the “Surveyor’s Land” at the end of the Street, Foxley where Themelthorpe Road starts.

The Commissioners appointed by the Act of Parliament were named

John Dugmore, William Unthank and William Withers, the Younger.

They organised the measurement and recording of the land claimed by various landowners, copyholders, freeholders and tenants.

They also defined public roads, private roads, boundaries, public footpaths, the public drains, fences, ditches and hedges. The land allocated to the “Surveyors of the Highways” was two acres. It was bounded by land allotted to Charles Leaman to the North; Sir John Lombe to the East and South (in part) and the Themelthorpe Road to the West.

It was (quote) “set out as and for public Clay and Sand Pits and to the intent that the same allotments shall forever hereafter be used by the owners and occupiers of lands and estates within the said Parish Of Foxley, for the time being and forever, in reasonable and proper manner, for the repair of houses, outbuildings, fence walls and barn floors, in the said Parish”.

The concept of the use of this land has obviously changed since 1815.

The Parish Council were custodians on behalf of the village. Part of it was sold off to Anglian Water for the sewerage pumping station in the 1980’s and the remainder in the year 2000 to raise  funds for the village. It has now been cleared and two fishing lakes have been excavated as part of the facilities for the Moor Farm holiday cottages.
J. F.