An Introduction to Litcham
Litcham is in the Launditch hundred of the Breckland district of Norfolk, England. It is almost equidistant from three major market towns; East Dereham, Fakenham and Swaffam. In 1831 it’s population reached 771, more than a third of these were agricultural workers, today it has fallen to 618 (according to the Census of 2017).
It is mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘A Market Town in the centre of Norfolk’ under the names Licham, Lecham or Leccham. Just three of twenty known spellings.
In Elizabethan times the village was the centre of the local tanning industry. The Collinson and Hallcott families made considerable fortunes and became country squires. The Hallcott’s were local benefactors, building almshouses and paying for a church bell. Mathew Hallcott is shown on the village sign with his tanning equipment.
Edward I granted Litcham the right to hold a weekly market, but it did not thrive and had ceased by 1836. However it has left it’s mark on the layout of Litcham and is probably the reason why Church Street widens out so dramatically just below All Saints Church.
The village sits astride a major crossroads of five country lanes, the most important of which is the B1145 which stretches between King’s Lynn and Mundesley on the east coast and follows much of the old King’s Lynn – Norwich – Great Yarmouth stagecoach route.
Horses would have been changed at the Bull Inn, which also served as the local law court until the late 18th century. The Bull last remaining public house out of six recorded in 1883. Parts of the Bull date back to 14th century but most of what you see today is 17th Century.
On the green in front of the Bull there once stood a row of old cottages and a chapel which were demolished in 1968. As you leave the village on the B1145 towards Mileham you pass ‘Fourways’ a toll-house until 1912 and now the Village Museum and home of Litcham Historical Society. The Museum open most Sundays during the summer months.
In 1977 it was designated a Conservation Village and boast fourteen Grade II Listed Buildings plus the Grade I All Saint’s Church and the Priory at the bottom of Church Street that dates back to the 12th century.
Today the village has all the necessary amenities, a Post Office and General Store, a Butcher and a Health Centre. There is an ‘All-through School which provides both Primary and Secondary Education and a Children’s Centre providing pre-school education for Litcham and surrounding villages.
All Saints Church with its square tower was was largely rebuilt in the early 15th century. The unusual red and green painted rood screen was completed in 1536 and shows twenty-two painted images of saints. There is also a Methodist Chapel, built in 1909, on Front Street.
Litcham Common is situated the south of the village and is a managed Nature Reserve consisting of 28 hectares of lowland heath and mixed woodlands. In 2008 four Dartmoor ponies were as part of a scheme to re-introduce grazing and help prevent the growth of encroaching scrub. A bronze age burial mound has been discovered on the common and Roman settlements and roads have been found just outside the village. An extensive collection of coinage and artefacts is housed in the local museum.
The Nar Valley Way, a 35 mile long distance footpath from East Dereham to Kings Lynn run through the east of the village and across the common. It offers a great variety of scenery along the country lanes and tracks, and you are never far from the river. The path follows farm tracks through the Lexham Estate, by kind permission of the landowner, and at each end you pass through commons managed as Nature Reserves at Litcham and Castle Acre.
Population 592 according to 2001 Census, Electors 471 (Electoral Register December 2005)
Area of Parish 789 hectares about 3 square miles.
OS Map reference: TF8864917749 (52º43’N/0º.47’E) : Litcham on Google Maps
A book on Litcham, Mileham and Lexham is available from Halsgrove Publishing.