It seems that Woodton was already inhabited at the Bronze Age. A number of ring-ditches, dated between 2350 BC and 701 BC, have been identified between Church Road and Hempnall Road.
The origin of the name of Woodton is the Old English Wdetuna, settlement in the woods (wudu, ‘woods’ + tun ‘enclosure, settlement, farm’).
Woodton can be referred as Wodetuna, Wodetone, Wudetuna, Uidetuna or Wootton. It is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086.
Suckling is a Saxon name which was probably written ‘Socling’ and meant ‘A person holding his estate by socrage or the tenure of the plough’.
In 1575 Robert Suckling (4x great-grandfather to Horatio, Viscount Nelson) became Lord of the whole of Woodton; he represented Norwich in Parliament in 1570 and 1585. His eldest son, Edmund, became Dean of Norwich. Another son, Charles, inherited the estate and enlarged it by the purchase of the manor of Barsham in Suffolk from the poet John Suckling (the son of his younger brother Sir John Suckling, the Cavalier Poet).
Woodton and Nelson
Catherine Suckling was the daughter of Dr Maurice Suckling, the rector of Barsham and Woodton. She was also to become the mother of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Catherine’s uncle Robert Suckling lived at Woodton Manor, so the young Nelson spent many of his school holidays at Woodton, when he used to climb a large cedar tree known afterwards as “Nelson’s Tree”. Sadly, Catherine died when Nelson was only nine years old.
In 1905, commemorating this connection between Woodton and Nelson,a Parish room was built; the foundation stone was laid by Earl Nelson on Trafalgar Day.
Ned Baldry and ‘Shell’
Edward “Ned” Baldry (1705-1759) was taken on in the stables of Woodton Hall, Norfolk, home of the Suckling family, at the age of thirteen and rose to become huntsman to the Woodton Hunt, with the finest pack of hounds in the neighbourhood.
The story is recounted in Deer Hunting in Norfolk (Lt. Col. J.R.Harvey, Norwich, 1910) that Ned bought a poor old horse at Bungay fair to feed the hounds, but thinking better of her after a few weeks decided to breed her, and the following year she produced a fine skewbald foal. In Norfolk this was technically termed ‘shelled’, and by such appellation the foal was known ever afterwards.
Paintings of the ‘Woodton Hunt’ and ‘The Shell Horse’ painted by Bardwell hung in the Hall, as did a portrait of the long-serving butler, Thomas Bardwell, presumed to be a relative of the painter. When Denzil Suckling died in 1747, he left Ned “the fine pack of hounds and the old ‘shelled horse’, and ample funds for their maintenance.” Ned took the hounds to Ireland, and then to France, where he hunted for the King at Versailles. He returned to Woodton and was buried in the churchyard beneath the following inscription:
In memory of Edw. Baldrey, who departed this life, February 24th, 1759, aged 53.
Here lies a huntsman, who was stout and bold,
His judgement such as could not be controlled,
Few of his calling could with him compare,
For skill in hunting fox or fallow deer.
He shew his art in England, Ireland and France,
And rests in this churchyard, being his last chance.
Ned’s tombstone can be visited in the north-east corner of the churchyard. His ‘shelled horse’ was buried nearby in the park beyond the church wall.
Windmills in Woodton
Faden’s map of Norfolk (1797) shows two windmills, a postmill at Woodton (which stood almost in the centre of the village) and a smockmill at Bedingham. Click here for a full history of Woodton postmill.
The various Norfolk directories mention the name of the millers:
- 1836 – Robt. Leeder, jun., corn miller
- 1845 – Robert Leeder, jun., corn miller
- 1864 – Everett Robert Last, shopkeeper and corn miller
- 1900 – Everett Thomas Aldis, shopkeeper & miller (wind)
Although there were two mills, only one miller is mentioned each time.
The Methodist Chapel
The Woodton Methodist Chapel situated in the heart of the village is now privately owned. The building dates to 1838. Regular worship ceased in early 2015, with a final service held on 10th May 2015.
Woodton Directories through history