This section created with thanks to a friend of the late Jim Bratton who returned his  archive of notes, maps and photos to Mulbarton.

When and where did the settlement now called Mulbarton begin? Good question! But the answer is elusive and probably impossible to find. But we have clues....

The Domesday Book

William the Conqueror wanted to know the full extent of his new kingdom, who owned the land and who could be taxed, so he commissioned what came to be called the Domesday Survey of 1086. Norfolk is recorded in the Little Domesday Book, where we find entries for MOLKEBARTUNA - written in Latin.

This translates: Hundred of Humbleyard. Molkeb[ar]tuna is held by Richard, which Ordinc, a theign, held in the time of King Edward. [It contains] 2 plough-lands. Then and later [there were] 10 villains, now [there are] 7; then [there were] 7 bordars, now [there are] 16; then [there were] 2 serfs, now 1. Then as now 2 ploughs on the demesne and 2 ploughs belonging to the men; 10 acres of meadow; woodland for 16 pigs. And sokemen [with] 60 acres. Then as now [they have] one and a half ploughs. [Richard also] holds land in Carleton and Swardestone - in total 56 acres.] Then and later [Mulbarton] was worth 60 shillings, now 100. And the freemen are worth 6 shillings. It is 6 furlongs in length and 5 in breadth, and [renders] 6 pence of geld. [There is] 1 church [with] 15 acres and it is worth 2 shillings. In Molkeb[ar]tuna he also holds 1 freeman under Stigand by commendation only [with] 30 acres. Then [he had] 2 ploughs and 1 acre of meadow. Then as now he is worth 20 shillings.

There is another entry under the land of Roger Bigot, one of the 'Great Servants' of King William who was made Earl of Norfolk, Constable of Norwich Castle, and held 187 manors. This entry includes details about a freewoman and her son, 4 small-holders and others living in Mulbarton. In total, the entries list 6 smallholders, 7 villeins, 16 bordars, 1 serf, 3 freemen plus further freemen and an unknown number of sokemen, and 1 freewoman and her family - at least 40 people. Double that number, assuming as many women as men; double again, assuming at least as many children as adults, to give a population of at least 160, and probably nearer 200, living in an established village with its own church.

What's in a Name?

'Molkebartuna', elsewhere 'Molkebarstuna', in the Domesday Book - today Mulbarton - gives further clues about the village. The '-ton' or '-tone' ending is an Anglo-Saxon place-name meaning an 'enclosure' or 'farmstead'. 'Bar-ton' means 'an outlying farm' where barley or other corn was grown. The 18th century historian Francis Blomefield translated the 'Molke' part as 'Muche' or Great Barton. But later historians think 'Molke' is more likely to refer to milk, indicating an outlying dairy farm. Certainly the Domesday entry suggests pasture and meadow were prominent. But outlying from where? Presumably there were a number of Saxon settlements in the area - Carle-ton; Swardes-ton; and others with the Anglo-Saxon place-name ending 'ham' (homestead) and 'inga' (group of people under a head), as at Kenn-ing-ham and Wren-ing-ham. And added into the mix are indications of settlement by Vikings - 'thorpe' is a Danish word, as at Swains-thorpe, Gow-thorpe, Ashwell-thorpe, and Sax-thorpe.

What we can dig up...

Fortunately, our ancestors were as careless as we are, losing precious coins and other possessions and throwing away broken or unwanted items. A former resident, the late Jim Bratton, collected a huge number of artefacts with his metal detector and by field-walking. Besides evidence of Saxon settlement that confirms the Domesday record and the place-name, he found enough Roman items to suggest people were living her then, not just dropping the odd coin as they stumbled along a trackway. Could this have been a hamlet of dairy farmers supplying the Romans at Caister Roman town - only a few miles away - and even the Iceni before them? 

Jim's finds raise more questions than answers, but provide an intriguing insight into the people who lived here over a period of 2000 years. The fact that all his finds come from near the current core of the village on the B1113 is mainly because he had permission - indeed the willing co-operation - of the Preston family at Paddock Farm. So it is their land that has been thoroughly searched. 

Numbered fields where find were found
Numbered fields where find were found

That is not to say that evidence of settlement could not come from elsewhere in the parish if permission to search was granted to people willing to be as thorough as Jim was and submit all finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and benefit from the identification skills of the local Finds Data Base Officer.

Look at the pages in this section to see what Pre-Roman, Romano-British, Saxon, Viking, Medieval and more modern people left behind in Mulbarton....