Swainsthorpe is an old Norfolk village 5 miles south of Norwich just off the A140.
Swainsthorpe is entered as Sueinestorp in the Domesday Book and was known as Sweinestorp in 1196. In later documents the ‘i’ is often replaced by ‘y’ and in three of the four Domesday entries the placename is simply ‘torp.
The village had two churches serving the local community. St. Peter’s in the centre of the village, which has recently (2013) been restored, and St. Mary’s, on the eastern side of the A140, now sadly in ruins. St. Peter’s Church today serves as the village community centre and a place of worship with regular Sunday services.
Astride the A140 between Norwich and Newton Flotman, the village of Swainsthorpe lies mainly to the west of the major road. Turn off the A140 into Church Road (the main road through the village) and see one of the most splendid village entrance views in Norfolk. The road leads up a small incline with St. Peter’s Church standing sentinel at the top. Come along in Springtime and walk by the well kept gardens. The verges on either side are bursting with their early flowers. Arrive on a late summer evening with the ancient church outlined against the setting sun and find something very special.
Before turning into Church Road, The Dun Cow public house (now sadly, some may say, called the “Sugar Beat”) has stood on the A140 for more than 300 years. The pub name is associated with local folklore concerning Dunston village, Dunston Hall and the terribly ghostly cow of Dunston Hill. The old pub sign, now sadly missing, used to say “come in friend – you are sure to find – the Dun Cows milk – is to your mind”!
At the top of Church Road stands the church of St Peter, one of the Round Tower churches of Norfolk. It is probably pre-Norman with some evidence of Saxon work. On the door frame can be seen Elizabethan heads and a Mass Mark sundial that helped parishioners to attend services on time. Inside can be found a Norman font and many accomplished memorials of eminent ex-parishioners. There is a brass plaque on the wall dated 1628 to commemorate Captain Havers who served under Elizabeth the First. A Devil’s Door, blocked up in Puritan times, can be clearly seen on the north side.
Crossing the railway line and leaving the village, on the right side can be seen an interesting listed building called The Vale. Now converted into various sized flats, these dwellings form part of the old Swainsthorpe workhouse. Built in the 19th century by the Henstead Union in conjunction with the old Humbleyard Hundred. The site of the Humbleyard meeting place can be seen near the bend where the road meanders towards Swardeston.
Swainsthorpe Parish Council